Letterpress Design Tips: It's A Trap

Trapping is a term used to describe the compensation for misregistration between colors that should have hairline registration  (when two colors are accurately aligned to be touching). When you are feeding paper by hand into an antique press it is very ifficult to achieve hairline registration.  For this reason, we ask that you trap any colors by at least .375pt that should have hairline registration. This gives us a little bit of wiggle room, and ensures that there will be no gaps between two colors that should be touching.

Artwork that looks like this...

Artwork that looks like this...

...should be trapped like this...

...should be trapped like this...

...and will look like this when printed. 

...and will look like this when printed. 

Letterpress Design Tips: Don't Be Shady

When designing for letterpress think solid colors.  If we tried from now to eternity we would not be able to print shadows or gradients.  It's the nature of letterpress!  If your artwork calls for shading, try using cross hatched lines or dots to give the effect.  If you are feeling ambitious, and would like to use a halftone, our plates can hold 100 LPI (lines per inch). 

Letterpress Design Tips: One Color At A Time

Every color in your design will require a separate printing plate, set up, and will get it's own run through the press. It's just one of those facts of letterpress printing. This is why with each additional color the price also increases.  This is also why crop marks on your artwork are helpful to align the colors during printing. There are some creative ways of creating a third (or more) color though.  Because letterpress ink is transparent by nature, overlapping two colors to create a third is a technique often used with great results.

Letterpress Design Tips: Two Sided Printing

There are some restrictions when it comes to two sided letterpress printing.  We typically recommend using only heavier weight papers (such as our 2-ply cotton stock) when printing both sides because of the deep impression that is a hallmark of modern letterpress printing. When printing on a thinner paper (such as our 1-ply cotton stock) the impression on the front of the print will show through on the back. This show-through is a non issue on single sided projects, but becomes paramount on two sided projects and needs to be avoided.

 Another thing to keep in mind when printing both sides of a project is that the second side printed tends to compress the first side, minimizing the impression on the first side. We will always print the "feature" side last to allow for the deepest and most crisp deboss on the most important side.  If you have a preference for which side should be printed last, please make sure you specify when ordering.

Best Practices

  • For two sided projects use a thick paper stock such as our double thick cotton.
  • Specify the side you would like the most impression on when ordering two sided projects. 
double side.JPG

Letterpress Design Tips: Flood Warning

Letterpress printing is not ideal for printing large solid floods of color.  This is due to several factors including the transparent nature of letterpress inks, papers texture, and the amount of ink that is able to be transferred before filling in negative areas or causing ink spread.  This is not to say that we never print large coverage areas, but they print will tend to look suede-like or slightly faded, especially with darker ink colors on white paper. There also tends to be variation in ink coverage over the course of a print run, and large solid color floods accentuate this. Most clients feel this adds character to the project, and highlights the handprinted and vintage nature of letterpress.  Another thing to keep in mind when printing large floods of color, is that overall the printing impression in the paper will be much less.  This is because there is more surface area on the printing plate, and the press has to work that much harder to press plate into paper.  Lastly, if a flood of color is being printed along with more delicate lines or text, a separate run through the press may be required, and would be priced as another color.

Best Practices

  • Keep large color floods to a minimum.
  • If large color floods are used, be prepared for the possibility of an uneven appearance.
  • Dark ink colors tend to exaggerate this uneven appearance, if possible go wth a lighter ink color.
  • Avoid large solids if you are looking for a deep impression into the paper. 
  • Try to avoid using thin, delicate lines or knockouts along with large solids.