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SlowPrint FAQ! Read Me!

by Peter Fraterdeus last modified 2010-01-25 16:24
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We hope you're able to find everything you need on our site, and here, we'll be regularly updating this FAQ to answer common questions. While we strive to clarify the terms and processes discussed here, the information in the FAQ is hereby incorporated into our Trade Terms as a general listing of definitions, and shall act solely as disclaimer, without liability on our part, nor guarantee of accuracy for any purpose. Please contact us if you have other questions or suggestions for this list!

FAQ overview

Trade Terms

Our Trade Terms are the conditions under which we accept your job, and outline our house policies, disclaimers and payment terms.

You should read these terms, along with the rest of the FAQ. The FAQ is incorporated into the Trade Terms as an appendix providing definitions and disclaimers regarding our liabilities and responsibilities to you.

We may make special offers regarding payment, costs, and other characteristics of our trade, which may supersede the terms outlined on the website, but in lieu of other notice, the current Trade Terms will apply.

Do I need a PayPal account to pay with PayPal?


We use PayPal to process all credit card orders.
You do NOT need a PayPal 'account' in order to pay with PayPal. Just go to the "Send Money" tab, enter our email "" and follow the steps shown there. We can also send you a PayPal invoice which will have a link that takes you directly to the 'send money' page.

Also, note that we're very happy to accept checks (US, Canada), money orders, and wire transfers. In fact, for larger jobs, we prefer wire-transfer and will give a 5% or better discount for direct payment.

What are the best practices for Art Production?

Art Production

When you are producing your own art work for letterpress

Make all colors SPOT colors, use PANTONE Uncoated color libraries in Illustrator or InDesign, etc.
No "Transparency" - Full 100% Opacity only (use a lighter tint instead of transparency, which, of course will add another color to the job)
No Photoshop or jpegs, we use VECTOR ART only. We can use high-res B&W (1-bit, no gray) TIFFs if scanned images are to be incorporated, but they must be saved as 'bitmap' (1-bit) images, not gray-scale. (Unless you want us to print halftones, which we can do, but there's a lot more makeready required, which affects the price. See the Photos FAQ below)

Convert all fonts to Paths if possible (in Illustrator) or make sure fonts are fully embedded/editable in the file.

Export your design using "Save as PDF" or "Print to PDF" embedding all fonts, if they aren't converted to paths.


If I use Pantone 574C and also 574C 83% it still counts as one color?

No, unless it's run as a screened halftone, which we don't recommend since on the 'high-touch' stock the texture of the paper doesn't take the screen evenly, and it requires a coarse screen too large for type elements in any case.
Please also note that we recommend that designers refer to the UNcoated Pantone book (so '574U' rather than '574C'. Also we need distinct spot colors for each ink, rather than tint percentages.
"Tints" are separate inks, and require a separate press run!


Can you print both sides without the impression showing through?

We regularly print double-sided cards and invitations, etc on our letterpresses.

The impression does not punch through the opposite side, since we use an appropriate amount of impression for the thickness of the stock, and a hard packing behind the piece on the tympan of the press.

Depending on the character of the stock, there will be a certain amount of change of texture, as the fibers in the high-touch surface are flattened against the tympan by the impression. There will also, obviously, be flattening of any prior impression opposite the side being printed. In practice, this is rarely noticeable, but the designer of double-sided work should be aware of it.

On our high-touch double-thick stocks (220# / 600gsm) which are roughly 40-50 point (.040-050") (Arturo, Savoy, German Etching, Copperplate Etching, Crane Lettra, Legion Bamboo), we are able to take full advantage of the thick, compressible fiber for deep impressions, including "blind" (inkless) impression. But even on the single weight stock, such as the Strathmore 130# Writing Cover, or Lettra 110#, we get very good results from inked impressions.

Can I get a Proof?

Generally speaking, we do not provide a printed proof of the job, since that would require printing the job.

(Letterpress is not a 'one-button' operation!)

For large complex jobs, we can incorporate actual press proofs into the budget, but this can easily double or more the final cost of the project. Indeed, while we aspire to the best quality and consistency in our work, due to the nature of the medium, we do not guarantee that ink color or coverage will be exactly the same from one run to the next. Proofing, when appropriate, can help the designer and client make informed decisions about the finished product, within the parameters of craft practice.

If you provide the finished art as a PDF, you have already checked the spelling and placement of all the elements, and we do not change any of the elements in the art.

Thus your "proof" is already in your hands...

For designs that we produce (or customize from our templates), we will always send you a digital proof or PDF, which you must either approve or reject with comments.


