So, now that you’ve seen the final product, let’s talk about how we got there. This is going to be a two, maybe three, step guide to letterpressing. Today, I’m going to focus on getting the plate made, which was, at least to me, one of the more daunting tasks. I think it was mainly because of the limited information I could find online to doing it.
In order to make the custom KF152 photopolymer plates, I submitted a large illustrator document with my design on it to Boxcar Press. The design needs to be in vector format, which is necessary to allow for the design to maintain its integrity, no matter the size, unlike Photoshop, which uses pixels, and thus, doesn’t resize well.
Thus, I first made mockups of the invitation and reply cards until I got them to a point where I was happy with them. This took longer than my little paragraph makes it seem. I must have gone through ten—twenty iterations and showing everyone the drafts before I was satisfied with them. Each time, I would print them out in the exact size I wanted in the final product.
|Probably the 5th iteration|
After I got them to how I wanted them, I started shifting them around to make the proof. I also started putting other components on as well, drawing from other things that I thought I might use in the future—things like designs for our thank you cards, congratulations, happy holidays, etc.
|Final Illustrator design|
Random tips, or learning from my mistakes:
1) Watch your placement of your individual parts. You need to be aware of how close you make your pieces. You can actually make them fairly close together. My guess is that I had a 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch boundary around stuff. You really just need to be able to get scissors around it (the plastic is too thick for xacto knives). If you only have gigantic unwieldy scissors like I do, you probably don’t want to put them too close together. Putting a shape into another in a tight configuration is just making your life difficult, speaking from experience.
|total pain, ugh|
2) I used a 0.5 point stroke around my vectors to make it the thickness that it is. This way, I would know that even at the thinnest parts, they would meet the minimum thickness requirement. I really liked how it ended up, but your mileage may vary.
3) Fill up your page with stuff. If you’re paying for it anyways, you might as well get use out of it. I put random segments that I may or may not use. I also put other things that I could use on cards like congratulations and happy holidays.
4) Make sure you turn it all black. If you try to submit it to boxcar and more than one image appears in your sample then you didn’t do it right, in illustrator, I recommend you use CMYK instead of RGD, and you should be able to turn off the black channel (tools -> separation preview -> turn off black) and not be able to see anything
|Screenshot of my Illustrator file with everything in the black channel.|
5) Don’t forget to turn your text into vectors (Select text -> type -> create outlines). It does however make it difficult to adjust the text though, do I don’t recommend doing it until the very, very end.
6) Make sure you have everything you want in one color in a portion of the plate that is either well connected or be okay with fidgeting with the location later. I tried to align things that weren’t every easy easily connected, with varying success. I eventually cut them into multiple pieces and realigned them on the letterpressing plate.
7) Print, print, print before you send it in. Make sure you are happy with how it looks physically, because it really does look exactly like that when it’s made.
|still wish I had caught *that* mistake.|
8) Boxcar does send samples if you are a slow learner like me. I didn’t find this until I was nearly done with creating my plate. I found it useful to feel it in person to get a sense of how close together I could get my elements and exactly how thick the plastic would feel like before I submitted the order.
|woo, free samples!|
9) Don’t forget when you order, to request the edges of the plates. You can use it later for the rollers.
10) When you get the plate for the first time, the lines might seem too thick. Check the sheet that comes with the plate. It was printed with your plate. If it looks good, your plate works! That being said, I found that sometimes there was a little bit of black ink in the crevices. You might want to double check before using your expensive paper.
Next post, we’ll go over the rest of the stuff needed for DIY letterpressing.
Are you in love with letterpress as much as I am? For those who did DIY letterpressing, what other tips do you have for making plates?