Posts tagged process
Printing Will & Meggie

I've been printing like a mad woman these past few weeks. I've also been carrying around my camera to capture process for you. (Yes, you!)

Here's a behind the scenes look at the 48 hour whirlwind that was printing Will & Meggie's wedding invites. Since this design required a long skinny image, I jumped in the car and went to West Seattle to borrow Myrtle Alley Press' Vandercook. This press is a beast. It can print up to 18" x 24", and requires about a week of energy to print for a day. (Picture me, sweaty and tired.)


The plate for printing the first color on the interior. Big big plate!


I really like pictures of tools.


The first color, on the page. How pretty is the texture on that banged up feed board?


Plate for the second color on the interior.


I like big stacks of paper.


Back to C&Co. and our Chandler & Price. Time to print the clouds!


This is a great example of what white ink looks like when printed on colored paper. It's semi-transparent, kind of milky, and looks like clouds. Great for this application, not great for others.


More beautiful stacks of 50. Repetition is soothing.


Plate for the invite's front on our C&P.


First color on the front.


Here come more clouds!


These clouds were really fun to print.


Final steps: Scoring the pieces to fold and sewing machine perforation! The sewing machine isn't a great method for high quantities, but worked great for these 150 invites.


All done!

Wood Engraving Process!

Hello friends! You responded with such enthusiasm to our last process post, I've returned with another. I aim to please! This time, I've documented the wood engraving process from idea to final print.

I started taking wood engraving classes in January of this year, and have completed 8 engravings since then (about one a month). To see some of my journey in learning wood engraving - check those posts out hereherehere, and here. I really didn't expect to fall in love with engraving the way I have. It's so satisfying to create my own printing blocks and see my ideas come to life. I've done all my previous engravings under the watchful eye & expertise of Carl Montford, but this is my first time working solo start to finish here in the studio. I'm excited about how it turned out, and I hope you enjoy this peek into the process!

Atticus the Studio Finch

Atticus the Studio Finch

1) Have an idea & produce an image. As soon as we brought Atticus home, I knew I wanted to do an engraving of him. I pictured it with lots of detail, and his little orange beak & feet being hand colored. Brad and I gave birdley a little photo shoot, and this image surfaced.


2) Plan initial line work. I printed the image out at full page size and emphasized the lines and shading with a Staedtler pen. This is definitely where a lot of the thought & planning starts - where will the lines, shading and solids be? What will I emphasize? What will I change or leave out?

3) Make a xerox. I walked over to our local UPS store, shrunk the image to the size of the block, and paid the $0.09 it costs to make a photocopy nowadays. (This was not exciting, so I didn't take a photo.)


4) Transfer the image onto the block. I use Resingrave blocks by McClain's, because real wood blocks are crazy expensive. I cut the xerox down to the size of the block, but left a half inch or so on either side of the image for taping. (You don't want the image moving around.) Once it was securely attached face down on the block, I applied a few drops of mineral spirits onto the paper. (It makes it cool and transparent.) Then I used my handy dandy transfer tool! It's a weird power tool that will burn the poop out of your hands if you're clumsy like I am. (Who needs feeling in their fingertips?)


It takes some patience and fortitude, but eventually the image transfers permanently from the paper to the block, leaving the paper looking opaque and white again.


5) Tint the block I used some thinned out red printing ink to tint the block, making it easier for me (and you!) to see what's been engraved.


6) Get to work! I started on the whitest parts of the bird, carefully clearing out the pure white sections. Then I worked on the basic texture of the bird's body, starting to get a feel for the types of strokes required to create this image. I was a ballet dancer for a long time before becoming a designer/printer, and this feels a lot like that - each piece requires a different visual style and quality of movement. It's physical and intuitive. And it's risky! I'm carving and chipping away at the block, and it's easy to become overzealous and remove the wrong parts. You really can't put it back. There's no "control z," but that's what I love about handmade work.


7) Work on the background. This background is fairly simple, but required a lot of patience to clear away the white without taking out a bar of the cage too. There are a few strokes I wish I could take back, but I know they'll give it authenticity when all is said and done. I am not a computer. I am still learning. (Sara pep talk #1.)


8 ) Add more detail. The beauty of a subject matter like bird is amount the texture & detail required. I definitely didn't intend to put in every feather, but wanted to give the general appearance of feathers and light/dark shadows.


9) Head for the iron handpress! Once I've finished a first pass on the whole block, I like to see where I'm at by making a proof. And my friend Wendy is the best for proofing wood engravings.


10) Ink the block. I use an oil based printmaking ink from Daniel Smith for wood engravings. It's smooth, thin, and works really well getting solid black prints. Before printing each piece, I also dampen the paper with a spray bottle and dry it off with a blue paper towel. The water softens the paper fibers and allows for more solid printing & deeper impression.


