Archive for the 'Printing Tips and Tricks' Category

Foiled by Studio On Fire

That’s right folks, we’ve added hot foil stamping to our repertoire of specialty in-house processes.

One of the best things about foil is, unlike our letterpress inks which are transparent, foil is opaque, allowing us to apply a lighter color on a dark background (see this blog post to read about  letterpress printing with white inks on black stocks).

As designers we love(!) tiny type, but as printers, we know there are limits to what is realistically achievable. With that in mind we created a set of specimen cards, exploring different type sizes using the two fonts we use for our identity. From the reasonable 11pt type all the way down to the petite 5pt italic Baskerville, the foil held up pretty well, though the fidelity at these sizes can’t always be guaranteed–it’s going to change from typeface to typeface.

With letterpress printing we recommend tracking out your type (at least to 25 or 50) to give room for impression between letters. For foiling we recommend the same, this keeps letterforms from merging into one blobby mess on press.

We found that the metallic foils (gold, silver, copper, etc) released a lot cleaner than some of the pigment foils (colored foils, such as the blue foil shown below). We definitely wouldn’t recommend getting too tiny with the pigment foils.

 

 

Thinner, yet sculptural.

A new product we’ve been asking for (for several years) has finally arrived. Crane Lettra is now available as a 90lb cover stock that is thick, but not so thick, and good for duplexing.

Being the paper nerds that we are, we busted out our calipers to compare the thickness of duplexed Lettra stocks. Our 220lb Lettra stock calipers at .039″ (40pt) and the new 180lb cover stock calipers at .031″ (30pt), roughly a 25% reduction. Available in fluorescent white, pearl white and ecru, we’ve added this to our list of preferred house stocks.

Our first project to hit press with this new stock was for director Nathaniel Freeman. Letterpress printed with a navy ink and a custom varnish, the 90lb pearl white stock was duplexed after printing–concealing the impression show through in the center of the card. The finished product features a nice sculptural impression, but with slightly less bulk to the card.

2011 Letterpress Printers Gift Guide

This is a post not for admirers of letterpress products, but for the folks actually doing letterpress printing. Crafting high quality work is all about the details. Sometimes the littlest things make a really big difference. The black arts ain’t always easy. In order to letterpress print professionally you need the right tools for the job. These are some of the things that we use daily in our shop. Individual items range in cost from $5 to $60. Granted, they are not items found in letterpress shops a hundred years ago, but that is a bonus you get for being a letterpress printer in the age of the glowing screen.

 

1. Schaedler Combo Ruler
This ruler is used across every step of production in our shop. It has really tiny increments. So small that you can measure the lines on your typical ruler. They have it all on this one ruler: points, picas, metric, standard and decimal inches.

2. Depth Ruler
This is the perfect tool to quickly square up your artwork to the press sheet. We don’t use them for increments. We use them as a tool to slide the gauge and compare side to side on a press sheet.

3. Digital Thickness Gauge
To adjust impression and do proper makeready you have to KNOW exactly what thickness you are putting in the press and adjust your packing accordingly. This is the tool to do just that. Find the overall thickness of materials in metric and decimal inches.

4. #99 Heidelberg GTO Suckers
These will change your life if you run Heidelberg letterpresses. They are specifically useful if you have ever struggled with warping, wavy cover stock or heavy board stock. The accordion body on these offer a little additional reach beyond the disc type suckers, without double sheeting. We use them on both Heidelberg Original Cylinders and Heidelberg Windmills.

5. Dogwood Coffee
Drinking on the job is almost a requirement in our shop. For consistently great coffee we love the micro-roasted batches from Dogwood Coffee. It’s a daily ritual from folks that embrace craft like we do. They have sweet little holiday brewing bundles available on their site.

6. Linen Tester Magnifier
See what is going on on your press sheet close up. You can then more quickly diagnose your print issues. Overinking, plate problem, impression, etc. We like the open body style of the folding linen tester magnifiers.

7. LED Magnetic Flex Light
Have a hard time seeing an enclosed part? Ever drop something inside a press. We have. This bright little light is perfectly small and has a magnetic base to keep your hands free.

8. Precision Oiler
We use a heavy weight press oil in this little guy to get a precision drop of oil right where it needs to go. Perfect for oiling the small parts around feeding and delivery, especially on Heidelberg Windmills.

9. Rosin Bag
Originally a product used to add gripping precision in many sports, this little bag works well to add some stick to the rails your roller trucks ride on. Gets rid of that pesky little ghosting start mark by slapping this sack on your rails a few time. This is an especially good tip for Heidelberg Windmills.

 

10. Super Soap
Sometimes is feels so good to be dirty. But to handle cotton paper you better get clean. This soap is easy on the hands and has a little sawdust grit for scrubbing action.

11. Teamster Shop Apron

This is one mother of an apron. This is an extra long apron that We love the split leg design that allows you to get up and down to worship your iron beast.


