Duplexing Part III (Pot Devin)

So the title is a half truth, it’s not exactly a pot devin, it’s a label paster and a little one, but I picked it up on eBay and thought it was worth trying out. So when I got it, it was missing the feed plate and the belt. I bought a new belt and had a great local machinist (Midyette Brother’s Manufacturing) tap some threads so I could attach a handle and run it manually. Today I tried it out with a Valentine card I was working on (yeah it’s a bit late for this year haha).

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0. First things first – I printed the cards. For this project I adjusted the line up so I would only have to trim two sides. I also printed on a few different papers in the same line. Crane Lettra 300 gsm, Crane Lettra 600gsm, and Crane Colors.

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1. You can see that the actual unit comes off the motor. I found the motor made the machine run really loud and fast so I decided to try it out with the handle. This is everything I used to do my duplexing. The final prints (some not completely trimmed down), tacky glue $6, a rubber roller $15, and the pot devin. You can see I took off the blades that are used to guide the paper up and keep them from wrapping onto the roller because they got in the way and honestly, the paper was too thick to curl around the drum anyway.

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2. I made the mistake of initially trying to water down the glue because it looked so thick- don’t! It isn’t necessary and I ended up wasting a bunch. The watery glue didn’t coat the roller consistently and it made the sheets too wet. I ended up having to clean the whole machine and re-start. This time I added the glue as is:

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On the second round I also thought it might be helpful to slip in a sheet of tinfoil with the hope it would make cleanup easier (surprise it did)

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2. I added enough glue so that when you turn the drum it coated nice and even. I found the setting number #4 to be best, but it’s all a bit arbitrary because you can unscrew the plate and set it a bit forward or back and thus the adjustments will be different anyway.

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3. Then it was simple – just feeding the sheets one by one turning the roller to let them through. The knob on the bottom right was used to adjust the thickness of the glue using that silver ‘blade’ with the screws which tilts forward and back and scrapes the glue into a consistent film

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4. I found the plate I had made was too thick for use with the heavier papers I had (though for regular letter paper or a lighter cardstock it was fine). Here I used Crane Colors and I also tested Crane Lettra both 300 and 600 gsm and found they both fit. Once there was a nice coat of glue on the sheet I just lined them up and use the rubber roller to press them together (as is seen in my previous experiments)

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5. I had very little curling. I believe this is a mould made paper so there isn’t really a grain to cause any massive warping. I still put them under a weight, and I find that if they curl a hot dry iron will make the difference.

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6. Finally,  I used my new (new to me anyway) Lassco corner rounder to round the edges once they were trimmed down. I used a 3/4″ die, which was just right for these cards. I have plans to buy another die but can’t decide between a 1/8″ or a 1/4″

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7. There they are, done and done. This will be available next year – you can see the ticket number is 02/14/2015, next years Valentine’s Day date! All in all, the pot devin did make things faster because the glue didn’t get all dried out and my arm didn’t get sore rolling out more glue every two seconds. The next step would probably be to buy a roller press, but rolling them out by hand wasn’t too difficult, especially since I was lining them up by hand. Lining them up was the hardest part honestly. I might make a jig or something that does it for me. It’s always possible to put the glue on a little thicker and then you can scoot the cards around a bit to get it right.

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8. When I was done with all that, I just soaked it in hot water in the sink. I used a scrub brush and just kept rinsing it out until the glue was gone. Then I re-oiled the gears (which technically should be greased but I don’t have any grease) and the oil ports.

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A job from start to finish…

For this post I’m hoping to give some insight into my full printing process from beginning to end – digital to edge painting. These are some simple business cards designed for this very experiment.

1. I do all my designing for plates in Adobe Illustrator. On occasion I will do an inking by hand, scan it, and turn it into a bitmap, but I don’t do that often anymore because I have little trouble inking and drawing in Illustrator with the help of a tablet. Once I’ve created my design, I outline all strokes and text and use the Effects>Crop Marks feature to add crop marks. I then expand the crop marks and thicken them up to 1pt and shorten them so they take less space. The thicker crop marks help with my line up, but be careful when you line up to trim that you hit them down the center (not ahead of or behind them as this will throw off your trimming by a tiny bit which might show in certain designs).

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2. Once that is done and I have each color on its own layer, I set everything to black, separate and group the plates and move them to a new file to send off to Boxcar. I fit them nice and tight and just carefully cut around them with scissors.

