Paper & Process
We print primarily on uncoated, 100% cotton paper. Because this paper is not compressed during production the way that standard wood-pulp paper is, it is almost ‘fluffy’ to the touch, and accepts heavy letterpress impression in a way that’s really satisfying to the fingertips. Most often, we recommend Crane’s Lettra or Flurry Cotton, both of which come in 3 shades of white and two weights. If you want to see or feel a swatch before placing an order, contact us — we’ll be happy to mail you a sample (this may take a few days). All the pricing on our site assumes the use of one of these papers.
However, while the above papers are great choices for 90% of our letterpress jobs, we consider each job individually. If your job needs are better suited for another stock — like a wood-pulp paper or a coated stock — we’ll work through that with you. The whole world of paper is open to you! Just send us details about your job, and we can make a recommendation.
Letterpress inks are somewhat transparent, which means they are not well suited to printing on dark paper. Generally, only colors that are darker than the paper will show up — and even then, colored paper will affect the ink appearance. For example, printing cyan ink on a light pink paper could make the ink appear purplish. For light-colored papers, we recommend designing with darker ink colors. For dark-colored papers, we recommend designing for metallic gold or silver inks (which are opaque) or foil stamping.
Note that all custom prices listed assume using a white paper; contact us for pricing if you’re interested in using a colored paper for your custom project.
While our shop offers only letterpress and hand-finishing at this time, we work with several local printers when a job requires a combination of processes. We can accommodate almost any additional process, including paper duplexing, foil stamping, digital or offset printing, die cutting, edge painting, and more. There’s no end to the looks you can achieve with process combination. If you’re interested, just contact us with your project details, and we’ll walk you through how we could achieve them.
Variations & Imperfections
Letterpress is a very old-fashioned process. Inks are mixed by hand. Each sheet of paper is fed by hand. Impression and ink coverage are adjusted by hand on press, sometimes during the press run itself. While we strive for the very best result with every custom job, the fact remains that the perfection of a fully automated process simply doesn’t exist when it comes to letterpress, and you may find slight variations in ink coverage, impression, or other aspects of your custom print run. This is part of the beauty of letterpress printing.
We will include a small number of “extra” sheets with custom orders on request, in case you find any flawed prints (though we check every print individually during packing).
Keep in mind that all payments, including 50% deposits, on custom orders are nonrefundable. Once you have approved the final proof, you accept responsibility for the approved artwork, and we cannot issue refunds or accept returns on account of artwork mistakes. We will send you an estimate for a reprint on request. If, on the other hand, a misprint occurs on press such that the print does not match the artwork you approved, rest assured — we will make it right. However, a “misprint” does not include minor variations natural to the letterpress process, as described above. Contact us with any questions.
Graphic File Requirements
Our preferred file formats are vector — .ai, .eps or .pdf. If you can only send artwork as a .tif or other raster file, that’s okay too — just make sure its resolution is at least 300dpi (the higher the better). Please check all the following before sending:
- Check that your artwork is designed at 100% size (the exact size you want it printed).
- If your artwork will bleed off the paper edge, please make sure to include 1/8” of bleed around the edges of your design, as well as crop marks for all four corners.
- Outline all type (Type > Create Outlines).
- Place each ink color in your design on its own layer.
- Embed any links (an option in the Links palette), or include them as a separate file attachment.
- If ordering multiple print pieces (e.g. a card and an envelope), please send as individual files.
If you’ve done all of the above, we’ll take care of the rest of the production file setup! And if you have any further questions before submitting, just reach out.
If your artwork will bleed off the paper edge, please make sure to include 1/8” of bleed around the edges of your design, as well as crop marks for all four corners (in Illustrator, just go to Effect > Create > Crop Marks). If your artwork will not bleed off the paper edge, you don’t have to worry about including bleed or crop marks in your file.
Minimum Stroke & Point
It’s important to respect the minimum stroke and dot weights in your design. If you submit artwork with dots or hairlines under the minimum, chances are good that it won’t hold up to the pressure of the press, and it could print weakly or not at all.
The minimum guaranteed stroke weight is 0.35 points. Please check any hairline strokes in your design to ensure they are at least this heavy — this includes thin strokes or swashes on your fonts, as well! The minimum guaranteed dot size is 1.25 points in diameter. Please check any small dots to ensure they are at least this large — the biggest culprit is a period, comma, or dot over an “i” in your type (fun fact — it’s called a tittle!).
For most fonts, a good rule of thumb is to use type at least 6 points in size or larger (but check stroke and dot sizes anyway!).
Inks & Colors
We use uncoated paper for a vast majority of our work — most often, 100% cotton papers. This is a beautiful choice the takes the impression of letterpress very well. If you’re specifying ink colors for your job, it’s important that you use an UNCOATED Solids Pantone swatchbook to ensure you’re seeing the closest match to how the ink will appear once printed on our uncoated papers.
Also, know that the way a color appears on screen bears little relation to how that color will appear once printed. Selecting from an Uncoated Pantone swatchbook is the only way you (and we) can be confident we’re on the same page regarding your inks. If you don’t have access to such a swatchbook, you can also mail us a printed swatch of the color you want us to match, and we can match that printout to the closest ink in our swatchbook.
While we mix according to exact Pantone values, the final ink appearance may be affected to a small degree by the substrate color, press run quantity, and artwork style.
Letterpresses were originally designed for printing typeset pages for books and collateral; they weren’t really designed for floods of color. While we can certainly print large shapes or floods, they will end up with a mottled and translucent effect (see our gallery or contact us for examples). We may also need to treat (and price) your one-color job like a two-color job, if you have both large print areas and delicate type in a single color.
If you aren’t sure about your design, email it to us — we’ll be happy to take a look! If we decide your design won’t print well with letterpress, we may recommend another solution — for example, printing the color field digitally and then applying a blind deboss to create an aligned impression. This is a process commonly known as “letterpress light,” and a great way to solve for this weakness of letterpress printing.
Letterpress inks are somewhat transparent, in the sense that printing one over another will create a third color — for example, blue printed over yellow will create green. Overprinting is a cool technique that can create additional color options without raising your cost (three for the price of two!). To get a sense of what it’ll end up looking like, set your artwork layers to “multiply.” Keep in mind that a colored paper stock will have a similar effect on your ink colors.
Letterpress printing has a really unique capability to create an impression with no ink. This is called a “blind deboss.” It’s a subtle but beautiful look that calls attention to the handmade and luxe quality of letterpress. If you’re interested in blind deboss, keep in mind that it is best suited for patterning or texture, or for larger typesetting. We do not recommend using blind deboss for very small elements like body copy.
Because a blind deboss requires its own press run, it is considered to be its own color, and priced accordingly, when making a purchase.
Metallic Inks & Foil Stamping
We use both metallic gold and metallic silver inks, in addition to traditional flat colors. Metallic inks are opaque, so they can be a good choice when printing on darker paper stocks. However, metallic inks are very dull, and they provide a slight shimmer at certain angles depending on the paper type being used (more shine on a coated paper, much less on uncoated paper).
Keep in mind that metallic inks do not appear at all like a hot foil stamp, which is more of a reflective mirror surface. If you’re hoping to use foil stamping for your project, we’re happy to work with our local foil stamp partner to do so! If you’re not sure, contact us — we’ll talk you through the options!