Multiple ink colors on one image?

Hello to all,

I am incredibly new to the art of letter pressing. I am doing research and I can’t seem to figure out how to make on image print in multiple colors. I’m working with a C&P 10x15 and a Craftsman 5x8. The blocks I would like to print in multiple colors are small (between 1 and 2 inches) but I think there must be some way to make them more than one color….
Am I fighting a losing battle?
Any help here would be great. Thanks!!


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There is a way to do 2 colour on letterpress but it is a lot of work. It involves the following splitting the fountain often with hot lead,turning off the ink disk rotation and grinding out part of the form rollers. I don’t advise it unless the run is huge! Best bet is to print one colour at a time. You can lock up everything and do an impression with your first colour(to check position-save the sheet for registration) then remove the form sections that are not supposed to print fill in with spacer,print 1st col. Repeat the process changing ink ,form and spacer.

Holley- Are you referring to printing in multiple colors in one press pass, or are you refering to printing the two colors using two passes?

If you are trying to print both colors with one pass, then the above comment is correct. It’s often more trouble than it’s worth.

BUT…. printing two colors in two passes is not difficult at all. What you need to do is get two blocks, one for each color you want to print. Then you print color A first, making sure to place each piece of paper in exactly the same place. After that, you print color B.

To get the two blocks, print a few black and white copies of the original block and then cut away all of the color A parts from one copy, and color B parts from another copy. Now you have two B&W originals…. one for each color to be printed. Send those to a Photopolymer plate vendor, and have a plate made for each one….. and viola! You can now print the two colors, one at a time.

Rosario Dawson could show you how!

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Daniel, :-D

Thanks for the advice.
I recently watched 7 Pounds and saw Rosario print multiple colors on one pass (of course she made it look very simple) which is why I thought I should ask how in the first place.
Winking Cat Press—I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “two blocks, one for each color” (keep in mind that I haven’t used the press yet and have absolutely no experience with any form of letter pressing). I think I’m confused with how to change the ink between colors. Most of what I’ve read says that presses are “one color” or just “black”. So, is the color block an option to make the press print one color and then a second or third?

Sorry for the confusion.
Thanks for the help-I really appreciate it.

and….she can show you how to magically print without applying any ink to the ink disk.


You print all the copies of one color; clean the press thoroughly and then print all the copies with the second color.


I think there is some confusion on the terms that are being used. From your initial posting, you have a few small designs that you want to have multiple colors. Are these designs in the form of polymer plates? Wood? Metal? Maybe share a picture of one of the blocks that you have.


Dear Ted,

This is the stamp I am thinking of purchasing. Do I need to take the stamp apart in order to make the smaller hearts a different color?


I’m not sure if the image is showing up…

I saved the picture as a .doc file but it isn’t attaching. I guess I need to describe it instead. Unless I’m the pnly one who can’t see it.

Anyway, it is a metal stamp with three large hearts and sevral littles hearts around the larger three. Thanks for the help Ted.


No problem Holley,

The only way you are going to be able to do multiple colors on a metal stamp is if you hand ink it. Which if you are doing more than one print would be really painful on a C&P or Craftsman. Hand ink means to remove the rollers from your press and individually ink each element of the design with whatever color you want. Depending on how it comes out on paper, you might have to re-ink each time you do a piece of paper.

The descriptions that people were giving you above was assuming that you could take apart the design and create individual elements from the overall design. So using your metal stamp as an example… Let’s say you wanted the 3 large hearts to be three separate colors. You would have a polymer plate made that had the 3 hearts or you could just use 1 heart. If you go with the 3 hearts, you would cut out each of the 3 hearts. The first heart is going to be pink, so you put the first heart on your base and press your stationary with pink ink. You would then clean your press and place the 2nd heart where you want it on the base and remove the first heart from the base. You then run the next color that you want to do. And so on. If you only make one heart, you would just clean that heart plate and move it to the next location with each color change.

As you can see…you are only doing one color at a time. However, there are certain presses that can do at least 2 colors at a time. I don’t have any experience in doing this so I don’t know how it would work. But I don’t believe that you could say have 2 hearts in a column and have each one be a different color. If they were in a row, you probably could. But then I don’t know really know.


Here’s an example of a three color artwork poster from Studio on Fire as seen on their blog

Not trying to make any publicity for the guys, but just to show what can be done with 3 colors, patience and imagination!

wow. Thanks for the explanation, it makes so much more sense. I think little stamps like 1” squares would be a bit too difficult to take apart, but large pieces, would be much easier-and probably look better too. Thanks for the help, I really appreciate it.



No problem! I’m envious that you have a C&P 10x15 to work on. Just be really careful and watch where you place your hands.


Hi Holley,
I’ve heard this question a few times lately and that is why I mentioned Dawson. The film has oversimplified the process to make it more suited to the big screen. What she did in the film is simply impossible— it is a lot more work than that!