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3. Once the plates arrive, I cut down the paper, mix the ink, and prep the press. In this case I had some scrap paper which was large enough to do a work and turn. Particularly for something small, it’s better start with a larger sheet and cut down after the job is done as it can be dangerous or difficult to feed a small sheet. When I can, I set up my plates so I only have to trim two edges, but not always. I use a ruler and a ball point pen to draw a line from crop mark to crop mark (by resting the ruler edge against the raised crop mark) and then I draw up lines on the paper stock where I want things to line up

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4. I place the plate ink/printing side to paper and looking through the photopolymer line up the lines. Using a loop of tape I tape the plate in place in its lined up position and remove the backing. The sheet is placed in the pins and then by hand I turn the flywheel and deposit the plate onto the press. Usually, there are no adjustments needed and I can print the first color.

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5. Lining up the second color goes nearly the same way, except When I line up the second color I use the depressions made by the first crop marks to seat the second plate. If I do not have crop marks or there wasnt room for them on the paper, I will use the line method from the earlier step and line up key elements that way. The crop mark method saves me untold amounts of time and so I gladly pay the extra money for a larger plate and large paper. You can feel them seating into the first set of crop marks pretty easily if there is any depth at all. If I’m going for light impression I just make sure to take one print with a very deep impression to use for line up.

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For this plate, I saved money by just including the top crop marks and not wasting plate space by added a large blank area and bottom crop marks.

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Here the backing from the plate is removed and the plate is deposited on the base

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Once you deposit the plate on the base slowly back the press off and pull the sheet out so the rollers (if they’re already on press) don’t grab and mangle the paper. Remove any tape and let the plate ink up.

6. The third and final color is printed in the same way. I find that crop marks work better than registration crosshairs in a circle  (a technique I’ve used before to try an save space and money). You just get a better visual of misalignment – particularly when it’s coming from incorrect rotation of the plate, not a left to right or top to bottom misalignment which is more easily fixed.

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7. Once the printing is done, it’s time to trim it down. I try, whenever I can to use the edges the were fed into the press to align the cuts (so you’re cutting opposite sides of those which fed in). This assures MUCH better trimming, especially if your first cuts where not absolutely perfect when you cut down the sheets to begin with. Below, I did not follow my own advice because the work and turn required a different plan, but generally use the same corner to align the cuts as you did when you printed. You always want to feed your paper for the second and third color and cut the paper using the same two edges as a guide.

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8. Once they were fully cut down, they are ready for edge painting. I take great care in the cutting, using a block (you can see it above in the corner) to ensure the stacks are square in the cutter and so when I’m done everything is lined up and even.

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9. This is most important with edge painting – you can see below how I stack them up with some of my pre-cut masonite blocks. Once they are flushed and stacked, they are clamped very tightly. I would probably recommend three clamps not two as I have used, but mine worked fine.

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10. I decided to try spraying the block with clear medium first, so that it might seal the edges and prevent any bleeding (a house painters trick when using tape to make stripes or designs, sealing the edges keeps paint from seeping under the tape!). I mixed pure airbrush medium with some clear coat.

Then once that was done, I prepped the silver using equal parts silver and airbrush medium with a couple of drops of flow aid. Golden’s flow aid is expensive so I tried a cheap acrylic extender this time which worked fine for this job.

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I‘ve been mixing in little medicine cups which were very cheap and last for a few uses before tossing.

11. The pigment is gently mixed and added to the airbrush when it’s as thin as milk. I add a few drops of water if needed to thin, but this extender was fine for thinning this time.

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12. The edges are sprayed in light coats from about 8-12″ away. I turn the stack on the turntable and coat each side with care. Once that’s done I let it dry a bit (I go clean the airbrush and the press area). Then I unclamp, peel them apart and discard any that were mis-printed or mis-sprayed. I find that because this design has a bleed on one edge (you can see it looks like a dark stripe along the side shown above) – the gap caused by the impression let a teeny bit of silver in on a few of them, only a few were tossed, there was no bleeding to speak of. I find bleeding is usually a result of the paint being too watery (main reason) or the stack not being tight enough (secondary reason), so keep that in mind.

