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11045Re: [PPLetterpress] photopolymer plate newbie

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  • Peter Fraterdeus
    Sep 18, 2009
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      On 17 Sep 2009, at 8:32 PM, Claire Gendron wrote:

      > This is my first post to this group.

      Welcome Claire!

      > I've used illustrator and photoshop quite a bit and just bought a
      > pilot and
      > am really excited about creating my own designs.


      Welcome again to the wonderfully fulfilling and regularly frustrating
      world of letterpress printing (with polymer!)

      > I know how to use the adobe programs but I don't know what resolution
      > settings/types of images are best to use to create plates. Are line
      > images
      > best?

      Unless you are attempting to produce halftone images (ie, like photos
      in a newspaper), which would likely increase your frustration level
      quite a lot as a beginner, stick to line art, 100% solid spot-colors,
      and relatively small solid areas. Small presses are great for type,
      not for solid color across the whole piece.

      > Can varying gray scales be reproduced? Also, would a deep relief base
      > be better than a regular base?

      Only if the extra depth allows you to use gauge pins

      > Why do they recommend a smaller base than
      > the printer's chase size?

      Because on most hand-fed platen presses, you have to put gauge pins in
      the tympan sheet and the base will smash into them.

      > Any information would be appreciated as I don't have any other
      > source of
      > information, have never used a press, and have yet to have
      > successfully
      > goaded my significant other into setting up my pilot : (

      Hmmm. I highly recommend searching out the (inevitable?) other hidden
      letterpress folks in your area.
      While this list is full of helpful people (and an invaluable archive,
      highly recommended) there's nothing like seeing the real thing in

      Here are my top five points for letterpress printers

      1. Keep your hands out of the press when it's moving
      1a. check three times before turning the press that no collisions
      are imminent - between form and gauge pins, frisket arms and form, etc
      etc. Go slow.

      2. use waaaaay less ink than you think you'll need... a teaspoon of
      ink will print thousands of business cards ;-)
      But if you're mixing a color, mix more than you think you'll need! Mix
      magnesium carbonate (a type of chalk from printmaking suppiers like
      Daniel Smith) into your ink to 'shorten it'. Most commercial printing
      inks are for lithography and are far too viscous to work well for
      relief printing. Use more 'mag' than you think you'll need ;-).... but
      not too much!

      2a. Don't hesitate to dump your ink, wash the press and start over
      if it's not working right.
      2b. use waaay less ink on the press than you think you'll need...
      did I say that already?

      3. raise the rollers, using layers of thin, smooth (Scotch?) tape on
      the roller tracks. If they no longer ink the form, they're too high.
      Otherwise, keep raising them ;-)

      3a. buy new rollers and never let them sit on the form or the ink-
      plate for longer than a few seconds. Flat spots are easily prevented,
      but will ruin any chance of good printing.
      3b. use good steel roller trucks, and keep them as clean as possible

      4. use an appropriate stock, appropriate packing behind the tympan
      sheet and appropriate makeready. In the final days of commercial
      letterpress, printers used as smooth and hard a stock as possible to
      get a very sharp 'kiss' impression, with practically no depth. Today,
      we have the luxury of using fine soft papers, like fine-art etching
      (Rives, Arches, Hahnemuhle) or a few commercial papers such as Crane's
      Lettra, designed to take the depth of impression. However, the back
      side of the sheet should still show very little evidence. Use as
      little makeready as possible (the sheets under the tympan added to the
      packing), but use enough!

      4a. Control the humidity in the press room. Winter dryness will make
      for very hard paper. 50% humidity is excellent, but nearly impossible
      to maintain in heating season (or in the desert, etc). Dampened paper
      is a joy to print, but adds substantially to the time, and is
      impractical for many jobs, and for many papers. Check the archives
      here for more on that.

      5. Demand perfection from your press. But be happy with progress ;-)

      Good luck, and keep us up to date!


      Peter Fraterdeus
      Exquisite Letterpress from Slow Print Studios
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