I started out my attempt to learn how to create a color gradation in moku hanga, by reading the method described in The Art and Craft of Woodblock Prinmaking.

I started the process by moistening the wood with a wide brush and letting it soak in.
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I added drops of watercolor pigment (I used Winsor yellow and alizarin crimson) to the top and bottom of the block respectively.
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Then I added the nori or rice paste between the drops of pigment.
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Next I used the maru bake brush to blend the pigment and the nori. I swiped the brush in small circles at first and ended with a side to side motion, gradually moving toward the center of the block where there was no pigment and only nori and water.
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It took a few prints before the block became “seasoned” enough to print well. I noticed that too much water caused spots in the print and too little water cause lines. I had to practice to get the right combination. Things got a bit messy as I swiped the brush from side to side, so I used masking tape to protect the edges. I still had to wipe the sides off, but the tape helped keep things under control.
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Here is a print of the gradation. This will provide the background for the tree and clouds.
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