Letterpress beginner for students

Hi all!
I’m brand new to this site but it looks great. I’m a graphic design instructor and I recently bought a letterpress type set and want to have my students write their names and ink them. The problem is, I know the very basics about laying out the words, but I’m a bit lost when it comes to the ink. Does anyone have any suggestions? I know I will need a roller, something to roll the ink out on, but how much ink do you think I will need to do names for a class of 14 adults? Thanks in advance!

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It sounds as though you need to get some instruction in letterpress basics yourself.

Just writing names will not do anything you cannot ink something that is merely written; you need a plate made fromr the images,

Have you a letterpress printing machine?
If not, just how do you visualise printing?

If you wanna’ come down to Fresno sometime I can help you.

Do you have a press?

Maybe the terminology isn’t helping. If “a letterpress type set” means a font of metal type and “write” their names means typeset the names, then a roller (something like a cheapie soft rubber Speedball roller will do), some ink, and some method of transferring the ink from the type to paper (a “press” of some sort, or maybe rubbing with a spoon?) will be enough to get started with the very basic idea.

For ink, you’ll want a small amount of any decent printing ink (for letterpress or offset). See if you can get a local printshop to donate some ink; you only need an ounce or two for many classes, as printing 14 names might use a pea- or maybe marble-sized amount.

If you want some instruction and prefer to go west (rather than south to Fresno), you’re welcome to come to the printshop at History Park in San Jose.

Dave Robison, San Jose Printers’ Guild
former graphic arts instructor

Thanks everyone for your comments! Sorry about not using the correct terminology, I’m a bit new to this. Dave, thanks for your suggestions, that is about what I was thinking of doing. There is no way I could get a press into the classroom even if I had one, and since it is just a basic print class and not specifically letterpress I don’t want to spend too much time on it. I know a print shop down here that I think will donate a bit of offset ink especially since I think they are doing their spring cleaning now. I’d love to come to either of the print shops to learn more about this, ideally I’d like to be able to do a whole day class for the students specifically on letterpress. Thanks for all the input!


Where are you located? I teach a letterpress class every Saturday at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills off of I280. Perhaps you could bring your class for a tour one day before the quarter ends on June 25. Contact me if you are interested.

Mike Day
Foothill College