12. Pressroom Creed Poster

If you want your studio visitors to better understand your letterpress neurosis, hang this in your shop. (yes, this is a shameless promotion of our own product) It is a 13 x 20 sheet size, heavy 220lb cotton stock. “This is my printing press. There are many like it, but this one is mine…”

 

 

 

Olli Salumeria Business Cards

Yael Miller, from Miller Creative, designed these gorgeous business cards for Olli Salumeria, a salumeria that makes dry-cured salumi in Virginia. Though the outcome is, dare we say stunning, these cards posed several production challenges along the way.

As a general rule, we don’t suggest using letterpress when the design uses floods of color and require clients to agree to our Solid Areas Disclaimer before we will proceed with their job. To achieve a nice solid coverage of color we had to run the ink heavy across the card, thankfully we had added some additional stroke weight to the artwork in the pre-press stage so the line work would not fill in on press. Another trick we used was lightly wetting the sheet before running- this cuts down on the appearance of saltiness and variation across the color.

Flood aside, take a look at that red. Yael refers to it as “Ferrari red,” and we can’t say that we disagree. The design actually specified a Pantone GOE color, which is not a Pantone book we match to, but since we custom mix all of our colors we were able to match a swatch that was mailed in for reference. We took one of our base red inks and pumped it up with a hit of fluorescent red to really get the color to pop.

These cards are printed on Crane Lettra 110lb cover that we custom duplexed after printing to make 220lb. By duplexing after printing we were able to run the flood without completely flattening the text on the other side of the card (not to mention we love any excuse to make a business card thicker). A custom diecut, shaped to reference a ticket or label, finished off the cards in an unexpected, yet refined way.

This project can also be found on FPODesignWorkLife, and Miller Creative.

AIGA MN Design Camp Materials

The first weekend in October marked the 31st annual AIGA MN Design Camp. We have been involved for several years now, in 2008 we designed the conference materials and last year we hosted a letterpress workshop. This year we worked behind the scenes with Ideal Printers to produce the impressive system of materials that were designed by Target inHouse.

First off the press were promotional materials which were mailed out to over 1300 AIGA MN members. We printed the cover of the promo book on Domtar Colors Green 110 Index stock. To achieve a consistent solid black in the pattern while still holding the type crisp we split the black plate into two passes- one pass with heavier ink density for the pattern and lighter ink coverage for the text. After adding a hit of silver those covers ended up running through the press three times. The promotional poster was printed on Cascade Rolland Natural 70 lb text weight with a run of black and a custom green ink mixed to match the green Domtar stock. All of that was shipped out in a kraft envelope we imprinted with return mailing address and indicia.

Upon arrival in Nisswa campers received a tote bag filled with goodies such as tee shirts, pennants and more letterpress printed event materials. The guidebook, full of interviews with speakers and details about weekend activities had a Domtar Colors Salmon 110 Index cover that we letterpress printed in two passes of black and a hit of silver. The partner guide, detailing all of the event sponsors, had a cover produced in the same manner but on Domtar Colors Blue 110 Index. A special bonus this year was a custom sketch book, state facts and suggested uses were printed with black ink on Neenah Environment, Desert Storm, 80C. A map of ‘Navigating Up North’ was also produced, a poster style piece printed in two colors on Cascade Rolland Natural 70 lb text.

Of course we couldn’t resist adding a little extra letterpress goodness from Studio On Fire, so we whipped up a set of four coasters, printed with 2 fluorescent colors on an Ahlstrom blotter stock, that were slipped into the bag of each camper.

 

 

Letterpress at AIGA MN Design Camp Workshop

This post is a recap of the fun we had this last weekend leading a press free, hand style letterpress workshop at AIGA Minnesota Design Camp. We were located in the wine cellar at Grandview Lodge in Nisswa, Minnesota. Over 300 designers attend this event annually. We did three sessions of this 1.5 hour long workshop with over 120 total attendees.

The process was about putting down lots of ink quickly, creating textures, layers and happenstance in the layout and printing. No press required, no two prints alike.

Studio On Fire brought in lots of good stuff:

10 large cases of our woodtype collection (about 400lbs of type, mostly Hamilton faces)

Tape and cardboard (served as the bed of the press, tape held type in rough position)

A wadded up paper towel was the “printing press” (used with hands to burnish the back of the sheets)

Several dozen CSA images supplied on photopolymer plates (permission of CSA archives)

Wood grain background textures (blasted with a powerwasher, then relief carved)

Lots of good ol’ French Paper to print on (poptone sweet tooth and many many remnants)

Ink and brayers (oil based inks and soft rubber rollers)

It was a fluid process and a good chance for everyone to step away from the computer. A huge thanks AIGA Minnesota for having us and to the AIGA volunteers that supplied a steady stream of nature wash solvent to clean up and redistribute the wood type and images. And thanks to Phong Tran for his photo contributions.

If you would like Studio On Fire to do a workshop with your group, let’s talk. Please do contact us for more information.

Let’s Get It On – Platen Press Tip

Sometimes it’s possible to get an oversize sheet on an undersized platen letterpress. What is important to keep in mind is the distance between the arms on either side of the platen. As long as the sheet is smaller than that dimension, it could fit.

