Our favorite ways to receive files for letterpress platemaking are by you sending us a press-ready PDF file (with fonts embedded) for platemaking. This PDF will serve as both your hard copy and your plate file. No additional faxing or email needed.
Our second favorite way is for you to send an EPS or AI file for platemaking. We also accept PDF digital files in current versions of other major design programs (i.e. Quark, InDesign, Freehand).
If you are creating your files in Photoshop, we like to say that this program is good for images but not so great for text. It’s best to convert your grayscale images in Photoshop and place them into Illustrator where you will add your text. If Photoshop is your only option, start with a file that is 600 dpi minimum so you can minimize the pixelation of your text when you convert files. More on file conversion to Image Mode of Bitmap under File Prep Tips. We prefer tif files from photoshop for upload.
Note, we can often make plates from PDFs created from Word files, however, Word is not able to format your file exactly the way we need. So please tell us your file was originally a Word document so we can anticipate and make corrections. If you are designing in Word, we suggest that you don’t use any funky or crazy fonts we won’t have access to. Oftentimes, they will just print as strange characters. Your images placed in Word will usually require some corrections too. You can email your files to firstname.lastname@example.org for an evaluation first and we’ll advise on how letterpress friendly it is.
If you are ordering printing from us, no. Please send individual files and we will set up for most efficient production in our shop.
If you are ordering plates and doing your own printing, yes! By ganging up the plate yourself, you have more control over the margins and gaps between the ganged up artwork. Between each individual piece, we recommend .375” for plastic-backed plates and .5” for steel-backed plates. Our negatives come out of the imagesetter in 18″ strips, so ganging up onto a 17” wide strip, and up to max 22” long, is the most economical way to make negatives. Since we like to keep our maximum plate size at 17 x 22, please break larger files into two files.
That said, if you were to send us many individual files, we’d gang up the pieces in the most cost-effective manner. If you’re using plastic-backed plates, after we gang up your files, we’ll ship your job as a single plate and you can trim them easily yourself, using scissors or an Exacto.
If you’re using steel-backed plates and we gang up your files for you, we’ll ship your job as a single plate, unless you provide a cutting diagram for us. If you are submitting a ganged up file, keep in mind the fingers of our employees who have to trim your metal plates and leave us enough room around your text/images to hold the plate safely while we cut.
To ease file prep woes and to ensure a smooth production transition from file to plate, it is a great help to all to give your files one last review before submitting them. The first few things to make sure is that your file’s artwork is set to the right dimensions, that you’ve checked your artwork to make sure all plate type line minimums are met, that your file is in the proper color mode or image mode and that your file is in the proper file format and extension.
When working with a file that requires multiple colors for separations, please make sure all objects are assigned to their appropriate Pantone swatch or spot color. Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are excellent programs for setting up and checking such files.
Please also remember to check out any other file prep questions to answer any unresolved questions that you may have.
The largest size, data-wise, that we accept is 26MB. If your file’s data size is larger than this, determine if it can be broken up into two or more files. If you actually have a large file in MB but not in inches, check to see if your images could be saved again in Photoshop with LZW compression and placed again into your document. This great compression feature will make your files more manageable.
For alternate electronic ways, we highly recommend compressing the file down with a program such as StuffIt or ZIP. There are also many numerous online free File Transfer Sites, such as YouSendIt.com or DropBox.com, that let you upload a file and send a link for Boxcar to download.
We will also always take your files on CD by mailing to: Platemaking Department; Boxcar Press; 509 W. Fayette St. #135; Syracuse, NY 13204.
This depends on the type of base you own. See the plate choices part of our web site for more information! In general, you will choose a plate with two things in mind, your base system (Boxcar or Magnetic) and your printing press. Our plastic backed plates correspond to a particular Boxcar Base and steel backed plates will correspond to either the Patmag or Bunting base.
If you are using one of the Do It Yourself home letterpress systems, we suggest the KF152 plastic backed plates.
If you are using an etching press, call us and we’ll suggest a plate, based upon a few questions about your setup.
As you are likely hand inking with these last two presses, please remember to ask us to SEND STRIPS in your platemaking order. They will be very helpful with your inking brayer for an easier inking.
I want to use photopolymer to do something other than letterpress printing. How do I know what plate to use?
While our troubleshooting only extends to using photopolymer plates for letterpress printing, there are literally dozens of other uses for photopolymer plates. If you know the tech specs of the plate that you need, or if you can send us a sample of the plate required for your application, we would be happy to try and recommend a plate that we have in stock that will work for you.
We have innovative people using our plates for metal clay jewelry making, translucent porcelain, and leather work. We always like to hear what you want to try.
Photopolymer supply orders ship from our warehouse within 1-2 business days.
Custom Platemaking orders ship depending on the service you choose:
We offer a 1 business day turnaround, or Same Day Rush – an extra fee service.
For shipping in the USA, we offer UPS Ground, UPS 3 day air Service, UPS 2 day air Service, UPS Overnight morning, UPS afternoon Saver and UPS early Am (before coffee) 8:30 am service.
