designer wanting to specialize in letterpress

I am starting my own business of letterpress invitations and graphic design. However I don’t want to do the letterpress myself. Can anyone advise me how I can make a profit on this? So far paying the printer has made it hard for me to make a profit, but I want to design, not letterpress. I leave that to the letterpress experts. Suggestions?


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Raise your prices

Historically, the letterpress printer has often also been the compositor (of movable type) and the person to take a design from concept to execution. I’m assuming then that you are designing for photopolymer or magnesium plates.

I will posit letterpress isn’t WYSIWYG. With ink squeeze considerations, often nonstandard trapping requirements, specialty papers and the seemingly pervasive demand that letterpress produce a debossed texture, the final product will rarely match your digital proof. The letterpress expert has to deal with those issues and more, whereas the offset shop can use a RIP and run it with much less hassle.

If I were a full-time printer, I would want a fairly constant stream of work from a designer for a discount. I would also charge for my time if I had to tweak digital designs to execute well in relief or get plates made. If everything is handed to a printer, and all they have to do is makeready and go, then the price should come down. The question, I guess, is how you want to balance learning the letterpress process to keep price down with doing design work and outsourcing the technical considerations at more cost.

Sorry…I tend to ramble sometimes.

Both excellent suggestions.

I do send a flat illustrator file for the printer to make plates from.

See my philosophy is that what I do best is design/illustrate and a printer has a different set of artistic skills. But what I really want is a printer as a partner of sorts so we can each do our job best and help each other make money on it. Also I want to experiment some and as such need to work with a printer that is willing to “try out” some experimental ideas without it being a particular job. Do you think that I could find a printer that would be interested in this kind of long distance partnering? Not to say that I would be adverse to having an in person partner…but there are no letterpress printers in my area.


Where is your area?

Hi Courtney,

Central Florida

why are you interested in a potential informal partnership? I don’t much care if the person lives near me… although it would be an unexpected bonus.

Hi! unfortunately I am in WA state. I am just getting started with a Heidelberg Windmill. But I would like to find someone to help with Adobe illustrator.
I still needs lots and lots of practice but will let you know when I quit fighting with the Windmill!!

Hi Courtney…sounds good : ) good luck with that.