How to Shorten Crop Marks In Adobe Illustrator

When you are creating crop marks in Adobe Illustrator using the Effect>Crop Marks feature, the next natural question is: “How can I shorten them to save on custom-made platemaking costs and paper?”

We’ve put together a helpful quick tutorial of steps to demystify this task.

Making Crop Marks Editable So You Can Shorten Them

First, Open your file in Adobe Illustrator that contains crop marks (ones that were created using the Effect > Crop Mark feature. If you need a refresher on how to do this, our wonderful tutorial is here!).

Select everything on your artboard. You can do this by manually selecting everything with your black arrow (default tool) or via Object > Select All. You’ll notice that the crop marks themselves are not selected. This is normal and fine.

Next, click Object > Expand Appearances (or Object > Expand). This will now make the crop marks editable.

Then, use the black arrow (default tool) to shorten your crop marks down from the default of 0.5″ to 0.25”. You can also thicken up your crop marks with extra strokes to bring them up to your plate type’s minimum line thickness minimum at this point, too.

Feel free to contact our prepress team if you have any questions as we’d be happy to help out. Stay tuned for more wonderful file prep tips and tutorials!

The Inquisitive Printer: More Things That Caught Our Eye

Our focus lately has gone from New York to New Mexico and over the water.  We hope you enjoy what has captured our attention this week.

From Carrie: A windmill printer at Boxcar Press.
On the Letterpress Digest podcast: As a giant letterpress and book nerd, I was so thrilled to hear about a new product devoted to my beloved particular form of the Black Arts. The host, Jordan, interviews printers, suppliers, and others active in the field.  It has been a treat to hear my letterpress heroes talk about their adventures and get to know others I may have missed out on otherwise.  The interviews have been engaging and educational and had me laughing at things only other print nerds would find funny.  Even though only a dozen episodes have aired, I can’t wait to hear who will be next.  This is exactly what my printer’s heart was longing for – hearing letterpress things while making letterpress things.

From Cathy: On Facebook, there is a great resource of printing brains and experience over at The Heidelberg Letterpress Page so I have been encouraging all to join this group.

Next, I am a big fan of knowing how things are made, so this story in the New York Times combines some pretty nifty photography with a good story on one of America’s last pencil factories.  It raises my respect for this basic tool.

tom leech(photography courtesy of

So excited to see an article about the Print Shop and Bindery at New Mexico’s Palace of the Governors, with an interview with printer, Tom Leech.  Tom and I have corresponded over the years so am loving this peek into the working shop / museum.

From Rebecca:  Coming in May 2018, the inspiring folks over at the Corning Museum of Glass (just a day-trip drive from our location here in Syracuse) will be launching the GlassBarge ship.

barge(photography courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass)

This barge ship will sail through the New York Waterways (visiting & stopping from ports in Brooklyn to Buffalo) this spring while giving free glassblowing demonstrations to the public in each port city on its itinerary. A rare and wonderful event that we’ll be checking out when it comes to town!

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about the things that caught our eye here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at the things that delight you also!

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know – Things that Caught Our Eye

Those of us here at Boxcar Press are a searching, probing, questioning bunch of folks.  We are drawn to many things creative, fascinating and colorful.  Letterpress definitely fits those criteria, so we have to believe all of you out there are like-minded as us.  It should be no surprise we discover through reading and listening and yes, emails from you, a goodly number of interesting stories that are parts imaginative, informative, and just plain neat.  We are sharing folks too.  Every other week, we endeavor to pass on to you a few bits of knowledge that have caught our eye and think you might ooh and ahh over as well.  So, here goes…

From Cathy:  A video on a German papermaker that is hypnotic and soothing as you watch him at his craft.  

From Norway, the Future Library – An incredible story of a forest that was planted in 2014 and in one hundred years will be harvested to make paper to print 100 books written in that time period. The part I particularly like is that they are also preserving a printing press and instructions to operate it, in the event that books may not even be printed on paper in 100 years.  I think a letterpress machine is perfect for this and have pondered which press might be fitting. The whole undertaking of the Future Library fascinates on many levels.

haunted press in Toronto, Canada
(photo courtesy of

And for fun, an amusing story about an alleged haunted Washington Model printing press in Toronto Canada. in the home of a newspaper editor.  Perhaps he has a deadline to meet.

From Rebecca:  Graphene is a technological marvel to watch out for as it is on the fast-track to revolutionize the medical, construction & safety, and art realms. This material has been documented as being 200 times stronger than steel, yet lighter than paper. Here’s a fascinating “how it’s made” video to pique the mind and jump-start new ways of utilizing this material. Maybe one day the mighty graphene will affect the way printers of all disciplines use their machines in new creative ways?

