Letterpress printing a one colour job requires two presses?

Hi there!

What a lovely site! It is so wonderful to see a community of passionate letterpress printers! woohoo…

I’m very new to letterpress, but have become a bit obsessive ever since I found out there was such a printing technique. I just love the warm and tactile quality it exudes!

I have a question out of curiosity…I’ve recently returned to Taiwan for holiday and work and have been looking into letterpress printing also as I have some designs I’d like to print out. However when I showed a sample to the few letterpress printers left in Taiwan, they said it is unusual to print with such deep impressions. Looking around the shop I noticed the paper stock they use are a lot harder (not 100% cotton stock). They said the deep impression cannot be done with just one press motion. For a one colour print, it requires two presses…one to apply the inked image onto the card stock (probably without too much pressure), and the second time round is printed without colour and applied with a lot more pressure to produce the deep impression. They said if to do it all in one press the ink will smudge and look ugly. I wasn’t convinced with what they said as I’ve never heard letterpress printers in Australia and America mention printing twice for a one colour print. However I am still very new to this traditional printing technique so I may be wrong. Can anyone tell me exactly how it is done…whether it is as the printers in Taiwan say??

Thank you!!

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That does sound like one way to get around the problem of ink spread.

What you are talking about could be called ink spread. A common problem with deep impression/smash printing.
If these printers are used to kissing hard stocks with soft inks, they may have an ink that is formulated softly to go on a bit thicker than the formulation of ink a lot of people who are into printing with deep impression might use.
For example, I add a bit of magnesium carbonate to my ink to dry it out and give it some stiffness. I find this aids the ink’s ability to resist the pressure exerted on it by deep impression when I add the correct amount of ink to the press.

It’s a physics ‘problem’ of the medium. Printers who push hard on the form with the paper are always combatting ink spread and it’s adverse effects.

I think the idea that printing it once to deboss (impress) the paper and then using the same setup to ink up and print a lighter second impression is a sound idea to me, but I prefer to carefully formulate my ink for the needs of the job on the press, and do it all in one go.

Honestly there is no one answer to the problem though, and I think your curiosity about how this could be approached is good- but just a word of caution, I personally wouldn’t try to talk a printer into doing it a different way than they already know how to do unless I were a knowledgable printer sharing what I knew to work for me. Mind you, that is not criticism, just advice :-)


Yes, it is a traditional technique, and for the reason that Haven Press suspected. But, you know, a lot of valuable information has been dismissed during the maelstrom.


Some printers may do the inking run by offset lithography, then do a blind deboss by letterpress. This takes real skill but can be more efficient than trying to print a digital designer’s irrational expectations in one pass.

Had a NYC ad agency client want a pocket folder letterpress printed in opaque white on a black cast coated sheet like krome kote.

After some explaining we supplied him with what he wanted. But the way we went about it made sure the job was perfect. We had a foil stamper hot foil stamp an opaque white foil over the black stock then come back over it with a blind emboss.

Job received raves from the client. It wasn’t letterpress but they were happy.

I don’t know what kind of press you have but it is a CP it is important that that all four legs are solid on the floor and a good idea to bolt it down but be sure all fours are solid before bolting to the floor. The slightest movement with high impression can cause smudging. I found this out when I was embossing and smudging was occuring at first I didn’t know why then I felt a slight movement on one leg with my foot resting against it, I jammed a wedge under the leg and the embossing was clear and sharp, for what it is worth Dave