Printing on 1/4” Birch Plywood

Hi there,

I’m curious if anyone has attempted letterpress type printing on plywood (3/16”-1/4”).

I’m interested in printing multiple colors (3-4) with critical registration on wood that has already been dyecut.

Screenprinting seems to be a possibility, but I’d love to have the color infused and subtle like letterpress rather than laying on the surface like screenprint.

Does anyone have any ideas?

I have some familiarity with printmaking, but I do not currently own a press (hoping to be in the market soon).

Thanks from Greenville, SC,


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No personal experience, but technically it is doable. If you want to smash indent the wood, you are going to need a pretty heavy press. If you want to do kiss printing, the press will see the wood as paper and you can do it on any press that will allow adequate adjustment of the platen or bed. A cylinder proof press that will allow the bed to be lowered about .200 would work. A big hand lever press with approprite adjustment would work. A platen press with someone who knows how to lower and level the platen would work.
Tell us what you decide to do and how you do it. Please provide pictures.

Thank you very much for the advice.

Kiss printing should suffice at first.

I’ll certainly supply photos as I go.

Quick question: How do you deal with the expense of the photopolymer plates for short runs? For three colors, I’m looking at over $250 for the sizes I’d refer to work (about 10” x 14”). Is there a less expensive option for beginners/experimenters?

Thanks again,

Inky: Are you sure a cylinder proof press would work? If the bed could be lowered .2” to allow an undercut for quarter-inch plywood, how would register be achieved? LeLuni did mention that was very important.

LeLuni: Unfortunately, the only way to deal with the expense of photopolymer plates is to pay for them, no two ways around that. Save the money up, or spend money you shouldn’t, hoping you can recuperate the costs selling the matter you’ll be printing.


I don’t think you can print on anything that’s 1/4” thick on a platen press, an image that’s 10x14” is pretty large, you would need a large press. Maybe you could print on a thinner wood and glue it together. Dick G.

Carving on 3/4 Birch Veneer Plywood would be your best option since minimal padding the back would raise the board to .918. The surface should have a smooth finish, sans splinters and rough edges. Hatch Show Print uses this board.

A cylinder press would generate a better print that size but even that size a kiss impression would all that should be considered. The pressure on the press and wood cut to generate an impression may become problematic.

Photopolymer link on shelf life.


Wouldn’t hot stamping work better? The type is steel and would press into the wood better.

Aaron - Are you nuts????? He already thinks photopolymer plates are too expensive. Imagine the cost of steel plates.

The 1/4” thickness might not be problematic because one could mount the photpolymer plates on a thinner base to compensate for the thickness of the wood.

The statement he made about starting out at first with a kiss impression also intrigues me. Kiss is basically all he will get because if he tries to get any depth into the wood the polymer plates will not hold up.

Just a few thoughts on this thread.


we just printed on plywood, same thickness you were mentioning. We used a Windmill, had a little problem with registration do to bouncing I think. We slowed the press, did some other tricks but it still bounced about a point off each one.
We could also achieve no impression on the wood because it would crack. The ink rode right on the surface and took forever to dry because of the finished surface of the wood allowed for no absorption.
Finished product look good, rustic, and registration was not horrible.
PS, Mind your blade while cutting this down in the guillotine, it will dull your blade very quickly.


Sometime my friends think I am nuts. Does anyone know of video of someone printing on plywood, 3/16”-1/4”?
Love to see it.

Thank you all very much for your replies!

There are a lot of great ideas here.

Here’s another question:

Has anyone ever had their designs in lino/lino blocks routed out on a CNC machine? How did that work out?

Knowing that registration and print quality will be a challenge, I’d like to keep the experimentation as inexpensive as possible.

I was thinking one of those DIY car jack presses ( would allow me to effectively keep registration with multiple colors.

I’m just not sure if the Lino would hold up printing onto birch plywood.

Thanks again,

That’s a pretty nice press in your link it should work fine for printing plywood. If you make one, bolt it to a workbench so it doesn’t wobble when you print. Perhaps a rubber stereo or rubber printing block would work for your project.

Good thread. Interesting challenge. It has people thinking.
To Modernman: Please note that I have not done this. Neither can I lower the bed on my cylinder proof presses. In concept I think the matter of register can be handled. Using a frisket (perhaps sheet metal) and some form of pins or stops, I think the press will see the wood just as a thick sheet of paper. If one can register several colors of paper on the press, one should be able to handle the wood.
Remember, I am only thinking this through as a mecahnical challenge. I have no experience.

If you do kiss printing, the linoleum block cut should be your least expensive solution. It may not stand up to thousands of impressions. A hydraulic or screw jack press should work well if you have a good strong/stable bed and a
good strong piece between the jack and the work. You just have to figure out a way to get the register. There are several methods. You only have to be just a bit smarter than the machine. Not a lot, but some.

Hi John,

I have recently created a small book which I have illustrated using off-cuts of 1/4 inch ply. I used plywood to get an impression of the wood grain in my print. I created the plates by cutting away the top layer of ply using a hobby drill (proxxon / dremel etc). I then printed these plates, by sandwiching plate and paper between two blankets and using a cast-iron book press instead of my proofing press. This way, setting the plates to type-high was not an issue, which was just as well, as some of the plywood plates were not exactly flat. Registration is no big deal (just lightly mark the plate corner positions on your paper). Photographs on my prints can be seen here :

If you want any more info, just send me a message via this site.



Hi All,

I’m still moving forward with the idea of printing designs on plywood with a diy press.

In the interim, I’ve used wood dyes to make some solid color designs (clocks). You can see them here:

My current question involves the ink I would need to use in order to impart the ‘infused’ look to the print like these folks have managed to do:

Note that the color doesn’t lay on top of the print like a screenprint. That appeals to me.

Would a rubber based ink be appropriate to achieve this effect on wood?

(It did come across my mind that the nightowlpapergoods folks may be inkjet printing onto the wood… I’m not sure)


To simplify the question:

If you wanted to print onto wood, would you use rubber-, oil-, or acrylic-based ink?