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13. That’s that! A job from beginning to end at Panthera Press. Printed on White Crane Lettra at 300gsm.  I used silver ink thinned with transparent white and overprinted the grey areas. I should have gone with black, not a metallic ink because the silver pigment particles seem to separate a bit when thinned to much. Generally, I found metallics do NOT play well with any other pigments or mixing in general. It might be the heavier, more opaque particles. I’m not sure, but I’ve never had luck thinning or mixing it without getting  some blotchiness. It isn’t too noticeable here but in some it was more obvious and they were culled.

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Edge Painting

Edge Painting

We now have a new service at Panthera Press – edge painting! We can custom mix colors for you and even offer metallics and pearlized colors.

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Edge Painting Letterpress Part 1

I can’t be stopped – I constantly want to try new things, and sometimes I can’t sleep at night because I’m just mulling a new process over and over in my head. The only cure is to do it, and so I’ve decided to invest a little bit into edge painting some work so I can offer it as a new service at Panthera Press. Here is my first experiment – a more detailed tutorial will come sometime next week, because I actually have a small job where I’ll be doing this for real. So here is what I learned so that you too may put it into action:

 

1. The setup: Here you can see my price breakdown. I put a lot of effort into finding the best prices and the most appropriate equipment. I always choose items with free shipping (many are Prime on Amazon), and some of the things like the Acrylics and the clamps, I already had but have added into the total cost anwyay.  I’m also going to list and link each item I purchased so if you want to set up like I have, you can:

Total Cost: 224.34

Compressor with Air Tank (89.99): I made a point of asking some questions on an airbrush forum and it was suggested I spend a bit more to get a compressor with an air tank – this reduces how hard the compressor has to work, and it ensure a more even airflow. This is a middle of the road item. For true air brushers an industrial compressor (requires an adaptor for airbrushing) or one with two air tanks is suggested.

Master Airbrush with 3 needles and hose (29.99): I chose this dual action airbrush because dual action gives you control over paint flow as you’re painting (vs. single action which you must adjust at the nozzle). Likewise this one has a knob on the back that lets you set a maximum paintflow and gives you a little more control. The .3mm needle was perfect for what I needed, but the .5mm could be used for thicker paint, and the .2mm for more detail.

Golden Paint 16 Fluid Acrylic Set (36.00): I bought this a long time ago on sale and I don’t think they sell this awesome set anymore so I’ve linked something similar – it’s not airbrush paint, but golden high flow paints are often used with airbrushes, and I really liked the bronze gold I bought separately. Airbrush paints come in bigger bottles – but they are already thinned so the price is comparable and may even be a better value.

Cleaning Pot (15.00): You probably don’t need this, but it does make it easier to change colors and clean the airbrush without spraying everywhere. This one was ok – it leaked when I used it, but I’m not sure I had the lid screwed on perfectly. You may want to buy the brand name version on Amazon.

Bar Clamps (12.99 e): Buy tall clamps so you can get a larger stack, these worked fine and I use them for many other things as well.

MDF Shelving (7.00): I bought a sheet of thick MDF and cut it down on my table saw to a variety of standard sizes like 4×6 and 5×7″, you want to cut them a little smaller than the card size, because if the edges stick out over the cards too much, it’s harder to spray up near the top and bottom. I also made a cradle for ‘padding’ the cards (getting them into a nice even stack).

Cake Turntable (7.00 on sale): I used a coupon (they have them every week) at Michaels to get a cake turn-table. This helped me rotate the stack to get all sides. I’ve linked the one I purchased on Amazon.

Cleaning Solution (5.99): Self explanatory. It works great on the dried up acrylic, better than trying to use just water, you need this.

Transparent Base (6.39): Helps with the flow of the paint, and helps thin somewhat, though a little water is needed too. Worth buying, thinning with just water or a homemade solution like windex or alcohol requires some experimenting and can cause the paint to separate or not flow properly.

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2. Mixing the Paint: I tested this setup at my house, and was pretty happy with everything I bought. The compressor isn’t too loud and it stays nice and still (no shaking). The airbrush worked beautifully and was equally easy to set up and clean (read the manual to clean it, I ended up disassembling more  than needed haha!)

So, regarding the mix – these are thinner acrylics so they didn’t need too much thinning. First I did a 1 to 1 ratio of paint and the transparent base. Then I added a little bit of water to thin it to milk consistency. Don’t add too much water to heavy body acrylics at once or it will get blobby and chunky, go little by little to get a thin, smooth milky texture. The transparent base did not dilute the beauty of this gold pigment – it’s Golden Acrylic’s Fluid Acrylics Bronze Gold that I picked up at Michael’s. I used about three times this amount during the experiment to spray three 1-3″ stacks or so of cards.

