Tour de Lead Graffiti 2013

This is our third year with our Tour de Lead Graffiti project. We love the Tour de France combined with the staggering athletic endurance required of its participants (drugs or no drugs). And we really love letterpress. We had the opportunity to attend the opening day Prologue in Liége, Belgium, in 2004 and thought for years about how to connect the two interests. In 2010 we did one poster for a major moment in the Tour de France that year and it got us to thinking. How about creating an “endurance letterpress” project translating the events of each stage and rest day into a poster? Originally we figured on making them each 2-color, but once we got started in 2011 we’ve averaged more like 4.5 runs each.

We invite you to watch along.

We also invite lots of friends to collaborate with us. Currently we have non-Lead Graffiti people scheduled on 18 of the 23 days. Some people choose the same stage (Bastille Day, July 4th, etc.) each year. It is great fun to have different ideas swirling around the studio.

The posters are produced very spontaneously, rarely with any kind of sketch, composed directly on the bed of our Vandercook Universal III. The posters are 14.5” wide x 22.5” tall and are printed on Somerset Textured White 300 gsm which is our favorite paper to print on. We are starting with a nice 24” stack of it.

We print about 40 copies of each poster along with 2 dozen copies of a composite print which has every run of every poster on it. 103 runs in 2011 and 108 last year. I guess we have to try to get over last year’s total.

The end result of all of this is 26 clamshell boxes (and a few individual prints of each stage which we sell) which hold the 23 prints, a title sheet, a descriptive page which explains the relationship between the events of the day and the visual that resulted from it, and a colophon which explains the project and lists all of the contributors.

This year Ray was involved in a couple of AIGA portfolio reviews and we gave away several opportunities as raffle items to both get some notice and to find a way to get new people to have a hands-on experience with letterpress. it also doesn’t hurt their résumés. We have more than half a dozen of these students involved.

After this year we will have 69 of these posters to choose from so we are actively looking for exhibition opportunities at schools, etc. If you know of someone pass our interest along to them. We also do a pretty nice talk about spontaneity in design that flows out of this project.

You can follow our 2013 efforts (starts on Saturday, June 29) with this link.

2013 :

2012 :

2011 :

Each morning starting around 6 we scan the previous day’s poster, resize it into 6 images, write a description of the events leading up to the poster, posting a production photo, an arty photo, and a lockup photo (at the bottom of the page). These are all posted to various places like our website, our online store, Facebook, etc. We tweet to various groups depending on what is included on the poster. We always include the stage winner so we always tweet to them, for instance.

Around 8:30 we start watching that day’s Tour stage live on NBCSports. Our day’s collaborators meet at our house so we all have a common experience. They get all of the details about breakaways, pelotons, HC mountains, team strategies, and a gazillion other things they probably don’t care about. Only a few who join us know anything about the Tour de France except that it exists.

At noon we go to lunch to discuss what we saw and ways that might translate into wood & metal type. We have our own wood type made for each year. This year we are using two 12 line sans serifs, Bernhard Gothic Medium and Impact. We like the typefaces to have some contrast between them.

Then we go to the studio to make it happen. From our 6am start we’ve been averaging about 15.25 hours per day on the project. Solid. 23 consecutive days, following each stage the cyclists endure and we even do posters on each of the 2 rest days.

We invite you to make us a morning stop at the beginning of your day.

Below is the clamshell from the 2012 edition and the composite of 108 runs.

image: tdlg12-24-clamshell-370.jpg


image: tdlg12-21-composite-3-week-370.jpg


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This image shows the first three posters printed via letterpress in our annual Tour de Lead Graffiti project paralleling the events of the Tour de France.

You can read the description and the creative process of each one on our website. We usually put photos of a number of lockups of the more interesting runs that you might find interesting. Use the top navigation to see the various posters.

2013 :

image: tdlg-stages-1-through-3.jpg


Doesn’t this post belong in the classified rather than in the discussion posts?


While there are definitely items for sale, I think the Lead Graffiti folk are sharing an ongoing project with the board. Nothing wrong with that, IMHO.

looks like they are romancing their sales with the story. I suspect that many “art” printers could do the same.

Is that similar to romancing the stone?

Could get messy that !

Posters 4 - 6 (of 23 total)

image: briar-press-4-6.jpg


Posters 7 - 9 (of 23 total)

image: briar-press-7-9.jpg


The left one is printed from a bicycle chain. You can see it at

Clicking on the image will advance to the next poster. There are links to enlarge the image so you can see some of the detail.

The area at the bottom of the third one was fun.

Be sure to look at the production and lockup photos at the bottoms of the pages.

image: briar-press-9a-11.jpg


The left one has a nice typography representation of a crash. You can see it at

Clicking on the image will advance to the next poster. There are links to enlarge the image so you can see some of the detail.

The middle one is about how crosswinds can break the peloton into groups.

The one on the right uses the sides of metal furniture to represent the 18 riders in the breakaway..

Be sure to look at the production and lockup photos at the bottoms of the pages.

image: briar-press-12-14.jpg


The next 2 stages and a rest day.

image: briar-press-15-16.jpg


Last two posters of Tour de Lead Graffiti plus the composite which is all of the 102 runs. You should check out the lockup of the final of the 102 runs. It was a doozy.

image: briar-press-20-21-composite.jpg