For International Customers, we offer US Postal Priority or Express Mail and UPS Worldwide Saver.
Remember that the days refer to business days and not weekends.
For platemaking, the day your order is completed (Order Complete) is the day your order ships. You will get a UPS tracking number via the log-in email on your account. Your invoice will be shipped in a separate email. Review your Order History to see all past and current orders for your status. For international orders using the US Postal Service, you will receive an email with your tracking number.
For Supplies – an email will be sent with the tracking number.
For supply orders: Orders typically ship within 1-2 business days. If you need your order immediately, we encourage you to request expedited overnight shipping. However, if you’re in a serious letterpress emergency, please place your order before noon EST and mention that you’d like same day shipping. We’ll do our best to make it happen!
For platemaking: place your same day rushes by 1 p.m. EST.
Supplies: We ship supplies to Canada via UPS Standard or UPS Worldwide Saver and US Postal Service.
We ship international orders (outside of Canada) via UPS Worldwide Saver and US Postal Express Mail.
We think our online ordering system is pretty nifty but of course you can phone in your order to us by calling 315-473-0930. We love to talk to our customers.
Platemaking: We ship platemaking orders to Canada via UPS Standard or UPS Worldwide Saver and US Postal Service. We can ship Worldwide Saver to any international location or opt to use the US Postal Express Mail. These options are all at the click of a button through out platemaking site.
Printing: Yes, we love working with international clients and sending off printed letterpress beauties to destinations far and near.
Supply orders: please call us or e-mail us as soon as possible.
Platemaking: First, log-in to see your order and check its current status. If we haven’t begun processing your order (STATUS – RECEIVED), you’ll be able to change your order details or upload files online. If we’ve already begun working on your order (STATUS – IN PLATEMAKING), please call us or e-mail us immediately, as you won’t be able to adjust your order online and we can see if the production process is already too far along. At this point, we can still change your shipping options and shipping addresses. If your status is BILLING COMPLETE, we will not be able to make any adjustments at this time.
For supplies, please call us as soon as possible to cancel your order. We will have to discuss refunds and crediting accounts as your online Supply Order has already been charged for payment.
For Platemaking – you can call us right away or you may be able to cancel your order online, if your status is still in RECEIVED or ON HOLD.
Log on to platemaking and you’ll see all current orders. Choose Complete Order to cancel your order. Confirm when it asks if you want to proceed. Your order status will reflect Order Cancelled.
The option to cancel is not available once we move your ticket into platemaking production. Cancelling after this step may incur some production costs. Please call us right away to minimize those costs, if possible.
Log on to your account in platemaking. It will take you to your Orders page where the current status will be visible.
- Pending – Your order has been started but all the steps have not been completed. This requires further action on your part.
- Received – Waiting for us to review your files.
- On hold and awaiting action on your part.
- On Hold No Files Received – Please try uploading again or call for assistance.
- On Hold Bad Files – Your files need attention. You will receive an email indicating your order is on hold with the problem and asking you to correct and upload new files. File errors may include your files measure too large to plate, not in correct color mode, lines or dots too thin, files are in grayscale, etc.
- On Hold – Credit Card declined or expiration is passed. There is a problem with your payment, please contact us.
- In Platemaking – We are in production making your films to make plates. Your ticket is locked as we are moving ahead.
- Billing complete – Your platemaking job is billed and awaiting shipping.
- Shipping Complete – We have shipped and still need to Invoice your order.
- Order Complete – We closed out your order as we have created a shipping label and your package is out the door. The day your order was completed was the day it shipped.
Boxcar Press offers free two day shipping for platemaking orders that are over 90 square inches. If your order qualifies, this option will appear as the default shipping choice.
Please remember these details about this service:
- Two day service is ground service for those already within our 1 or 2 days service area (New York state, the Northeast to Maine, down to Virginia, and parts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Kentucky).
- If your usual UPS ground is 3 day – 6 days, you will receive UPS 2 day Air.
- If you have selected any overnight air services for shipping, we will NOT downgrade for free 2 day service. We will believe that you really need the faster overnight service.
- If you really do need 2 day Air service, please choose the 2 day Air and don’t wait for us to upgrade you from ground or a slower service. It’s hard to make UPS deliver faster once it’s out for shipping.
- Free 2 day air applies to business days and not Saturday delivery.
You will need to send your files at 100% scale. We do not resize, scale up or down, or rotate any artwork. We highly recommend using the ruler feature available in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign to check your work to see if it is the size you want.
When exporting a PDF from Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign, please double check to make sure it is the correct size by either re-opening it in Illustrator or placing it in InDesign to check the actual dimensions of your file. In InDesign you can use the Rectangle Frame tool to draw a box around your images/text to measure.
In Photoshop, use the Image Size tool to check your size. Saving your file as a .TIF locks your image size.
