Any tips for a letterpress first timer?

mrjono's picture


I was recently offered a letterpress alphabet set and although I dont have a letterpress I couldn't resist. However, I'm a bit stuck on how to use them now. I've had a play using normal calligraphy ink but the results aren't exactly great as the ink is blotchy.

Could anyone give me any tips on how to use the letters without a press or perhaps point me in the directions of a website which could help me out?

Thanks very much!


(here's a pic of my experimentations so far!)

verle's picture

You can use Block Printing Ink, not Calligraphy ink. They make waterbased Block Printing ink that is a bit easier to handle if you don't have a good studio in which to use oil based inks (clean up is messy), but oil based inks are the most beautiful and don't dry up as fast. I use speedball water based inks at home sometimes, but real letterpressmen use inks specified for letterpress or sometimes lithography inks I think.

Get a soft rubber brayer to ink them up as well. Depending on how big those blocks are though, you might get a blotchy feel anyway, letterpress tends to give you that. When there is a large printing area, it is tough to get even coverage with letterpress, even when you have a press. If you use block ink or lithography ink (oil based), you will almost certainly get a thicker layer of ink than if you use calligraphy inks.

I also used to use a rolling pin to pull monoprints from plexyglass and linoleum cuts when I was in college. It isn't exactly professional, but it can help get a job done.

Good luck.


Robert Trogman's picture

There is a way to print from a font without a press. I used to use a felt covered block and a soft mallet.
I would ink the form with a soft rubber brayer using printers' ink. Lay the paper on top of the inked form and them gently place the block over the paper and tape the block with the mallet.
Make sure that the type form is held together with string wrapped several times around the form. This is called block proofing.

mrjono's picture

Wow thanks guys some great tips there, will definately give them a go!

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