How does letterpress work?

To prepare a print job for letterpress, I need to create a relief surface to pick up ink and transfer it to the paper. For images, this means wood, linoleum, or photopolymer. For lettering, I have about 60 fonts of metal type which I set by hand. When it's done, this surface gets mounted in the press, inked with a single color, and printed.

Because of the expensive setup time, jobs that are well-suited to letterpress require one setup and many prints.

Who does the design?

In most cases, I do. For small jobs, I include 4 hours of design time in my initial quote. For larger jobs, I will work with you to define the project and give you a quote for my services.

If you have a letterpress-ready design, I'm very happy to print it for you.

How long does it take?

"Quick" jobs can be designed and delivered in about a month if we're just using type and ornaments from my collection. Custom graphics and more involved pieces will take a bit longer. If I don't have your paper in stock, it will take a few weeks for it to arrive in my studio. If we're printing on two sides, we need to wait for the front to dry before we can print the back.

Can you save my job for quicker turnaround on my next order?

Yes. I will save your plates. Polymer plates do age, and may not be printable after more than a year. Metal plates are more expensive but last much longer. If you are placing regular orders and your plates wear out, I will replace them for a reduced rate.

I will do my best to save your metal type layout, but if I need the type for another job, I will set your type again for free within six months from your first order. (Yes, I actually run out of letters when I'm typesetting projects. This is very different from computer design!)

Can you print in multiple colors?

Yes. Each color needs to be set up and printed as separate layer. I charge a bit less for each impression after the first one, but many layers will get expensive. It can also increase the delivery time because each layer of ink needs to be dry before the next one gets printed. Some layers dry quickly, but some can take a few days to dry.

Is black considered a color?

Yes. There is no "custom ink" charge, but I do have to charge for printing that layer.

Blind embossing?

Yes. There is no ink for blind embossing, but ensuring that the artwork is set up correctly is trickier than for an inked layer, so it costs just as much to print a blind embossed layer. Blind embossing may even increase the total cost of a job because it needs to be done on thicker, more expensive paper. It must be done with polymer or metal plates because this process destroys my sensitive antique metal type.

How do I specify my exact ink colors?

The quickest way is to send me the color number from a Pantone Uncoated swatch book. Most print shop have these available for you to use as a reference.

The easiest way is to send me a digital print of your original design. If your home or office printer is not capable of printing dark enough, have it printed at a copy shop. Please ensure that you print on standard, uncoated paper. Coated papers (like inkjet photo paper) can give colors that are too dark to print without using special papers and introducing lots of other challenges.

Can you print on two sides?

Yes. It works just the same as multiple colors. When I'm running a job through the press a second time, it takes the same amount of work whether I'm printing on the same side of the paper or the other side.

Can you print graphics?

Yes, but they must be ready for relief printing or I will need to redraw them. I do not use halftones (shades of grey) in this style of printing.

Can I use my own fonts?

Sometimes. It will require creating a custom plate. Not all fonts or point sizes are capable of being printed with letterpress.

Mixing custom fonts or graphics with metal type requires printing them as separate impressions - they cannot be mixed in a single pass.

Do you limit the paper sizes?

The only limit is set by the press, which can print up to 9"x12". I buy paper in large sheets and cut it down so I am not bound to "standard" paper sizes. I can cut it to match any envelope or framing size that you have in mind.

Why do you charge so much less for higher quantities?

There is a lot of overhead involved in setting up for a print job. Even after doing the graphic design and typesetting, it takes time to get the press inked up and adjusted for good registration and a good print. Once the press is set up, it makes sense to just print and print and print instead of printing a few and stopping to set the press up again for the next job.

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