Next, we’ve been following letterpress printer Tristan Rodman for quite a while on his experiments with letterpress printing and creating playable paper records. Tristan has been keeping a log of his experiments and perhaps with a few more tweaks, letterpress can pave a way for a new way of sharing and collecting musical masterpieces.

Bonus: Although a few years old, listening to the first 3-d printed record album still gives us goosebumps as the needle hits the plastic. We find it a fine choice to honor Nirvana with this intriguing new way to braid new 3-d printing technologies with old school craftsmanship.

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about what interests us here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at the things that delight you also!

Top 14 Valentine’s Day Letterpress Gift Guide-2018

Specially chosen with care, we tally up 14 beautiful, heartfelt, and humorous 2018 Valentine’s Day letterpress gifts, including cards, prints, and letterpress classes (date night, anyone?).  Let us know what you are getting your printing paramour this year in the comments below!

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

1. Tinder Love card by Steel Petal Press  |  2. Trap Valentines card by Bench Pressed |  3. Letterpress Valentine’s Day Card Making workshop (February 13th, 2018 – Pittsford, NY)  |  4. Personalized letterpress notecards by Inclosed Letterpress Co.  | 5. You & Me Letterpress Love Greeting Card by Paisley Dog Press

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

6. Personalized large primary notepads by Haute Papier   |  7. Main Squeeze letterpress card by Inclosed Letterpress Co. | 8. James Joyce Letterpress Quotation Valentine Card by LarryOrlandoDesign  |  9.  Tear & Share letterpress valentines perforated cards by Igloo Letterpress |  10.  Introduction to Letterpress class by Igloo Letterpress (date night anyone?)

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

11. e.e. cummings lettterpress print by Thimblepress  |  12. Cheers to Us – Valentine Love Lobsters letterpress card by darlinpress  | 13. Letterpress Valentines Cards class (February 11th, 2018 – Fort Lauderdale, FL)  |  14. Anywhere With You letterpress card by Permanent Collection

Taking Flight With Mejiro Graphics

Harumi Kobayashi of Mejiro Graphics is a letterpress printer whose pan-Pacific Ocean life travels have brought her zen on press, a wealth of creativity, and a patient approach to challenges on her beloved Chandler & Price. Her eye-catching, beautifully crafted letterpress work features whimsical Japanese-style artwork with bold, striking colors. Harumi fills us in on the trek so far and what lies ahead on her printing & creative horizons.

Harumi Kobayashi enjoys a cup of tea after printing on her C&P at Meijiro Graphics.
Eye popping color of whimsical and beautiful Japanese cats in kimonos grace Harumi Kobayashi's expertly printed letterpress cards.

THE PRINTING ADVENTURES SO FAR I am originally from Japan and I’ve been interested in lettering and calligraphy since I was a child. I was able to use my calligraphy experience and take a position as an assistant to a freelance book cover designer in Tokyo. After this I worked for a printing company in their graphic design department. In 2003 my husband and I moved to the US. We lived in Kauai, Hawaii and Port Ludlow, WA.

When we lived in Port Ludlow, we found a two-week-old kitten in the forest and we bottle-fed and raised him. Since then Olele is a member of our family and the inspiration for my letterpress card designs.

Harumi Kobayashi says hello with her cat; gives a tour to her printing press shop.

In 2016, we moved to Sherman, TX, where I work at a small commercial printing shop.

FINDING CREATIVITY When we moved to the States, I established Mejiro Graphics** and I’ve been enjoying working as a graphic designer. Later I taught myself web design to broaden my services.

Creating the websites was interesting, but I felt I was always trying to keep up with current trends and technologies. It was about then that my sister told me about letterpress printing. I googled letterpress and learned about people who still put value in setting lead type and printing on fine paper [and] on old printing presses. I felt I had found something that I had been looking for and was hidden inside me for a very long time. I told my husband I wanted to buy an antique printing press. He enthusiastically supported me and helped me find a press and he built me a printing shop.

**A Mejiro [may-gee-row], or Japanese White-eye, is a small olive-green songbird with a conspicuous white eye-ring.

A cozy and neatly set-up letterpress print shop is home to Harumi Kobayashi and Meijiro Graphics.

SEASIDE ENDEAVORS We moved to Port Ludlow, WA so my husband could attend a wooden-boat-building school, and we were very lucky to rent a house on Puget Sound. So my husband built his shop and my printing shop in the 2-car garage, and we each had an ocean view. It was very quiet and peaceful. We heated our shops with wood we harvested from the forest and felt quite self-sufficient.

