Your First Print : Support Forum

Taketori Series
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Author:  Franz Rogar [ Mon Jun 16, 2014 1:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Taketori Series


Sorry for the huge delay. I've been recovering from a broken arm and, in the last week, from a cut with a 'carving knife' (the large one for ham) in my index finger which doesn't let me neither carve nor print...

Back on topic. I present here the first two woodblock (both the blocks and the test prints) of my 10-print series for Taketori Monogatari. I've finished the design for 7 of them and have some designs for the other three but they don't convince me.

Most of my design for this serie will be using 2 woodblocks two-sided (ie. 4 blocks).

Here, I will present the first two of them:

#1 - 赫映姫 (Kaguyahime). Originally, it was going to be a "night" scene... but 'cause of #2, I will make it a not-so-dark-at-all night. The scene depicts the "conception" of Kaguyahime from the Moon into the Bamboo.

#2 - 五求婚者 (The Five Suitors). Kaguyahime had many suitors but only five of them were elected as "candidates". Here, they are represented by the bamboos with leaves and based on their social rank, with different sizes. The storm is the requirements Kaguyahime does for accepting their love.

Before showing the images, just a thought to keep in mind: first time carving so I didn't have the "how deep to carve"-impulse internalized so... I had to recarve many times some blocks. In fact, the keyblock for #1 was recarved but I couldn't run another test prints because of the finger cut.

Here are the first design woodblocks (with some unused carving):


Here are the second design woodblocks (on which I learnt that I'd have to make the thunder as a second keyblock, which I didn't and, therefore, there are some 'whites' where they shouldn't).


And here are the prints from those woodblocks:

#1 This test print has the best color test (so far) in my opinion, though it seems like a daily print. The background will be darker and there will be a gradation in the sky around the moon too.

#2 The background is meant to be a barenzuri... This was the first time I used that technique and this was the only print I've ever done with the blocks so I think it's not *so* bad after all.


Nothing (except the carving) is set in stone (well, in this case set in 'wood'). So probably I'll try more color combinations before the final prints.

I tried to seize some paper but the result was... disastrous in all ways. So I will try to find someone who might seize it for me or buy it pre-sized somewhere.

Anyway, I do hope this post has been interesting (or not annoying at least).


PS: I will continue the series probably by carving #3 (賓頭盧) 2-block-2sided or #6 (首の珠) 3-block-2sided next week.

Author:  David Bull [ Tue Jun 17, 2014 3:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Franz, seems like you are really having fun with this ... you're making great progress!

Can you give us some details on what kind of paper and pigments you used for these?

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Hello Dave,

First of all, thank you for replying :-)

I *did and do* enjoy the whole process (from designing to printing through carving) very much.

Truth be told, I would have loved carving much more if I had had the proper tools (not student grade tools and more than just one size for each tool) and knowledge (having carved as deep as necesary for printing properly once and not having to *re*carve the blocks). Anyway, all of that has solution: for the first is money (buying proper tools) and for the second is experience (keep going).

As for printing, I do only have one baren (a 11 cm "strong" one) but enough for a starter. I had to change the bamboo leaf as the original one had a hole (the leaf came defective) which was too big after some printings; and I can say preparing the baren *is* the second worst part of the whole process (first worst is sizing paper). And to make it even worst, I scrolled in the same direction the endings so the bamboo leaf needs to be tighten by hand on each use. But next time I won't fail miserably...

I used the cheapest pigments I found (range from 2 to 10 EUR/kg) but they do their work perfectly. As for the black... well, I used sumi-e ink. I have ink sticks but having to prepare such ammount of black ink... well, I think I'm lazy about that...

Pigments (brand: INCORAL):
> Pigment Blue PB93
> Pigment Yellow PY1
> Pigment Red PR13
> Pigment Violet PV15
> Pigment Carmine B-341

Specifically, for #1, I used black (keyblock), blue (sky and bamboo), yellow (sky and moon), red (seal), green (seal) and green+black (bamboo bkg).
For #2, I used black (keyblock), blue+black (sky), yellow (thunder), red (thunder), carmine (leafs, seal), blue (bamboo) and green+black (bamboo bkg). Though using the same colors of the #1, the 3 different shades of bamboo are made by overlapping the sky in somes and the blue layer on the whole of others.

> Bokueki sumi-e ink
> Shanghai Premium 101 Pine soot ink stick (not used *yet* for ukiyo-e)

> 50% water
> 50% alcohol
> Pigment to desired consistency/saturation

Also, as adhesive I reused some wheatpaste I use for bookbinding. Problem with that is it dries extremely fast. Well, I think everything will be better from now on as I received today nori paste.

