Thursday, September 12, 2013

Experimenting With Letterpress

I’m taking the Letterpress class at Studio Calico this month.  I already had the Lifestyle Crafts L Letterpress Platform that I purchased last year.  Upon signing up for the class, I purchased some Studio Calico letterpress plate designs to play with.  I also purchased some thick letterpress paper from  Everything arrived before the class started, so I thought I would play and experiment.


Top left=letterpress ink with thick letterpress paper.
Top right=Brilliance pigment ink with thick letterpress paper.
Bottom left=letterpress ink with thinner letterpress paper.
Bottom right=Brilliance pigment ink with thinner letterpress paper.
WINNER= top left. 2nd fave=top right. The thick letterpress paper wins with both inks. The pigment ink was so much easier to clean up.  In fact, I was at the kitchen sink cleaning up the letterpress ink for 10 minutes!

I used Lifestyle Crafts letterpress ink in Silver.  For the pigment ink, I used Brilliance ink pad in Starlite Silver.

Just from my brief experimenting, I’ve compiled some tips & tricks.

  • Use thick letterpress paper.  The indentations are much deeper and it looks really professional.  This is the thick letterpress paper.

    This is the thinner one (or the regular one that doesn’t contain the word “thick” in the product description).
  • Use letterpress ink for the most professional results.  However, pigment ink works well if you already have those and want to save some money.  AND pigment inks are MUCH easier to clean up than the oily letterpress inks.  I spent 10 minutes at the kitchen sink cleaning the brayer and the ink base with vegetable oil and dish detergent.
  • Use a palette knife to spread the ink out onto the ink base before using the brayer.  This will ensure the ink "flattens out" onto the ink base more evenly.  I didn’t do this with my initial experiment, and it was difficult to “roll out” the thick letterpress ink evenly.
  • Buy a 6" soft rubber brayer.  The 3" one that comes with the L platform starter kit is too small and a little too hard and uneven.
  • Get the inking guide strips.  It insures even distribution of ink on the plate design when inking with a brayer.  Use the brayer even if you use the pigment ink pads.
  • Don't forget to take the ink guide strips off before putting the top down and into your diecut platform.  Otherwise the two strips will show up on your letterpressed card!
  • Position the un-inked design plate onto your paper on the bottom platform first to make sure it is where you want it.  Then put adhesive on the top part of the platform and close the platform.  The press plate will stick to the adhesive on the top part of the "clamshell" and it will be EXACTLY where you want it on the paper when you've inked up and ready to press.
  • Use the self-adhesive spongy paper placement guides to make sure your paper doesn’t shift during the process.  You can probably also use washi tape to keep paper in place, as long as the tape placement doesn’t interfere with the design of your plate.  I have not tried it though.
  • Buy more brayers and ink bases if you want to do multi-colored designs.  Otherwise you will end up spending a lot of time cleaning up in between each color print.

That’s it for letterpress for now!  I will be playing with it more this weekend, following along with the class lessons at Studio Calico!


  1. This is awesome! Love how you've been experimenting with different papers.

  2. Thanks for sharing you successes and hints. I don't own a manual die cutting machine but soooo wanted to try this. I didn't because I knew I would spend too much money on those cute SC dies.

  3. I definitely want to try this at some point, these tips are great, they make me a little less scared to tackle this. I do already have a cuttlebug, but it still seems like a large investment + something I would really need to put time into to figure out what I'm doing.

  4. This was like reading Consumer Reports.

  5. Thanks so much for the paper comparison, Christine! I'm getting ready to letterpress business cards, and this really helped with the paper selection!

  6. Can you start a paper crafts Consumer Reports? I would love that! And I love letterpress!


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