Japanese printmaking, as with many other features of Japanese art, tended to organize itself into schools and movements. The most notable schools (see also schools of ukiyo-e artists) and, later, movements of moku-hanga were:
· Torii school, from 1700
· Kaigetsudō school, from 1700–14
· Sōsaku-hanga, "Creative Prints" movement, from 1904
The technique for printing texts and images was generally similar. The obvious differences were the volume produced when working with texts (many pages for a single work), and the complexity of multiple colors in some images. Images in books were almost always in monochrome (black ink only), and for a time art prints were likewise monochrome or done in only two or three colors.
The text or image was first drawn onto thin washi (Japanese paper), then glued face-down onto a plank of close-grained wood, usually cherry. An incision was made along both sides of each line or area. Wood was then chiseled away, based on the drawing outlines. The block was inked using a brush or brushes. A flat hand-held tool called a baren was used to press the paper against the inked woodblock to apply the ink to the paper. The traditional baren is made in three parts, it consists of an inner core made from bamboo leaves twisted into a rope of varying thicknesses, the nodules thus created are what ultimately applies the pressure to the print. This coil is contained in a disk called an "ategawa" made from layers of very thin paper which is glued together and wrapped in a dampened bamboo leaf, the ends of which are then tied to create a handle. Modern printmakers have adapted this tool, and today barens are made of aluminum with ball bearings to apply the pressure are used; as well as less expensive plastic versions. Although the first prints were simply one-color, with additional colors applied by hand, the development of two registration marks carved into the blocks called "kento" were added. The sheet of washi to be printed is placed in the kento, then lowered onto the woodblock. This was especially helpful with the introduction of multiple colors that had to be applied with precision over previous ink layers.
Woodblock printing, though more time-consuming and expensive than later methods, was far less so than the traditional method of writing out each copy of a book by hand; thus, Japan began to see something of literary mass production. While the Saga books were printed on expensive paper, and used various embellishments, being printed specifically for a small circle of literary connoisseurs, other printers in Kyoto quickly adapted the technique to producing cheaper books in large numbers, for more general consumption. The content of these books varied widely, including travel guides, advice manuals, kibyōshi (satirical novels), sharebon (books on urban culture), art books, and play scripts for the jōruri (puppet) theatre. Often, within a certain genre, such as the jōruri theatre scripts, a particular style of writing became standard for that genre. For example, one person's personal calligraphic style was adopted as the standard style for printing plays.