> [Unbranded] Wheatpaste (for bookbinding)
> Yasutomo Nori Paste (just received today)

As for paper, in the previous image in the first post (test print showcase) I used "laid paper" on the #1 and normal copy paper on #2.

> [Japanese, handmade, unbranded, unsized] Hosho (84 g/m2)
> [Watermark: sighthound] Galgo Parchemin Smooth White (90g/m2)
> [Watermark: sighthound] Galgo Laid Paper (100 g/m2)

Sizing (for hosho):
> Water: 1 l
> Animal glue: 65 g
> Alum: 28 g

Here are some photos of different printings of those papers:

Left: unsized hosho. Right: ultra-extra-mega-sized hosho.

Left: printing paper. Right: Galgo Parchemin.

Left: Galgo laid paper. Right: Galgo laid paper.

Image: zoom to show leaf detail (there are empty lines as the leaf nerves, with light they pop-up more)

Image: #1 bigger size

Image: #2 bigger size

0 - Buy good carving tools in different sizes and good woodblocks
1 - Buy any brand of pigments (just look for "transparent" and "lightfast" as possible)
2 - If lazy as I am, buy sumi-e ink for black
3 - Buy nori paste (it doesn't dry as fast as wheatpaste)
4 - Buy *sized* hosho... Sizing is a (DIABOLIC) job by itself...

I hope this (now quite large post) migh be of interest.


Author:  David Bull [ Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Franz, thanks for sharing all your experiences; it sounds as though you really are enjoying yourself, despite the tribulations.

Properly sized paper is of course pretty much essential for this work. With good paper in hand, anything is possible, but if the paper is bad, it causes huge problems at every stage of printing, from basic moistening, through registration, and of course smooth printing. The books by Platt, Fletcher, and Yoshida in the on-line library all have information on sizing, and it might help to read through those when you have a chance.

Looking forward to your next trials!

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Thanks to you for your masterliness :-)

Yes, I'm really enjoying it all. I always think of any annoyance or problem as the proper way for learning.

Sizing is truly and sincerely my Achilles' heel in mokuhanga. It has proved that reading about a process and physically developing it can be as different in size as the Universe and an electron. I want to remember I threw away three brushes in my trials... I think I still don't feel comfortable to try sizing again soon (not even cooking the nishikawa with this heat on summer).

Anyway, I forgot to mention the paper size (18x15 cm) and the printing size (16x12,5 cm), which would be, if I'm not mistaken, surimono-alike.

At home I have just 8 blocks left, so I will use them on #3, #6 and #10. Probably, I'll jump over to #6 (the best design IMO of the series with #10) which is a 3-block-2sided because it will require from me to work with a 3-keyblock design: black (frame, seals and boat), blueish-gray (dragon) and yellow (thunder); as punishment for failing to notice the needing of thunder keyblocks in #2.

EDIT: basically speaking, 'cause I have to buy new woodblocks, I will restart the series in a more "standard" size and remove those horrible frames that mimic burnt paper borders...

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Sun Jun 29, 2014 10:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Well, as I decided to *reboot* the series into a more "traditional" paper size, it raised the question about what to do with the 8 blocks (two-sided) I still have. I think I'll go for "half"-koban paper size and make a diptych or a kakemono in a style Shoson-alike (probably).

So, back on topic, because the reboot size proportion was different from the initial ones, because I will *recarve* it all, why not change something?

Here's the WIP of #1. Basically, it lacks lines inside the clouds and the bamboos like texture (which I still have to design and brush 'em) as a second keyblock. The design evolve from 4 blocks to 8 blocks and, IMHO, I think it has improved *a lot*. I see it more elegant, clean and more tied with the Japanese style (not just because I drew it with my brush instead of being vector lines as in the first version).

Here's my idea of woodblock distribution:
> Keyblock 1 [black]
> Keyblock 2 [redish?]
> Sky 1 + bamboo + moon (shadow) [grayish blue]
> Sky 2 + bamboo [light blue]
> Sky 3 + bamboo [blue] & cartouches [orange + violet]
> Sky 4 + bamboo [dark blue]
> Sky 5 + bamboo (top & bottom gradients) [black]
> Bamboo [green] & moon [yellow]


And as colophon, a PDF showing what it's expected would be the printing (without the second keyblock which I haven't designed yet).

