The history of woodcut prints is a long one, with some used to represent clothing patterns stored in Shosoin temple in the old days. It was from the time when Hishikawa Moronobu produced Ukiyoe from the Edo Period that it has generally begun to spread, and a division system of Eshi [ painter ] who writes a sketch at this time, Horishi [artist ] who carves this on a woodcut and Surishi [ printer ]who rubs on paper established it.
A print in those days was the easy one from Sumi Ishoku [ only black ink ], but hand printed vermillion-hued method was developed after that, and a beautiful hand colored lithograph led to complicated coloring gradually, and was put on sale in the market from the Kyoho time. By the end of the time of Kanpō, how to color in red and green, two-colors, had been developed.
The color print form with two, three and more color schemes were developed in Meiwa 2nd year [ 1765 ]. Nishikie was settled with more than enough color wood-block prints on the technical aspects in the highest quality. After that, it reached the realm of completion by the establishment of sophisticated representation techniques such as Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige.
If you would like to know more about the craft history, manufacturing process, tools, etc., please check this movie.（6min54sec.）