Let’s See That Printed: Translating Ink with John Reardon

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working with so many talented printers and designers who make their photopolymer plates with us is coming across some truly inspiring design work. Designs that make you stop and wonder just what color ink they’ll be running or what the print is for. It’s even better when you get a chance to catch up with the printer behind the design. We chatted with the outrageously gifted tattoo artist, John Reardon of Greenpoint Tattoo Co. in Brooklyn, New York, when his plate came through our doors. We’ll let John take it from here.

Photopolymer letterpress printing plate being made at Boxcar Press.

The project came about by running into Dan Morris (of The Arm in Brooklyn) on the streets. This was the second time I printed at The Arm (the first was back in 2010). I also have a tattoo shop down the street from Earl Kallemeyn (Kallemeyn Press). I’ve drawn stuff for him. He comes by the shop to hang out occasionally.

Photopolymer printing plates on a Vandercook.

John Reardon printing on a Vandercook.

Dan told me I needed to make another print and I agreed. I’ve been drawing and tattooing daggers like this for about 7 years now. The first one I drew I tattooed on Othello Garcia when we both worked for Scott Campbell at Saved Tattoo. When I find the time I have four more to finish drawing and print. The difference between my drawing for printing vs tattooing is that I can put in more detail in a print. Also I have to make tones by stippling or cross hatching. It’s fun. I printed with my buddy Jordan Haley and two bottles of red.. Been on a Spanish Rioja kick this winter…(it’s how I survived).

John Reardon printing on a Vandercook and pulling the paper through the press.

Final pulled prints of the ever talented  John Reardon.

Huge round of thanks out to John for letting us take a peek at his cool printing project!

Let’s See That Printed: All A-boot Kamikin

When we received Kamikin’s first order for plates, we had to get the back story – we loved their dynamic artwork and had to learn more. This family owned operation has quickly transformed from a pet project to a full fledged printmaking business. Marvel at their artwork while we tell you the rest of their tale.

Photopolymer letterpress printing plates being made at Boxcar Press in upstate New York.

A quick history: Kamikin is the dream child of three sisters, Karen, Betsy and Susan, of Sedalia, Colorado.  Betsy and her husband acquired a 12×18 1920 C&P platen in 2012 with a goal of entering the fine art market with unique and affordable prints. The business plan revolves around the beautiful pen and ink drawings of both Betsy and Susan, and is driven forward by the go-getter business savvy of their older sister Karen.

Hand-drawing & illustrating designs for letterpress photopolymer plates and letterpress printing with Kamiken.

The artwork came together during the fall of 2014 with a western theme. This particular “Zen Doodle” series is western/folk art with a modern twist. Zen doodling consists of decorative lines that can have beautiful results when printed on a letterpress. Kamikin didn’t hesitate to shoot for a very competitive show for their first foray into selling, the 2015 National Western Stock Show, in their backyard of Denver. Betsy readily admits they were not actually prepared for a 16-day show. “Because of this, when we got accepted, our studio burst into a flurry of activity! We had to finalize our art, order plates for the letterpress, purchase loads of paper and packaging, and build a booth! It was a quick learning curve for all three of us as we cranked up the press for mass production.”

Letterpress printing with photopolymer plates with Kamiken on a C&P press.

“During this whole process, one of the most exciting steps was when our first order of polymer plates from Boxcar arrived,” says Betsy. “At that moment, it seemed that everything we had planned was now possible. With the artwork for this series done, the paper cut, and a printing schedule on the calendar, it was time to buckle down and get our hands dirty. With 8-10 hour printing sessions, we learned so much so fast! Like it’s a good idea to tag team the chase to save on your shoulder muscles.”

Beautiful letterpress printed western - themed cards from Kamiken.

In the 6 week timeline, they fell in love with the process. In one month, they went from having zero inventory to 2,700 packaged pieces of beautiful art to sell.  Over the 16 days at the show, they loved talking with people about letterpress and screen-printing. The prints and stationery were very well received. They even had a little movie playing in the booth to show the customers what a letterpress looks like and how it works. Overall, their debut at the National Western Stock show was a success.

Since January, the trio has put together a website and an Etsy shop. They have enjoyed donating several prints for various auctions to help support their community. And with more plates on the way, the team will be busy building up their inventory for the summer art shows and festivals.