Download PDF (2 MB)

After reading my previous post, I think I didn't expressed myself how I truly feels about mokuhanga. I do love it. Though I would love it even more if I were better with the brush :roll:

I hope you liked this post. Sincerely,

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Mon Jul 07, 2014 1:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

I forgot to mention the paper I use for the hanshita/kyogos: it's a cheap (truly cheap) paper for sumi-e practicing.

Though I won't have the new blocks until September, I keep working on the series design improvements (IMHO). Here's the first WIP for the #2 print (though still in BW, colors will be very similar to the *old* one):

Hope you like it.


Author:  Franz Rogar [ Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Of course, #2 and the next #3 aren't finished neither in composition nor in design. After that, they will be *brushed* like the new #1 and colored.

Here's the mockup for #3. In this print, the idea is have a pale orange background with a kirazuri (mica printing) geometric pattern (the whole "black" seen here). Binzuru (the character) statue is on red color with shadows (not yet in the design). So, that would be the basic info so you can make an idea of how the print should looks like. Hope you like it :-)


Author:  Franz Rogar [ Thu Jul 10, 2014 2:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

I realized I could have diffuse the background a bit (so it represents better the kirazuri) instead of that big black chunk of it.

Here it is alongside with the previous designs of the new Taketori series.

This is the current state of the series:
#01 (almost vectored+color separation) [lacks shadow in bamboo trunks and clouds lines]
#02 (almost vectored) [lacks shadow in bamboo trunks]
#03 (almost vectored) [lacks shadow in Binzuru]
#04 (still designing) [dislike current designs]
#05 (still designing) [dislike current designs]
#06 (almost vectored) [uncertain of what techniques apply to achieve the "it's not there but you see a dragon"-effect]
#07 (sketched) [need to learn how the yashima rice bowls are to draw them]
#08 (designing-vectored) [bow and sword scabbard to be sketched]
#09 (still designing) [dislike current designs]
#10 (sketched)

The order I will be finishing the designs meanwhile September arrives is: 06, 08, 10, 07, 04, 05 and 09.

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Here's the design for #06. I'm still not sure how I will proceed with the dragon printing (if it will be embossed, kirazuri [mica] or shiomen-zuri [hidden technique]) and completion (if I will print part of the dragon as a second keyblock or as a whole). The scene is in the middle of a storm in the sea and the boat is ridding the waves and the dragon is nowhere to be seen, hence the idea of not printing *actually* there. Hope you like it.


Author:  Franz Rogar [ Sat Sep 13, 2014 5:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Well, now that the yamazakura blocks are on the way (and 'cause I don't want to *waste* them), I've been thinking if the designs are god enough for the wood.

Obviously, I like them but... I've realized that I don't *love* them. So, I stopped and started to looking back and re-thinking the whole series.

Many things have proven to be showstoppers: forcing the printing place in the tale before the design process, trying to limit the number of block to minimum was more important than the composition, lack of elegance, etc.

So, I've changed (and am still in the process) the design of the prints tying to improve them and now, when I feel a design is OK, it will be the next "number" (despite the part of the tale it belongs to) because, when I feel the series is finished, I will add a "index" print which will sort them in the "tale"-order.

This will be the final first print. I know it's "simpler" than the previous one, but I felt the older didn't resemble to a bamboo forest at all (which is where a bamboo cutter would work and where he found Kaguyahime). So, I simplify also the meaning to a mere "series cover" with the basic elements: bamboo and the Moon).

The text in the margins (which will be probably embossed, though I think that printed in dark gray will also look great and might be read easier), IF I'm not mistaken (which 110% of the time I'm) it means:

> "Taketori Monogatari" series [print number in circle]
> 2014
> Self-drawn, self-engraved, self-printed

What I like to ask you, Dave, and if you don't mind, is if you've ever tried "atenashi bokashi"? 'cause for this print it would be a perfect match and (here goes the old bad habit) it would save me some blocks...

Also, I've seen you using two methods to transfer "secondary" lines into the blocks:
1) On "Soul Eater" print videos, you left the "void cloud"-no-print-zone at bottom which you removed later.
2) On "The Fox Moon" print videos, you pasted the kimono patterns later on top of the block (using a kyogo).

I know each method has its pros and contras, but I like to hear your opinion if I use method #1 for the circle of the moon and #2 for everything else (cloud lines and the dark zones inside the moon). Using method #1 is to avoid having to print a kyogo and then print the moon prior to carve the sky block #1. Or do you think is too prone to end terrible because it's a circle and registration is very delicate?

