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.