Edge painting but with a gradient

Hi everyone,

I have a customer requesting a gradient edge painting.
I was thinking the way to go about this is with air paint sprayer.
To be able to do half one color, and transition smoothly to the other color.
What do you guys thing?

Any suggestions? They’ll be greatly appreciated.


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Hi guys.. anyone? Please…

In my experience, there are very few printmakers willing to share tips when it comes to edge painting. Many printers refer to it as a “trade secret.”

I guess that’s their right, but it’s a shame there isn’t more resources out there about edge painting.

I wish I could help! :)

Really? Oh well.. I guess that’ll be something I’ll have to figure out myself.. like most the stuff all the time, since there is no one else in this city who could teach me..

Thanks, Evan.

Yes, airbrush. I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve seen it done and the results were fantastic. I’d say a bit of practice is necessary, though, before trying the final run.

I’d definitely recommend airbrushing, though I have yet to tackle edge painting myself. I am also disappointed that this trade secret is so closely guarded, but I suppose it’s just one of “those things” you gotta figure out yourself. It always reminds me of when I lived in the country in Japan. My homestay mom would bring home the most delicious mushrooms in the fall that she would go to the mountains to forage. Oh, they were awesome. However, she announced one night over dinner that even when she was ready to die, she would not tell her own children her secret mushroom spots. I know my homestay family is going to miss those delicious mushrooms when that day comes.

Maybe this will help you, however, in regards to how to go about creating a gradient:


Hello Nifty, thanks for the link, that’s super!

Mephits.. yeap :)

I just received my airbrush kit from Amazon the other day and I’m thinking about starting a Briar Press thread or a blog post on my experimentation with edge painting. I’ve already been experimenting and have had some good results.

I’ll post a link here when I get the first post up!

That would be awesome, Evan.


Yes, please share! :)

Okay, I thought I’d check back in to do make an update on my edge painting experimentation. I will probably do a long blog post about this in the next couple months with pics and go a bit more in depth, but here is what I’ve found out so far.

I could go into a lot of detail, but I’ll just share the most important points. Hopefully this won’t get too verbose and still communicate some helpful points.

I’ve only really tried two methods so far:

1. Airbrush

Airbrush Test #1

Clamped 40 freshly cut 220lb cards with two 6” Quick Release Bar Clamps. I thinned down letterpress ink with California Wash to the consistency of milk (best consistency for airbrush) and painted the edges of the stack.

This test turned out badly - there was a lot of ink bleeding into the faces of the cards.

Airbrush Test #2

I did the same as the above, but used a heat gun directly after painting to dry the edges. They dried quickly and the cards turned out better, but certainly not great.

Airbrush Test #3

I’ve read that using matte medium to coat the edges before painting works well. I ordered some, but didn’t have it yet so I used a coat of transparent white for the first coat. Dried it, then laid down the color. Dried that. After mostly dry, spread the cards.

This test was much better. The results were still not quite there though. The coat of transparent white certainly made the difference. Acted as a mediocre seal.

All in all, the airbrush was fun to use and I could see it working well if I could seal the cards well. I am waiting on the matte medium and will conduct another test after I get it. I didn’t have any problem thinning down the actual letterpress ink I used on the job. It seemed to spray well, coat well and dry nicely with the heat gun. I’ve read that letterpress ink shouldn’t be used in the airbrush, but I’m not sure why - seemed to be fine.


2. Ink Knife Method

To my delight, I came across an article discussing edge painting on the LinkedIn letterpress printers forum (it’s actually really cool, check it out). Deep into the thread a link was posted to this: http://bit.ly/ThTduI

This gentleman in Denmark photographed his simple method. Check out the link above and click through the photos of him edge painting with pink. (Also, check out his entire flickr letterpress set - some awesome stuff there)

I tried this tonight and it works very well :) Most likely, this is the method I will be using for my clients after some more practice.

Here are some things I learned after a few practice runs:

- Freshly, well cut paper with a sharp knife is obviously the ideal setup.
- Get a sharp ink knife. The sharper the better! I tried to use a razor blade though, and that was a bit to small and inflexible :)
- Check out the pieces of wood he’s using - they are just smaller than the cards you’re inking, which makes sense so you can run your knife down the edge of the cards without the wood interfering. Not to small though because you’ll clamp in the center of your stock and the edges will fan out.
- Get a liberal amount of ink on the knife. This is crucial. The ink should slide effortlessly along the edge of the card, filling in all the visible paper. You’ll still want to push decently hard though, so you’re not leaving a thick layer of ink behind. This takes the most practice.
- Working around your clamps is a little awkward.
- After all sides are inked, wipe off excess ink with a soft rag.

Lastly, I chose to use my heat gun to dry the edges after I inked. This seems to work great. I dried them from a distance with the heat gun. When most of the ink turned flat, I unclamped and fanned the cards. Perfect results! No bleed!

The best part about this process is that you can use the same ink stock you mixed for your cards. No headache trying to match special acrylic ink colors to your Pantone colors. That doesn’t sound fun to me.


All in all, I’m encouraged by the outcome. I’m still going to try the matte medium with the airbrush, but most likely, I’m going to stick with the ink knife method because the setup is so minimal.

Okay, that was a lot. Sorry. But, hopeful my verbose and hastily written instructions can benefit someone.

I’d love to hear about your experiments with edge painting! Tell us what works for you and what didn’t - I’d love to hear!

image: Photo was brightened a bit in Photoshop to show the clean inked edge.

Photo was brightened a bit in Photoshop to show the clean inked edge.

This is very generous of you, Evan. I don’t think it was too much words. The more the better.
I am going to get a small air compressor soon and start fiddling with the gradient edge painting, and definitely will give this ink knife technique a try!
Thanks for taking the time to post this.

This, whilst interesting and very enlightening ,as i thought you would use a spirit dampened cloth and dab into rolled out ink and rub into the edge doesnt answer the bit that i am intrigued by , the bevelling of the edge .
I was shown a very old card from victorian /edwardian era the other week and was asked how it was done ,i dont have an answer other than the shape being die cut but the bevelling left me stumped and i just kick myself as i knew people in my learning days who had the knowledge i didnt ask !!!!
I am aware that Alabaster gilt edged cards are available and on close inspection they have a bevel too but have not enquired into how that is achieved.

My friend rubs wax from a candle over the edges after they are dry to help seal the ink.

Thanks so much for the trial-and-error documentation for the rest of us, Evan. :)

Time to play with my ink knives and some fresh-cut paper…

As to the beveled edges, perhaps something like a leatherworker’s edge slicker while the ink is still wet?

Crane edge beveling and gilding video.


That is very explanatory , thanks very much it had not occurred that was how you do it and i have worked in hand bindery before but never seen it done like that or at all , book foredge yes but not blank cards . peterL

Ah! A cabinet scraper! That’s an excellent idea! I’m definitely going to file that one away for future use. Thanks!