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3. Clamping the Cards: I can’t stress how nice it was to have these pre-cut boards. If you don’t have pre cut boards, you will have to line up two edges at a time, then un-clamp and re clamp the other side. With these little boards, you can just rotate the whole thing around and do all four sides in one go. I used a cradle I built to get them nice and square – good cutting is essential, but I found that if your cutting is a little ragged you can still make it work by doing two sides at once (making sure those two edges are flush and flat) then un-clamping and re-stacking/padding/flushing the stack so that the other two sides are flush.

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I used two clamps, and did my best to make sure I’d be able to spray around them well.

4. Spraying: This part, I’ll go into more detail next tutorial, but it was pretty easy really. Just add some of the paint mixture to the airbrush cup, replace the lid, turn on the compressor and wait for it to reach the proper PSI (this model has an auto shutoff where it will fill the airtank, shut off, and come back on when the PSI drops too low). Then you just press down on the trigger and pull back to release more paint. I did light coats from about 6″ away.

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At this point I hadn’t bought the lazy susan/ turntable yet, so I just had to rotate the stacks myself, the turntable will make this easier for sure.

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Angling the cards against the cradle made it easier to get all the edges. I did a few coats – and I’d say I laid it on relatively thick. Despite this, the cards hardly stuck together at all (no damage or bleeding on any of the internal cards, even though I thinned the paint with some water and it was very liquid). They were easily separated, even when I left the stack to completely dry and came back later. The paint also dried quickly so I could separate them only a minute or two after I was done spraying.

Conclusion: This was much easier than expected, even though I don’t have great control of the trigger yet, if you just keep doing light coats you’ll get the even coat you need. Even with heavy spray the gold didn’t bleed (make sure you clamp the cards super tight!), and every card came out lovely, with sparking gold edges. This is 300gsm Crane Lettra, and next week I’m going to try it with the 600gsm and a non metallic color.

There are lots of kits available like this one for 180.00, which sell much of what you need in one nice set. However, I think I made a good choice for myself. I liked the Golden Acrylic colors better than the airbrush paints with the kit I’ve linked, and the airbrush I bought has multiple needle sizes and a flow adjustment knob on the back. Likewise, because I had some of this on hand, parting this out was cheaper for me. You don’t need airbrush paints if you buy the thinner – you can use watercolors or acrylics you already have – even those super cheap $1.00 ones in the craft section work very nicely and can be mixed with some gloss or matte medium.

I hope this will be helpful for someone, happy printing!

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Watercolor Wedding

So for this job the bride was hoping for a watercolor, splashed background. This isn’t so much a tutorial as it is a little note about the process. Creating the water watermark was initially the most challenging part because I wanted it to be vectorized. Illustrator doesn’t have really good capability for turning raster graphics into halftones. Photoshop can create bitmap halftones – but only as raster graphics. I ended up getting a program called vectoraster and that worked decently but doesn’t allow direct control over you LPI. Still it’s a worthwhile program to purchase – it does some great work if you aren’t going to be outputting to a printer software for making halftones like RIP which is used in Screen Printing. In the end the output was an 100 lpi bitmap image perfect for letterpress.

Here you can see the plates – the halftone on the plates is almost invisible to the naked eye and even when printed produces a really nice soft result although halftone is visible. The outcome was actually very nice, though I would not suggest halftones for cotton paper unless you have some freedom in the image should it not print flat and solid. The absorbent paper can make super even inking a problem. This soft watercolor design was flexible enough in its look that a few missed dots wouldn’t ruin it, so it was perfect for this job.

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Metallic printing is also a challenge – because the transparent ink will also result in a sort of brassy effect. It still looked nice on the Lettra Ecru paper over the pink watermark. The soft metallic is more visible in person, but it’s a nice subtle effect.

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I’m starting to really notice the differences in inking fine detail and solid flat images. I’m finding I have to raise the rollers two tape thickness for type and drop it back down for large inking areas like this halftone. The devil really is in the details.

