Here are my tools of choice for the design transfer stage. The shina plywood blocks are pretty much ready to use, but they tend to have a little fuzz on the surface so I use a bit of fine grit sandpaper to gently remove it. The red sheet at the top is double-sided red carbon paper. I use it in lieu of standard graphite paper because it gives a good clean transfer and is highly resistant to smearing and fading. I personally like not needing to shellac the block in order to retain my drawing.
Last but not least, a 2H pencil. In my experience if you use a soft pencil for transfer you end up pressing into the block harder and denting the wood; those dents may end up being visible in your final print. Your mileage may vary, but this pencil has served me well in this capacity for a few years now.
After sanding the block I position the design on it, and tape it into place with removable blue tape. This stage is sometimes tricky because woodblocks aren’t always 100% true to size and proportion due to the kerf of the sawblade. Edges are also prone to denting and splintering which may shave a little off the side. I try to keep enough blocks on hand so I can cherry pick the right block for the project, and in this case I had several 8×6″ blocks to chose from. I picked a block with clean edges which was slightly larger than the sketch. Smaller than the sketch could have spelled trouble on this piece since Cthulhu is positioned very close to the border. The border can only be so thin without risking it chipping off, so flexibility in altering the edge on this image is low.
Once the design is in place and the red carbon paper is between the paper and the block, it’s time to start tracing! I usually start at a corner and take a peek after a few lines to make sure I’m using the right amount of pressure. This is particularly important if I’m using an older piece of carbon paper since it does start fading after multiple uses. (It doesn’t fade fast though, I only used up 2 pieces of it while working on the 50+ woodcuts for Arcanum Bestiarum.)
Once I’m done tracing, I remove enough tape to be able to flip the paper up and check my work. I almost inevitably miss something, and it’s easiest to fix while the design is still mostly aligned with the block. You might notice I’ve not traced the border, this is a deliberate omission; I prefer to use a ruler and pencil so I can account for block size deviation. I’ll add those lines on before the next step: carving!
Please note, this woodcut print is being created in support of the Portland, Oregon H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival — the first edition will only be available as part of their Kickstarter.