I have been getting on a lot better with my Heidelberg this week, we are coming to an understanding I think, it’s been like breaking in a wild horse, it has kicked me a couple of times.

Yesterday I did my first paid commission, an invite for a London based Arts organisation which I designed for them and took all the way through to printing, cutting and shipping….which was enormously satisfying and my first step in repaying the £10k it’s cost me to set up the studio here.

A lot of thanks for this goes to the help I’ve received here.

I am now about to do my second commission, a two colour wedding invite with blind deboss. One of the colours is Gold and this is going to be my first experience with oil based ink and I wanted to ask if there is anything I should do differently or if there are any particular quirks to printing with metallic ink?

Shall I just approach it exactly the same as the rubber Van son Inks I’ve been using until now?

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Metallic gold will not be shiny , it will look very flat and brassy on cotton fibrous or any other un coated stock. you will be tempted to pile the ink on looking for the “gold ” which will not appear !! Metallic inks tend to set off easily and may even mark themselves in a dryish stack when transported. You would be best advised as you have not used metallics before to throw an interleave sheet into the pile as you run , if on proof of colour ,you think its much too flat you can always run the plate with yellow first let that dry then re run in gold , if you do the yellow under pin colour you will have to be vey careful handling small piles and use your set off spray and make a snowy mess of your press !!
run your colour up to strength gradually , dont be too frustrated ,metallic ink will rarely be shiny the material will either accept it or not ,underpin colour can help but even then its very hit and miss !

Thank you Peter, useful info as always.

I’m not expecting proper gold, I know I’d need to hot foil for that but I’m hoping for a coppery matt gold.

I did find some threads here on this subject where under printing in yellow was recommended, is that better than printing the gold twice for some reason as that would seem a lot easier?

With interleaving, do I literally have to separate every printed sheet?

Looks like it just depends on my paper and ink combination and how well they agree with each other on the day.

Thanks Nick.

I printed an invitation with gold oil based litho ink on #110 lettra. I used the ink straight out of the can. Gold comes in several shades, so you may want to experiment to find which PMS works/looks best for you. I haven’t tried printing yellow first…I wonder which PMS is recommended?
On this side of the pond, interleaving is known as slip sheeting. You insert a piece of paper in between each printed sheet, while the press is running. Take them out before you run the next color. Repeat for each color. You can leave them in when you cut the the job to size if you like. If the ink is still a wee bit wet, it will offset onto the slip-sheet, not the printed piece. You can use anything to slip sheet.

When slipsheeting, I recommend newsprint cut to be 1 cm shorter than your stock on all sides. It’s a bit more toothy and absorbent than glassine or tracing paper or other stocks that are smooth finished and will work well for your purposes.

I think Peter’s suggestions are spot on for the underpinning and I also think peter gives solid advice time after time.
(Wish I could meet you someday man! Too bad you’re wwaaaaayy far away! You ever come to New York, get in touch!)

I would add another suggestion, depending upon your run size/count-
take a look at your local art supply store for some gold mica powder and find a decent quality makeup application brush.
Try sampling a piece with a dusting of gold powder into the wet ink just after it is printed. If you dust it with a liberal amount of the powder in a small light circular motion, just after printing, you’ll find that the pieces will have a shinier feeling than without. I don’t know how many you have to do or how much time you’re willing to put towards it, but it’s a good effect.

Another note (and maybe you saw the other thread on ‘bronzing powders’), but you’ll need to blow the invites off afterwards and possibly use a compressor outdoors in order to do so. I recommend a respirator during the duration of the work- dusting and blowing.

Also, I would print the gold layer FIRST, dust, blow off, and THEN the deboss layer.

If it is just a very small run and the client is willing to pay for it, print just the gold part of the text by using a varnish instead of ink, use transfer gold:


place the gold (the transfer sheet is on top) on the varnished type and apply pressure with a cotton ball. The varnish has to be thin set, just light tacky and can’t have squashed edges. Cleanup with a fine brush and a exacto knife.

The faster way is to hot foil the relevant type portion of the text.

Having recently completed a project involving patent leaf, I can attest to it’s difficulties in application- but only with screenprinted adhesives. I haven’t honestly tried it with letterpress varnish.