Can you combine Letterpress with Offset (Flat Printing) and Digital imaging

Combining Letterpress with Offset and Digital imaging

While we can arrange for flat (offset or digital) printing on the 'B'-side of the piece, we do this only for technical reasons (full-color, heavy solid coverage, halftones, etc) rather than for economic reasons. Due to the costs involved in set-up, outsourcing offset printing will add more to the cost of the project than having the B-side printed by letterpress.

However, we do not know of any lithographer who can handle our double-thick stock. Most offset and digital presses can handle stock up to about .015" caliper. Even our single weight Lettra 110# is thicker than that. 

Can I get Deep Impression? Paper thickness (caliper)

Deep Impression, Paper thickness (caliper)

The weight of a paper is a function of both its density and thickness. Thickness in papers is also referred to as the 'caliper', which is really just the name of the instrument used to measure thickness. Many of our favorite papers have a high 'caliper' reading, though the weight may be the same as a thinner paper. These high-caliper sheets are perfect for deep impression, as the fibers are softer, and the thickness allows for plenty of depth without punching through the back of the sheet, which is considered rather gauche...


Can you print on Black Stock? Ink color, transparency, opacity, metallic, hot-stamping foil

Printing on Balck, Ink color, Pantone® matching, transparency, opacity, metallic inks

Pantone colors are used to specify ink color. However the Pantone standard is designed for offset lithography, not for letterpress. We use the Pantone formula mixing book as a reference and a guide, and we take every available step to match the swatch specified. HOWEVER, we are not responsible for slight variations from the swatch book in the final printed piece! See our Trade-Terms for specific disclaimers.

In particular, since each mix is done by eye, different jobs will inevitably be noticeably distinct in color. It's the same as buying paint for your kitchen! If you'll need more, buy plenty to begin with!

Since Pantone inks are transparent, printing on off-white or colored stock will inevitably affect the color of the final impression.

Opaque inks may be specified for printing on black or other colored stock but no guarantees of any kind are provided.

With any relief printing process, the ink layer is very very thin (since otherwise, it squeezes out of the impression and looks horrible!) The brilliance of the color comes 99% (well, a lot, anyway) from reflection of light off the paper, returning back through the ink. So with a colored stock, not even black, the impression will always be subtle, with very little brilliance. This effect can be used with very beautiful results, subtle, rather mottled colors, overlaying each other in larger type and block matter. For small text and fine line, we don't find it very successful.

Although the inks are "opaque" there's simply not enough pigment in the ink layer!

There is also hot-stamp film and foil, which is done on a letterpress. We currently out-source hot-stamping, although it seems that every other request we get lately is for printing on black stock ;-) For large jobs, any Pantone color may be specified for hot-stamping, and for metallics (see below) it is the only option which provides a true 'specular reflection'.

Film-stamping has the advantage of being perfectly opaque, but the disadvantage of looking high-tech (plastic) and rather impersonal, also the color choices are limited in small quantities.

Actual metallic inks tend to be  problematic, since they depend on the gloss of the surface behind them to become reflective. Since our fine paper stocks are 'high-touch', ie, soft 100% cotton or rag fiber, we avoid metallics. The other option "metallic film hot-stamping" is also rather garish against the fine papers we prefer. Hot-stamping is similar to what you might find on a book cover.
We are happy to quote hot-stamping as part of your project.

Having said that, we've recently been impressed by the quality of a new silver metallic ink on dark stocks. This ink is extremely opaque, and on dark stock has a brilliance impossible to achieve with standard opaque inks. On lighter stocks it simply seems gray...


Can I get Solid coverage on high-touch stock?


Letterpress is at its best with line art and typographic elements. It requires extra effort and often additional cost to make sure that solid areas - over 3/16 inch - are seen as solids. Smooth surface papers help quite a lot with this. We also will make use of fine-arts printmaking techniques such as dampening the paper to produce a perfect ink-film. However, for reverses, and solid coverage we often recommend the use of offset lithography which we offer through our local commercial print partners.

Another option is the use of duplexed stock, where two sheets of different colors (often white with another color) are bonded into one heavy sheet in a special process. Our Bugra colors are available in any combination of 22 colors, as double, triple and even quad weight sheets, with no minimum. 

We can also have any Bugra color bonded to any other sheet. Non-standard combinations can get pricey, though, often doubling or tripling the cost of the stock. Some minimum and setup charges apply.


For smaller areas such as logos on business cards, we can take advantage of the amazing perfect registration of the Heidelberg Windmill press to "double-bump" the impression. We will run the cards once through the press printing the entire image, then strip the plate of fine detailed line and type matter, leaving the heaviest image in place. The plate is then returned to the press and the job run through again. The initial impression has flattened the fibers in the stock, so that the second impression can lay a very smooth solid ink film.