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Die-cutting on Press

So, I wanted to try a little experiment based on a video I saw online. After I saw this I was eager to try a little cheap die-cutting experiment on my 7×11″. Now, if we are being honest, a 7×11″ is too small for die-cutting. Die-cutting puts more pressure on the machine than printing does, and with all the crash printing going on, these machines are probably being worked beyond what they should in many cases. Still, I thought a small die would be ok, if I was very, very careful with how much pressure I put on the machine. Here is what I bought to try this out:

$6 – 1 Original Sizzix Die (3 1/2″ x 4 1/4″ Ornate)

$5 – 1 5×5″ 16 gauge steel plate (honestly it was much thicker than I thought, I could have gone with something half as thick 32 gauge)

Here is what I used in addition to my purchases:

1 8×11″ rectangle of very heavy book board cut into quarters to the size of the die (you could use sketchbook backing)

1 roll of painters tape

Step 1: The first step was to cut down the book board and tape it together into a block. I used three layers at first, but later discovered  I need a little more, so I cut down some heavy coaster stock and added that for a total thickness of: .343″

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2. This actually puts the object almost at type high – seemingly. The foam padding around the die is actually a little higher than the blade (so people can’t cut themselves, these are craft dies, not industrial ones so the die is completely encased in the foam). My 16 gauge steel plate was pretty thick, so if you’re doing this you will have to adjust for your press, as your platen may be adjusted differently. I locked it up and and carefully checked that even when it was engaged in print mode, it wasn’t going to hit the platen.

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3. The steel plate had slightly rough edges from the blade during cutting. I put a piece of paper down and made sure the ‘sharper’ edges were facing away from the platen so it wouldn’t scratch. Then I taped down the metal plate, making sure it was in the right spot to protect the platen.

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4. The next step was a bit of experimenting to get the height right, all while being very, very careful. I never turned on the motor and cranked it by hand gently testing the pressure to make sure it was not too tight. I taped some pieces of paper to the platen and found one added sheet of paper behind the plate was just enough to cause the die to kiss the metal plate and leave a very faint scribe. It didn’t feel tight when I cranked the press so I felt ready to move forward.

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5. I tested some different paper weights – from letter weight to crane 300gsm and they all seemed to cut through without much fuss. Though the lighter weights die cut much easier, some of the heavy weights got a little caught up. Finally, I took a piece of slick scrap paper (I wasn’t willing to waste a sheet of tympan) and taped it to the platen over the metal plate. I ran a cycle on the press and then set the gauge pins to the die cut. At this point I felt safe running the motor on the press.

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6. I found that the cut outs often got caught up on the top sheet, so I put some tape over the cut edges near the pins. The texture of the tape seemed to help. Also, I let one of the die cuts just sit in the window of the top sheet which also helped with feeding. What I should have done (but didn’t feel the urge to do) was take a triangular file and ‘nick’ the die so that the small hinge/connector could hold the inner cut inside the frame to make feeding easier.

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Conclusion:

This wasn’t a very large or a particularly complicated die, and in the end I didn’t feel like it required any more pressure than regular ‘moderate’ impression required -perhaps even a little less. The steel backing was quite obviously – essential. Beyond just protecting the platen, these dies (as all dies do so I hear), need a hard surface to cut against or the dull quickly – wood, cutting mats, or book board will quickly dull the blade. It’s like a pair of scissors – the metal on metal keeps it sharper. This was slower going (by at least half) than printing because you had to keep track of the inner and outer cut when feeding. They also are more likely to catch or misfeed. For a small job of 100 or less I think it’s doable. My tips based on this limited experience are, keep the die small enough for the press, use the lightest possible pressure, and feed carefully. I think it might have been easier if I had just forgone the top sheet all together, it probably would have been fine since I use compressible pins made of foam tape or ordered from Boxcar.

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Adventures in Scoring, Scoring Matrix

So, if you’ve seen my previous posts on scoring you will see how I attempted to create scores with plain photopolymer. Well, I had a job recently that required proper, functional scores and there was no room for bad craftsmanship, so thanks to a friend called Inky and another friend called Paul (Printer’s Helper) I was able to obtain some scoring rule and scoring matrix. Here’s how it went:

 

1.  First thing – scoring rule is steel not lead and cannot be cut with anything used to cut lead – I had to use a hacksaw to get it to size. Once that was done. I locked it up. Make sure the rounded scoring end is upwards and that the space in between is the correct distance. I also found that you want to make sure the pressure against the rule is even along it’s length, so use furniture that is as long or longer right against it. 