Typenut, which varnish in particular do you use? Is thin set a type of varnish I haven’t come across? I have heard people use ‘bind and dry’, made by Hanco, with some success (and I have a can), but I haven’t tried it myself; Of course, there’s always litho varnish with a little bit of C-Dry in it. A number 3 or number 5 might be good?

I love the look of foil in certain applications but have no desire to buy all the accoutrements associated with hot foil. I have considered trying the adhesive varnish method with letterpress for some time now, perhaps I’ll have to do that this coming week!
What do you say?

as I print mainly on an Albion Handpress - I buy Shellac flakes from Kremer Inc, NY and dessolve in methyl alcohol,
naturally reduced, applied with hand brayers, gives me a sharp, thin film of varnish, I can reactivate it by breathing on it through a straw and apply the transfer gold. Needs some skill, but than i have been a Finisher in the Bookbinding Trad for a long time.

Girl with kluge ,
any yellow will do ,its chosen because yo will see less of the underpin in the event of minor register error . You can under pin in anything the only criticals is that darker colours may change the appearance of the final colour although to be honest not much shows through met gold or silver and yellow tends to dry quite quickly,
If washing up is a pain then underpin with a clear varnish , you could hit the gold twice but i think it looks a bit messy and prefer to marry the stock to the ink so i can print in one pass. The bronzing powders do seem to give nice results but i have never tried it on a stock that is very uneven and porous like the cotton rag you tend to use here .
I like the suggestion of a blusher / Make up brush ,far better than trying to apply it with cotton wool.

Nick, I don’t know if you did any research here about bronze powder etc., but this is how I print gold/silver and bronze. Depending on the final result desired, I print in colour or with only transparent white and when the print comes off the press, I dust them with one of the bronze powders that I buy from Duller in Amsterdam. They get them ground in a 17th-century windmill that grinds pigments for painters. The next day, I clean away the surplus with a very soft brush, the kind of brush that architects and draughtsmen use to clean their table with. A shine can be achieved by giving the area a soft buff with a cloth.
Have a look at Duller’s website, probably they will ship, if not give me a shout as I’m now Amsterdam based.


image: bronze_powder.JPG


Thank you so much for the suggestions here, there is a lot more to this than I thought, that seems to be the way with everything letterpress.

The powder options look interesting but everything I have printed so far has come off the press completely touch dry, maybe the gold being oil based will be sticky and take the powder?

I think I’m going to start with the Gold first as suggested and I’ll try a few test under printings on my paper and see how it comes out with and then adapt from there.

Thank you all.

you could print any color (even black) then dust with gold thermography powder and raise print it, its about the best gold next to foil stamping.

Well nick you have a raft of options !! Any room for a thermo tunnel ? Although you can use a paint strip gun or even a old hairdryer with a dodgy thermostat to activate thermo powders , they come in ready colours and pearl effects etc you just dip the sheet in to immmerse the ink then a quick fingernail flicked on the rear removes the excess you pass through heat and the heat melts the powder which is contolled by capillary action in its spread across the wet ink , too much heat however will allow the powder to overrun the ink its laying on become an un attractive mess , its a good process that has nearly died out in the trade, now people no longer know what handwriting is !! I should add that their is a neutral powder for laying on printed colours that the colour shows through they come in grades from talc like to sugar grit you pick grades to best suit your image area and cooking speed , by hand you watch for the colour to show up and remove the heat quickly , the tunnel is a little more finnicky ,belt speed ,height of heater from job and temp setting have to work together and stock thickness as well as finishes add variable s you will get to learn very quickly . Thicker hard stocks like the alabaster round edged invitation cards are a bit tricky because they dissipate heat quickly for a few seconds then they heat up very quickly and then they dont cool quick enough !

Probably not useful, but I’ve done prints over top of hand laid gold leaf. Don’t do that! If you end up using actual gold leaf add it after and mask around it to keep it from sticking to ink. I bet most people are smart enough to realize this, but I figured I’d do the gold first because I didn’t want it to stick to the ink as I was gilding. Wrong choice in my case. I tried laying the gold with a bit of trapping and then printing around it but it pulled up the edges of the gold. Just in case it ever matters!

