Label printing questions

I’m a relative novice but am going to attempt to print some wine labels for a friend. Seems like a good project to work on my skills and help a friend out as well. We’ll be printing on an SP15, likely on a Strathmore uncoated label sheet, 8.5x11.

Two questions:

• Is it possible to print full bleed without trimming? It would seem to either require perfect registration or wiping down the tympan and plate after each pass. Neither seems like a good option, but wanted to pose the question.

• We’re going to print a flood color over the entire background, then other colors on top. What’s the best method people have used to do that? I think getting a photopolymer plate made would seem unnecessary. Could a linoblock, mounted on wood and shimmed up to type-high work? Any other materials?

Any advice or suggestions are welcome.

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As to question #1 regarding full bleed, the anser is no if you intend to use the gripper system on the press. It might be possible for you to tempararily “mount” the labels on another sheet, but more than likely, would be more headache than trimming the labels after printing.

I could conceive of inking a plate, placing your label on it face down, then a sheet of scrap paper and simply rolling the cylinder over the sandwich with the inking rollers raised, but you’d have to have a way to peel the label from the plate without affecting the image. Put on your thinking cap and you might come up with a solution.

The answer to Question #2 is “yes”. You could use practically any flat object as an image carrier as long as it was fairly smooth and could be built up to the correct height.

If you don’t need to do too many and have access to a cylinder or sign press you can do this with a piece of mounted cardboard or linoleum larger than the label. You’ll need to back it with an eve larger scrap of newsprint or other scrap paper to prevent offsetting onto the roller. Just ink up the cardboard or linoleum with a brayer. Lay the label on it face down so the edges do not overlap the edges of the inked board, lay a fresh piece of scrap over that and turn the cylinder. Repeat in the other direction.

Since you’re doing a flood orientation and exact registration are not important. Keeping the roller or cylinder clean is. We tried this here on a wedding invitation. The groom, who was doing the printing, wanted a pinkish flood on the back of the invitation. We eventually decided not to go with it, but not because it didn’t work. It worked just fine.

I love to print solids with linoleum blocks. I also like to distress them with a wire wheel or angle grinder.

Thanks. Linoleum seems to be the way to go. And I think I’ll suck it up and get larger-sized label stock and trim. I’ve run one before on my platen, but it didn’t give a great solid. Of course I really didn’t know what I was doing at the time either and it wasn’t terribly important.

Anyone know what typical store-bought linoleum block height is?


Next step in the process: laying out the form. See the image.

The purple will be printed as the solid background and the white on top. The white will probably be a silver (or silver/white combo) printed on top of the purple.

A) Am I just asking for trouble here?

B) Am I thinking correctly in keeping the smaller type aligned and the larger logotype also aligned?

C) Should I just print this all as a single-color w/knocked out type/logo? And am I likely going to have problems balancing the solid color with the smaller type?

The background wing was going to be a lighter purple, but I suppose it could be a halftone of the purple, but then I think I’m really asking for trouble.

image: labelform.jpg


A) Yes. Printing light on dark is always trouble.

B) Not necessarily. Depending on the size of the image and the diameter of your rollers, you may see some ink starvation on aligned images, after the rollers have gone around once.

C. What I’d be tempted to do would be to print a white/silver solid block just smaller than the purple first and then print the purple with knockouts for the logo and text on top of that. Though you may have some problems with purple filling in some of the smaller lines. I’ve done something similar with black with knockouts on top of gold.

I used plates made by Owosso for this.

Just another thought — could you possibly have the plate made in reverse and print purple on silvery paper, like metallic Stardream?



The press is an SP-15. Not sure if that helps clarify anything regarding your answer to B. I can flip the labels so they aren’t aligned. I like you idea about a large silver solid under the purple.


Does Stardream come in an adhesive-backed version? I like the idea of doing this in one (or two, for the ghosted wing) pass. Who makes Stardream?

Stardream is widely availiable. I know that Legion sells it in full sheets ( But I don’t think it comes in an adhesive-backed version. If you found a paper you love that isn’t adhesive-backed, I’m wondering if you could have it duplexed with adhesive-backed paper. This might not work since I think the duplexing process uses heat, but you could check. If this is a small run for a friend, maybe there’s another way to stick the labels on the bottles, like with spray adhesive or something.