PRINTING MENTORS I was delighted to get to know Ellie Mathews and Carl Youngmann at the North Press in Port Townsend, WA. Ellie taught me how to set type and Carl always gave us good advice and solutions when we had problems about printing. Through them we met many local letterpress printers and bookbinders.

Their work and their enthusiasm for printing inspired me a lot.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m a designer and a printer. I enjoy exploring and sketching the ideas for our greeting cards. My husband and I evaluate the designs and re-sketch many times. When we’re satisfied with the design, I scan the sketch, create a digital file in Adobe Illustrator, and fine-tune the design.

Sketches for upcoming letterpress printed cards feature Japanese cats in elegant kimonos. Artwork by Harumi Kobayashi.

I order the polymer plates at the Boxcar Press. When I receive the plates, I mount it on a Base, hand-mix the ink and print it. As all you know, the press doesn’t work the same way every time and we are sometimes frustrated. But usually one of us has patience and comes up with an idea to fix the problem.

We put our hearts into the process and we’re always happy and content when we see the finished card. It’s delightful to see the colors come alive when printing on fine paper and for the image to take on the depth that letterpress printing gives.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that my husband restored our press completely. In addition, when we realized how important it was for the rails to be flat and of even height after a lot of trial and error printing, he began to think of ways to build up the rails. He wasn’t satisfied with the multiple layers of tape to make up for the heavily worn uneven rails so he disassembled the press again and using a metal and epoxy mixture, renewed the rails to almost new condition. Then we moved on to inking and other challenging printing issues. I’m happy that we worked together and continued to enjoy the challenge of printing our original greeting cards.

Meijiro Graphic is home to gorgeous letterpress printing and a beautiful Chandler & Price printing press. Harumi Kobayashi helms the vintage metal beauty.

PRESS HISTORY We found our first press in Portland, OR. We brought it home covered in tarps in a rainstorm, of course. It is an old-style 1890, 8×12 Chandler & Price. It is our first and only press for now. We think it is beautiful.

BOXCAR’S ROLE When we bought our press, we didn’t know anything about printing and polymer plates, and we didn’t know anybody to ask. When we called Boxcar Press, they were always happy to help us and gave us information and suggestions.

SHOP TIPS I have two Boxcar Bases of the same size. For two-color printing, I put each plate on a Base and test print without inking to adjust registration and packing. This way I can see where to add packing easily and it helps avoid the ink drying out on the plates because we use and prefer oil based ink.

Clean, beautiful Japanese-styled letterpress prints are favorites of Harumi Kobayashi's work. Fun & bright colored halloween letterpress printed card from Harumi Kobayashi features japanese-influenced cats.

WHAT’S NEXT When we moved to Texas, unfortunately we needed to put our press in storage. We don’t have a lot of extra money at the moment so we’re looking for a free or low-cost place to set up our shop. I have several new card designs and hope we’ll be able to print them in early 2018.

A huge round of thanks out to Harumi Kobayashi of Mejiro Graphics (Etsy store) as we’re eager to see what she comes up in the not-too-distant future. 

Real and Beautiful: South Carolina’s R&B Printery

R&B Printery is a letterpress haven to husband-and-wife team Robin & Brannon Carter. From down-south roots, clean printed impressions, pops of punchy color, and a whole lot of letterpress love, the South Carolina duo’s work continues to inspire. We catch up with the creative couple to talk shop, honoring their printing mentors, and the allure of pulling open vintage drawers of metal type for the first time.

FROM REFRIGERATION INSPIRATION BOARD TO TAKING THE PLUNGE My wife Robin and I were already on a journey to discover a creative outlet that we could adventure into together when we happened to open an issue of Southern Living Magazine and read an article featuring 9thletterpress out of Florida. The old vintage press, stacks of clean paper, and colorful inks intrigued us.  At the time, I really had no idea what letterpress printing even was!  We tore out the article and hung it on our refrigerator for inspiration.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

A few months went by as we continued searching and talking about what would inspire us.  One day standing in front of the refrigerator, I looked at that photo and said, “I wonder if there is anyone around us doing letterpress?  Someone we could take a class from. See what letterpress is all about”. After some internet searching and a few phone calls to local artists, we discovered that there was this old guy in Spartanburg, South Carolina (at the time we were living in the next county over) teaching the art of letterpress.  We looked him up and signed up for his introductory to letterpress class.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We took the Intro class.  Then signed up to take his Letterpress 2 class. Meanwhile, we discovered that the printing studio where he worked was part of an artists’ cooperative.  The printing studio was amazing!  Drawers full of old vintage metal and wood type, century old printing presses, and everything you’d need to have fun printing, all ready to go!

