Letterpress does so many things well - crisp type, printing on thick stocks, transparent overprinting, delicate blind impressions…I could go on. The one thing that it struggles with is creating a solid flood of color. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The floods that we create are considered very beautiful by most - the intricate textures are reminiscent of a salted watercolor painting, and have that specific touch of a handcrafted piece. There is, indeed, no digital way to get that truly unique texture on each and every piece in your run.
But we live in a digital age, don’t we? The vast majority of the projects we create start their lives on a computer screen, and when you do want a block or area of color, the paint tool fills the whole area in. That’s what we expect to see roll out of the press, right? Therein lies the problem. Or does it?
Although it can be a bit unpredictable, ink color choice can affect the intensity of the flood, and the consistency of the color run. Sticking with one of our house colors will allow us to use ink from the can and maintain the color, and coming in for a press check can prepare you for what coverage you can expect on your chosen paper.
Overlaying the flood with a strong pattern is a great way to work with the salty texture. By adding a repeating pattern, or a series of lines or type, the salty flood is seamlessly incorporated into the design as a contrasting element.
The type of paper can affect the coverage as well. Woodpulp content papers are smoother and more compressed, and can accept more ink overall, so you usually get a nice coverage. Cotton or bamboo stocks are more fibrous and add to the salty texture.
If impression is at the top of the list of what a client wants in their letterpress project, a flood may not be the best choice. It allows for very little relief between the inked areas and the uninked areas of a design. Sometimes reversing the design fixes the issue, and allows us to get a beautiful deep impression.
Also - if you plan on printing on the reverse side of a flood, you may want to choose a thicker paper so we are still able to get an impression even if the paper is compressed by the ink flood.
As much as we try and prevent it, ink can creep into un-inked areas. Knocked out type should be at least 8pt, and maybe even a bit larger if working with a serif font (in order to preserve those tiny serifs). Counters of small type can fill in when set to much smaller. Fine lines should be at least .5pt.
Our printers are quite good at managing and maintaining a consistent ink color throughout a long run of prints. However, they are human, and as talented as they are, color shift happens. We quality control each individual card by hand for each project, and we try and pull out any that are obviously too dark or too light, but it is good to have a healthy acceptance of the hand-made nature of the color range.