Boxcar Press has a pretty fast platemaking turnaround service with our one business day turnaround. But if you have an even greater need for speed, consider our Same Day Rush Service. If you create your job ticket, upload your files before 1 pm EST, and choose Same Day, we’ll get your files out the door to arrive the next Business Day via UPS. Of course, speed comes at a price, the fee for Same Day Rush starts at $45 or 40% (whichever is greater) plus the regular cost of the plate plus your overnight shipping costs. Your minimum cost for a Same Day Rush plate is $75 before shipping and goes up from there.
So, we encourage you to make use of the one day turnaround as much as possible. Create your job ticket and upload your files before 5:30 pm EST and we’ll ship on the next business day, assuming your files are in tip-top A1 shape. File corrections may delay your shipping.
Here is how we compute dimensions – we gang all your files up together and draw a box around the “black” part – the images and text. Now we know the length and the width. We multiply these two numbers together and this is your square inches total. We then multiply this square inch number by your square inch price of $0.62/sq inch or $0.67/sq inch.
9″ x 8″ is your “black part”
9” x 8” = 72 sq inches x $0.67 = $50.40
If your file has crop marks, we measure outside the crop marks. So if you don’t need crop marks, consider leaving them off to save a little cash.
Sometimes we may notify you that your files have an error and need correcting. Follow the instructions to make those corrections and rename your file, preferably with the words “New”, “Revised”, or “Corrected” in the file name. Please don’t upload a changed file with the same name as the original file as we won’t be able to tell it’s a replacement and new file.
Re-upload new files to your current platemaking ticket. Log in to Boxcarpress.com with your username and password. Click on the applicable ticket to upload or drag and drop the new revised file.
You can only upload files to your ticket if your platemaking ticket’s status is either set as “Received”, “Pending” or “On Hold”. We will see new files and get to work to process your plates.
If you find that your ticket’s status is “In Platemaking”, you will need to call us at 315-473-0930 to see if it is possible to still add corrected or revised files.
If your ticket status is “Billing Complete”, “Order Complete” or “Shipped”, your ticket is unable to be altered.
There are two ways to create crop marks in Illustrator.
In Method 1, first create a rectangle by using the Rectangle (or Marquee tool (M)) in your standard tool palette located on the left-hand side of your screen. Create the rectangle so that the box size is your piece’s final trim down size (e.g such as 5.5″ x 7″ for an invitation, etc). Next, while the rectangle is still selected, drag it to its proper position over the artwork. Crop marks will be created outside the corners of the box.
In CS4 or newer, select EFFECT>Crop Marks to create the correct type of crop marks in Illustrator. In CS3 or older, select FILTER>Create>Crop Marks.
In Method 2, If you created your design in illustrator and set up your artboard to measure the finished size of your printed piece, any crop marks created will be outside the artboard. You will need to save your file with an eps extension so the crop marks will be included. You may then save the file as a PDF and send us either EPS or PDF. Avoid saving as an AI extension, the crop marks will be left off outside your artboard and not included in the file.
While using Adobe InDesign, you will need to create the crop marks manually by creating line segments via the LIne Tool (L) to delineate what your trim down size.
Please note that your crop marks are considered line objects and must meet your plate type’s minimum line thickness to be guaranteed to hold on your plate type (Link to What is My Minimum Line Thickness For My Plate Type?). If you need to thicken the line weight, you will need to expand the crop marks by selecting OBJECT>Expand or OBJECT>Expand Appearance.
Please note that we do not add crop marks to any file at Boxcar Press, as we do not know where or what your intended trim down size is.
We can help! Get your files into us by 1 p.m. EST on Friday (and make sure your design files are prepared just right!). Choose our rush service which means we’ll ship your plates Friday. Choose overnight AM for shipping and Saturday delivery and you’ll have your plates in hand by Saturday, noon. Hooray!
I heard I can process letterpress plates myself with a UV box and a washout brush. What should I know about processing plates myself like this?
If you plan on processing your letterpress plates by hand, know that it’s challenging to make quality polymer plates this way. A good washout is essential to producing quality plates, but because handheld brushes are so small, washout times frequently are over 10 minutes per plate (and that’s you moving a small brush with constant motion for 10 minutes). With this much exposure to water, you will have to keep an eye on the plate. The adhesive holding the polymer on the back of the plate starts to break down. This causes loss of detail because the plate can soften too much and may come apart in the water. Text is one of the hardest things to consistently process on homemade units, and we all love text, right? In addition, photopolymer is an expensive and finicky material, and the learning curve for processing quality plates is steep. You will also need to have a resource for film negatives, and a drying /heat source. Platemaking can be an interesting process for the adventurous with some research and experimentation.
An alternative to hand processing your plates is using a professional plate processor like Boxcar Press. We’ll provide you with quality plates every time, and we guarantee our plates will cause you no hassles or loss of detail on the press.
Or you can consider purchasing a professional platemaking machine if budget and your time allows. These machines are expensive but they are also convenient, allowing you to have your plates ready immediately. Make sure to ponder if you have the time, staff and energy to be making your own plates, or if you’d rather focus on your printing instead.