We were pleased to lend support to Carmela Heinztelman when she was approached with a special print request. After seeing the results, we think more professional design projects like this should come to life in letterpress.
When architect Edward Deegan contacted me about making some letterpress prints of his architectural drawings, I jumped at the chance. I admire Ed’s work and have seen many of his designs realized in our Illinois community and his work is absolutely impeccable. Below is one of the beautiful houses he designed, and one of the prints I made from his sketch of this house.
I love printing personalized artwork, and this was no different. To take a talented architect’s sketches and translate it into letterpress printed art that could be framed and hung was such an honor.
Edward had five sketches that he wanted printed. The challenge was to take these sketches and adjust them in a way that worked best for letterpress and kept the details.
We needed to apply a screen, which I had never done before. Enter Prepress from Boxcar Press! I called Cathy and explained this project, and she was excited to help. She looked at each of the pieces and told me the best way to prep the artwork. I converted the scans to grayscale, adjusted the contrast, brightness and threshold, then saved it as a TIFF. It came out perfect – the client was extremely happy!
In addition to the house renderings, I also printed for Edward a tall ships scene and two historical facades. He framed and hung them all in his office.
Thanks Carmela for sharing the printing of these drawings. In addition to being a learning experience for you on the file preparation side, it was a nice treat to see something a little out of the norm come to life in letterpress. This is a very limited edition art that will be viewed and enjoyed.
I opened my Etsy shop, Nine Day Weekend, a few years ago. My initial focus was on custom illustrations of family photographs. Early projects were all laser cut into wood, as either hangable portraits or magnets. One thing led to another and soon my love of the outdoors inspired me to create illustrations of National Parks.
I know it sounds trite, but I woke up early one morning with the random idea that I could draw the Grand Canyon simply by splitting the words in half and spreading them to the far corners of the frame. As I lay in the dark brainstorming how I could rearrange the letters of my favorite parks into similar designs. I brought my sketchbook and laptop to bed and worked until well after noon, but I had laid the foundation for my new project.
I realized early on that I wanted all of the designs to share a uniform visual language, so it was important to keep the line weights equal, no matter how big or small the letters became. Then, I quickly shifted gears and the parks became the focus of my Etsy shop (conveniently, I had already named my shop Nine Day Weekend, after the length of vacation that you create by taking Monday through Friday off work – I think this name lines up well with my new celebration of America’s natural lands and the joys of visiting them).
Over the course of the following days and weeks (and months), I kept working on the remaining parks, trying to turn each name into a distinct feature of the landscape or wildlife of each park. I allowed myself to rotate, flip, stretch, chop, and generally manipulate each letter, but my one rule was that every letter needed to be recognizably present.
Some of the images came to me very easily (like Arches, Hawaii Volcanoes, and Redwood), and I think their simplicity helps to balance out the more complicated illustrations (like Gates of the Arctic, Guadalupe Mountains, and Petrified Forest), where the letters are truly jumbled and it’s more difficult to “read” the name of the park. It’s fun to present my work at craft fairs and watch customers hover at my table while they try to “solve” all of these puzzles.
I first sold these parks as individual laser cut coaster and magnets, so people could create their own combinations of parks to resemble their favorite adventures. But I always imagined the full roster being presented together, so when I finally finished the 59th park (it took over a week to rearrange Theodore Roosevelt into a representation of his North Dakota log cabin and a bison), I needed to find the right medium for the poster.
I had met some letterpress printers on the craft fair circuit, and it seemed like my crisp lines would be a good fit for letterpress. One of them was kind enough to point me to Ted Ollier, who advised me on how to translate my digital artwork into letterpress. He also recommended I contact Boxcar Press for the plate. Having many questions, I was very happy with the patience displayed by Boxcar as I was educated on the process of platemaking. Both times that I have ordered plates (I recently created a second edition that includes the 2 new entries to the National Park roster) I was in a self-imposed rush. Why does it seem like all art projects end at the last minute?
