This is the first installment of a series called Press-side chats—a look into the process and materials behind lettering, design, and letterpress printing. I hope it will serve as a helpful resource for clients, other designers, and those just generally interested in the minutia of these paper processes.
To introduce the series, I’d like to begin by explaining a bit about the life cycle of a design in my studio. While I love creating custom designs for clients, I also delight to have a chance to collaborate with other talented designers and get their ideas onto paper by offering printing services. Because letterpress is unique from other methods of printing, the start to finish can be a bit nuanced.
Design Specifications and File Format
So, you’ve got a design, and you’re looking to have it letterpressed? Hooray, that’s great. I’m happy to help! In order to smooth out the process, I thought it might help to explain what happens on my end when you’ve hit ‘file --> save’ on your beautiful design.
After digital files are finalized, they are sent off to be made into polymer plates (this process can take about a week, but can be rushed for a fee). The gist is that polymer is a light-sensitive plastic material that gets exposed to light and translated to your design. The result is a plate that can physically be put into the press and used to create that gorgeous impression that characterizes letterpress.
The File Format
Because all designs have to go through the above step, Four Hats requires all out-of-house designs to meet certain specifications. Getting camera-ready files is immeasurably helpful!
Here’s what I need from designers:
- PDFs of finished designs
- Files saved to-size with crop marks
- If design contains more than one-color, the file should reflect layers, each with crop marks
- All fonts should be outlined
- Color settings should be set to 100% Black (K) with C,M, and Y set to 0%.
- Line thickness of .25 or more
- All art (non text) saved as grayscale, bitmap (50% threshold) and inserted into final doc as a tiff
- Pantone colors for each file (Sent in the same email as file)
Of course, if there are any issues, feel free to let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for taking the time to learn a little about the back-end of what I do!