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Monthly ArchiveOctober 2008

Studio projects Wednesday October 29 2008 08:47 am

ADC Grandmasters certificate via letterpress

We were asked to letterpress the certificates for the Art Directors Club of New York Grandmasters Award ceremony held in October, 2008. The Club is an important organization for those of us in the design field and it didn’t hurt that Ray was getting one of the awards.

Originally, we thought we would use high quality inkjet printing for the multiple frames image. We like printing interesting projects for good designers as it often provides a great ‘push-the-envelope’ experience, so we decided to take the opportunity to print the whole thing slowly and patiently via letterpress.

This is the original image photographed by Craig Cutler Photography and provided to us by the designer, Lizzy Ferraro.

Tray Nichols posterized the image in four tonal stages (#1 was the lightest to #4) to capture the dimension and detail using Illustrator and Livetrace. Ray was in charge of the printing and some serious resolution issues. Jill was the ink mixer.

Below you can see the image for plate #2.

Photopolymer plates were ordered from Boxcar Press in Syracuse, NY.

We purchased PMS871 ink which is listed as the lightest metallic yellow-gold. In our experience, it is much darker and appears more like bronze with a heavy patina. We cleaned the press, added gold powder. Nope. Cleaned the press and then tried adding base tint. Nope. We decided to go back and start with yellow and build the image in color without worrying about the metalflake issue.

The first run of plate #2 looked OK, but it is also hard to tell where you are going with this kind of image after one run. So, we printed plate #3 to see a bit more of the image. The overall quality was better working from a base of yellow, but still lacked some snap. So we printed plate #4 followed up by #1. The image was still just OK and still without the snap of the reflective gold in the original image. So we put plate #2 back on and ran yellow with a bit of base tint to help the first run show through. An additional problem at this point was that we had cut off the registration marks (we were being cheap, not wanting to pay for all that blank area of the 10″ x 12″ certificate) so getting the registration aligned was much harder the second time.

The second layer of yellow helped a lot. Then we did the same thing with #3 (same issue of having removed the registration marks) and we had an image that was pretty accurate to the original. It had taken us 6 letterpress runs spread over two days.

After three more runs (logo, text, and calligraphy), the resulting certificate (below) came close to the original.

Below is a close-up of the lower righthand corner of the frames to show how the posterization looks. The width of the image on the finished certificate is 2″. Interestingly, until you feel the surface of the frame image, most people don’t realize the image is letterpressed, too.

We started with eighty sheets of Stonehenge printmaking paper and the goal of having at least three copies of each of the five certificates (a set for us, the designer, and the Art Directors Club), plus about 20 samples in the end. We ended up with 22.

This has us excited again about a project we would love to do — print a visually exciting diploma for a high school. Maybe a charter school or an art-related high school would be a good target. We’d love to be able to work with the students at the school and have them design the diploma.

Now, wouldn’t that be cool.

inventory / important type Sunday October 26 2008 07:38 am

Lead Graffiti spacing material cabinet

We’ve developed a system at Lead Graffiti to keep our metal type spacing more easily organized. Typically there are cells in type cases for the various widths of spacing (double/triple quads, em-quads, en-quads, 3/em, 4/em, 5/em, brasses, and coppers). Our system keeps the spacing all in one place instead of spreading it out over lots of cases (few of our cases have it sorted very well and fewer still have a complete offering). It is time consuming and frustrating to need 4/em spacing and to have to hunt for it among our 500 cases of metal type.

So, we designed a cabinet that would hold cases for all of our spacing material for each type size.

It works quite well for us (especially for workshops). We can see exactly what we have, find it quickly, and redistribute the spacing fairly accurately after a job.

In our search, the best spacing case we found was at Home Depot ($4.95 as we remember). Sold as a clear, plastic, lidded case with customizable compartments for holding small parts, it is about 14″(w) x 9″ (d) x 2″ (h). There are subtle things about the Home Depot cases that work better for us than others that we found either in hardware stores or online. Each cell has a rounded bottom which makes it easy to grab and slide out even the smallest metal spacing. The cases are made with rigid horizontal dividers which add support: a full one can weigh about 10 pounds. Even so, each case is quite portable to wherever we are working. The downside is that if the case is dropped, the plastic will shatter. The illustration below of a 24 point spacing case shows how we generally organize the cells.

spacing case

Sometimes there are variations between the different sizes as some of our larger type can have 6, 8, or 12/em and others have 1.5 em-quads. We just add appropriate vertical dividers (there are plenty of extra ones that come with the cases) to keep them organized in descending widths.

We also built a cabinet to hold all of our spacing cases shown below. This cabinet holds 6 point to 72 point (with 16 point and a second 18 point shown here). Even though it’s just a simple shelving system, it’s makes the individual cases visible and more usable since stacking and unstacking heavy cases to get to the one you want gets old in a hurry.

spacing cabinet

Now, when we are distributing type back into the cabinets we sort the spacing separately which might take a bit more time, but allows us to be much more accurate in keeping the 4/em and the 5/em and everything else in their correct places.

Since going to this system we have decided to add a second cabinet. We have too much spacing of some sizes to fit into one case. Also we have some less frequently used sizes (16 point) and the didot, which would be good to keep separate.

If anyone is interested I can supply you with the exact dimensions of the various pieces. Should you decide to do something like this, we suggest buying all of the cases you THINK you want for the foreseeable future. Likely as soon as you get started, your source will change the style of cases they sell.

Studio projects Monday October 06 2008 06:00 am

APHA 2008 keepsake

Jill and I wanted to create something to celebrate the theme of the 2008 American Printing History Associations national conference held in New York City, October 4th - 5th. The theme was “Saving the History of Printing.”

We took a quote we thought was appropriate from Gardener LePoer, Executive Director of The Museum of Printing in Andover, Massachusetts, that he had said when we were there buying an 1890 Albion iron handpress. We provided 125 copies to the attendees at the conference. We also provided 20 copies to The Museum of Printing.

The image above shows the wood type from our collection which was locked into a form and printed. For the broadside we first handrolled the background with copper ink. Jill designed the headline. I particularly like the “Y” made out of a V and ! and the “o” with the circumflex accent in the word “roof”.

It was fun and there seemed to be none left at the end of the conference. We hope they are adorning office walls around the country and also promote The Museum of Printing.