11) Pull a proof and check it out! I hold my breath a bit when I'm about to see a first proof. It's so exciting to see the image come to life on paper for the first time!


12) Establish what to tackle next. The background in a few sections needed to be cleared deeper, the back foot is disappearing on the branch (oops), and birdley's chest & tail could use some improvement. Time to head back to the engraving bench with proof in hand.


13) Back to the block. It's all gray once it's been proofed and cleaned, so it's important to have the proof next to it for reference.


14) Get stressed out and nit-picky. Make tiny changes & proof it a bunch. Just kidding. Sorta. This part is all about figuring out what needs to be done so that I can be happy with it. At this point, I think the top of the head and the mid-section need some additional work.


15) That's better! It's important to know when to call it finished. You can certainly overwork a block. Once you've taken something out, you can't put it back.


15) Finish it up and give it your personal mark! Carl uses an M for Montford. I've chosen a little star.


16) Print the run!


17) Hand color the beak & feet! Instead of using watercolor (my first thought), I decided to use a Copic marker, because I find them easier to manage.


18) All done! Sort, sign & number the prints and send them out into the world. To take home your own little studio bird (in letterpress form), visit our Etsy store!

The Letterpress Printing Process: Sean & Emily

Hello friends!  I recently had an out-of-town bride ask for photos of the printing process, and I was glad to oblige. So I grabbed my camera and took a photo of each step of the process.

This is a rather detailed look at how we produce our client projects. Feel free to comment with your questions. I'd love to answer them!

1) Design the invitation suite digitally in Adobe Illustrator. (The design process has several more steps, but we'll save that for another day.)


2) Prepare the finished design as a pdf to send out for photopolymer printing plates to be made at Boxcar Press. This is also when we order the paper, envelopes, etc. that the client has chosen.


3) When the plates arrive, carefully cut them apart into the appropriate sections.


4) Rev up the paper cutter (just kidding, it's manual) and cut down the parent sized sheets to the sizes required. This lovely gray paper is Magnani Pescia, an insanely beautiful 100% cotton paper made in Italy.


5) Mix ink to the client's chosen Pantone colors. (We send out Pantone chips, paper samples and envelope samples to the client for final choices before placing orders.)


Hello Josephine!


6) Ink up the press.


My drawer of printing tools and supplies.


7) Grab the tape! (This cool trick is something I learned from the great Chandler O'Leary.) Measure the design and place the plate in the appropriate position with tape. Place the sheet of paper with the plate taped to it on the guide pins (the little doo-dads that hold the paper in place), and carefully close the press on the printing plate.


The plate will be in approximately the right place! Cool, huh?


8 ) Make the first print.


9) Measure the margins of the piece, and move the guide pins incrementally until the design is straight, centered, and looks correct.


10) Print the first color of the run!


11) Stack those babies! We use a rubber based ink that soaks into the paper, making the pieces able to be stacked right away. This repurposed library cart is my favorite thing.


12) Clean the press.


13) Repeat steps 6-12 for the rest of the colors & pieces!


Measurements & notes


Back to the tape trick


First color on the RSVP card


Stack of "make ready" - the paper used to get the measurements, inking, color, etc. correct before printing the run


The finished invitation suite! Ta da!

Always Learning: Wood Engraving Classes!

For my birthday a few weeks ago, Brad gave me unlimited wood engraving lessons with Carl Montford!

Carl is absolutely a master of his craft, and I am honored to call him a friend. He was the "matchmaker" who brought us together with the seller of our first press, and he even helped us move the press into our studio (not an easy task). Carl is an absolute treasure of the letterpress community, and I am so excited to be learning from him!

The photo above is the progress of my first engraving project. I'm working on an anchor image and using a Resingrave block. I learned so much in just the first three hours. It's so exciting to be learning a new skill from such an amazing artist. Cherish is taking classes as well, so I'll see if I can get her to share her progress too. I'll keep you posted as we progress!

Inky Hands are the Printer's Tools

I have a confession. I'm a messy printer.

It's a relief to say that out loud.

Getting my hands dirty is part of the appeal of letterpress for me.


I love seeing something I designed made into a photopolymer plate.


I love mixing ink to find just the right color.


I love the rhythm, the sound, and the feel of operating the press.


I love seeing the image impressed into the paper. And I love that each job surprises me and teaches me something.

I love what I do.

Jenny took these process photos while I printed Sound Homebrew Supply's coasters and business cards last month. (You can find photos of the finished product here.) These photos initially appeared on Jenny's internship blog. She's done a great job with the blog, check it out!