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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!