Let’s see that printed: Dia de los Muertos letterpress cards from Pablo Delgado

From start to finish, watching the production of a custom photopolymer plate is fascinating. From the genesis of a digital design file to hand-inspection of a pulled proof, the transformation of light-sensitive photopolymer to a vehicle for endless hours of printing fun is curiously intriguing. We followed one of Pablo Delgado’s recent plate orders as he had fun using the plate on the at-home Fiskars Fuse system to create letterpress cards.

Delgado-img5-1 Delgado-img6-1

Starting out, I went with the Fiskars Fuse because of the maximum size for the platform. At 12 inches it is double the max width on the Quickutz Epic Six. The first problem was that there wasn’t a platform available at the 12 inches that would allow me the registration necessary to print on the precut A-6 size cards. So I ordered two 12″x12″ clear cast acrylic sheets from Tap Plastics. The bottom piece was .472″ thick and would work as my base for the cardstock, and the top piece was .236″ thick and would act as the chase for the photopolymer plate. I cut a heavy white plastic in two strips to work as hinges and put it all together. It looked a bit crude, but it worked great and I am able to take advantage of the wider roller length. I adhered a sheet of hard heavy white plastic to help achieve the thickness necessary, and a couple of thinner sheets with grids on them to help with placement. The ink I am using for the particular card I am showing are both Great Western Ink oil based Pantone 185 and Reflex Blue.


I began with a one color card to figure out the process, and this went fairly smooth. I played around with packing to get the depth I wanted and when I accomplished this I took the leap into a two color card. This was a challenge. Keeping an even consistency of the two inks on the brayer was difficult to figure out at first. I had to try different ways of getting enough but not too much ink on the rubber roller without causing ghosting or plugging up the detail. In the end a couple of thin coats seemed to work best as the perfect balance. One trick I learned to keep the messiness down was to put some transparent tape on the plate strips so when I rolled out the ink on the plate, I could lift off the inked  tape and the strip remained clean. I had a lot of fun figuring out this process. It definitely requires a good bit of patience, the ability to look at things analytically, and organization to keep the ink only where it belongs. The rewards of seeing your art reproduced in vibrant colors and beautiful stock outweighs any of the downsides you experience.


The art I am using is original. It is inspired directly by the traditional “Dia de los Muertos” style of images that depict “calacas” (skeletons) and “diablitos” (little devils) in humorous and satirical poses. “Amor Eterno Artesanias” is the name that I am creating under.


It has been a journey that has taken several years to come together, and the work is only just beginning. I had not been able to find the right medium to share this art through before, so I am very thankful to Boxcar Press for not only putting out information on how to create these letterpress images, but also the personal assistance they offer. Whatever this venture may turn in to, it’s reassuring to know that Boxcar Press is there to help out in any way they can.

Huge round of thanks out to Pablo for letting us get a closer look at his beautifully printed pieces!

Cutting Edge With Keeganmeegan & Co.

Katy Meegan and Keegan Wenkman of Keeganmeegan & Co. have grown a small idea into a large community-empowered printshop over the past six years. The power printing duo houses a love for the yesteryear production model, the smooth whirl of Vandercook, and the inspiring Portland, Oregon resident support . To find out how the vibrant printshop ticks, we rode shotgun with Keegan and it’s been one amazing adventure.

Keegan Wenkman and Katy Meegan of Keeganmeegan and Co. in their letterpress shop.

LETTERPRESS BEGINNINGS Keeganmeegan & Co. was founded in 2007. Known for hand-illustrated relief printing, Keeganmeegan has also been recognized for award-winning design and print & packaging solutions for local and global clients.

We live and work in Portland after moving out west from Minneapolis in 2005. Both of us have been printing since our teens — Katy doing Book Arts at MCBA and I did silkscreen most notably at Burlesque Of North America.

Art brought us to print, in order to duplicate our art and be an assistance in our artistic community. We’ve had the shop for 8 years now, and focus on commercial and artistic editions modeled from the job printing shop of yesteryear. We unite illustration and design with printing and die-cutting services all in house.

Keegan Wenkman washes down his Heidelberg Windmill with Katy packing up luscious letterpress goodies.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS Katy worked at MCBA and one day she casually showed me their shop. That was it for me.

The colorful print wall of Keeganmeegan and Co.

BUSY IN THE BEAVER STATE We have a 2,500 square foot shop in SE Portland next to the iconic Burnside Bridge. It’s on the ground floor near the Towne Building and was formerly the warehouse for Blake, Moffitt & Towne Paper Company based out of San Francisco.

