Design Rules


I have some questions on designing for letterpress prints.

1. I have found out the more color per print the prices varies. Is there a maximum color limit per print?
2. Can letterpress printing print GRADIENT colors?
3. Can letterpress print all colors (CMYK)?

Thank you for taking your time to this questions.
: )


Log in to reply   4 replies so far

1. There is technically no maximum color per print, but your costs will skyrocket if you start designing with several colors. Each color requires the printed material to go through the press again—and that requires setup.

2. Gradients can be achieved through alternative inking processes, but you won’t have the control and consistency you might be used to when sending digital files to an offset printer. I would advise strongly against gradients—just stick to solid colors.

3. Yes, but again it’s going to be different than what you expect—and that’s if you can find someone interested in taking the job. Once again this is something best suited to offset and screenprinting processes where the cost is far more reasonable.

I concurr with dicharry on his comments. In theory, there is no limitation to the number of colors that can be printed. It is not uncommon for artistic printmakers to lay down 15 to 20 different colors on a single piece. whether or not this is economical is another question entirely…..

As far as gradients go, letterpress can produce quite striking gradiated effects if you do it right. For backgrounds you can use gradiated halftone cuts. Or you can use a split fountain type of set up, or do like the Japanese did and hand ink. I myself have used gradiated ink colors on multiple blocks many times to good effect. The real possibilities are unlimitless. It all depends on how creative you are, and how much effort (and money) you want to invest in that prticular piece.

Technically speaking, letterpress CAN produce a very wide range of images…. colors, gradients, overlaps, textures, and a host of others…. some of which are VERY beautiful. Printmakers, who are often less constrained by economics, employ letterpress to do things that most folks think to be impossible with the process. However, a lot of the techniques that produce these beautiful effects add considerably to the amount of time and money htat it takes to produce a piece.

So… to answer your question: YES letterpress can do what you want to in this regard. BUT it may or may not be economical.

Hi there,

The more colors you print, more labour to achieve it and therefore more costs.

Gradients can be achieved as long the prepress guy (the designer) is able to get it to plate.
The picture “gradient” shows a gradient made of lines, giving a degradé effect.
The picture “gradient 2” shows a gradient made of round screen dots.
Both images are screened in photoshop in a low ‘lineature’ as it is called there in my old country (53 lines per inch).
The third picture is a postcard I did when I was finishing my plate-making set up. I opted to use low screen values (53 lines per inch), because I wanted something with a letterpress look, having in mind the limitations of working with photopolymer plates.

As winking says, anything can be done, just a matter of understanding the limitations. There are limitations, but I would say the sky is the limit! With a great grade of patience.

I guess Gerald’s ( Bieler Press ) book about photopolymer platemaking may be a good source to understand what can be achieved. I guess you can find his book on ebay.



image: postcard detail.jpg

postcard detail.jpg

image: gradient 2.jpg

gradient 2.jpg

image: gradient.jpg



I appreciate for all the professionals out there has taken there valuable time to share there opinions and experiences in this questions.

Thank you to:
- dicharry
- winking cat press
- HD-Tiegel

sky is the limit : )