Yesterday, we talked about how to make your custom plates, which is necessary to make custom invitations. This time, we’ll get into the nitty gritty details about the actual letterpressing part. I was very intimidated by this at first, but I will say, it works fairly well, and it was fairly easy. It’s not fast, but I managed to get all of the letterpressing done in about six to eight hours.
Once again, big thanks again to Mrs. Eagle for giving me the encouragement to continue on with this project.
–L Letterpress kit (which, sadly, is becoming hard to find, I got mine online from Hobby Lobby, but I don’t see it on their website anymore)
–Cuttlebug (it was cheaper than the Epic 6, which also seems to have been discontinued…?)
–Letterpress ink (I used royal blue and light pink from L Letterpress) bite the bullet and just get the letterpress ink. It’s hard to find small quantities of letterpress ink, and I’m sure people who do this for a living would be able to tell a good ink from a bad ink, but I can’t…and if you get it on Amazon, it’s not so bad. And the l letterpress ink works quite beautifully. I think you can mix colors, but I didn’t trust myself to get the same color each time, so I just used their colors
–paper (Holyoke paper is really really nice and definitely worth the splurge, but their shipping can be somewhat slow. So if you like them, get the paper early!). I found some insanely cheap generic 200 lb watercolor paper at my nearby art store that I used ($2.00 for a 22×30″ sheet!). It’s not as nice as the Holyoke, you can definitely tell when they’re side by side—the indentions aren’t as deep and the texture is a little bit grainer, but it was also cheaper and you can’t tell when they’re not side by side, so I went with that instead. Whatever you do, buy extra paper. I would say that overall I probably discarded 1/4 to 1/6 of the ones I did due to uneven/over/under inking. It was hard to get a sense of what was going on, especially with the pink.
Holyoke’s on the left, cheap watercolor paper on the right.
I wish you could get a good sense of how thick this paper is. Amazing.
–six inch soft brayer With Boxcar’s suggestion, I got this soft brayer. I love/hate this thing, it works really well for inking the plate, but completely impossible to clean.
–Baby wipes. baby wipes to work really well between deep cleanings if you get the ink in crevices.
Instructions: Once again, many of the tips came from Boxcar.
1) I started by aligning the paper and placing it in a good location. I know Boxcar suggested not to use the sponge things for aligning the paper, but I actually found them to work fairly well. They’re thick enough that if you put enough of them around your paper, the paper doesn’t move at all. To be honest, I really like them, but they do get stuck easily and aren’t easily repositionable.
2) I next put the design on top of the paper to determine how I wanted it to look. When I was happy with the design location, I peeled off the backing and smashed the top down on top to make sure they were exactly where I wanted it. Or, you can use the grid lines that they provided. I drew on the top with a Sharpie (Sharpie is removable with rubbing alcohol) to get a good idea if my stuff was centered correctly without the sheet under it.
3) I did a couple of blank impressions on scrap paper to get a sense of the placement and if I was happy with it, before I started rolling out ink.
4) I did a two step rolling process. After squeezing out a little pea sized amount of ink, I used the small hard roller that came with the kit to spread out the ink and then the bigger soft roller for the actual inking. Make sure your ink is satiny before you roll your ink on the plate. If it’s puckering, just keep rolling it some more. I would say I probably got about six impressions with each pea sized amount of ink. It took longer to keep having to roll it out, but at least you don’t need to worry as much about too much ink.
I would recommend that when you first start, start using your darkest color. I found that the darker colors were much better for getting a sense of how much ink you were putting down and how much more you needed. I put way too much ink down with the pink since I had no sense of how much ink to put down. Using a darker color first would have helped me realize that the little I was putting on was still way too much.
|It’s much easier to tell how much ink you have on there with the blue than the pink.|
5) If you ask Boxcar for the excess material around the plate that they cut, you can use that as rollers to insure uniformity when rolling. I found them to be incredibly useful and worked fairly well in the beginning. However, because you’re constantly pulling them up and because of the nature of the polymer, they have a tendency to start curling up and not sticking to the plate. I ended up having to hold it down with one hand while inking with the other…which can be kind of a pain. I think longer rails make it a little easier not to get ink everywhere, but you have to remove it before you roll it through the machine. It’s not really ideal, but I also have no solutions. Did anyone else figure out a better way to do it?
|can’t hold it down and take the picture simultaneously.|
I found that only rolling over the plate twice (up, down, done), was enough to insure a good coverage, while not getting too much ink on the plates, but as always, your mileage might vary.
Also, if you get ink in the crevices, you really should just clean the whole plate and start again. It’s not really worth the headache of more bad impressions. I recommend baby wipes. Get them. Seriously, they are awesome and help so much.
6) After the whole plate is inked, and you’ve removed any stray ink splotches, snap the plate shut, and push the paper through the machine. I didn’t find taping the edges, like Boxcar recommends, to be necessary. Instead, I just tried to make sure that the edges were tight when I started pushing the plate through the machine. So, I squeezed the plates together as much as I could, while pushing the plate through.
7) Tada! Repeat. I spread the invitations around the room, to give them space to dry out. It was probably not necessary, but it made me feel better.
|Way too much ink: try less rolling|
|Ink in crevices: use baby wipes to clean|
|uneven roller coating/not enough ink: add more ink, make sure the whole roller is coated evenly|
|ink is drying out: add more ink, might want to clean rollers..|
8) When you’re done, you’ll want to clean everything. Vegetable oil works beautifully in getting much of the ink off of the rollers, but I don’t recommend it for the plate itself. Getting the oil in the adhesive causes the adhesive on the plates to start coming off. I would stick to baby wipes for the plate itself.
While DIY letterpressing seems like a complete and totally crazy idea at first, I found the kit to work fairly well, and it was fairly easily. It wasn’t something that I had to fidget a lot with or took a lot of time to set up. It was actually really easy and straightforward, especially compared to some of my other projects.
I’m not saying it was cheap—I’ll go over the price breakdown tomorrow, but I am really happy with how they turned out and I’m really glad I got to try it.
So DIY letterpress brides, what tips am I missing? How did your guests enjoy your invitations? Are you considering DIY letterpressing?