We still have the original payroll safe in the shop and we’re coveting seven Vandercook cylinder presses primarily used for art editioning services and experimental projects.  The rare 232p, in particular, has one largest print areas of any Vandercook, an absolutely massive 32½ -inch by 30-inch. We also employ 2 Heidelberg windmills and 4 Chandler & Price printing presses for job printing.

Type drawers, Heidelberg Windmills and the press shop, oh my!Keegan Wenkman and Katy Meegan set-up plates and letterpress posters.

PRINTING MENTORS Stumptown Printers mentored us early on, giving us business advice and direction. Midnight Paper Sales was a big inspiration. Also the crew of CC Stern Type Foundry helped with our shop up-keep.

Gorgeous, colorful examples of letterpress printed treats from Keeganmeegan & Co.

DESIGN + PRINT We are illustrators, designers, print makers, commercial and artistic printers, we are fun loving idiots for art, problem solving, and perfection.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Old books, pen and paper.  If I go online for inspiration I just spin my wheels. I do what people did before computers: think for themselves.

FULL TIME FUN We have supported ourselves for 8 years, each receiving a salary as 50/50 ownership.

PRINTING FEATS We’ve grown a small idea into a large success thus far, through hard work and being kind to people. Hence, our clients are absolutely lovely being that they are makers and thinkers alike. They make us laugh, bring us gifts, and have allowed us to keep this going strong and grow more each year.

Additionally, we’ve been able to work with a lot of artists, touring bands, comedians, and people on the forefront of our current culture.Hand-carved printing plates and a shop view at Keeganmeegan and Co.

Extraordinary attention to detail is not spared while viewing the letterpress posters of Keeganmeegan & Co.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press makes the biggest poly plates available that I know of. You’ve allowed us to completely max out our Uni III / with 2 13×18 Boxcar based butted up together (take a look).

PRINTING TIPS Ask the right questions to the right people and you can get yourself far in life.  It helps to fail a lot too. Otherwise, people always ask me how I cut my linoleum blocks, my answer is black magic and podcasts. Podcasts are a lone printer’s best friend.

Letterpress ink color prints for a poster printed at Keeganmeegan & Co.

WHAT’S NEXT We will just keep going, every day is a new day with new problems to solve and chances to learn. We will also go on vacation, gotta love vacation. We didn’t take one for the first 3 years.

Huge round of thanks out to Keegan over at Keeganmeegan & Co.!

Reverse Type File Prep Techniques

An increasingly common question we are asked, here in the Platemaking Department at Boxcar Press, is “will my reverse type/text/design be readable or look good when I letterpress print it?” Reaching the desired results means exploring what exactly “reverse type/design” is and what to check for to guarantee a great printed piece.

When it comes to printing, reverse type or design refers to white or light text or objects positioned against a solid colored (usually dark) background. This is sometimes also referred to as “knocked out” text.

This is an example of reverse type: white text on black background.

There are some important aspects to remember when designing for reverse type, especially with regards to using photopolymer plates:

  • Always take the time to check that your designs meet or exceed the minimum guaranteed line or dot thicknesses. Check out these recommended line and dot thicknesses for your preferred plate type. (We also have a nifty tutorial that offers step-by-step instructions on how to check your dots and line thicknesses – go check it out!). 
  • Next, it’s critical to know the eye will observe your white text as “smaller or thinner” on your printed piece as your eyes are tricked by the optical illusion created by the juxtaposition of a large dark area next to a smaller thinner white area. So, we cheerfully recommend that you add AT LEAST a 0.75pt extra stroke around designs to balance out this optical illusion. This extra stroke is added on top your minimum line/dot thickness.  It’s misleading to judge an onscreen or laser printout against what a final printed piece will look like so we usually suggest erring on the side of slightly larger reverse type.
  • If you are printing in a light ink background, your white text or objects may need to be even larger and thicker because the the contrast between the white text against a light colored background on a white paper can be easily lost. Small text may not have a place in this color situation and needs to be avoided.

Illustration of reversed type on lighter background.

  • Lastly, make note of the dark areas in between your white object. (The highlighted area in cyan shown in the image below illustrates the “dark areas” in between the white objects that should also be checked for line and dot minimums). Are they narrow and thin? Will they meet the line and dot minimums so the plate polymer can support and hold between your white space?

Illustration of the negative space around text and objects that also need to be checked for minimums.

Designs with reverse type can be pretty dramatic, and we hope you’ll consider printing a project like this.  With a little planning and forethought about how the design will translate with a larger solid inked area and  the detail you want, you can have some very satisfying results.  So keep those rollers inked, letterpress lovers, and go reverse!

