2: Paper

There are many hundreds of Japanese papers (washi), hand made specifically for watercolour printing. Selection can be quite a long process.

The paper usually needs to be sized. However, Japanese paper gets stronger as it gets older, so sometimes sizing is unnecessary.

The size itself can take a couple of days to make. Its ingredients include Nikawa, a type of animal glue, and alum. These are ground, melted in water, and evenly applied with a large soft Dosa brush. Once the paper is dry, I try to leave it for several days to allow the size to settle in.

The paper is moistened by layering between several dampened sheets of newsprint. These are wrapped in layers of plastic that allows the moisture to spread evenly. It takes 2-6 hours for the paper to dampen ready for printing.

3: Brushes

Brushes on an inked piece of woodblock

The brushes used to apply colour to woodblocks are a mixture of horse and pig or deer hair. They look like shoe brushes, as you’ll see from the photo below.

If the brushes are out of shape, I leave plenty of time for re-shaping as it can take all day.

Before use, the brushes are singed with fire, or a hot plate, and rubbed on a sharkskin, or modern metal equivalent. This splits the hair ends, and softens them, so that they hold more watercolour.