This is a long 4 x 18 inch card that needs to fold in half to 4 x 9 inch and fit into a standard #10 envelope. We are set up in this photo to run a 3 point matrix score, but this works for printing as well. To fit this sheet size onto our 10 x 15 size C&P platen press required a special McGill gauge pin for the side guide that fits between the tympan bail and the side of the platen. It extends beyond the platen and adds the couple inches needed to get the sheet to land inside the working area.  It is a good solution to handle smaller hand fed jobs.

These guides came with equipment we purchased several years ago and we can not find more. Although, it could be rigged up from hardware store material pretty easily. If anyone has a source for these guides, please share! Someday we’ll just get a bigger hand fed press, but then there will be an even bigger sheet.

Plantable Seed Paper Postcard

What if you received a mailing from a company and it was actually something beautiful? With this card, you could even try planting it. This oversize postcard for Northern Lights Landscaping was designed by WestmorelandFlint and is letterpress printed on a plantable paper containing wildflower seeds. We would say they have easily surpassed the typical beauty threshold of your garden variety direct mail piece.

We letterpress printed this 10 x 5.75 card in two colors.  The stock came from our new friends here in the midwest at Porridge Paper. It is their Plantable Seed Paper, Ecotan 110lb Cover, wild flower mix. This paper does produce a beautiful sculptural letterpress impression. A cautionary note on those wildflower seed inclusions – it also makes a really big mess inside the printing press. After running several thousand sheets through the cylinder press four times, we had enough wildflower seeds inside the machine to plant a small meadow. A fun mailer AND good times cleaning up afterwards.

Away We Go – Lots Of Letterpress Ink

This invitation designed by the groom Tyler Thiessen at Neuhaus Design and illustrated by bride Jessie Turner makes their wedding invitation into a fresh art print. It is nice to see a wedding invitation that is illustration centric versus type heavy. They put all the text on the web. You can check out the couples wedding website here.

The illustration is simple with just a little overprinting of  bright red and light blue inks. Most of the artwork knocks out, requiring very tight register. (like the blue dotted lines on the hot air ballon.) It is printed on Crane Lettra Flo. White 110lbC The card is like a small poster and folds up to a 5.5 x 5.5 square.

We won’t mince words, this was a hard invitation to print with letterpress. Registration was tight, and the paper does stretch with heavy impression over a solid graphic area. Plus, large areas of solid color are not ideal for letterpress. Letterpress is definitely not like screen printing these kind of solid colors. Most letterpress equipment will not be able to handle this kind of press work. We printed this one on a Heidelberg Cylinder that has the impressional strength to lay down some pressure. Chances are if you send an invitation our way with a lot of ink going down you will get an email with our handy disclaimer that goes something like this. Once all this is understood we can move to press. And as you can see, we DO print areas of solid color and it can turn out very beautiful. Just realize there WILL be variation within the job that is inherent to printing this type of work with letterpress.

Feast Mpls Poster – Split Fountain Ink

Feast is a recurring public dinner designed to use community-driven financial support to democratically fund new and emerging artmakers. We did a poster for the upcoming event here at Studio On Fire. The size is 18 x 24. It was a hand drawn sketch, scanned and converted to a bitmap tiff to preserve the sketch texture. It was printed with a split ink fountain. Our split fountain had fluorescent orange ink on one side of the press and light blue ink on the other side, creating a nice purple gradient in the middle.

Bat Mitzvah Letterpress Invitation Star With Clips

It goes without saying, we like unique paper structures. This Bat Mitzvah invitation, designed here at Studio On Fire features two triangles with a hole punch that clips together making a six pointed star shape. The paper triangles unclip to open and reveal the invitation text. The paper is 110lb Crane Lettra Flo White 100% cotton, letterpress printed in hot pink and die cut into the two triangles. It was mailed in a large square Neenah Eames Furniture, Weave Finish, Pacific Blue envelope printed in one color on the flap.

Those little metal clips are something we get asked about a lot. They are called #2 Petite Fasteners, made by GEM Office Products here in the USA. They have a little point that pierces the paper and holds the sheets together. You can buy them wholesale here. ($7 per box of 100 clips, 10 box minimum) They come in two sizes – the #2 is the bigger one, the #0 is smaller. And no, we do not sell the clips. But if you are in need of some top notch Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah invitations we’d love to hear from you.

Tone-on-tone white and black inks

We have a lot of requests for blind (inkless) impression with letterpress plates. However, a tonal ink is often something we suggest rather than a truly blind impression. If the stock being printed does not lend itself to deep impression, the artwork needs some legibility or the art work is on both sides of the sheet, a blind hit can be ill advised. The amount of impression needed to clearly read a completely blind hit will create impression show through on the reverse side of the printed piece. One of the ways we get around this is to mix a tonal ink, shown here on both black and white business card samples. By printing a tone, we can lessen the impression and dial up the legibility a bit.

The black stock is 200lb Wausau Eclipse Black. It is letterpress printed with a black and silver ink mix.

The white stock is 220lb Crane Lettra Flo. White. It is letterpress printed with opaque white ink contaminated with 877 silver.

_0001_white_ink_white_paper_logo

_0004_blacksilver_ink_black_paper_logo