So, having no real background in art, other than childhood art classes for both of us in high school, we took the leap, signed up to be members of the West Main Artists’ Cooperative and set out to become real letterpress artisans!  Oh, and that old guy became our mentor and cherished friend.

We ended up moving just to be near the presses when we officially launched R&B Printery!

PRINTING IN THE PALMETTO STATE Our printing studio is in the basement of the West Main Artists Co-op in Spartanburg, SC.  The Artists Co-op hosts creative spaces for 50+ local artists in an old renovated Baptist church building turned gallery and studio space just two minutes from the heart of downtown Spartanburg.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods. Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

As member artists of the co-op, we get to mingle and share creative space and ideas with some amazing artists.  From other printmakers, to fine jewelry, ceramics, glass works, fiber arts, painting and water colors, to music, photography, and videography, the co-op is home to a breadth of creative talent.

The city of Spartanburg, the only city in the United States with this unique name, has a vibrant art community centered around a Downtown Cultural District, featuring an array of outdoor art, including a new Lighten Up Spartanburg walking light bulb outdoor exhibition featuring 28 light bulb sculptures.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We work out of the co-op for print production and our home studio (which is just a mile away – bought for that very location!) for design, inventory, and shipping.

PRINTING MENTORS The late Mr. William “Bill” Wheatley (that old guy we mentioned earlier), was our mentor for several years and helped us through the beginning stages of learning the technical aspects of printing with vintage presses and equipment.  Sadly, he died in 2015 but his legacy lives on as we try to continue what he started.  Wheatley worked tirelessly to build a printing space that could move beyond simply housing old stuff to be admired, to creating a living, breathing print studio that could run as a fully-functioning print shop.  We still miss him.

We love Instagram for its ability to find and follow amazing letterpress artists. InkMeetsPaper, Waltzletterpress, Sunnymullarkeystudio and PhilipHunterBell are just some of the amazing artists that we follow and are inspired by.

DESIGNER + PRINTING TEAM We are a husband and wife team living, working, and creating in the Upstate of South Carolina.  We both grew up as creatives.  Robin, in a house surrounded by a family and a lifestyle that nurtured the creative spark.  I grew up from an early age drawing with a pencil through my early high school years, even taking AP Art.  Our natural giftedness for art was set aside for both of us as we became involved in other school-related activities.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

But, the small flicker of that creative spark is what brought us to letterpress printing.  I love getting my hands dirty with activities such as positioning type in visually appealing arrangements.  I also handled the digital design elements for our custom clients.  Robin has always been drawn to hand lettering.  In college, she was the unofficial banner maker for her sorority, hand painting most of their event banners.  Hand lettering our line of letterpress greeting cards is now a major design focus for Robin. You can watch a short video of us working in our studio.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We both hold Masters degrees in biology and have worked as professional teachers.  Robin also has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. So, we both bring this need to protect the environment into our printing.  We consider ourselves first, an eco-friendly letterpress printing studio.  Our line of greeting cards uses a 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled, 110# card stock manufactured in Germany and sourced locally here in the United States. Our in-house envelopes are also 100% PCW recycled and our clear card sleeves are made of a corn-based bio-plastic that is compostable and 100% biodegradable.  We recycle papers and makeready materials through our production and packaging process, reusing and reclaiming scraps for other purposes.  We also use soy-based inks, and collect discarded and reclaimed inks to keep them out of the landfill.

FULL TIME FUN WITH A DASH OF PART-TIME PLAY Brannon has just recently, about 6 months ago, been able to devote all of his official “work” time to R&B Printery.  Robin still teaches online high school, but devotes her time away from the classroom to designs, local artist markets, and social media. Maybe one day, we’ll both be free to pursue our creative side together full-time!

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

PRINTING FEATS I think one of the biggest points of excitement for us is to look back at some of our very first designs and prints.  Cards we thought were amazing and that people would just love to purchase and put in the mail.  To look back now, four years later and wonder “what were we thinking!”.  Some of our early prints were terrible!  But looking at where we are now, that we’ve been able to persevere the highs and lows of starting and running your own small business, and to see that we can now truly print some wonderful letterpress pieces that our clients love, this just makes us ecstatic!  We hope 4 years from now we will still look back and think the same thing about what we are producing today as evidence of continued improvement and ongoing growth!

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

Another accomplishment we are proud of is that we’ve designed and built custom displays for participating in handmade markets and pop up shops.  Our newest display is only a few months old but we debuted it at the prestigious Indie Craft Parade in September.  It was a feat of engineering to build something modular so it would fit into our car while still being eye catching to draw in shoppers.  We are super proud of the way we built in the ability to run a video of our process on loop with our iPad Pro as a part of the display.  It’s proven to be a wonderful way to introduce new clients to our process and discuss ways we can print something custom just for them.

