Reduction, or “waste” woodblock printing is a process of printing multiple colors using a single block. The artist must determine the number of prints desired at the outset, because the process renders the block unusable for future prints.
As in other forms of woodblock printing, areas that will not hold ink are cut away. In reduction printing the artist first cuts away any areas that will be the color of the paper and makes prints from the block, using the first color over all of the printing areas. Then the same block is further cut away and a second color applied to all the areas except those that will remain the first color, and so on through the end of the process. Of course exact registration is critical with each successive application of color.
Reduction woodblock prints are among several types of prints that will be shown in the Chinese painting gallery in the northwest corner of the second floor, beginning June 30. The technique is especially popular in the southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou.