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Exquisite Letterpress Love for Design


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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 incorporated into our Trade Terms as a general listing of definitions, and shall act solely as disclaimer, without liability on our part or guarantee of accuracy for any purpose. Please contact us if you have other questions.
Show or Hide answer 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.

Show or Hide answer Do I need a PayPal account to pay with PayPal?

Short Answer: No, you don't!

We use PayPal to process all credit card orders, but you do not need to set up a PayPal account in order to pay us through PayPal. Just go to the "Send Money" tab, enter our email "" and follow the steps shown there. Or, if you prefer, we can send you a PayPal invoice which will have a link that takes you directly to the “Send Money” page.

Also, 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% discount for direct payment by wire transfer.

Show or Hide answer What are the best practices for art production?

Production files must be sent as PDF files, or in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign format. Make sure that all colors are “Spot Colors” (no CMYK, RGB, HEX values or tint percentages), using PANTONE’s Solid Uncoated color library.

Images must be submitted either as Vector art (preferably), or bitmap TIF files at 100% size, with a resolution of at least 800 dpi. Images must be 100% black ink only. No grey values, 8-bit TIFs, JPGs, photos, etc. No "Transparency" - Full 100% Opacity only (use a lighter tint instead of transparency, which, of course will add another color to the job).

Convert all fonts to Paths/Outlines in Adobe 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. 

Exception: If you want us to print halftones, please contact us for specific instructions and makeready fees due to the additional setup work required. See the Photos FAQ, below. 

We're happy to help, but if any changes are required to make your design work, we will impose a minimum $75 Design Charge.

Show or Hide answer How do you match my ink color?

Pantone colors are used to specify ink color. We use Pantone’s Solid Uncoated formula mixing book as a reference and a guide, and we take all possible steps to match the Pantone swatch.

HOWEVER, we are not responsible for slight variations from the swatch book in the final printed piece! See our Trade-Terms for specific disclaimers. 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!

Show or Hide answer Can I get solid ink coverage on high-touch stock?

Letterpress is at its best with type and line art. It requires extra effort and often additional cost to make sure that solid areas over 3/16 inch appear as solids in the finished product.

Smooth surface papers help quite a lot with this. We also use fine-arts printmaking techniques such as dampening the paper to produce a perfect ink-film. However, for reverses, and certain designs with solid coverage, we may recommend the use of offset printing which we offer through our local commercial print partners.


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 your computer screen. Smoother papers, of course, require less ink and impression to fill the surface.

Some fine printmaking papers are especially receptive to the ink on the first impression, and give a better density without a double-hit. For this reason, we recommend two very lovely papers, the Italian Arturo 600gsm and the German Copperplate Etching (300 or 600 gsm).
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 at least 50-60 years old at this time. Variations in feeding the press sheets will mean that if occasionally a piece misfeeds, 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.

Duplexed Stock

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.

Show or Hide answer Can you print both sides without the impression showing through?

When printing double-sided cards, invitations, etc., we take care to make sure the impression does not punch through the opposite side by adjusting the amount of impression for the stock thickness and using a hard packing behind the piece on the tympan.

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 also be some 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), we take full advantage of the thick, compressible fiber for deep impressions, including "blind" (inkless) impressions. But even on single weight stock (110# / 300gsm), we get very good results from inked impressions.

Show or Hide answer What about bleeds, trimming, borders, tight cropping, square cutting?

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 or perfect cropping. We're using equipment that is between 50 and 150 years old, 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 or responsibility for doing so.

Show or Hide answer Can you combine letterpress with offset (flat) printing or digital imaging?

Yes, but….

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

Another problem with combining letterpress and flat printing is that we do not know of any lithographer who can handle double-thick stock. Most offset and digital presses can handle stock up to about .015" caliper. Even our single weight stock (110# / 300gsm) is thicker than that. 

Show or Hide answer Can you print 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 that any 'continuous' tone images be printed by offset litho or digital printing, after which we can do letterpress imprinting on the same sheet. An offset press uses halftones, but can apply 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! Please see our Art Production FAQ, above, for submission requirements.

Communication is the key, so talk to us, and we'll try to get what you're looking for! In all cases, our standard disclaimers will apply!

Show or Hide answer Can I get a proof?

For designs that we either produce or customize from our templates, we will always send you an electronic proof as a PDF file, which you must either approve or reject with comments.

If you provide the finished art, 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!

We do not provide a printed proof of any job before our production run, since that would require actually printing the job. Letterpress is not a 'one-button' operation!

If absolutely required as part of the job, we can incorporate actual press proofs into the budget, but that will 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.

Show or Hide answer Can I get deep impression?

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.

Show or Hide answer Can you print on black paper or other paper colors?

Yes, within certain limits.

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

You may specify opaque inks for printing on black or other colored stock, but we cannot provide guarantees of any kind.

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 any colored stock (not even black or very dark stock), 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!

You can also consider some other options:

  • “Blind” (inkless) impression on black or colored stock, preferably using double-thick or duplexed stock for best results.
  • Metallic inks can work for certain projects on dark stock. 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 made of soft 100% cotton or rag fiber, we generally avoid metallic inks. 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.
  • Hot-stamping foil and film. We are happy to quote foil stamping as part of your project. Currently, we outsource foil stamping to a trusted partner who offers multiple foil colors in both matte and shiny finishes. For metallics, foil stamping 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.
Show or Hide answer General Pricing, "Exquisite Letterpress" Business Cards

For business card pricing, please see our 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.

If you need options not available through out online estimator (such as edge painting, foil stamping, 3 or more ink colors, etc.), and for all other letterpress products, please contact us for a custom quote!

Show or Hide answer Do you print invitations for weddings and other special events?

Yes! We work directly with a number of very fine invitation specialists, and we'd be happy to refer you to them. Feel free to request a referral.

We print invitations on fine papers, with absolute attention to detail!  Typical wedding stationary include invitations, RSVPs, reply cards, menus, directions, programs, envelopes, and envelopes.

Minimum orders of 50 sets, $15/set and up.

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

Show or Hide answer What is digital letterpress?

Our production process is entirely digital from initial 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!

Show or Hide answer Zen of Letterpress Business Cards™ important info

Our Zen of Letterpress business cards templates are designed by SlowPrint founder and master typographer Peter Fraterdeus. 
Zen of Letterpress business cards are printed with matte black ink only, on Strathmore Soft White #110 writing cover stock. 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 in about three weeks. All of our standard Trade Terms and Conditions apply. Please review our FAQ before placing your order

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

All changes to templates are subject to a minimum $75 Design Charge.

Several template designs require a double-bump for solid ink 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 double-bump, 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 for standard business card pricing.
 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 Letterpress Business Cards.

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, ink colors, and single or double-sided cards.

Show or Hide answer Do you provide calligraphy services?

Our design guru, Peter Fraterdeus, has 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 calligraphic invitation design starts at $450, for addressing starts at $4.00/envelope. Addresses should be supplied in 'address label' format, rather than spreadsheet format.

Show or Hide answer What's the difference between 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 (i.e., 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.

Aren't you glad you asked?

Show or Hide answer What kind of paper do you use? Fibers, sustainability, 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 are Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC).

Show or Hide answer Do I need to hire a graphic designer to order letterpress products?

You want something letterpress-printed, and we want to print it for you! Now what?

In most cases, we take jobs using design files provided by you or your graphic designer. See our Art Production FAQ for file submission requirements.  

What if you don't already have a design prepared, but you desperately want us to print your business cards, invitations, coasters, or other products?  If you are looking for business cards only, check out our Zen of Letterpress templates and the Typography for Lawyers templates. We take your information and create business cards for you based on your chosen template.  Please note that these templates are printed in matte black ink only, on Strathmore Soft White 110# cover stock. See our Zen of Letterpress and Typography for Lawyers business cards page for specific information and restrictions. 

If you are looking for more business card options, or for any other letterpress products, we work with many graphic designers who have experience with letterpress printing. Ask us for a referral! 

Or if you prefer, our founder and master typographer, Peter Fraterdeus, offers graphic design and typography services for a separate fee. Please email us with graphic design inquiries.

Show or Hide answer What about printing on textured paper?

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 the additional work.

Show or Hide answer What about scoring and folding heavy papers?

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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