MEET THE PRESS FAMILY As I stated earlier, we were lucky in finding the West Main Artists Co-op and being able to benefit from all of the hard work of those who built the printing studio from scratch.

Our main workhorse press, that we started on and still use today, is a vintage 1906, 8×12 Chandler & Price old style.  We are lucky to also have access to a manual Vandercook proof press that we use for some custom projects.  We also have a newer 10×15 Chandler & Price Craftsman style that we’re in the final stages of getting operational.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press is our go-to provider for everything photopolymer.  We use the Boxcar base + photopolymer plate system and have found the team in platemaking to be extremely knowledgeable when questions arise.  It feels like we have a team of people working for us when we send off designs to have made into plates.  Every once in a while, I’ll get a call from platemaking to check on a rendering aspect of our design which we greatly appreciate.

The Boxcar videos on setting the roller height of our presses using a roller gauge were extremely helpful early on.  The blog and articles at Boxcar and the discussions posted on Letterpress Commons have been invaluable during the learning process.

SHOP TIPS I write and mark all over my boxcar base during makeready and setup.  Periodically, I need to clean up my base and start with a clean slate.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

I’ve found that Mr. Clean Magic Erasers do an AMAZING job of bringing my Boxcar base back to life.  Two minutes and a Magic Eraser and it looks like I’ve bought a new base!

WHAT’S NEXT Our biggest goal for 2018 is to expand our name recognition in our community, the Upstate of South Carolina, and across the State.  We are printing projects for clients all across the U.S. but we want to let people in our own state know that they don’t have to go far away to fill their letterpress needs.  We’re right here, close to home.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Brannon & Robin of R&B Printery for giving us a look into their lovely printing world! 

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper and Handmade Paper: Part 2

Part two of our specialty papers roundtable on seed paper and handmade paper focuses in on more excellent tips and inspiring projects from three amazing printers and paper vendors. And don’t forget to check out Part 1 here for tips and tricks for getting the best print on luxurious deckled paper and the eco-friendly!

Don Martin – Bloomin Paper Keep ink coverage to a minimum [when printing on seed paper], as any place that the plate strikes, it will crush the seeds and they won’t grow. Additionally, the cracked seeds ooze an oil and stain the paper, so light minimal ink coverage is always best. Our paper are thick and packed with seeds, so even if some of the seeds are damaged by the letterpress printing, the paper will still grow.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper -Seed paper letterpress printed on by Blooming Paper via their Garden Gram piece.

It’s not an exact science [when printing on specialty paper]. Folks should know that variations in the paper thickness can cause the printing density to vary as well. Again, minimal ink coverage minimizes that concern, as heavy solids are more noticeable.

Bloomin’ Premium papers are thick enough for any letterpress plate to get their teeth into it. Because this Premium seed paper sheet from Bloomin is packed with seeds, it grows great, even when a percentage of the seeds are damaged on press.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper -Seed paper letterpress printed on by Blooming Paper adds wow factor to business cards and printed goodies.

The variation and handmade quality of the Bloomin papers makes each and every final piece unique and original. Handmade paper letterpress printed one-at-a-time has an old world nostalgic quality that no digital or offset machine can replicate.

Jenn Upham – Tiny Pine Press  For printing on handmade paper: If you have a natural deckle, it’s important to go slow, because sometimes the sheets don’t drop into the gauge pins on their own and you usually don’t have too much overage. I always set up on trimmed edge paper as make ready because the edges can get so wiggly. Also, you have to make sure the type is extremely clean to get a crisp pillow.

For seeded paper: You really have to watch your type because if a seed hits it could drop out and be there for a while because it mashed in the packing – so I move around the packing to make sure nothing too bumpy gets in my way! I use Of the Earth for their lotka seeded … it’s not too seedy but still nice. Greenfield Paper Company has so many colors of seeded. I love Jute from Sustain and Heal, these are all trimmed edge. I hold my natural deckle vendors closely, but unfortunately some of those have gone out of business so I can’t even refer them.

I love the pillow of both. Most handmade or seeded papers are not processed as much and they are extra soft. The type sinks in and you just want to grab a blanket and rest your head on a wedding invitation.

Annemarie Munn – Lady Bones Paper Inc.  The main challenge of printing on handmade paper is that both the thickness and density of the paper can vary enormously within a single sheet as well as between sheets, which poses a problem both for achieving consistent impression and consistent transfer of ink. There’s a bit of letting go that’s necessary for the especially exacting printmaker; the printed pieces will be neither as close to identical, nor as easy to control, as those printed on commercial paper. In order to get the cleanest prints I can on handmade paper, I generally use fairly hard packing, set my rollers as high as I can get away with, and use slightly more ink than I normally would. I use a heavy impression, so that the thinner sheets (or parts of sheets) will still get a decent hit. I also just try to relax and let the process happen!

