How did Escher make his prints?


      Printmaking is a laborious process.  First, Escher started with an idea.  Then, he transformed the thought into a drawing, in the case of the print Knots, there were over 70 preparatory sketches.

        Escher transferred a mirror image of the final sketch onto a smooth woodblock by using tracing paper. Then he meticulously carved away anything that he didn't want to print.  He needed a separate block for each color in the final print.  The "grey block" for Spirals is seen to the right.

        Escher only needed to ink the block and press it onto paper for black and white wood engravings.  However, he used a registration system to print multi-colored pieces.   The print "Sun and Moon" (pictured right lower)  required four blocks.  Here the first three blocks, red, yellow, and blue, have been printed.  The black is always the final block. Click here to see the block from Circle Limit 1.

        Escher also made lithographs, which involve drawing an image onto a stone block and then printing from the stone.  And, he made eight mezzotints.  A mezzotint is created by etching an image into a smooth copper plate and then printing from the copper plate.  "Eye," one of his most famous images, is a mezzotint print.

        During his life Escher made only 448 master works.  He never had an apprentice, and therefore, printed all of his own woodcuts.  Many of the larger pieces are annotated "eigen druk," which loosely means "by my own pressure (hand)."

Made on a Mac

The YouTube video shows Escher printing “Snakes.”  It also shows him carving a preparatory woodblock for the print.  On his desk sits a twisted Moebius strip that appears in the print “Knots.” 


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