While Letterpress printing is one of the more beautiful forms of graphic reproduction (at least WE think it is!) there are some do’s and don’ts you should be aware of when designing your project. Here we address some of those issues and hopefully help you come up with the luxurious piece you are dreaming of.
Vector and Bitmap and Raster . . . Oh My!
Files come in many types, created from many programs with different types of elements included from many different sources. Are you confused yet?
Here’s the bottom line
When printing with letterpress, the cleaner the image is to start with, the better your project will turn out. Vector files are our favorite. Bitmap files (raster images from Photoshop) can be used if they are at least 1200 dpi, converted to bitmap via 50% threshold.
Best File Practices
EPS files with outlined type (throw in a press-ready PDF to guide us too)
Press-ready PDF with embedded fonts
Adobe Illustrator – be sure to outline the type and save in a new file name so you can make revisions in the original file if necessary. Also embed any linked images.
Adobe InDesign – an excellent choice! Make sure you package the job (File>Package) so we receive all linked images and fonts.
A word on colors
Use solid uncoated Pantone colors only. DO NOT USE process, CMYK, RGB, LAB, Indexed colors or any other library of colors. Be sure you only include the colors you intend for us to print and that they are consistent for all items in the project.
Many fonts work well for Letterpress printing, but it’s not a good idea to go smaller then 6 pt. Also avoid extremely thin fonts and fonts with really tight letter spacing. If in doubt, contact us at the start of your project and we will be glad to advise you.
Photos and Screened Images
Unless you are printing a VERY coarse screen as a design element, photos and screens are not well suited to Letterpress printing. If you are looking for a tint of a darker color you are using, consider going with a second, lighter colored ink, or you may want to consider printing that image with offset printing – something we can also do for you.
We recommend going no thinner then .5 pt for line thickness. If you absolutely MUST, you can go down to .25 pt but depending on the image and other text / elements on the same plate you may not be happy with the final results. Remember, Letterpress printing is a much more “physical” printing method. If you work within its limitations you will be very pleased with the final results!
Letterpress is a spot color process, typically best suited to 1, 2 or 3 colors. You can design with 4 or more colors if you wish, as the final result will be quite stunning. Bear in mind that each color requires a pass through the press, also meaning additional cost.
Reverse Type & Knockouts
Type and other elements can be reversed out of a solid color area but there are limitations to keep in mind. The “tighter” the image or font (thinner the letter or line width) the more likely it is to “fill in” or “plug”. Sometimes it’s possible to add a stroke to the letter or element to open up the image more to avoid this issue. As always, please feel free to show us what you have in mind before getting too attached to the design.
Light Inks & Dark Paper
Letterpress inks for the most part are translucent in nature, meaning they don’t completely cover the surface they are printed on. Sort of like trying to repaint a dark colored wall with a light colored paint – it will work eventually – maybe after the 3rd or 4th coat! The best approach with Letterpress printing is to use darker colored inks on lighter colored papers. This is why you mostly see white, ecru and other light colored papers used in conjunction with Letterpress printing. There may be alternate ways to create the look of a lighter color ink on a dark paper, so if you really want that effect please give us a call and tell us what you have in mind.
Overprinting & Trapping
Colors may be overprinted in Letterpress printing, but it’s difficult to know for certain what third color you will get in the overprinted area. There is also a limit to how much impression can be applied to each color in the process. For instance, lighter colored inks are typically printed in the first pass with less impression then what is normally applied. The next darker colored ink is printed over the lighter color with added impression.
Trapping can also be done (the process of 2 colors printing adjacent to each other with a very tiny amount of overprint – approximately .25 pt) which maintains the original colors. We can advise you on the best approach to your particular design.