Annemarie Munn of Lady Bones Press prints beautiful letterpress pieces on deckled handmade paper. Annemarie Munn of Lady Bones Press prints beautiful letterpress pieces on seed paper.

Another issue with handmade paper is the deckle. It doesn’t come up every time (some projects will have a clean cut edge), but often the natural deckle edge is a desirable component of the handmade sheet (especially in the wedding industry, currently). The deckle presents a problem for registration of course; tight register is not possible when printing on paper with a deckled feed-edge–if you need to achieve a tight register, it will be necessary to cut the feed edges square and then create a false deckle by tearing–but it’s far preferable to just avoid printing tightly registered pieces on deckle-edge paper, and instead use a simple one-color design that allows the paper to be the star. A deckled feed edge can also sometimes cause the print to appear crooked on the overall sheet (though it is straight to the feed edge)–this crookedness drives me bonkers, so I usually tape a gridded sheet to my feed table (on the Vandercook) so that I can achieve a feeling of overall straightness even when none of the paper’s edges are actually straight. That might sound a little over-the-top… but letterpress printing nearly always is, right?

I like a lot of handmade paper vendors; there’s something to appreciate about any handmade sheet. That being said, my all-time favorite handmade/seed paper is from Porridge Papers. I really enjoy the proletarian aesthetic of their Blue Collar line, and I love buying from small, authentic companies. I have a hard time talking wedding clients into using the Blue Collar Papers, both because of the cost and because they don’t fit the in vogue, airy, natural-deckle aesthetic as well as a paper like Silk and Willow, so I mostly covet them for personal projects, and wait around for the special client who will get on board with the workman aesthetic!

Annemarie Munn of Lady Bones Press prints beautiful letterpress pieces on deckled handmade paper.

The cover of Deconstruction/Construction, the book I wrote and printed for the San Francisco Center for the Book’s Small Plates series, was printed on a Porridge Papers seed paper. The color is sadly discontinued–it’s a fantastic neon green which I believe was called Sour Apple. I have some sheets left and I’m always mulling over what to print on them; so far, I’ve just been hoarding them away.

Annemarie Munn of Lady Bones Press prints beautiful letterpress pieces on seed paper.

I also love printing on hand-dyed or dipped handmade paper — the colors never land in exactly the same place on each sheet, so when designing for hand-dyed paper I enjoy contending with that element of chance, and while printing, it’s just a visual feast.

Seed paper is a special challenge because the seeds can be hard enough to dent the printing form. For this reason, I only print on seed paper with polymer plates–I don’t want to damage my lead or wood type! Incidentally, on the other end of the papercost spectrum, chipboard poses the same problem, because it can have small pebbles or pieces of debris in it that will dent type (I learned this one the hard way!). Sometimes the seeds can even dent the super-hard polymer, but luckily that can be re-made when necessary, so it’s not as serious of an issue.

Annemarie Munn of Lady Bones Press prints beautiful letterpress pieces on handmade paper.

One of the nicest things about printing on seed paper is the opportunity to reflect on impermanence and the cycling of physical objects. As letterpress printers, we often spend a lot of time making prints that are beautiful enough to be worthy of being saved for generations, and using archival materials so that they will be capable of lasting generations. But seed paper is intended to be planted in the ground, to rot and provide the basis for a young plant. It presents us with the opportunity to embrace ephemerality and to “kiss the joy (of printing something beautiful) as it flies.”

Fun side story: My first commercial venture as a printer, at the age of 11, was hand-printing my linoleum cuts onto handmade paper to make Christmas cards. I made the pulp out of scrap paper and dryer lint in an old blender; my dad was kind enough to make me a screen and deckle out of some 1″ x 1″s and an old window screen. The decision to make the paper myself was a classic misguided money-saving move, I just didn’t want to pay for paper, so naturally I opted to spend days making my own instead. I think I charged a dollar a card.

(Paper credits!: Deconstruction/Construction:Porridge Papers;  Mickey & Chris: The Paper RecycleryVivian & Kyle: Papel Vivo; and Kai & Jeremy: Silk and Willow)


Still feeling as energized as we are? Share your thoughts & tips in the comments section below–we’d love to hear from you!

2017 Letterpress Holiday Gift Guide

We are counting down the Top 17 Gift Picks for the letterpress lover in your life in our 2017 Letterpress Holiday Gift Guide. From vintage printed goodies, to essential pressroom must-haves, our list is sure to please the printer in your life! Let us know what’s on your wish list in the comments section below.

