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Woodcut vs. Engraving: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on November 21, 2023
Woodcut involves carving into wood's surface, creating a relief print; engraving involves incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface, like metal.

Key Differences

Woodcut is a relief printing technique where the artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood. In contrast, engraving is an intaglio printing technique involving cutting or incising lines into a metal plate.
Woodcut typically offers a more bold and less detailed aesthetic due to the nature of carving into wood. Engraving, however, allows for finer detail and a more delicate touch, as the artist etches into a metal surface.
Woodcut, one of the oldest printmaking techniques, has a rich history in art, particularly in East Asia and Europe. Engraving, developed later, became prominent in Europe, especially for detailed illustrations in books and artworks.
In woodcut, artists use gouges, chisels, and knives for carving, with the non-carved areas representing the printing surface. In engraving, tools like burins or gravers are used to incise into metal, and the incised lines hold the ink for printing.
Woodcut prints are often characterized by bold contrasts and a somewhat rustic feel. Engraving produces much finer, more intricate designs with a high level of detail and precision.

Comparison Chart


Carving into wood
Incising into metal

Detail Level

Bold, less detailed
Fine, highly detailed

Historical Use

Older, widely used in Asia and Europe
Developed later, prominent in Europe

Tools Used

Gouges, chisels, knives
Burins, gravers

Aesthetic Outcome

Rustic, strong contrasts
Intricate, precise detail

Woodcut and Engraving Definitions


An artistic carving technique on wood for printmaking.
She learned the art of woodcut in her printmaking class.


The process of cutting or carving a design onto a hard surface.
The jeweler’s skill in engraving was exceptional.


A graphic art form where the wood's uncarved areas create an image.
His collection of medieval woodcuts was impressive.


The art of forming designs by cutting into a hard surface.
He admired the intricate engraving on the antique silverware.


A print made from an engraved wooden block.
The artist displayed a series of woodcuts at the gallery.


A print made from an engraved plate, block, or other surfaces.
The museum displayed an ancient engraving of a battle.


A method of printing texts and illustrations carved in wood.
The old book featured woodcut illustrations.


A method of printing from a plate in which the design is incised.
The artist chose engraving for its capacity to capture fine details.


A relief printing process using a carved wooden block.
The ancient woodcut depicted a historical scene.


A design or text etched onto a metal or other hard surfaces.
The plaque had an engraving that commemorated the event.


A block of wood on whose surface a design for printing is engraved along the grain.


The art or technique of one that engraves.


A print made from a woodcut. Also called woodblock, woodprint.


A design or text engraved on a surface.


(countable) An engraved block of wood, especially one used as a printing form.


(uncountable) A method of printmaking from such a block.
Relief printing


(countable) A print produced with this method.


An engraving on wood; also, a print from it. Same as Wood cut, under Wood.


An engraving made from a woodcut


Engraving consisting of a block of wood with a design cut into it; used to make prints


How old is the technique of woodcut?

It's one of the oldest printmaking methods.

When did engraving become popular?

It gained prominence in Europe for book illustrations and art.

What tools are used in woodcut?

Gouges, chisels, and knives.

What is a woodcut?

A printing technique using carved wooden blocks.

What is engraving?

The art of etching designs onto hard surfaces like metal.

What materials are used for engravings?

Typically metal plates.

Can engravings be colored?

Yes, though they are often left in their metal hue.

What tools are used for engraving?

Burins or gravers.

What materials are used for woodcuts?

Mainly wood blocks.

Are woodcuts colored?

They can be, though traditionally black and white.

Is engraving finer than woodcut?

Yes, it allows for more intricate details.

What is a famous engraving?

Dürer's "Melencolia I" is a renowned engraving.

Is engraving used in modern printing?

Less so, now mainly for artistic purposes.

Can woodcuts be detailed?

They are less detailed compared to engravings.

Can woodcut be used for text printing?

Yes, especially historically in bookmaking.

Can both woodcut and engraving be done by hand?

Yes, both require skilled hand craftsmanship.

Do woodcuts have a specific style?

They often have bold, stark contrasts.

What is the main difference in the end result of woodcut and engraving?

Woodcut is more rustic; engraving is more detailed.

What is a notable woodcut artwork?

Albrecht Dürer's "The Rhinoceros" is famous.

What style is typical for engravings?

Fine lines and high levels of detail.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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