Thanks in advance :-)

And here's a WIP of the *old* number 6 which will become #2. Apart that the ship is now a truly Japanese ship (a red seals one, more or less), I feel there's a terrible storm there too. I'm still unsure if I will end up adding a small guy in the veranda pointing at the dragon ;-)

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series


I've just finished the final design for #2 and realized I showed the carving tools and the printing tools but, 'cause these are my own design, I haven't shown yet the drawing tools.

My drawing method is:
> Sketch in paper (lines) with pencil for proportion, placement, order, etc.
> Vector sketch for adding text (my Japanese calligraphy is... awfullllll... for now), frames, etc.
> Tracing paper and brushes for drawing at real size (not augmented at all). IMHO, if I can draw it, I can carve it (better or worst but done)
> Digitize the brush strokes and incorporate them in a vector image
> Vector coloring to create the mockup

So, apart from pencil, sharper, eraser and paper; what I use is tracing paper and brushes. All of them are Kuretake: one with natural hair (middle one) used for the waves, and the others are synthetic (used for the old *new* Taketori #1). There, you can also see a dragon head I did for #2 (which I discarded) but which will probably be used on another design out of Taketori series.

And, back on topic, here is #2 final. The composition changed so much from the final vector (meant to have the waves similar to the ones in Yoshitoshi "Moon above the sea at Daimotsu Bay") due to a mistake. I shifted by error the background color of the inner frame to black and... violà, the ship popped-up and the print looked so sinister I changed my mind directly.

I've another mockup with the wave tops in red... which I love as much as this. That is more dramatic and fits with the idea of imminent danger... but it looks more *natural* with the blue I picked. Though don't like changing the design as Hiroshi used to, maybe I will issue some reds...

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Sun Oct 12, 2014 2:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series


New paper...

New printing tools (vs old)...

New woodblocks (vs old)...

New carving tools (the mallet is old, obviously)...

The improvement is... well, to summarize it: now, carving is truly a pleasure! And the proof is here:

I choose to carve the legend (date, authorship, series title, etc.) in the keyblock because, that way, I can improve my carving skills each time I start a new print.

The paper, obviously again, have been cut down. Luckily, I got 12 koban and 2 half-koban from each sheet. The half-koban will be used for my "Girl in dress", so I can test printing these new sheets of sized hosho (of a excessive *natural* color, for my taste) before printing the Taketori series.

Now, back on topic, the carving is still not finished (need to finish the text in the margins), but everything else is in there. The idea is to not need any other print from the hansita, just using the kyogos to finish the color blocks carving (also, to improve my carving skills). That way, it will also help in registration (because the square "seal" will be on 3 sky blocks, and the sun will be on 2). And why not carve the clouds too? I only needed one side of the cloud, that's why they're not carved on both sides of the line. Also, clouds and moon will be gone one the kyogos are done using the soai-nomi (wonderful tool which removed in one second more wood I removed with my old tools in a whole evening...)

I'm not sure if I carved deep enough, but I'll see as soon as I finish the carving...

Author:  David Bull [ Sun Oct 12, 2014 10:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Christmas! Look at all those beautiful tools and supplies! Franz, this is wonderful … it's going to make such a huge difference in your work … (I apologize for not following along so carefully recently, but I'll be watching intently to see how this next one turns out!)

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

Yep, Santa Claus 2 1/2 months of working worth in full for buying them, but I can assure you it was worthy :-) And no need to apologize as I well know how busy you are (though you're the soul of this forum ;-)

I finished yesterday night the carving and did some fast proofing and here's the result:

This was printed using the *strong* baren (which made the moon almost properly printed but, on the other hand, made the margin text blotched). I also have some other with the *soft* baren (which made the text print perfectly but, on the other hand, the moon was awfully printed). And have none with the *old* baren (it's a fine 4-cord core, instead of 8-cord core the new ones are) which I will reserve for... I don't know, but it will be helpful in something.

The sumi-e paper I was using proved to be quite harmful as hanshita. While carving the margin text, I had real problems with it sliding, getting in the way of the knife, etc. I bought some hanshita-shi which will be using for the kyogos.

On the other side of the block, I discovered I *damaged* it... :cry: You can see in the photo of the new woodblock the damage. With a 99.99% of probability, when I was removing wood with the mallet and the nomi and maru, some rests of wood were between the woodblock and the non-slip material... Probably, I could use the back for one color block but I now fear damaging the keyblock while carving it... I'm starting to think using a pack of clothes as I see in your vids. Any suggestion?

Author:  David Bull [ Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

You can certainly use more than one baren for any particular impression - using a strong one for solid areas, and then switching to a finer one for the rest of the block. It's a bit of extra trouble, but if that's what's needed ...