The 2017 Boxcar Press letterpress gift guide has gift ideas for the type-loving letterpress printer in your life - including letterpress t-shirts and more.

1. Letterpress Printing, A Manual for Modern Fine Press Printers book, by Paul Maravelas from Boxcar Press   |  2.  Babies of Letterpress onesie  from Ladies of Letterpress | 3. Letterpress Trail Set  from Firecracker Press | 4. Set of wood type (box of ampersand dots) from Moore Wood Type  | 5. Holiday Kitty Ornaments from Chandler O’Leary / Anagram Press   | 6. “Upper and Lower Case” fine art print of printshop from Fine Art America  

The 2017 Boxcar Press letterpress gift guide has gift ideas for the type-loving letterpress printer in your life - including letterpress t-shirts and more.

7. Heidelberg decal from Heidelberg University  |   8. Henry Gage Pins from Boxcar Press  | 9. Original Heidelberg Windmill History & Handbook by Jim Daggs / Ackley Publishing  |  10.  PANTONE Note pad from Pantone   |  11.  Big Caslon Ampersand Cufflinks by Ampersand & Co.

The 2017 Boxcar Press letterpress gift guide has gift ideas for the type-loving letterpress printer in your life - including letterpress t-shirts and more.

12. Keys&Quoins&Furniture&Registration Helvetica T-Shirt by Swell Press Paper   |   13. Heidelberg Safety First – Enamel Pin by Skylab Letterpress  |   14. Squintani Model letterpress poster by Briarpress  |   15.  Happy Holidays letterpress printed ornament card pack from JillyJackDesigns  |   16. Boxcar Press printing apron from Boxcar Press  |   17. 1957 Original Heidelberg T-Shirt from TEEPUBLIC

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper and Handmade Paper: Part 1

Seeking to add a special touch or extra “wow factor” to your next letterpress print project? Specialty papers (such as seed paper and handmade paper) add texture, personality, and eco-friendly advantages to invitations, business cards, and more. In this roundtable, we reach out to paper vendors and printers alike for their weigh in, tips, and advice on printing on such unique paper stock to create a lasting impression.

Annika Buxman – De Milo Design  I’ve only printed on Porridge Papers’ seed paper a few times. It’s similar to Mr. Ellie Pooh’s handmade paper in that the larger seeds (or in the case of Mr. Ellie Pooh, the chunky grass) can bust the plate. Lightweight type can break. I try to use bolder, stronger fonts. And always make two plates in case I need to replace it.

I have a handfed C&P and SP15 Vandercook. I don’t know if the following would work on a Windmill [for printing with hand-made paper]. When printing on handmade marble paper, I arrange each sheet in the stack beforehand to make sure the print will read legibly over the marbling.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Annika Buxman prints elegant and memorable letterpress Happy Birthday card on handmade, marbled paper (De Milo Design).

If there’s a rough deckle edge against the guides, the print can sometimes look crooked. Here’s my hard earned trade secret. 🙂 Eyeball the paper so it looks square on a large post-it note applied to the back. That way the guides have a straight edge. This is especially helpful with registering more than one color. Even with the post-it note edges, it often won’t look perfectly aligned. Accept the imperfection…

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Annika Buxman prints elegant and memorable wedding invitations on handmade paper (De Milo Design).

If trimming handmade paper it can easily tweak in the cutter no matter how hard it’s clamped because it’s so spongy. I interleave cheap printer paper and that helps wtih the tweaking. I also do two cuts. The first 1/8″ away from the trim guide. The second is shaving off that last 1/8″. I don’t know why it works, but it works.

[I’d recommend] Porridge Papers for seed paper. Of course my favorite for handmade paper is my own Sustain & Heal marble and Letterpress line because it supports fair trade artisans in Bangladesh. I recently did some marbling and printing on Fabulous Fancy Pants paper and that was a lot of fun! […] The handmade fluffy surface takes the print so well. I don’t mind the extra work because the end result is so unique.

Kelly Caruk – Botanical Papers When using letterpress on seed paper, we recommend using minimal ink coverage as the pressing nature of the process may damage the seeds. Less ink coverage will ensure you get more viable seeds to grow in your finished piece. We also recommend you do some testing with a small batch of plantable paper before placing a large order.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Seed paper from Botanical Papers adds eco-friendly touch to wedding invitations and business cards. Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Seed paper from Botanical Papers adds eco-friendly touch to wedding invitations and business cards.

We only produce and manufacture seed paper and seed paper products at the moment [and] we love printing on seed paper because it has a unique texture and very natural feeling to it. The fact that grows into plants that benefit the environment makes the pieces extra special and symbolic.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Seed paper from Botanical Papers adds eco-friendly touch and memorable impressions.

