There are a myriad of wonderful
effects possible to achieve with letterpress, but you have to keep in
mind what are you designing and willing to pay for, a Showcase Piece
or a Production Piece which is still quite attractive, but allows for
ease of production with a profit margin.
Designing for letterpress requires a different approach than for
digital or offset print production.
You have to be familiar with designing for
letterpress, you have to understand the limitations of the paper ( Lettra
), plate ( polymer ), ink ( soy based form ) and the press (
Heidelberg 10x15 platen ) combination, that you have a perspective
look on the production process and the final product, and that you are
able to spot potential problems.
The set up per color is the most expensive
operation, highly dependent on the image size. The cost per impression
is not much more expensive than on the offset press running a custom
spot color job. Additional colors
will proportionally increase the price, each color needs to be set up
and then registered with the previously printed images. If precise
color match is needed, you have to be available for the on press color
proof. There is an extra charge for that.
In contrast to offset press, where, for the same price you have a
given plate size, and you can paste-up as many cards as you can fit on
it. Letterpress is charged by the square inch of the image
the printing cost of a 3 X 2" image on a 3.5 X 2" business card, or a 1 X 6" image
as a letterhead logo on a 8.5 X 11" sheet is the same.
the main factors in determining the cost are:
the number of items ( set up cost per item and
image size ( plate cost by square inch )
the number of colors ( ink and wash up cost )
quantities ( stock and impression cost )
parent sheet cutting, and card trimming after printing
don’t be hasty!
though your labor benefit many,
to work neatly, precisely,
as the star moves along the sky,
so is meritable only.
Attila József ( 1936 )
Think BOLD cutwork, doily, crochet and filigree. keep it open and
airy. let the paper show trough. It will pop-up nicely between the
lines. bleed is soooo offset print style. I know, I know ... it takes
effort to cap it off, but it does not cut well because the paper is
half as thick on the pressed area, and it tends to curl too.
Letterpress gained popularity trough
sort of a rebellion against high tech, ultra-Photoshopped designs. The
resulting look is typically very organic, handmade, retro, and
Letterpress, as the name implies, is for printing
and is really not suitable for large solid areas like the offset
press. It is not as much a press's fault, offset presses use smooth
coated stock, while letterpress cards are usually printed on uncoated
and textured stock. It is difficult to get an even coverage over the
pores and uneven surface of the paper. On larger unbroken areas it is
quite noticeable. If you can, use a pattern fill instead in these
areas, or a dense screen.
Print Designers, accustomed to offset printing, often think
that if the design looks good on the computer screen, it will look
good printed on letterpress too. It might not be the case.
The only disadvantage I can think of, of the Vector Graphics Software
is that no matter how much you zoom in, the artwork still looks good
and you don't even realize that you are working on a " micro level ".
If we would still have the old dot matrix printers, and you would
print your artwork on them, soon you would realize where you are in
the " thin ", where your artwork falls apart in the dots.
Indiscriminately scaling down your vector art gives you just an image
on the paper, but it might look and feel quite different from its
bigger version, when pressed
in to the paper. Scaling down requires re-design, you have to make it " airy "
again, and check the minimum line thickness. You should have a
reference line of 0.25pt. thickness in your sight when you are zoomed
in to your artwork, so you can visually compare you artwork lines to a
You have to
look at this process as 3 dimensional relief sculpting ( cavo-relievo
), acquire the feel, what will happen to the paper under extreme
pressure. How will the shadows in the grooves affect the shape of the
design, and the color of the ink. Also, what are the structural
limitations of the polymer plates, and the particular paper.
Please pay attention to Type Kerning. The paper pillows up between the
type and incredibly magnifies BAD kerning of letters! Depends on the
quality of font you use, Auto or Optical kerning might not be
sufficient, you have to get in there and manually adjust the letter
PLEASE, create a test
color separation of your artwork, you should not have any of
pages showing, only the spot colors you use in your design.
If you used the Transparency / Opacity Sliders to
adjust the color balance in your design, when you are done
adjusting, replace all these colors with the matching Pantone®
Solid Uncoated Spot Colors, otherwise these areas will print as
If you intentionally want to use halftones, please
make a note of it and specify the Screen Ruling, dot shape and the
angle. for textured stock 80 LPI is recommended, and account for a
considerable dot-gain with an usable crude tonal range of 25% to 75%
If you desire the halftone effect, you are better
off using Pattern Fill. you have a better control over it, since you
can preview it on your monitor and make fine adjustments
In either case I suggest capping off the halftone or
texture fill areas with a stroke width appropriate to the dot /
shape size filling the area to minimize the jagged edges do to a
coarse dot / pattern resolution ( min. 0.15pt stroke, for structural reasons
Use only standard
PANTONE PMS® SOLID UNCOATED spot colors, delete unused swatches,
avoid halftones and bit-mapped images.
Use separate file for
each design, with descriptive file names and version numbers
Avoid placing address
over glue tabs of envelopes
Destination address (
on front ) will show trough to the back
Avoid bleed, and close
tolerance 2 color designs on envelopes
Avoid large solids,
especially with dark colors
Work out overprint,
knock-out and trapping on overlapping or touching colors
Avoid the mix of thin
lines and reverse thin lines ( inside solids ). due to ink spread,
thin lines will be much bolder than designed and reverse thin lines
will tend to fill in. the difference between the same thin line
thickness printed in positive and in reverse can be quite drastic
Do not place parallel
lines close to the edge
Place a thin stroke (
0.05 to 0.08 pt. ) on small serif fonts. otherwise the thin serifs
might wash away in the plate making process, creating gaps in the
natural flow of the typeface shape.
Outline fonts and save file with a suffix or postfix, so you don't
loose your original file with the text editing capabilities.
Make a mock-up of
folded cards and pocket folders - make sure that all the required package
pieces will fit in the envelope and can be taken out too
Nothing is perfect in life, nor in printing, that is why tolerances
were invented, to give acceptable level of quality, and still allow for
Registration Tolerance and Trap:
Wherever two colors meet, a 1 point trap is required to trap the
Where two colors are adjacent and the designer does not want them to
touch, there should be a minimum of 2 points of space between the
As a general rule, this
register tolerance precludes the use of two
overprinting colors to create the third color, whether with solids
Line Width and Type Size:
Minimum positive line width is 0.25 point. The minimum reverse
printing line width is 0.5 point.
Minimum positive printing type size is 8 point. The minimum reverse
printing type size is 9 point bold.
These guidelines are subject to review with serif type faces,
and with designs including heavy areas of broad solid, along with
small type in same color. In these circumstances the type may need to
be larger and/or bolder.
The inks used in letterpress are essentially semi transparent offset
Pantone® colors, which due to the letterpresses different inking
process, tend to run a bit darker, like the 2X colors in the back of
the swatch book. The color of the stock, and the shadows, directly
or indirectly influence how we see the colors.
Screens and Halftones:
The line screen ruling on uncoated, textured paper stock is 80 to 85
lines per inch. The coarse screen insures cleanest possible dot
reproduction. Halftones must have strong contrast, subtle tone
variations will not reproduce.
Card trim size and image position on the cut card is ±0.03". Square ness
tolerance is ±0.03" over 18".
So, for example, when you design a card with a printed border 3mm away
from the card edge, please specify the the tolerances for concentricity
and angular alignment. depending on the tolerances you specify I will
know if I have to print 125 or 150 cards to get out the 100 required,
that are within the tolerances specified. I will try to make it "
dead-on ", but " dead-on " is not a tolerance specification.