Boxcar Talk With Laura Bentley

After dipping her toes into the world of letterpress at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, all it took was a few choice experiences to get Laura Bentley of Pinwheel Press hooked on printing—a Vandercook here, a jaunt with typesetting there, plus one unforgettable brush with Gordon Franklin press that made her passion a full-frontal phenomenon. But as Boxcar Press sat down to discover, Laura is more than the sum of her letterpress loving parts.

UP CLOSE WITH LAURA BENTLEY When I was young I enjoyed doing artsy things, but in college I went a different direction and got a Computer Science and Accounting degree.  By day I’m a computer consultant mostly for a dance studio that teaches social dance—ballroom, salsa, and swing.  I run their website, set up their sales system, and do their bookkeeping. So, I’m a hobby letterpress printer, and try to squeeze in time to print when I can.  I also volunteer as a teaching assistant for the letterpress classes at SVC (School of Visual Concepts) in Seattle.

INK IN THE BLOOD I first took a class at SVC in Seattle.  I was hooked right away.  Exploring the school shop felt like a treasure hunt.  With my first printing projects I tried to include as wide a variety of type and ornaments as possible, and enjoyed the challenge of typesetting them in crazy but-still-safe-to-print ways. I love typesetting and using the vintage equipment.  I was thrilled to find an art form where I could use my attention to detail and logistics to produce results.

EXCEPTIONAL IN THE EVERGREEN STATE My print shop is in the basement of my house.  The walls are unfinished, but colorful with printed work.  I have an 1863 Gordon platen press, a tabletop No. 0 Vandercook proofing press, and a very cute sign press that I use for proofing type.  I have two cabinets of type, and I’m always trying to be creative with how to fit in more.  I also have a 16” Challenge paper cutter that I fixed up real pretty.  My favorite thing about it is the old vintage equipment— I like to think about all the work they printed over their lifetimes.

PRINTING LEGACIES I feel blessed to be part of a printing community that is filled with talented printers who are very generous with their knowledge and time.  Two of my favorite mentors are Jenny Wilkson and David Black.  Jenny is the manager of the SVC shop and has a talent for developing students to do their best work no matter what style of printing—dainty and detailed invitations to raw and chunky posters with wood type.  She always has suggestions for projects that take them to the next level.

David Black is a fellow teaching assistant and a print artist.  I personally consider him a mechanical genius as he can fix almost anything, and has a real gift for explaining how things work.  But what inspires me most is that he makes time to print most every day.  He once printed a little card that had a tiny ornament of a car and the text said “Tiny car”; only black ink on white paper.  It was a great reminder to me that you don’t always have to be printing big extravagant projects, but can print quick fun things, and you’ll learn something with each new thing you print.

PRINTER’S PARADISE I design what I print. But that’s probably expected for a hobby printer; I don’t do job work.

PRINTING FEATS Our printing community just finished up a project where we partnered with a non-profit group of writers that works with patients in Children’s Hospital to help them write poetry.  Sixteen printers each printed a broadside of a poem, to create an edition of poems that are bound in a portfolio.

It’s always a challenge to design something to catch the spirit of someone else’s words and imagery. Also the edition size was 100, which with five print passes was a huge printing project for me.  I had never printed an edition of that size before.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press has helped me with the above broadside project, and others, by producing quality photopolymer plates.  I love handset type for hobby work, but for more flexibility and efficiency, it’s hard to beat photopolymer.

PRESS HISTORY A gentleman named Carl Montford, the self-nicknamed “press matchmaker,” matched me up with an 1863 Gordon Franklin press.  It was in the basement of a local artist that wasn’t using it anymore.  It’s a great match for me, because it’s a smaller platen press (chase about 7 x 11) and we needed to get it down into my basement.  The press would be a little wonky for production work, but it suits a hobby printer like me just fine.

SHOP TIPS Listen to your press.  Listen to it when it’s printing well—learn the pattern of sounds it makes.  Then someday when it makes a noise that’s new and unfamiliar you’ll notice it and be able to tend to it before things go awry.

WHAT’S NEXT Need to fix some inking issues with my platen press, and print more!

Big thanks out to Laura for letting us take a look at the wonderful whirl at Pinwheel Press!