The quick turnaround by Boxcar allowed me to get my posters printed as soon as possible. And even when their quality control found errors on my end (like using RGB instead of CMYK), I was able to correct the problem immediately without delaying production. I’ll let Ted speak to the printing qualities of these photopolymer plates, but I certainly have no complaints. As a letterpress newbie, Boxcar has been a pleasure to work with.
In addition to the plate I ordered for my new 18″ x 24″ print of all 61 National Parks, I also created a smaller plate that features the 5 National Parks of Utah (with the designs themselves arranged into the shape of Utah).
I’m excited to see how outdoor enthusiasts respond to this print. These parks are all very well regarded and highly visited – I’ll actually be visiting them with my family later this month to coincide with National Park Week. I’m incredibly proud of these posters – I love running my fingers along the deboss and I love seeing all of my illustrations lined up in a perfect grid. I looked up the specific Pantone shades of green and brown used by the National Park Service, in order to get as close as possible to the real thing. My hope is that these prints inspire folks to visit, treasure, and protect these amazing lands.
So Dan found me when I was still in a now-defunct letterpress co-op. I ran the original posters on the SP-20 there, but for this run I needed to borrow the SP-20 at the letterpress at Harvard where I teach, the Bow & Arrow Press. I started Reflex Letterpress about this time last year to salvage something out of the demise of the co-op.
The smaller pieces I ran at Reflex on the Vandercook No 4. The presses were feeling good that day, there were no oddities in either run.
The smaller pieces I ran at Reflex on the Vandercook No 4. The presses were feeling good that day, there were no oddities in either run.
Want to snag a print of this beautiful poster? Shop here!
I have always enjoyed the CBS Sunday Morning program as it has introduced me to many fascinating creative people and stories over the years. On the March 10th broadcast, they focused on fine press books from the printing to the binding. It is always exciting to see a letterpress print shop on network news. Enjoy the segment if you haven’t already viewed it.
Whew! BOY HOWDY! Anyone in need of a podcast recommendation? Yes!? OKAY. Let me tell you about my favorite podcast OLOGIES, hosted by Alie Ward. This show is all about asking smart people dumb questions.
Alie sits down with a specialist in a different field of study in every episode. For example: Entomology (Insects), Selenology (the Moon), and Tuethology (Squids!!!). This podcast series does not disappoint. You will be giddy with excitement to learn all there is to know about each episode’s topic and an added bonus: delightful side notes of fact checking or defining fancy scientific words. Also worth mentioning, if you listen to the very end of each episode Alie will share a secret with the listeners.
(photo courtesy of allieward.com)
I listen to this show while printing. Yyou can tell when I am listening to this podcast as I am laughing out loud and smiling. OLOGIES is a delight and I hope you give it a listen…then proceed to tell all your friends about the wondrous information you just learned about Entomophagy Anthropology (eating bugs), Mixology (cocktails), or Somnology (sleep). Enjoy!
Everyday there are more than 12,000+ planes travelling around the world at any given time. Want to see just how populated the skies are? Check out this nifty website, flightrader24.com, that shows in real-time who could be flying above you!
We’re smitten with printin’ and know that you (and that special someone) are too! Peruse our list of the top 14 favorite gifts for this upcoming Valentine’s Day 2019—from heartwarming (and hilarious!) cards to letterpress goodies that are sure to bring a smile from ear-to-ear for that certain someone.
Let us know what you are getting your printing paramour this year in the comments below!
11. Bigger is better and especially in Valentine’s cards (from Benchpressed). | 12. Treat your printer to a 10x or 15x Loupe (from Badger Graphics) for their shop, you can never have too many. Or google “vintage loupe” to score one with personality and history. | 13. One Fine Specimen card from Type High Letterpress. | 14. A Catch All Tray from The Art of Manliness: A tray for printers with the philosophy many try and do to aspire to in their print shops.
Sometimes the words on a person’s platemaking order just leap off the page and catch our attention. That was true with Eleonore Lee’s curving and falling text layout. Add in that they were lyrics by Queen’s Freddie Mercury and we just “had to see that printed”. We hope this strikes a chord with you too.