Christopher James – Porridge Papers When printing on seed embedded paper or handmade paper with inclusions the most important thing is NOT to use wood or lead type or old cuts. Because the seeds can be hard they will dent the soft material. We recommend and use photopolymer plates.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Plants sprout from eco-friendly seed paper from Porridge Paper.

While you can and most likely will create small indents in the polymer it is easy to replace. That being said, if it is small areas or type most of the time, you will not see it.

We are in the process of coming out with our new line of seed papers. There are about 8 colors, mostly all light so that they will work well for printing. While white is the dominate color we like Ecotan which we describe as the color of Khaki pants. In our new color line, the light grey and green are our new favorite colors.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Porridge Papers Blue Collar Handmade Paper line prints with character and uniqueness.

Aside from seed paper, we have the Blue Collar [handmade paper] line which was specifically made for letterpress printing. There are 7 colors in that line and all made with, or inspired by, Blue Collar professions. Overalls is made from denim, Pallet is made from chipboard and cotton trimmings, [and] Brewhaus is made from spent grain from a local brewery. These papers by far have been our favorites. After years of printing, we wanted to make and offer a paper that had some interesting characteristics, was a little thicker, would make for a wonderful impression, and something that would be different from what is currently out there. We launched it almost 2 years ago and it has been exciting to hear what people have said and done with it!

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Stacks of colorful handmade paper from Porridge Paper. Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - In-process papermaking seen at Porridge Papers.

With handmade paper, it tends to take a wonderful impression; and a lot of times you can get away with double sided printing where with commercial paper you tend to see the “punch through” on the reverse side.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Porridge Papers handmade papers print elegantly for invitations and wine labels.

Keep in mind that handmade paper, ours in particular, is soft, textured, and fibrous. Because of that it can be hard to get 100% solids. You tend to have more of a mottling effect. That can lend itself well to the design, so when we are printing, we always like to point that out ahead of time.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - In-process papermaking seen at Porridge Papers.

Our favorite paper to print on is Timecard from the Blue Collar line. It is such a great recycled sheet. White in color with interesting recycled bits in it. Aside from that, almost all of them can find their way into that perfect project. Our other favorite papers that we have made and love to print on our the ones embedded with silver and gold leaf or iridescent powders and if the project arises, scented paper can be a lot of fun!

In addition to our stock papers/lines, we love to work with the client before they begin the project. To have the opportunity to create a paper that specifically shows their personality, or is embedded with materials they provide, is what makes it so unique.


Feeling as excited and inspired as we are? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments section below–we’d love to hear from you! And stay tuned for upcoming Part 2 of this awesome blog article feature on these eco-friendly delights!

The Paper Giveaway To Teachers at Boxcar Has Encore

Just when we thought the last scrap of paper was carted off last week, Boxcar Press was able to secure an unexpected bonus of more paper for local area art classrooms.

Free paper and printing supplies lured Central New York art teachers to Boxcar Press’ warehouse for our annual Art Paper Giveaway on October 25th.  However, Paper Giveaway Part 2 is coming up this Friday and Saturday,  November 3-4, 2017, during our print shop Open Studio event.

Paper Giveaway encore event at upcoming Open Studio for Smock paper and Boxcar Press in November 2017.

A frenzy is not too strong of a word to describe the scene where excited teachers came, saw, and carted away boxes and armloads of paper.  The colorful papers, foil rolls, envelopes, and plastic transparencies will find their way into journals, collages, mixed media art, and more in the coming months.  One teacher was tasked with finding art supplies for her whole district, a daunting task as art budgets are trimmed every year.  

Local area art teachers benefit from annual Boxcar Press Paper Giveaway. Spurs creativity in the classroom with donated paper, envelopes, and much more.

Throughout the year, Boxcar Press employees earmark papers, print projects, and supplies for our giveaway.  We like the idea of passing on our extras to kids and creative art teachers to design new artistry. It was a nice surprise this week to get notice of more paper arriving to our dock so we could turn around and place more supplies in the hands and on the art shelves of teachers.

Local area art teachers benefit from annual Boxcar Press Paper Giveaway. Spurs creativity in the classroom with donated paper, envelopes, and much more.

Art teachers who are interested in this latest stock of papers can come to Boxcar Press during our Open Studio event at the Delavan Building during the hours of the event – Friday, November 3rd from 5pm – 8pm and Saturday, November 4th from 10am – 4pm.  Please come to our front offices at Suite 135 through the 509 entrance and tell us you are an art teacher there for the giveaway.   Picking up paper is on a first come, first served basis and questions can be directed to Boxcar Press at 315-473-0930.