Without the additional hit, the texture of the paper shows through more, which gives the old-time letterpress look. Not a bad thing, but not at all like the density of a solid on the screen. Smoother papers, of course, require less ink and impression to fill the surface.

And some fine printmaking papers are microstructurally more receptive to the ink on the first impression, and give a better density without double-hit.
Two very lovely papers, the Italian Arturo 600gsm and the German Copperplate Etching (300 or 600) are recommended for this reason.
It's always a balance between sharp detail and density of the ink film. 
If we lay enough ink on the sheet to make it solid in one pass, the details can get filled in, edges are mushy, etc.

Even with the 'double-bump' or second pass through, a solid black as in some logos or reverses will inevitably show variation in density from card to card. Lighter colors will vary somewhat in intensity.

The presses themselves are 50-60 years old at this time. Variations in feeding the press sheets will mean that if occasionally a piece mis-feeds, or doesn't feed, the inking rollers will double-ink the plate, creating a heavier inking on the next one or two cards.

While the modern eye, which is accustomed to high-contrast digital imaging, on screen or on high-gloss surfaces, sees this as a good thing, it's not in the nature of good letterpress printing to put so much ink down in one pass. 

That's why we offer the double-hit. But even then there is variation. The alternative is to load so much ink on the plate that all subtlety and sharpness is lost. This is a particular problem when there's a reverse out of the black with fine detail. .

In any case, we've been working hard to find the perfect balance between density and crisp printing, mixing custom inks, adjusting rollers and finding papers which respond most perfectly to the letterpress impression.

General Pricing, "Exquisite Letterpress" Business Cards

Pricing, "Exquisite Letterpress" Business Cards

If you are looking for our  pricing, please see the Exquisite Letterpress business card estimator page.

The form will let you choose your ink colors, paper stock, and check on per/piece pricing for different numbers of cards.

Note that the special pricing on these cards takes into account discounts for standard color choices and a simplified workflow.

All art work MUST be provided as 100% SPOT color PDFs. We CAN NOT use process colors in the workflow, and there may be additional charges if we need to change the color format. All fonts MUST be converted to OUTLINES!

If you need special colors or any other project, please Contact Us!



General Pricing, Wedding Stationery

Pricing, Wedding Stationery

Slow Print works directly with a number of very fine invitation specialists, and we'd be happy to refer you to them!

Invitation sets on fine papers and with absolute attention to detail, 100 sets minimum, $15/set and up.

Feel free to request a referral!


If you are a wedding consultant, designer or broker, please contact Peter for more info on our B-2-B offerings!

What about Bleeds, Trimming, Borders, Tight Cropping, Square cutting

Bleeds, Trimming, etc.

A design "bleeds" when it is printed across the trim, so that there is ink right up to the edge of the piece.
We can accommodate bleeds in many cases, but it's always important to check with us before finalizing the design.

Please note that we cannot guarantee perfect equivalence on sided borders. There are inevitable variations in the printing process which make tight control over thin line borders nearly impossible. Good design will always provide at least 1/4 - 3/8 inch of white space around the edge of the piece, and avoid bleeds or designs which are intended to create borders of exactly matching widths around the final piece.

We are very careful with our Challenge paper cutters, but we do not guarantee absolute perfect squareness nor perfect cropping. We're using equipment aged is half a century or more, and we do not have lasers or computer controlled cutters!

We will attempt to flag any potential problem elements in your design prior to printing, but we do not accept liability nor responsibility for doing so.



Zen of Letterpress Business Cards™ Important Info

New for 2011! Slow Print's Zen of Letterpress Business Cards (black ink on white stock)!

Exquisite Letterpress Business Cards templates designed by SlowPrint founder and master typographer Peter Fraterdeus and others to be announced.
Black ink only, single-sided on 110# "Soft White" Strathmore Writing Cover.

This is the lowest price we've ever quoted for our top-quality letterpress work, and therefore certain strict conditions must be met.

You choose the template, provide your contact info and wording and we'll get your cards to you within about three weeks. All of our standard Trade-Terms and Policies apply. Please see our FAQ!

Changes to templates are $75. additional.


Some designs require a double-impression for solid coverage. If you need solid black for larger type or graphic elements, there's a $75 charge for this service. We run the cards with standard coverage to get crisp inking of small type and line elements. To produce solid coverage in larger areas, we then trim away the finer type and line from the polymer plate, leaving the heavy elements only. The Heidelberg Windmill press provides perfect registration, and allows us to then run the stock through the press again for a second hit on the solids.

