Carimbo Press: Innovating Letterpress in Brazil

Up until recently, Marcelo of Carimbo Letterpress & Design was known mostly for his prowess in the letterpress circles of Brazil and South America. Now he’s becoming a name to those outside of Brazil, gaining attention for Carimbo Press and spreading the modern letterpress love. Marcelo sat down with us between press runs to talk about the tactile appeal of letterpress and expanding his line of printed goods.Carimbo Letterpress & Design is a letterpress print shop in BrazilCarimbo Press shop is a letterpress print and design studio based in Brazil.

MODERN LETTERPRESS Carimbo Letterpress is the sum of the enthusiasm and efforts from Érico and Marcelo, two graphic designers with a passion for typography, printing and old stuff. We went to college together but had been working on separate jobs for several years. In the beginning of 2009 we began to notice some great letterpress work featured on the web and wondered how people were doing those beautiful things nowadays. Then we came to understand the use of modern letterpress with photopolymer, thick paper, cotton paper, edge painting and all that tactile appeal. At the time there weren’t any printshops in Brazil really doing this kind of work, so we went looking for our first press and began making plans for our letterpress studio. Besides that, we thought it was great that we could do things ourselves and be our own bosses.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Despite being graphic designers, we had no experience being actual printers. So in the beginning, after some printing for ourselves, we decided to offer letterpress printing to friends. Soon we felt confident with the results we were getting and decided that we could do it professionally and thus began offering our services in our area. Marcelo at work on the shop's Heidelberg windmill

FULL TIME FUN For some time Érico still kept his job working at an agency but now we operate as a full time letterpress printshop. Our current goal is to have a nice balance between commissioned work and our own. We have a lot of custom orders (and that’s the priority), but we are always looking for ways to improve our processes and have more time to print our own designs and projects as well.

PRINTING FEATS We are proud of learning how to print by ourselves and overcoming all the difficulties to start this kind of operation here in Brazil. It was – and still is – hard in so many ways, but we feel that we’re always improving. We never had a mentor of any kind, so to understand how to operate all these machines and also to do maintenance is kind of a big deal for us. We think that we helped develop a Brazilian market as well. At first we noticed we needed to have an educational role too, explaining why letterpress printing was so exciting and how it was different from current and modern printing techniques. We had several clients that were looking for something unusual but did not know exactly what letterpress printing was. After some time, we started to get a lot of requests specifically because we were doing letterpress and people had started to ask for it. Carimbo Press is a letterpress printer based in Brazil

PRESS HISTORY We have a small tabletop press from Japan (still on maintenance work), a Heidelberg Windmill (1974), a Vandercook SP-15 (1968), and a Catu (which is a platen press made in Brazil). We have a working Linotype Model 8 (1929), but it still needs to be plugged in. We also have a manual Krause paper cutter, one corner rounding machine and one stapler machine. Our first press was the Windmill and it still gets most of the jobs. When we were looking for presses I remember asking what would happen if by any chance my hand got stuck on the platen. A mechanic that was showing us the machines answered that my fingers would be like a sheet of paper – and so we decided to go with the automatic feeding on the Heidelberg. Now that we have more experience we are confident with our hand fed Catu. We try to equip ourselves with different presses for different types of jobs. We mix our inks by hand according to the Pantone formulas / guide and we are always improving our edge painting technique.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar helps us in so many ways. First, by providing the press manual for our Windmill (later we would find an original and physical copy in Portuguese, but at the beginning we were always reading the Boxcar PDF). We find a lot of information on the site very useful too, like the instructional videos by Harold. It is hard to find good supplies here in Brazil, so things like the Boxcar Base, swing away lay gauge, roller setting gauge, gauge pins, etc. are excellent additions to our printing gear.

SHOP TIPS Always try to go by the book: adjust the press thoroughly and try to learn and understand all of its moves. Then it’s easier to figure what isn’t working properly and to think on ways to solve the problems. We also find that baby powder is useful in so many ways as it helps cleaning the rails, preventing the plates from over sticking to the base, drying the printed tympan after a missed sheet, etc, etc. Carimbo Press is a letterpress print shop in Brazil

WHAT’S NEXT This year we are trying to get everything in place around here: we are improving our shop and presses so things can be done more efficiently. We also have a lot of ideas that we want to put out and we expect to finally make it through with our line of printed goodies. Our website is in a desperate need of a revamp and we are trying to tie this loose end, too. We have some other nice projects coming along as well.

Big round of thanks out to Marcelo of Carimbo Letterpress & Design for giving us a closer look at the shop!

Pursuit of Happiness with Papypress

In the hustle and bustle of the rapidly changing Singaporean landscape, Corby of Papypress is methodically calibrating her Windmills and Adanas. Outside of her shop, one might see technology blurring faster than oil-based ink dries on rollers, but inside, Corby muses over reviving letterpress in a sea of mass printing and fast-paced technological pursuit while discussing the future of letterpress.

Papypress is a letterpress print shop based in Singapore

(photo: Corby’s printing partner, Ian, and fun letterpress goodies)

THE PRESSES We have six presses for letterpress; two 8×5 Adana’s, two 10×15 Heidelberg Windmills, one 8×5 Kelsey Excelsior, and one 10×7 Floor Model Platen. We also have one 2-color GTO and one 1-color RYOBI for offset.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP It’s 1600 square feet, which is awfully small as it needs to house all the above machines, our stacks of papers, as well as 10 people!

TYPE OF SHOP  It’s an industrial building that we own a unit in on the 5th level. We have been in this location for 13 years and it’s still serving us well.

