2 color registration with dampened paper


I have a 2 color design in which the 2 colors touch. One color contains a large solid so I would like to dampen my paper.

I have heard some scary stories about tight registration and dampened paper, and I am wondering how risky everyone thinks this is.

If I put my sheets back into bags every 20 prints or so, will the level of moisture stay consistent enough to get nice registration? Or should I redampen before printing the second color?

I am printing on lettra, using a rubber/acrylic blend for ink.

Thanks for your thoughts,

Sweet Letter Press
Boulder, CO

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Hi Elizabeth,
You should listen to the scary stories - tight registration is difficult under any circumstances and even more difficult with dampened paper. I haven’t printed on Lettra but I have handled it and will guarantee that it will soak up a lot of water and be difficult to control with any consistancy. I gather that it is a thick machine made paper which normally will not respond well to dampening because of the shortness of the fibers.

You haven’t said what you are printing or what kind of press you are operating, which of course makes it more difficult to offer advice. Give more particulars and perhaps you will receive tips that will help your situation.

It is a wedding invitation and we’re on an OS C&P 10x15. We are in Colorado which is a very dry climate so that’s working against us. Solids tend to look “chalky” in certain colors without dampening.

Since what you are printing is small, I personally wouldn’t try to dampen. I once had a job in which I had to print a small solid on a paper that was not very receptive. I heated a coffee cup full of water and placed it on a cup warmer to continue to give it some heat. I placed it on a stool under the feed board of my C&P; within easy reach. I passed the paper over the steam momentarily (just in the area of the paper that I was printing) and then printed the sheet. It loosened the sizing just enough to make it more receptive to the ink, without expanding the paper. I was not trying to make a close register and was only dealing with a space an inch or so square, nor was the paper Lettra, but it worked well and might be worth a try.

I used to print a large job every year, for eleven years, with dampened paper and usually had as much as 50% loss. Again, I was printing 11 colors on a Japanese handmade paper, by hand, and was hampered by a bad design (of my own making) in which the final step was the ultimate problem. If you have the time you might try a couple of different things to get it right.

I can’t imagine what is causing a chalky effect in your ink, unless you are adding something to it. I personally prefer oil based inks and unfortunately most of the inks that are available are not as stiff as letterpress inks should be, which can really affect coverage. You might also try striking the large solid twice with your press. The first pass should flatten the paper and the second should provide coverage. When I am printing a close register, I will often put a fourth gauge pin (without the tongue) on the right hand side of the work, to try and keep the sheet from shifting at all. Best of luck, I am sure you will find the right combination and learn some more tricks along the way.