Without this, the solid areas will read as a dark gray rather than black, as the texture of the paper prevents a single hit from covering completely. 



Any changes requested to templates will be billed at normal job rates. Please see the Exquisite Business Card Estimator.
We will send a PDF proof of your design which must be approved before we will print the cards.
No claims accepted or refunds given for Zen of Business Cards.

Jobs are scheduled in batches of six-to-twelve, so delivery times are dependent on when enough orders have accumulated. Typical delivery is within 2-3 weeks.

If you need the cards faster, or want to use your own design, different colors, or different stock, see our Business Card Estimator where you can create your own quote with different paper options, colors and one or two sides.




What is Digital Letterpress? Digital Type, Typography

Digital Letterpress, Digital Type, Typography

Our production process is entirely digital from intial design until the plate goes on the press. We start with digital files, either produced in house, or received from the client. We then do extensive pre-press evaluation of the files, correcting for a number of important variables which can affect the letterpress impression. For example, we check that all colors are specified as 100% solid spot colors, and that all type is correctly rendering as 'overprint' rather than 'knock-out'. We'll add a tiny bit of weight to very fine features, adjust the placement of punctuation and tweak the spacing of odd letter combinations. Most people will labor to see the difference before and after, but that is exactly the difference between "acceptable" and Exquisite!

Although we worked our way up with hot-metal and foundry type set in a stick from a "California Job Case", we cannot see ever going back, at least not for our invitation and business stationery work. Digital type faces are far more efficient, and can, in the right hands, produce typography which is more precise and appropriate than metal type ever could.


Can you print Photos & Graphic Gradients?

Photos & Graphic Gradients

While we can do photographic and gradients on the letterpress, it requires a rather coarse halftone screen, and only works well on coated smooth commercial stock. We recommend any 'continuous' tone images be printed by offset litho or digital printing, and we can then do the letterpress imprinting on the same sheet.

The offset press also uses halftones, but can use a much finer screen. Digital four-color offset is also available.

Of course, if you know the effect of halftone on uncoated paper and you're looking for just that effect, we're happy to print it for you.

However, your art must be pre-screened (typically in Photoshop) and saved as a 1-bit (B&W) TIFF — NOT A JPEG!

 Communication is the key, so talk to us, and we'll try to get what you're looking for!

However, our standard disclaimers will apply!

Do you provide Calligraphy? Addressing (Prices, formats, samples)

Calligraphy, Addressing (Prices, formats, samples)

We've been practicing calligraphy for almost 30 years, so we have very high standards!

With that in mind we have partnered with some of the world's most renowned calligraphers. Please Contact Us for more information.

Pricing for invitation design starts at $450, for addressing starts at $4.00/envelope.

Addresses should be supplied in 'address label' format, rather than spreadsheet format.



What's the difference between GSM vs pounds (paper weights)

GSM vs pounds (paper weights)

Papers are described by their weight, thickness and surface characteristics.

The weight is Grams per Square Meter (gsm), which is literally "how many grams would a piece of this paper one meter square weigh?" or "pounds per ream".

Of course, very few papers are actually a meter square, but GSM is a very useful way to compare the 'absolute' weight of various sheets of different sizes.

Pounds per ream is rather more troublesome, as it's not at all intuitive.
A 65# cover sheet is heavier than an 70# text sheet! And that's barely scratching the surface.
Different types of paper have different standard sheet sizes, so cover paper (ie thicker card-stock) is weighed as 500 sheets of 23x35, whereas bond paper is 500 sheets of 11x17, and 'text' paper is 500 sheets of 17x22




What kind of Paper do you use? Fibers, sustainable, recycled

Paper fibers, sustainable, recycled

Papers are made from fibers of cellulose, commonly cotton, linen, hemp, flax, or other plants. Fibers are recovered from the cuttings and waste in the garment industry, as well as new fiber from the fields. All of our fine=art papers are produced in traditional mills using high-quality sustainable fiber. Our commercial papers, including Crane, Strathmore and others are either 100% cotton, or  Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC)



What about Printing Rough Papers?

Printing Rough Papers

We enjoy printing on heavy and heavily textured papers. They do require substantial extra time, however, as the texture tends to make the sheets stick together in the press. We will surcharge certain stocks to account for this.


What about Scoring Heavy Papers, Folding?

Scoring Heavy Papers, Folding

We do not recommend folding stocks over 80 lb cover weight (250 gsm), due to the risk of cracking along the fold.

Folding is separate from scoring, and generally, unless otherwise noted, we will score the work and deliver it flat.


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