Relief printing was invented in China where both fabrics and books were printed using wooden blocks at an early stage. Woodblock printing had reached Europe by the 14th century and was much used for producing broadsheets and illustrated homilies. From a European perspective, Johan Gutenberg is generally credited with the invention of book printing. He was the first printer to use cast lead types and he invented the mechanical printing press.

Among artists who have worked with relief printing are internationally renowned figures like Albrecht Dürer, Paul Gauguin, Käthe Kollwitz and Edvard Munch.