This post shows a card we letterpress printed for Grass Fed Cattle Company designed by a good friend and design mentor over the years - Michael Skjei. We love the commitment to local farmers and free range meats. If you are local, give these guys a try.
We seem to be getting an aweful lot of requests to print business designs with floods of solid color. It can work on letterpress - with a couple big caveats.
Will the color be consistent?
We will have a wider range of ink density variation in the print run than an offset press. We do not have computers sitting on press monitoring this, it is all by eye. We matching to a print at the beginning of the run and keep it as a target, adjusting as we go to keep everything as close as we can. But there will be variation.
The heavier the ink density, the more difficult it becomes to hold the detail of fine typographic detail. So if you are flooding, more robust type works better.
Will my color print solid?
This depends on the type of stock and the color. Lighter colors and smoother paper stocks generally print with less "saltiness" in a solid area of coverage. Since letterpress prints with pressure, we are much more subject to the texture and formation of the sheet of paper to achieve an even solid.
Will there be impression on the text?
Generally, no there will not be impression. Letterpress works best with text and artwork that is pressing into the sheet. If you are looking for impression while flooding a color, this is not a great use of letterpress. Notice how the logo and gray ink have impression, the green flood of color does not.
Is the cost the same?
A flood of color takes much more time to set up on letterpress than a card that has text only. Generally, this involves making ready the ink fountain and double the amount of makeready sheets to get color up to speed. Since we charge based on press time, printing a flood of color will cost more than printing a text only design.
However, most small offset printers can't make a 160lb or heavier sheet of paper run through their press. So that leaves letterpress as a viable method to print to handle these heavier stock thickness. You have to get on a much larger offset press to touch that kind of stock thickness, which means also means bigger quantities and costs.
So yes, we can print solid colors IF you are comfortable with the variations that are inherent to the letterpress process.