Tag Archive for 'opaque'

Slate Studio Card – Letterpress, Foil, Edge Color

Slate Studio in California does some really sharp interactive work.  And their business cards are all kinds of Hollywood too. They pulled out all the stops on the card design and we worked with them through the production specs. The stock is our thick 200lb Cover Wausau Eclipse Black. We letterpress printed them with clear varnish on both sides, then a silver ink for the info text. Then they were foil stamped in a bright blue on each side. Finally, they were trimmed to size and edge colored in a matching bright blue.

A Study In Black Letterpress Business Cards

In our custom letterpress work we see an almost daily request from designers for white inks and/or light colored inks printed on dark colored paper stocks. Since white ink and light colored inks are not completely opaque, the ink will print on the paper with some transparency. This ink transparency is more evident the darker the paper color. This issue represents a learning curve for folks coming to letterpress print production for the first time. White ink does not turn out bright white and light colors will not print lighter than the stock color they are printing on. Metallic inks are a notable exception and will print opaque on colored stocks.

These card design offers a look at what letterpress printing CAN do. These business card were designed by Aadvark Brigade, Chris Straley Photography, and JDH Group. The designs shown are printed on the same black paper stock – 200lb Wausau Eclipse Black.

- The Straley card is black and silver ink.

- The Aardvark card is Opaque white and silver inks.

- The JDH Group is black, silver and metallic blue overprinting the silver inks.

The final cards turned out great and offer a nice comparison of  how the various inks letterpress print side by side. Notice how the white ink has almost a blueish appearance. The black ink gives a nice tonal effect and a metallic color overprinting silver offers some additional opacity to the color.

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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

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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

Old Red Hat Letterpress Business Cards

Scott Ray uses his favorite lid as his design monicker. He designed these cards using a colored paper stock and two inks. This card represents a couple really good ways to use ink on colored paper stock.

Using a colored paper is a great way to get a solid splash of color in a letterpress project without laying down a bunch of ink. But moving to darker colored papers presents challenges in printing. “Opaque” white ink really isn’t a great option since it really isn’t very opaque. With the exception of metallic inks, letterpress inks are transparent. So we used a metallic silver to print the lighter colored text. The tone-on-tone effect of printing a dark red ink on red stock is another great way to use ink on colored paper. The stock is 100lbC French Poptone which was custom duplexed to a double thick 200lb cover weight for a sturdy “thump factor”.

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Narrow Format Cards With Day Glo Color

Adam Hudson Photo sent us these cards for letterpress printing. The unique narrow format really make them different in your hand. And the three color options of orange, green and gray on one side is a nice way to add some simple variety to an identity piece. We keep the plate set up on press and just add a couple wash ups to the printing process.

A thick 220lb cotton stock takes a beefy impression. When a two sided card is pressed with a solid color, we almost always print the solid side first, then the text. This makes for a better sculptural impression on a text only side. Putting an overall impression on a solid area has the effect of ironing the paper flat and will diminish any impression of artwork on the reverse.

Another ink effect we like on this card is the white ink on white paper. We are using a tinted white ink to create a nice subtle detail with just the right amount of contrast to keep it readable. Some times an inkless (blind) impression doesn’t have quite enough visibility to read clearly. We put a little bit of silver in the white ink to give it just the right amount of eye love.

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Black Paper: White Vs. Silver Inks

Here is an image comparison of “opaque” white ink to silver ink. We did this little letterpress test to illustrate why opaque ink really isn’t opaque.

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Note: The small type in these images is about 4 point serif type.

We offer letterpress services to designers around the country and are constantly asked to print white ink on black paper. You can see above that it does not look crisp and bright like you might expect it to.  The conversation we have with designers goes something like this:

-  Can I have white ink printed on my black paper?

Yes, but it will not be opaque like you might expect.

-  What will it look like?

Sort of whitish blue and blotchy and with a bit of ink squeeze on the edges.

-  Oh, why doesn’t it just print white?

Opaque white ink for letterpress and offset printing is actually not very opaque.

-  Why is there ink squeeze?

A thicker film of ink must be run on press to achieve any sort of opacity. When the ink is run thick on letterpress, you get ink squeezing out at the edge of the artwork.

-  Can you do anything to get it to print up better?

We can run the paper through twice. The first pass is run with almost no ink and heavy impression. The second pass is run with heavy ink and just a kiss impression. This allows the white ink to sit right on the surface of the paper. It is not a very nice bright white, more of a blueish white.

-  Does twice through the press mean I’ll pay more?

Of course.

-  What do you recommend?

Print a metallic ink. Unlike opaque white ink, metallic ink is actually opaque. One hit of metallic ink can get good coverage on dark colored stock. A double pass of the metallic ink can even offer a nice sheen.

-  How about yellow or pink, will that work on black paper?

Nope, this goes for all inks of a lighter color printing on darker colored stock. The stock affects the color of the ink. Colors printing on dark colored papers will not be opaque.

-  How can I know what my ink color will look like printed on a colored paper.

We recommend using the “multiple” filter in Adobe Illustrator. It isn’t a perfect match but does give a good approximation.

-  Is there another printing method that can print opaque white?

Silkscreen Printing – but small details can suffer.

Foil Stamping – but small details can suffer.

Engraving – but the size and nature of the artwork is limited. And the cost is $$$.

-  Can you engrave it for me?

We do only letterpress printing services and some small foil stamping work. We do not do engraving. We partner with another vendor for engraving services when there is engraving combined with letterpress printing.

-  Hmm, maybe metallic ink will work for me…

Great, we are glad you understand!

Art Of The Business Card – Black Paper

When we work with designers on projects we have conversations about “production strategy.” Sometimes letterpress is a good fit for the design intent, sometimes not. And often times we combine other production methods to achieve the effect being sought after. Black business cards present a range of production challenges. Flooding a white paper with black ink doesn’t produce fine detail in small type sizes. Here are two projects featuring different ways to print on black paper by combining letterpress with other processes.

Jamie Wickard Card – Designed by our friends at Westwerk Design

This card was produced on black paper stock: Tonal Black letterpress ink and a gloss black FOIL (side 1) and Silver Letterpress (side 2)

Antitdote X Card – Designed by our friends at Antidote X

This card was produced on cream paper stock custom duplexed to black paper stock. (Black letterpress on the cream side and white ENGRAVING on the black side) Then it was finished with custom die cutting.

To achieve fine white type on a black background Engraving is the most premium (and most costly) printing method.  By duplexing a black stock rather than printing black ink and reversing out the white we’ve achieved something letterpress and offset printing would not have done well – notice the fine 3 point serif type! White foil and screen printing can print on black, but not with detail like that. Letterpress printing does not do well printing opaque white on dark colored paper and achieving bright opacity either. Like offset printing, opaque white can be laid down with several passes and achieve a mottled looking white – not a bright white. As a rule for general production: only metallic inks have good opacity on dark stocks.

Of course this all combining of production methods comes at a cost. Which comes to a final point – KNOW YOUR CLIENT BUDGET. Our best production advice is to know what your client wants to spend before finalizing your design. If you have an extravagant design with multiple production steps and your client has only a $300 dollar budget, you’ve just wasted design time on something they can not afford to produce. But if you plan production along side design, you can present your client an option that doesn’t need rounds of compromise. That is what “production strategy” is all about.