Lately I’ve been feeling like, as much as we try to educate regarding process, printing technique, papers and ink there is always going to be something unexpected about the letterpress process that is sometimes hard to know what the client is aware of and what they aren’t aware of. This is a new series dedicated to the nuances of different techniques in the printing industry – while I feel like we know what we are doing around here, every printer has their own way of printing a piece. While one design may work for one printer, it might not work for another. Things that can factor in that decision to print or not to print a specific design could be anything from press equipment, finishing equipment, labor, deadline, time, bookings, and more. In addition to design and press work, there is paper selection, ink selection, understanding inkage, understanding impression, die-cutting, flood printing, overlay and opacity, plating, the difference between printing type and imagery, edge painting and MUCH MUCH more.

In an effort to help educate you (or whoever is reading this whether you are a creative or a client or a designer) we are breaking down the nuances of printing and what to expect (or not to expect) when ordering and spending money on letterpress printing.

SO without further rambling, today’s topic is a simple one to get us kicked off – making the choice when ordering a product with edge painting.

Edge painting is done differently from one press to the next. It is also a trade secret that we as printers hold dear to our hearts. When looking for a printer to do edge painting on your printed goods you should ask for samples on  the paper you are looking to print on or similar weights as well as ask your printer about the color guarantee.

The reason for suggesting you to request and see as well as feel samples, is that there are two things that a photo might not be good at conveying – the thickness of the paper and the color saturation on the edge. The above two photos are an edge paint on 110# paper. I show the image of the cards singled out as well as stacked to indicate the angle at which the light can catch a thinner paper in comparison to how a stack looks with that same stock. The stack in this photo looks much less saturated in edge color because it is photographed with the edge side in the shadow. The single cards fanned out however are photographed with the light hitting the edge so that pop of color is much more significant. Even with the lighting of the photograph though, it is still best to see a physical sample to determine if you would be happy with the 110# paper or would like to go with a thicker stock.

Above is the edge paint on the 220# paper. As you can see, when it catches the light, you aren’t just seeing a sliver of color. It’s quite a substantial chunk of color. We recommend if you really want to spend the money on an edge paint, and want it to take a more central role in your letterpress invitations or business cards, the 220# paper is the recommendation we would make. Think of 110# paper with an edge paint as the subtle attention to detail and the 220# paper with an edge paint as the central stage element.

The last consideration to make when ordering edge painting is color guarantee. Since each press has their own technique regarding their process, it is important to ask your printer how many coats of ink goes on an edge, what to expect regarding color saturation, and will the edges chip off or wear down over time. You will also want to ask them if they paint the whole stack together or if they break the order down into paint stacks of 100 or so cards. We paint about 50 cards at a time for the 220# paper, and about 100 cards at a time for the 110# paper. With our process we mix highly pigmented inks to make a close color match but because the order isn’t painted in one whole stack, there might be slight variations in saturation between sets of 50 or 100. It is important to consider that there will be variation on an edge paint color just like there is on press. Once you know what to expect, your product will make so much more sense when looking at it and knowing the process that went into creating it.

We mix all our colors by hand when we edge paint so while we try to get a very close match to the inks on hte face of the card, it can be slightly different.

We believe that without actual samples in hand, you will not make the best decision regarding budget, paper weight and whether or not to do an edge paint at all. For samples email us and indicate in the subject line “Edge Paint Samples” along with a mailing address and we will get them out in 1-2 business days.

Next time: paper weight! wohoo!