Well I tackled the gold today and it started off badly, not printing like my rubber inks at all so I ended up setting up the press as if from scratch. The different consistency of the oil based gold mean’t I had to lower my rails to get more ink on the plate. Then the gold seemed to lighten quickly and so I had to re ink regularly when my rubber inks last for ages with no noticeable difference on the sheet.

The nicest result was hitting the gold twice, I was amazed at how tight the registration was between the two passes on the Heidelberg, the text remained beautifully sharp and I had no problems with the ink being tacky and marking once on the delivery table.

It’s a matt coppery gold but I’m very happy with it. Tomorrow I’ll do the debossed bit.

That completes my second week of Letterpress printing, thank you so much for the help over the last 14 days.

Apologies for the poor camera phone photo.

image: gold.jpg


Those look wonderful! Are you using PP plates?

I also would recommend two hits if you stick with the gold offset ink. What I often do is a first run with the maximum amount of impression you intend for the final result, but with light inking to remain sharp. Then after a bit of time to allow it to set up, a second run with heavier inking but backing off the impression collar maybe two full turns. This seems to help the ink end up a bit more smooth and metallic in appearance. As long as there’s no funny business happening with your register, the Heidelberg will nail the second pass very reliably.

Yes I’m using photopolymer plates from Jet here in Europe.
Still made in Japan I think.

I got everything finished and cut up, it’s taken quite a bit of time and I learned a lot doing these, my first Gold and deboss. Love that translucent white with the deboss.

The biggest surprise was that I had to adjust my roller height for each ink, I assumed that once set correctly they would never move but the Gold and the rubber based blue both needed different heights to not over ink the plate.

Anyway I’ll give these to the bride to be on Monday, I really hope she likes them.

image: wedding1.jpg


The variation in your roller adjustment for each of the two inks is due to the consistancy one being thicker than the other ,this is referred to in literature as body or vehicle length, and these differences although subtle are what can appear as terrible problems until you get to learn how inks will behave when reduced or have had chemistry altered ,foil printing inks and general jobbing inks may vary you will come to get the hang of setting up for them .
I describe letterpress to the less initiated as being potato printing from kiddys school,it would be so much better if it was always that easy !
I am a fan of twenties and thirties printing and design and that job you have above fits like a glove , i like them !

Thank you Peter, I was very lucky that the groom was a Graphic Designer!

Should I be keeping something to reduce or stiffen the inks that I have on the shelf here? What is used for that?

My biggest remaining issue has been trying to get good register from left to right without using the side guide that made my heavyish stock bounce up. I’ve wasted a lot of sheets readjusting the polymer plate or trying to move the base slightly in the chase left and right. Sometimes it needs to move over such a tiny amount that I simply don’t have a small enough slither of metal to stick in beside the base….and moving the polymer is very haphazard.

I’d love to know how others get register manually on the Heidelberg when the side guide is causing more problems than its solving with the chosen stock.

There is always a trap with the side lay on heidelbergs and that is having the side lay too close to the edge of the platen and too far away is not much better , Always start a set up with the side lay in its middle and make adjustments of 4 points maximum in either side of that central point . this way you eliminate the worst problem . any other problem of sheets struggling can be cured by tilting the headboard of the feeder out on the right a little . vriations in the amount of twist is subject to the press itself and how high the pile is when running etc .It will all come to you in time you just have to deal with things as they come , a job will whistle through perfectly today and tomorrow morning you will be climbing the walls running the rest of todays run !

So if I understand you tilting the headboard when running with the lay gauges may help the sheet settle on the lay gauges without bouncing off the side lay?

Hadn’t considered that at all, I guess as the gripper releases the sheet completely it doesn’t matter if it has been held at a slight angle as long as it falls level on the lay gauges eventually.

I will persevere with the side lay gauge because it certainly seems to be the most accurate and subtle adjustment for achieving horizontal register.

Thanks for the feed table tip.


You understand …
I cant remember which way you want to twist the headboard ,often get it the wriong way myself!

We double hit the gold and silver on these holiday invites with our Windmill and then die cut. Always amazes me how they can hold such perfect register.

image: Holiday Invite

Holiday Invite