In spring 2017, the Fine Press Book Association sent out a call for entries for their annual fundraising portfolio. Since I already had a huge project to complete before heading off on a trip, it seemed fitting to add another project to my docket.
This project was especially enticing as it would support their fine press journal, Parenthesis, and the portfolio would be shared among other printers. Last year was a year in which I was re-discovering myself after a good decade of hardcore parenting. An exchange portfolio would allow others to discover me too.
Like a lot of printmakers, I am a sucker for exchange portfolios. Something I particularly appreciate about letterpress and handmade paper exchanges is that they are a lot more lenient about format. The parameters for this portfolio were generous … produce 125 prints. Within these parameters, it was definitely possible to consider a less likely subject matter.
If you do not know, most often Fine Press work has a tendency to publish known and lauded dead poets. Always the contrarian, I felt like shaking it up a little with less-predictable words. My work aims to ask questions or bring attention to something you might not usually notice.
Because music means so much to me, I have been considering making art about the music that pervades my life. Whilst at work I am known as “that person who wears their headphones and sings out loud”. One epic late night, two BFA students and I had a lot of paper to make. We loudly sang through 2 CDs of Queen’s Greatest hits. That was my inspiration.
I was not a huge Queen fan in my youth, finding Freddie overwhelmingly exuberant. However, I grew into Queen. I learned the lyrics intimately in the same way that I spend a lot of time with the poems I work with. Singing along both joyfully and studiously, so that I could be as accurate as possible with the pacing and the sounds. By including the breaths, the uh’s and drawn out syllables, the project was most enjoyable.
I also revelled in the details: The paper is Neenah’s Flash Pearl Starwhite. Not only is it shiny pearlescent like some of Freddie’s leggings, but it also covers Flash, for Flash Gordon’s theme song, by Queen.
The font is Montserrat. Freddie had a dream to perform with and finally collaborated with Montserrat Caballé on the album Barcelona. And of course, I did my research: Freddie loved red and yellow, bold loud colors. The rhythm of the song is included in the yellow and red dots. They are foam dots, with 2” dots representing a full beat, 1” dots a half beat and ½” dots a ¼ beat.
I wanted a mix of more iconic images of Freddie as well as images from his videos. I chose the song because the lyrics combined with the video spoke volumes about Freddie.
He lived flamboyantly and boldly in public, at a time when being gay was a crime in most countries. In ‘I want to Break Free’ the band appears dressed as working class women. We first see Brian May wake up, with curlers in his hair, very rapidly followed by a hairy arm wearing bangles brandishing a vacuum. After a few swipes, all of Freddie scurries out boldly, staring right at the camera and gives us a brief, contented smirk before proceeding with some very sexy vacuuming (to the music). He dances and sings and winks appearing to enjoy himself a lot. It may seem run-of-the-mill today. It was bold back then, especially for a shy, cat-loving man wrestling with his sexuality. All of these words and images worked well on the tri-fold design I had in mind.
Although the images have enough small details and fine lines, I would never have attempted type with such fine details so I thank Boxcar Press for the plates. They also provided a fine press discount on the plates for this project.
I hope others in this exchange enjoyed this project as much as I did envisioning and printing it. You can learn more about Eleonore’s project with Parentheses at FPBA.com.
We count down the top 18 gift ideas in our 2018 Holiday Letterpress Gift Guide for that special printer on your list. Featuring calendars, prints, and type-themed goodies that are sure to please! Let us know what’s on your wishlist in the comments section below!
As soon as AJ Masthay’s “Isle of Dogs” print passed through our platemaking department, we had to know more. Discover as we catch up with AJ of Masthay Studio, and this sneak peek. Find out what is the inspiration for this ultra-detailed piece… and where can you enjoy this piece.
The piece was created for an upcoming Isle of Dogs group exhibition hosted by SpokeArt NYC at the Parasol Project, 213 Bowery, NYC. From their Facebook event page:
“Spoke Art is pleased to present the Isle of Dogs Art Show. This is an officially licensed art exhibition tribute to Wes Anderson’s most recent film. The dynamic group show features over one hundred artists, painters, sculptors and print makers, debuting one weekend only in New York City’s Lower East Side.
Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s most recent project, is a stop-motion animated film set in a Japanese dystopian future. The story follows a boy’s journey to find his dog after the species is banished to an island following the outbreak of canine flu. Inspired by the adventurous tale that Anderson brought forth, a select group of artists have created character portraits and highly detailed environments and scenes inspired by Isle of Dogs. Featuring a diverse array of painting, sculpture and limited edition prints, each artist offers their own unique perspective and interpretation of the Wes Anderson film. This whimsical and canine filled pop-up exhibition is an absolute must see.”
About the Piece
I personally love the quirky works of Wes Anderson and am a huge dog lover. I have two very spoiled Labrador Retrievers Dexter & Halley. When asked to participate in this exhibition I immediately said YES!
My piece features the main characters from the film, both human and canine. As well as, the scene in which they debate whether to attack. Spoiler alert – they realize he has come searching for his own dog “Spots” and decide to help him in his quest.
The print is a reproduction of a detailed graphite drawing utilizing a Boxcar Press’ photopolymer plate with a 133 LPI halftone screen applied. We’ve found that once dialed in on our Vandercook Universal III, these halftone plates reproduce tonal drawings beautifully. They come very close to the detail typically found in lithographs.
To mimic the graphite work we do the following steps. First, we mix a fairly stiff, dark gray ink with a touch of brown to warm it up a bit. Next, we use a paper that is soft and supple, such as Arches 88. Finally, we finish the piece with a hint of hand-applied color in the pilot’s eyes. As a result, this slight variation adds a personal touch of individuality. The hand coloring piece complements the printing perfectly.
The Final Edition size is 100 signed, numbered and titled, 15”x20” on Arches 88. Prints are available to purchase at the event. Remaining prints will be made available online following the event, through SpokeArt.
Today’s tip is for designers and printers who set up and create their files in Photoshop for platemaking orders.
Our online ordering system can calculate your square inches and pricing for files that are .pdf, .ai, and .eps. This is so helpful for seeing your costs while creating your ticket. However, the online system doesn’t do that for .tif files.
We love .tif files from Photoshop, but saving to a PDF in Photoshop can change your black and white file to a rasterized RGB (oh, the horror!). With the .tif, you see a big fat $0 for cost and that can make some nervous.
Here is a quick suggestion to handle that situation. Save your .tif with one of the below methods with the words – for pricing only – in the file name and upload it to your job ticket with your tif. We’ll get a working tif file and you’ll get your price.
Best ways to do this:
Select FILE > SAVE AS > PHOTOSHOP EPS (under Format drop down).
Using Adobe Acrobat Pro:
Select FILE > OPEN. When the window opens, at the bottom the default is Show > Adobe PDF Files. Change to All Files to find your tif. Choose Open. Now select FILE > SAVE AS > the Save as PDF window will open > save with pricing only file name.
If you have other programs for saving as a PDF that you’d like to use, contact us and we can help you, if needed.
If the action and rhythmic noise of heavy metal does it for you, the Boxcar Press Open Studio is a great place to be. Cast iron letterpress machines that thump, clang and ker-chunk will be on display for free tours on Saturday, November 10th from 10 AM – 4 PM. This family-friendly event has printing demonstrations, crafts, a giveaway, workshop, and paper sales of Smock Paper products.
Boxcar Press celebrates their 20th anniversary this year and welcomes all to step up close to view our presses that weigh over 2,000 plus pounds. We print on all cotton paper to make beautiful invitations. Print shop tours on this day will let you see this in action.
In honor of Veterans day, we will be offering free thank you cards to send to veterans. For Veterans attending, they will receive a complimentary coaster. If you are shopping our Smock paper products sale of beautiful boxes, wrapping paper and notebooks, bring a re-usable shopping bag to receive 10% off.
Letterpress is alive and well and happens daily at Boxcar Press, with big spinning wheels and rotating windmill arms. Visit to enjoy the sights and sounds of our print shop.