I agree with Paul (Devils Tail Press) — this sounds like an offset job.

I would run this in three steps.

1.) OFFSET-purple ink: first plate is a full-bleed screen (10% to 20%). This creates a base for the next plate making the solid require less ink and much easier to print. Without the screen, solids tend to be mottled and uneven, and the small type and screens plug easily.

2.) OFFSET-purple ink: second plate is the solid purple with the wing and small type open. On the finished piece, the wing and small type will appear as light purple.

3.) LETTERPRESS-foil: foil the large type and possibly the small logo in the right corner.

I have never tried steps 1 and 2 on letterpress — it may work the same as offset. Might be worth a try.

just my opinion


This is not for a new printer to attempt, Devil Tail is right, a seasoned printer would have a hard time with this, maybe instead of 4 up you could run them 1 up. These are wine labels, I would start with 2 bottles of wine (good for seasoning printers) then send the job to someone else. Maybe by running it 1 up you might have a chance, you are not laying down so much ink. good luck Dick G.


I don’t have much experience with a Vandercook; I have a #1 which must be hand inked so I don’t run into the ink starvation problem on it. If you’re doing this as a paying job it might be best to go with the pros and have it offset printed. If this is an experiment for yourself or a friend. I say go for it. It may be better to have the cuts made separately so that you can print one, two or four up depending on what works best. I mainly use my 8x12 C&P and print for my own pleasure and amusement. I’d only have one cut made and print one up on the C&P. Less likelihood of ink starvation regardless of which color is printed first and I can feed that C&P a whole lot faster than anyone can feed a Vandercook. Maybe even 4 times faster.

No, this is not a paying job. I’m doing it for a friend as a favor and to experiment and learn. After looking more closely at the file, I’ve realized all the small type is 6 pt Avenir Light. I think we’re going to change that!

I like the purple w/knockouts approach, maybe followed by a silver for the large logotype.

Sounds like a challenging project. Unless you are producing cases of wine, it is unlikely that any two bottles will be in the same place at time of consumption, so is it important that the label match perfectly?
BarbHausers’ idea of using a sheet like Stardream or Starwhite Vicksburg with the pearlized finish which comes in text weight and would work fine. (Glue the labels on later)

Print the whole thing with a split fountain of a solid block containing purple ink on one side and varnish mixed with a little silver on the other. The two inks will mix at the margin and eventually the silver will become pearlized purple.
After printing the split fountain as a solid have a cut made for the knockout type. Print a solid black cut with knockouts. (You will probably need a oxidizing ink like ToughText on these sheets. You should end up with a very unique set of wine labels.

Ok, so we’re proceeding with printing a solid purple for the background on Strathmore Natural White label stock, followed by a silver/opaque white mixture on top. One silver pass for the large logotype, a second for the smaller type to better control ink flow. (And also a semi-transparent pass for the wing illustration.) My friend fully understands how this may look and that it will not be perfect. It’s a small run, only 300 labels are needed, so I’m prepared to just go for it. I’ll post a picture when I’m finished.

Many thanks for everyone’s suggestions, honesty, and encouragement (mostly to have someone else do it)! ;-)

Good luck and let us see the results. Have fun with it!

After some long hours, the job is done. Here’s a quick look at one of the labels affixed to the bottle. The silver worked out better than I thought. I expected it to be a lot less opaque. I was planning on mixing in some opaque white, but we didn’t have compatible inks (oil-based silver, rubber-based white…). The purple was, as everyone predicted, incredibly difficult and time consuming. I used an 8x10 lino block. In the end, 2 or 3 passes per sheet turned out to be the answer. It also made for a seriously dark and rich eggplant purple.

I had a devil of a time getting the lino block to type high. I would set the rollers correctly and the block wouldn’t ink. So I’d shim up the block and it would print on the tympan on the return. For lack of time to experiment, I just used a carrier sheet to avoid ink transfer to the back of the label stock. Definitely not what some of you more experienced pressman would approve of, but it got the job done.

image: syraph-onbottle.jpg


One last thing: I printed all the silver in one pass. I ran it sideways initially, but was getting heavier ink coverage on the leading edge of the small type. Once I turned the plate, the ink coverage evened out, probably because the large logo sucked away what would have filled in the small type.

Looks good!

Very snazzy — congratulations!