Printing Fine Art

Hello, I’m new to this whole thing (but very interested). I was wondering (from you the experts), what would be the ideal pressure printing press for single color, tabletop, high quality hand pressed prints? Also, what is the largest printable area available?
If anyone has a suggestion I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance

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Could you tell us a little more about the prints you are planning to make. Are they wood engravings, or graphics you will make plates to print, or ??? Do the prints have tones or shades in them, or are they all black (or a color) and white? Approximately how much inked area, as a proportion of the total print area, do they have? How big would you like to make them? What kind of paper would you like to print on? Could you give us an example of a type of print which we might be able to visualize, which illustrates what you mean by “high quality?”

Answers to these questions will go a long way toward helping you obtain the best press which will accommodate your needs.

Great questions! Thanks Geoffrey!

Well, There is a company named “Pressure printing.” It’s run by an amazing printer/artist/designer named Brad Keech. He has done some amazing work with an antique “Columbia”, and “Washington” hand press. They are typically Black (oil based) inks on heavy cotton or linen stock (fine art paper like Ingres, or Arches). They have an “embossed” look to them, you can see the plate indention in the final work. In particular the work he’s done with Jim Woodring, and the artist’s “Four Seasons” print series, is just what I’m looking for! I don’t have much more information and know that Pressure Printing won’t divulge anything about their processes. I had to do some research to find what presses he uses.
I would like at least an 8” x 10” printable surface area. There would be no type, just my artwork. I’m assuming I would have to print from a plate? My work has no gray-scales, any rendering is just hatching and crosshatching.
Perhaps just traditional intaglio would suffice, however I’m really attracted to the “embossed”, pressure printing look of the “Columbian” and “Washington” presses. is there even an equivalent?
Thank you in advance, and please pardon my previous lack of information.
Also, if you’d like to go to and see what I’m speaking of, that would probably explain it a little better than I can. Thanks again Geoffrey! -SC

If you’re talking about the blind embossed lettering of the image title, that’s done with a die and probably a counterdie. It’s a pretty standard method. The dies are pretty expensive for that sort of textured raised surface and it requires a lot of pressure to get consistent results. That sort of thing can be done on a Washington hand press, but commercial embossing companies more likely use a Gally or Thompson platen press.

You can get a Washington hand press for $3000 to $5000 if you can find one — I have several in the North American Hand Press Database that are listed for sale. Where are you located?


Hi Bob! Thanks for the comment!

I’m located in Los Angeles. I would certainly invest the money if I could find one. However, I am concerned about shipping (damage), and storing such a large hand press. My studio isn’t like the ateliers of old. What do you think the height/weight would be on a Washington Hand Press? 7 to 9 feet? 600- 1,200 lbs?
Also, the printed image in ink seems to give a reversed print where the ink is concave/embossed into the paper, rather than intaglio, where the ink raises from the paper’s surface. Is this correct?
It might be worth looking for someone who loves printing unusual art, and has an obsessive nature for the craft? Picasso’s printers come to mind. I still would like to get my hands on an old fashioned “Hand Press” though. I don’t mind the slow, methodical process of a truly “hands on” artform.
Is there anything comparable to the Washington hand Press that’s still “hands on?” I’m assuming the Gally or Thompson Platen press is automated? Please excuse my ignorance. Thanks again! -SC


Most Washington presses suitable for the sort of thing you’re thinking of stand about 6 feet tall and weigh around 2000lbs. Your best bet is probably a later Hoe or a Reliance — these two makes are the most common. You are talking about a printed image impressed into the paper — the art I saw on the website you posted the link for was very difficult to view, as was the site itself. Such an impressed image is easy to achieve with a Washington; even large areas are possible with a heavy duty press like the Reliance or the Ostrander-Seymour Extra Heavy. The Gally or Thompson are platen job presses designed for very heavy impression like that but they’re typically much more expensive if you can find one.

Write me direct and I’ll look in my database and see what might be available in that general area to check into.


Thanks again Bob! I will write you soon!

Also, I spoke with one of the artists that collaborated with pressure printing (Jim Woodring), and he stated that he had done his work on “Copper Plates” and that these plates were used along with the Washington Hand press, to create his “Four Reasons” print suite. I’m assuming this was the correct use of that particular press?

I completely agree with you about the site. It’s incredibly difficult to navigate, much less understand? It used to be much better, and I now just type in “Four Reason” prints on my search engine to see them better (from their older site posting).

I’ll write directly to you soon. I want to do some research on the recommendations you made first. This way i’ll be more “educated” for our conversation.
Thanks again for your time, patience, and thorough knowledge. -SC

Not sure if you are still looking for a Washington Press but we have 2 available for sale the International Printing Museum here in LA.

If you’d advertise them in the For Sale section, they’d sell quicker.


What two Washington presses are for sale at the International Printing Museum? I need to make surer I can update my North American Hand Press Database to reflect the change of owner! Thanks,



You don’t need a hand press to print art prints. A Vandercook will do. Depending upon what is required letterpress, and sometimes in combination with etching, will get you where you want to go.

I been doing some work with the art print / gig poster crowd

and basically I am using Vandercooks, steel-backed photopolymer plates on Bunting Cerface magnetic bases, thick mouldmade papers (dampened), and some damn fine stone litho inks. Plus the scans are from a scan-back camera. Pretty good combination to capture details while nailing the solids.


Gerald always has good advice, but my handpress cost less than most Vandercooks these days.


Printing on the handpress, if a good print is the idea of use, requires a set of knowledge and skill.

Less so on a Proofpress like a Vandercook. Printing is not a skill you pick up in a few weekend courses.

Hi Preston

Yes, but not all that long ago an Albion was outselling any used Vandercook on the market by something like 5x to 10x. Not any longer, but maybe in the not so distant future that will all change again.

And, as typenut indicated, a hand press does not tolerate a fool, whereas a Vandercook welcomes all. I know that very well :—)

Sean, in that regard, since as you state, you are new to this and live in the LA area, you might consider some instruction before you make the leap. I still might have some spots left in my Otis classes.


Hi Sean,

I will second what Gerald said. Any beginning printer in the Los Angeles area who does not take Gerald’s courses is seriously shortchanging himself. Otis has Vandercooks, like most college facilities, but the heart of what Gerald teaches is applicable to any press.