THE LOCATION It’s in an old flatted factory located 10 mins from town. The area that we are in has some of the best local food, so we never really have to go hungry even when working till the wee hours of the morning. It’s many Singaporeans’ favorite supper haunt.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP I love the smell of inks and paper! The production room has always been my favorite, and the whole space is what we call an organized mess. Our prized possessions are obviously all of our letterpress machines and lead type, as they are almost impossible to find locally. All of our overseas trips are spent sourcing for more type and machines ever since we started reviving letterpress in Singapore.


MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL It’s undoubtedly the Heidelberg Windmill. It can do practically anything! Even after so many decades, the windmill can still create beautiful prints that elicit feelings of intrigue and awe in people. It never fails to amaze me each time I discover something new I can do with it.

FAVORITE INK We use oil based inks. We usually hand mix colors ourselves hence the collection of little boxes of pre-mixed pantone colors. Papypress loves bright colors. Pantone 806 in particular.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE If it’s the Adana a little squirt of kerosene and 2 sheets from my phone directory will do the trick! It’s the fastest and cleanest way I have been taught.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE Handed down from an old print shop, it’s a solid piece of aluminum block with self-made grid lines. I know it’s a far cry from the Boxcar base, but it’s what we have been using since we got the press.  I have wood blocks lying around too, but use them only if I want more “Retro” prints. Most times we just stick to polymer plates.

We live halfway across the globe in Asia, where the rapid pursuit of technology and mass printing has meant that there is now a death of letterpress related equipment and accessories here. I probably only know of one other active letterpress printer in Singapore. Supplies are a pain to get here and I usually get them shipped in from the US or UK.

OIL OF CHOICE We’ve been using SDM-801, seems to work well for us. Takes some time before it starts dripping.

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH Definitely old tees. Once in a while a Spiderman or Superman shirt comes along, Pokemons are really common!

FLOORING MATERIAL Concrete. It’s the best in my opinion. It’s easy to clean and mop. Some ink blotches here and there, but inevitable in any print shop I guess.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS I like to have everything around me. Within reach. Always make sure there is enough space to push a little trolley on which you can place your papers around.

PIED TYPE Plenty, especially since we buy bags of types from overseas since the circulation of type in Singapore is almost zero.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Whenever you take something, just make sure you put it back in the same place! Somehow the human brain is able to build a map of where everything is after a while…

PRINTING ADVICE Post-It notes/pads! I have lots of them around. Whenever you need to increase the packing in a certain area, just slap one of these on the draw sheet for a quick fix! It’s removable and can be easily moved around. Tape and paper tend to damage the drawsheet.

Papypress is a letterpress print shop based in Singapore.

Many thanks to Corby at Papypress for giving us a behind the scenes look at their Singapore letterpress shop!

Let the Show Begin: A Look at Sideshow Press

The warmth of the South Carolina sun follows us in as we enter Virginia Gregg’s brightly lit printing space, Sideshow Press, located just a stone’s throw away from historic Charleston. Virginia greets us with a smile that lasts from the moment we start the fabulous tour on through the curious conversation threading from her Great Dane, Lulu, organization advice, and of course her gorgeous letterpress work!

THE PRESSES We have 3 presses total:  a 12 x 18” C&P, Vandercook No. 4, and a 10 x 15” Heidelberg Windmill

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP 700 square feet

THE LOCATION Located in historic downtown Charleston, our small shop is just around the corner from King Street. You can find us nestled in a small alley off Cannon Street. You can’t miss our bright yellow doors. Our space is crisp and clean, with great natural light…and paper everywhere!

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP The sound of presses running [is out favorite thing]. Besides the presses, we have lots of found objects we’ve gathered from our grandmother’s attics, antique stores and travels abroad.  They serve as inspiration for designs, techniques or texture. Our ceilings are about 14 ft. high so we never feel cramped or crowded. It’s nice to have that extra air around us filled with natural light. It’s pretty calming and inspiring!

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE Just the three of us! And sometimes Lulu, a 130lb Great Dane that comes to hang out every now and then.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL The line board we use to measure straightness. Can’t live without it!

FAVORITE INK We use VanSon rubber-based inks mostly. Currently we are using a lot of grays since they go with everything. That way the little pops of color really stand out!

SOLVENT OF CHOICE We use odorless mineral spirits for wash ups. On the Vandercook, we’ll run make ready sheets between the roller system to extract as much ink as possible before wash up.  And we let the press do some of the work for us by adding wash while its still rolling.  When the rollers stop rolling, you can start to clean.

BASE AND PLATE OF CHOICE We switched to the Boxcar base format and photopolymer plating about 3 years ago and haven’t looked back. We found it to be much more accurate, provides better impression quality and the polymer plates are so easy to store, reuse and cut and rearrange as needed.  One time we had a funny typo, with the phrase “to the mooon and back”, we’ll that’s an easy fix with a little poly-type surgery and we were back in business.

OIL OF CHOICE  Durofilm R&O 150

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH We use the boxed Scott Shop Rags for press wash ups.

FLOORING MATERIAL Our floors are concrete, painted gray. Of course!

FLOOR PLAN TIPS Keep it organized!

PIED TYPE We don’t really have/use much in the way of pied type.  We have a little hanging around.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE We use lots of storage boxes and shelves to maximize our small space. Since our ceilings are so tall, we just keep going up instead of out.

PRINTING ADVICE When setting up, make one adjustment at a time.  When having a problem, mechanical or while printing, start by looking at the simplest thing first and move up from there.

Big round of thanks to Sideshow Press for giving us a tour of their space today!