Letterpress Art Sales to Benefit Baby’s Medical Procedures

Today we’ve got details about a worthy event that will help a young boy’s medical expenses and provide you with a chance to obtain some limited edition fine art prints for your walls! Prints for Platelets is helping raise funds for Nico Bond, the 17-month-old son of Arizona Master Printer Brent Bond of Santo Press and artist Veronica Villanueva.

Since November of 2011, Nico has undergone 2 bone marrow biopsies, over a dozen transfusions and is still undiagnosed with a blood disorder that leaves him with very low platelet counts.  Prints for Platelets will give you a 20% discount off all Santo Press Prints with 100% of the proceeds going to Nico’s medical expenses through the month of May.

Santo Press Prints offers high quality relief prints, monoprints and monotypes from 16 regionally and nationally recognized artists. Shown above is a photopolymer and reduction linocut from Veronica called Nicolas’ Odyssey.  Veronica tells us this about the creation of this print.

Getting pregnant wasn’t easy and the pregnancy was a high risk one.  I made this print when I was pregnant with Nicolás.  It seemed that even before birth Nico has gone through a whole odyssey.  And it seems that his odyssey continues… The key image was created digitally and relief printed from a Boxcar polymer plate, colors were developed via a reduction linocut.  The print was from an edition of 50 which was donated to Mesa Contemporary Arts at Mesa Arts Center for their annual fine art print calender fund raiser.

Click here to go to the Santo Press website and choose one or more signed, numbered, and titled prints from the artists and receive the 20% discount through the month of May.   The prices are very competitive and with an additional 20% off, it’s an easy but meaningful way to help this little boy and his parents while supporting fine art printmaking.

Boxcar Talk With Nancy Hill

Boxcar Press goes one-on-one with colorful Nancy Hill, one-half of the dynamic letterpress duo of Hazel & Violet Press, (the other printing power is Beverly Wolfe) to talk shop, slip in a few amazing printing stories, and show how letterpress has shaped quite an adventure the two will never forget. Read on to get the full interview.

PERFECT PRINTING PARTNERS We are two long time friends who share a love of typography, paper, and letterpress printing. Although we both have full time jobs, we love printing every chance we get.

LETTERPRESS LUCK We had been watching, looking, hoping… for just a table top hobby press – when an opportunity came along to buy a complete letterpress shop. We learned to print by taking classes, personal instruction, and good old fashioned trial and error.

AWESOME ARIZONA Our shop is in a completely renovated garage – complete with cabinets, sink, insulation and flooring. Not sure if you can call it ‘decor’ – but, we definitely have a turn of the century industrial feel. Since there are no curtains on the windows,  we would have to call it a shop, not a studio. We have a new style Chandler & Price 10×15 named Beauty and a Windmill named Baby. We also have a Potter #2 named Beatrix at our gallery in downtown Phoenix. Our favorite thing about our shop is that we get to print there.

PRINTING LEGACIES Ladies of Letterpress has been a great mentor for us. The team at our first NSS was just great and has led to many new friends. Many of our mentors we haven’t even met. They are the guys on Letpress.

PRINTER’S PARADISE We do not print full time – but that is really our goal!

PRINTING FEATS That our first job was a 3 color wedding invitation and we didn’t kill each other. Also being selected Best Letterpress of Phoenix 2011 by New Times.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Great patience and so much help from Cathy when we first started ordering plates. Even now Boxcar is so helpful when we call with stupid questions.

PRESS HISTORY Well…we saw an ad on Craig’s List for an entire shop for sale and we just jumped in. It took every friend we have and a horse trailer to get it to our shop.

SHOP TIPS  Our favorite business advice – don’t break out the wine until you finished cutting the job.

WHAT’S NEXT While we are still printing our retail stationery, we are well on our way to growing our commercial letterpress business. We are really enjoying working with designers on their projects, and we are starting letterpress classes later this summer.

Big round of thanks to Nancy Hill for letting us get the full story on Hazel & Violet Press!

Central New York Couple’s Letterpress Excursion

Letterpress love is in the air! Or at least that’s the case of this soon-to-be-hitched Central New York couple, Douglas Trojan and Erin Reynolds. The pair printed custom letterpress invitations for their upcoming Big Day, and the experience has brought them closer by means of laughs, inks, and whole lot of printing fun!

The couple caught up with us first with a nifty visit last month to get the full tour of Boxcar Press (as well as to get a few pointers on their project). Armed with good advice, Douglas and Erin purchased their custom made plates and the rest is history.

Check out their printing adventure from start to finish here and get a sneak peak at the finished invitation!