As for protecting the back surface, I never use any kind of non-slip stuff, but simply use a soft cloth on the carving bench. (I use a bench stop to hold the block from slipping while I hammer at it.) I'm careful not to let any chips get under the bottom, because - as you have seen - they can cause a lot of damage.

Another 'rule' is that we almost never use the reverse side of the keyblocks, rather leaving them blank. There are a few reasons for this: one is that by using both sides, you tend to remove a lot of wood and this can leave a block thinned and liable to twist or expand/shrink while printing. It is best that the keyblock remain as stable as possible. Another reason is the one you have hinted at - to avoid damaging the carved lines. Still another reason is that the wood selected for a keyblock is very hard, doesn't absorb water well, and is thus quite unsuitable for printing good smooth colour. When Shimano-san - the last traditional block provider - was still alive, I used to order wood from him in 'sets' - a hard and dense piece for the key blocks, accompanied by a number of softer smoother ones for the colours.

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

I know, I saw you using both barens in some of your videos... just didn't feel comfortable but, after doing so, printing has become a pleasure! I know not if the better barens or the practice with nori paste is what is rendering the whole printing process so delightful, but at last I see it enjoyable. Before, it was a fight of the arm against the pigments...

Thank for the tips on cloth and bench stop. I'll look for some soft ones and will have to build me a stopper, tough :-)

I know understand what you wrote. Truly, it'd be wonderful some newer traditional block providers to appear. I didn't have in mind the back because the Spanish Cherry is very hard and didn't think about the differences with the Japanese Cherry. Tough *wasting* one woodblock side hurts my pocket (now that it is in a extremely bad shape), it'd hurt my final work if I damage the keyblock much harder so... always protection!

And here's a test print after cleaning the woodblock. It's almost right but have to touch here and there. So, I will start cutting the hanshita-shi I bought to the size and do the hanshita-e at last. This test print had too much water in it (later prints were much better) but is also has a good margin text printed so that's why I chose it for the photo.


Also, I will start printing the "Lady in dress" with the new hosho this weekend (so I can know beforehand how it works, to reduce the possible problems for printing this series).

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

And some news:


The first woodblock (two sides) carved out the big parts to avoid damaging the lines if I finish the side before cleaning up the other side. I broke the fukamaru... but it wasn't all my fault as this block is much harder than the keyblock. It took me about one hour to recover it but it's almost proper but needs some more sharpening:

The first woodblock (two sides) finished carving:

And now, to carve the final block and to test the registration because I used the hanshita-shi and was feared it might doesn't keep the registration as good as the other paper. On the other hand, as you can see in the photo, the black is now truly black. I don't know if it's because of the kind of paper or because I'm learning to mix pigment-water-nori properly (we'll see when I print the color blocks) :-)

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Tue Oct 21, 2014 6:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

And the finals...

The second woodblock (two sides) on the first stage:

The second woodblock (two sides) finished carving:

The keyblock on second stage (remove of unneeded lines) alongside finished carving:

After that, I cleaned up the woodblocks and realized I used too much glue to paste the kyogos... It took me so long to remove it all, and even so I wasn't sure I took all of it so I did some print tests on dry copy paper; which proved I didn't remove all glue after all (clearly visible on the first test print as it removed paper from the sheet).

The test print lacks three more printings: one yellow bokashi in the bamboo trunk side of the moon, one blue blokashi in the bamboo trunk on the other side; and one black bokashi down the clouds (not including the bamboo trunk). Of course, the colors are not final at all as these were just the first prints off the blocks. Also, I learned I did add too much pigment, too much ink and too much water. The new barens have prove to be a *must* 'cause the pigment was spread using the small brushes and the printing result is quite homogeneous (much more than with the 4-cord fine old baren I used).

The registration seems to be quite accurate (can't be sure as the paper curled while printing).

So, now that it's finished, I'm going to print the "Girl in dress" with the hosho paper before printing this one. The prints are ordered from left to right and from top to bottom in printing order.

Hope you liked it :-)

Author:  Franz Rogar [ Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Taketori Series

I knew I forgot to mention something: the colors used in there.

This time, I've stick with:
> Black (keylines and for darkening blue and red)
> Blue (sky and bamboo)
> Yellow (moon and bamboo)
> Red (seal)

So, it might be considered some kind of aizuri... more or less.

The colors I've in mind are much darker, though the moon I like how it ended on the first print (with that kind of bokashi instead of being just flat yellow) but I'll have to think how to print it properly (it just happened!)

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