Letterpressing without Printing Plates

I've been lazy getting the letterpress supplies out lately although I very much enjoy the process and beautiful texture it gives. When I received my box of Studio Calico goodies this month, however, I found a piece of laser cut faux leather in the embellishment kit "Iris" and just had to give printing with it a try. 

Yes, you hear me right! You can totally do letter pressing without the regular plastic printing plates. You just need to experiment a little with additional shims and thickness of the letterpress/cotton paper. 

What you need is a manual die-cutting machine, the letterpress bundle, letterpress ink, a way to temporarily adhere the faux printing plate to the letterpress platform and, well, your printing plate alternative (supplies are linked below).

If you're not sure your printing plate alternative will work, you can try blind impressing first, i.e. you run the process without ink. That way you'll see if things need tweaking without getting unneccesarily messy.

The faux leather piece I used has two different sides. One is very soft and sued-y and I put the temporary adhesive on this side (I could rub it all off afterwards) and put it directly down on the printing platform, then inked the textured leathery side with teal blue letterpress ink.

Here's what it looked like straight out of the Cuttlebug on the first try with ink. So pretty - imagine this done with gold ink...! The card I made with the print came together super quick especially with the new Card Bases add-on with its pre-cut and fold card bases and matching colored envelopes. I found a diamond design similar to the print in a kraft die-cuts pack (also in the embellishments kit) and the gold foil sentiment from the card kit kind of was a perfect match to top it all off.

I hope you enjoyed this mini tutorial today and have a lovely Sunday! 


Letterpress X-mas

You would think a cardmaker has a Christmas card to show by now, right? Well, well… there's a prototype of a letterpress card. The colors are unusually cool; certainly not your regular red and green.

I used part of a letterpress alpha and selectively inked the X only, then completed to x-mas with a gray uppercase sticker alpha from an older Studio Calico kit. And yes, my favorite metallic is back again: silver glitter tape, silver sequins, silver thread :) Unfortunately I also wanted to use sprinkles of the Calico Shine mist. Don't use this on cotton paper, friends! It soaks immediately and looks splotchy.

Anyway, it's a nice and simple design with options to get a little variety from card to card by using different ink colors, card bases or embellishments. Which is a winner in my book.

How about you? Have you finished and mailed your cards already?



How to Make Lasting Impressions with Letterpress

So, I showed you some cards with homemade letterpress items this week. For example did I used a pretty wreath printing plate with yellow ink on the handmade tag here:

Now, for those of you who wonder if this letterpress thing is for you, too, I took some photos along the route to demonstrate just how easy peasy and gratifying letterpressing is. What you need is

  • a manual die-cutting machine
  • a letterpress platform to run through the die-cutting machine
  • letterpress ink and paper
  • a brayer to spread the ink
  • a printing plate with your desired design

In my case, I used a Studio Calico exclusive monogram plate (beautifully designed by lettering artist Lindsay Sherbondy) with two coordinating dies:

New letterpress printing plates usually come as a whole, so you need to cut out the designs with some scissors. The plate isn't too thick so a regular scissors will probably work but my choice for this process is a pair of sturdy Tim Holtz Tonic Non-Stick Snips (which my brother jokingly referred to as 'secateurs'). Why? Because they even go through the thin metal with which the dies were joined together at first! Here's a look at the full Lindsay Letters letterpress plate and dies I used for this:

One thing to note is that you want to leave very little boarder around the print designs. If you leave to much of the polymer around the actual designs, it will show as an unwanted impression on your paper later. Ask me how I know ;-)

When your preferred designs are cut, you are ready to put the tiniest amount of letterpress ink from the tube down on an even surface. What you see in the picture below is almost too much if you only plan on making a few prints. My ink plate here was part of a letterpress bundle by Lifestyle Crafts but basically just a flat surface, which you don't worry about it getting dirty, will do.

Next, use a brayer (I recommend something wider than what comes in the letterpress bundle) to spread the ink. If you have some time, go grab a coffee and leave the inks sit on the ink plate for a while. I've heard the color goes on more evenly onto the print designs later this way.

Then, prepare your letterpress plate by temporarily adhering the print design to the upper grid part of the printing platform and put some ink guide strips left and right of the design. Evenly cover the brayer with ink and roll it over the print design. It should now look something like this:

Last steps for letterpressing: Remove the ink guide strips. Place some letterpress (cotton) paper on the opposite, lower side of the plate. Close the printing platform and roll the whole thing through your die-cutting machine. When you open the printing platform after this, you are left with a beautiful, deep impression of your design:

See? Easy as pie and it makes for an extra special texture on your paper-crafting projects :) Talking about projects, I didn't stop at just making elements for my cards. I made me some matching monogrammed envelopes, too.

… and I got a little adventurous by pressing into balsa wood. Since this type of wood is really soft, you get a visible, deep impression. It looks amazing in reality!

After all the inking and printing, you may ask yourself how to get all to color off of your brayer, ink and printing plates. The printing ink is oil based and a little tricky to handle in the cleaning department. What worked pretty well for me in the end is a mix of vegetable oil and dish soap all at once. Rub, rinse, and enjoy your homemade letterpress goodies!

What do you think, will you give it a try? Or am I taking to a pro even and you have some tips to share? Anyway, I'd love to hear from you! Happy weekend :)