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2. Once it’s locked up I popped it in the chase, make sure it’s clear of the pins! I’m using compressible pins, but either way be careful. 

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3. Now you will need to determine how to move your pins to ensure you have good line up. In this case, the rule was longer than I needed so I won’t need to move the paper up and down so long as the pins are square. I took a few impressions and adjusted accordingly. After you’ve done that, snap the matrix onto the rule and smooth it on evenly. Image

 

4. Take the sticker backing off. 

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5. Set the press into the print mode and hand crank it until you have deposited the matrix onto the platen. I should mention, be sure you don’t have too much packing – better with less to start than too much.

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6. Once that’s on there, you can peel off the plastic guides and reveal the scoring channel.

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7. Score away! Here you can see the comparison of a folded score with the matrix and without, proving that more than the rule, that scoring matrix does make a difference.

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Adventures in Scoring on Press

So this isn’t a truly thorough exercise in scoring on press. It’s just a few experiments to try out something I was curious about – scoring with photopolymer…

Now I’m sure anyone who knows anything about scoring on press knows that there is indeed a few accepted ‘proper’ methods. One is to use scoring rule (which is slightly rounded) and some sort of matrix. This matrix is often two thin copper wires, or a plastic matrix that is sold by NA Graphics. Some people just use regular printing rule (which is not rounded but flat for – you guessed it- printing rule lines). Some people use scoring machines (I actually found a rudimentary one at a thrift store that I use sometimes). The ultimate goal is to get a channel score which helps prevent cracking and crazing.

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I attempted to make a channel matrix using photopolymer. Well, here is what I learned.

1. So I created a scoring matrix – I think this is about 2 pt rule, I cannot remember since I had it made a while ago.

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2. I cut them in half and then applied the single rule to the boxcar base (which seemed more like the traditional method of scoring) I then removed the adhesive cover and double stick taped the channel on to it so it lined up. I deposited the channel on the base by turning the press by hand in print mode. Something I learned is that you should probably be delicate with your tape application since is seems to get pushed into the channel and it’s really hard to peel out.

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3. I had some compressible pins already on the tympan so I just left them there and removed the side gauge. This wasn’t about accuracy, it was about testing the score. So I turned the press by hand – it was super tight, I really needed to remove a lot of packing… It also turns out the channel was far too right – it sliced even letter paper right in half (with a nice soft deckle actually). That and my overzealous sticky tape seemed to leave some residue causing the paper to want to stick to the plates. I would suggest widening the channel by an extra point or so to accommodate the paper (along with the shoulders on the photopolymer) and lightening up the packing.

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4. I played with that for a while, but found it was just too tight, I thought it put too much pressure on my machine so I opted for making a paper channel instead. I looked at the impression mark on the tympan and taped down some paper on either side of the line. It actually did make the channel score, but everything was too big – the impression, the width of the channel, and the width of my ‘scoring rule’ photopolymer. I imagine if I tapered down the paper I used for the channel and tightened up the lines would work a little better. Two lengths of straight copper wire might have worked best, but not with a base – unless I was 100% they wouldn’t hit, I wouldn’t use wire unless you’re actually using rule (which has more clearance)

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5. Finally, I tried the simplest solution. I skipped the channel all together and just tried scoring with the photopolymer.

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6. This solution actually worked best for me. I found you could fold in either direction with all of the scores, but they tended to fold best towards the valley (many people will argue one way or the other, as long as you don’t have cracking I don’t think it matters, personally). You can see with this fold there wasn’t an issue with cracking of the print. (You can also see that it’s a wicked thick fold, but a thinner rule line would solve this). One other nice thing, is this pressure score was really  easy to use as a tear line – it left a nice, subtle faux deckle.

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All and all it was a good experiment. I tested in with 300gsm cotton paper, regular printer paper, and a hard smooth colored card stock. All three stocks folded easily. Honestly, I imagine with some tweaks all three methods would work.

