In the mid fifteenth century the printing press allowed multiple copies of books to be produced at a fraction of the cost and time previously required. Because of this many more printed manuscripts have survived, and the number of examples of chess sets from the fifteenth century may be a reflection of this rather than simply an increased diversity of chess sets at this time. With few exceptions printing was in black on white paper and so the colours of the boards and men is assumed to be also black and white. The few paintings of chess being played from the fifteenth through to the early seventeenth century confirm that black and white board and pieces are most common.
When examining medieval illustrations of chess, whether hand painted or printed from woodcuts, it is important to take into account a few problematic areas. First, the artist making preliminary sketches for an illustration or woodcut may have had little knowledge of the chess men themselves, and would possibly have been more concerned with the figures playing or watching. Illustrations of games about to begin have the advantage of showing all the pieces in their starting positions; while games illustrated in mid-play lack this, and rarely, if ever, have a full compliment of pieces, on or off the board. Often the boards have fewer than 8 x 8 squares.