Best heavy paper to mess up on ?

I’m going to make a lot of mistakes and ruin a lot of perfectly nice paper while I’m learning, I just know it. I also know papers suitable for letterpress aren’t cheap.

So my question: what is a good paper to “learn on”? I’d prefer not to be heartbroken when I screw up, and I’d prefer not to break the bank by churning through expensive paper at a great rate…

On the other hand, I want to choose something that accurately reflects what it’ll be like to do “real” printing once I’m good at it. I’m most interested in printing on cover-weight / heavy stock, although obviously I need to learn to use text-weight papers as well.

Suggestions (especially for heavy stock) much appreciated!

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I have to partially disagree with you about suitable papers. While the most popular papers designed especially for letterpress are rather pricey, there is a world of paper out there that also prints well and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I use a lot of Canson’s Edition for my work. Depending upon where you get it, the cost is substantially lower and I’ve found it prints just as well. you can also look at some of the Strathmore papers. Their 300 series “watercolor paper” is not costly at all if bought in quantity, and it too prints easily.

The truth is that 80% of the paper out there in the world, including cheap vellum bristol from Office Depot can be printed on to good effect if you take the time to learn how to handle it.

My advise to any printer is to not think about “letterpress paper” at all…. but to look at the larger paper world.

Thanks winking cat! I had heard some printers write about “using the right paper” but I like your take on it better. I guess I’ve been concerned that if I print on a paper that’s not the “right” kind it will flag me as someone who doesn’t know what I’m doing. (Which I don’t, yet, but why aim low?)

If it’s not rude to ask (I hope!) can you tell me where you get Canson’s Edition at reasonable price in this part of the world?

I’m assuming learning to handle the paper properly will just be a long process of trial and error (no classes available here) so while I’m practicing I might hit Office Depot for the vellum bristol!

You might try some of the fairly inexpensive drawing papers you can find at your local art supply store. I have fun with manilla drawing paper & good old “construction paper” which gives you a chance to try lots of color combinations. Note that these papers do not have “archival” characteristics, and the colors of most construction papers are fugitive if left in a well lighted space, but they have a nice texture and print quite well for the experimenter.

Try a variety of paper until you find what you like.

Thanks jhenry – good idea! I might hit National Art next time I’m in New Orleans… if it’s still there…

Folio is a really nice paper for the price—about $2/parent sheet (22”x30”)—esp. the antique color; it also comes in a white white.

Thanks Lisa – that sounds great. I’m making an excellent list here.

Along the Gulf coast, there is no local supply of Canson’s Edition. I get mine from an Internet vendor for ~1.75 per big sheet.

But you are in luck with other brands. Alabama Art Supply in Mobile carries several nice “student” grades of smooth watercolor papers that print well…. for about $0.35 for a 17 x 22 sheet. It makes a really good paper to learn on. AND the last time I checked, the art supply house in Ocean Springs also had a good selection of similar papers.

Winking cat that’s great info, thanks! I didn’t even know there was an art supply in Ocean Springs… I *knew* I wasn’t getting over there often enough! I’ll have to look them up.

I searched online suppliers for Canson’s Edition yesterday and the cheapest price I came up with was $2 per sheet. Maybe I’m not a great Googler.

Thanks for the watercolor paper tip.

In their tutorial, Adana simply states: the cheaper the paper the better the results. I have always found this to be very true.
My first few jobs were printing throwaway leaflets on coloured newsprint. Very light and variable.
Because I succeeded in producing good prints I was very encouraged.
My advice therefore is use the cheapest paper you can get. It will help build your confidence.
When you feel you are fully competent then progress to specialist papers but be prepared for disappointment.
Good luck !!!!

Mike is right! Back years ago, the letterpress printers that I learned the trade from printed on every type of paper out there…. and took great pride in their ability to get good prints from inexpensive materials. I adopted their philosophy, and learned how to print on anything I could get my hands on. In fact, most of my best work is printed on what most folks would consider “substandard” papers… such as brown bag stock.

There is no “right paper” for letterpress…. it all depends on what you want to convey, what your artistic tastes might be, and how good your skills are. There ARE however, fads and fashions regarding paper…. and a lot of “paperista gurus” who will try to tell you that “this paper” or “that paper” is the only one to use. These folks have always been around, and they always will be around…. and not just in printing. They exist in every facet of life, I think.

Any paper that can achieve the look you’re after is the right paper. I have printed on basic chipboard several times over the past several years with wonderful results. Only you can determine if your paper is “Right”. while experimenting be sure to use several different stocks and textures on the same setup so you see how different papers look without changing anything on the press. Each paper will give a different look to your type and you see where you may need to adjust different aspects of your setup.Play with it and have fun, take your time, Have Fun!

Mike and winking cat and Paul – I’m very encouraged by this! It’s all sounding better by the minute. Thanks so much.

(the “paperista gurus” made me laugh..)