Advice:

  • Keep the rule thinner than you think – one point or less, this was deep relief photopolymer which meant it had wide shoulders (ramps) which tended to widen the score channel. Real scoring rule is best because it’s rounded and doesn’t have shoulders. However its harder to adjust it’s position once it’s locked up and you can’t score diagonals easily.
  • Adjust your packing – you don’t want to over smash the impression and put too much strain on your press. If you are using both parts of the channel matrix be EXTRA careful to make sure it’s not too thick and causing lots of pressure.
  • Taper your channel – make sure it tapers away to prevent it making an impression on your paper
  • Be gentle with the sticky tape – it made the matrix sticky which facilitated in ripping the paper and making it hard to feed

The primary advantage of using photopolymer as your scoring rule is that it can be added into the plate design itself, meaning it will hit exactly where it needs to. Just make sure it goes all the way to the edge of the paper or that you trim before you fold (a detail I neglected with my previous duplexing project).

Hope this post helps someone out, happy printing!

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Ombre

Well, after a week of the flu, I’m finally back in the shop. So I wanted to take some photos of an interesting but simple process to print gradients on a platen press. It’s actually a little easier to print ombre on a cylinder press because the rollers oscillate so it will make your gradient for you pretty quickly. Either way, here’s how I did it on the C&P.

1. Select your two colors. You’re going to want to select inks that are of the same type. Although when color mixing you can sometimes mix oils and rubber based inks, you won’t want to do it with this technique because they may interact weirdly in the middle. Here I’m using Pantone 165 – Tiger Lily – the house color for Panthera Press and Rhodamine Red.

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2. Then you’ll want to tape back the pawl – the part which make the ink disk rotate. I usually use electrical tape, but it’s easier to see the blue tape. Rotate the press through one cycle to ensure it’s not going to rotate.

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3. Now add two overlapping stripes of ink to the ink disk.

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4. Now, you’ll want two ink brayers – one for each color. You can make due with one, but it’s a little harder to add ink later in the process. Begin rolling out the gradient towards the center – starting from the outer right/left edges. Hand rolling out the gradient is important because platen press rollers don’t shift/oscillate.

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5. Start the press up and you’re ready to print. One thing to keep in mind is that  the disk isn’t rotating, the ink is not distributing and the rollers will be hitting and pulling ink from the same spot on the ink disk each time. You’ll will have to stop the press much more frequently than usual to add more ink and “push” it to the center. Add a little stripe of each color to each side and roll it towards the center one at a time using the appropriate brayer. I keep my brayers in the vertical position to keep the gradient even. You can only run the gradient from left to right (not top to bottom) because other wise the rollers will end up mixing the colors together. You can of course, simply rotate the print itself, just keep this in mind when you set up the plate.

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6. There you go, ombre letterpress. It’s actually pretty consistent, but because you’re adding ink back by hand the gradient might shift just a little on each card.

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Duplex Round Two

Duplexing Tutorial Part 2 – Well, as a way of following up my previous post, I’m trying a second method of duplexing – one that fuses printed stocks of two colors. ILet me tell you though, the hardest part of duplexing by hand is the trimming (which is slow because my stack cutter is terrible) and the most tedious part is the gluing. It took me about eight and a half hours to duplex all 400 of these suckers. That doesn’t include the scoring which was another two hours. It’s not something my small press could offer for more than 500 unless they were doubled up in the printing stage. I also strongly suggest only doing this with designs that don’t require hairline alignment to the corners or edges the way this one does. Any minor errors are more obvious with a design like this. If you didn’t read part one see it HERE.

For this method I used the following steps:

1. Print both stocks (obviously) For these one side is 300gsm Crane Lettra and the other is a paper called Colorplan in Azure

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2. Just like my last post, I applied my glue with a roller to one sheet. You can see the impression level hereImage

3. I lined up the bottom edge being sure the correct graphic was lining up with the correct back

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4. I smoothed them together and there we go. The advantage of this method is that you are completing two cards at once. The disadvantage is that the line up is less sure than the scoring method. I would not offer this method to a client if there were very noticeable elements that would give away a slight hairline misalignment. In this job the bleed on both sides needs to line up with the corners and that was a challenge, but I wanted to test this method with a difficult job to see the limitations.

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5. In the end, this method worked nearly as well as the folding method – however it should be noted that this worked so well because the images printed on the white (back side), and the images printed on the blue (front side) are printed in EXACTLY the same spot on the card (which were the same size). If they weren’t, they would need to be cut down to a primary set of guides and then trimmed again once they were glued together. Some came out a bit wonky, but for the most part, both sides lined up properly (below I accidentally photographed a crooked one… so just trust me on that).  Here is the final result:

Carlos Vargas Cards

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* The design on these cards is done by Carlos Vargas

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