Photopolymer plates able to print this level of detail?

Hi everyone,

I bought some stuff from box car press and got a really pretty card (I’m sure its letterpressed). See attachment for the boxcar card. Also see this link for other nice examples:

1. Is it possible for photopolymer plates to deliver such detail? Or would the plates need to be made out of other material?
2. Anyone knows where I could get some sample plates (of this detail / style)? I tried looking online for some public domain “vintage illustrations” but did not find anything that similar.

Apart from some inking problems, I’m slowly becoming more proficient with my adana and looking for more interesting prints I can test my skills with.


image: plates1.JPG


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It is difficult to see exactly the detail in the boxcar card, perhaps take a detail shot of a part of the image? Either way, you should be able to print that using photopolymer.

Thanks, will take a better shot in a bit!

If it came from Boxcar then it was almost certainly printed with photopolymer plates. The same is true for the images in the linked article. Photopolymer is capable of great detail, but there is a learning curve. Start simple and get to know your press. Once you’ve mastered inking, packing, pressure, etc. you should have no problem producing images like these.

You might try your local bookstore for any Dover publications books. They have an entire line of books with royalty-free illustrations and designs. The newer books include a CD to save you from scanning the images.

Hope this helps,

That’s a pretty large image with a lot of coverage, to attempt on an Adana of any size — I think it would be a challenge to print on a Chandler & Price.


Thanks for the advice everyone :)

The image is probably about 4x3 inches (thereabouts). Yes, definitely large for my home adana… but one can only try (and hope). I guess its about learning the limitations of the equipment :)

Thanks for the advice everyone :)

The image is probably about 4x3 inches (thereabouts). Yes, definitely large for my home adana… but one can only try (and hope). I guess its about learning the limitations of the equipment :)

And please, please: ‘printed in letterpress’ and not ‘letterpressed’…

I believe it would be more appropriate to say “letterpress printed.”

Hello sprockett,

Here’s one site I use to find free vintage-looking clip art: The understanding, however, is that it’s not for commercial use.

Whenever I’ve used downloaded images, I’ve always had to clean them up in Illustrator to get what I’m aiming for, and usually I have them vectorized, though a very high resolution scan is good too, especially if you want to avoid “computer-looking” art.


Thanks so much everyone…

Apololgies regarding terminology, I will not be using “letterpressed” anymore :)

Barbara: Your tip has been sooo helpful, much appreciated!


Photopolymer plates are capable of delivering incredible detail:

Not sure you can get there with an Adana, but you can do better than…



BEAUTIFUL work on the aaron horkey illustrations…

I’m inspired :)

Thanks for sharing.

BTW: Is there a reason one would use steel backed photo polymer vs pure photo polymer plates?


You’re welcome and thanks.

If you were wondering if you should switch from polyester-backed plates to steel-backed plates I would not recommend that. You already have a base, and magnetic bases are quite expensive. With the exception of the PatMag, this type of base was developed for industry use and production presses. They would be a waste of money on an Adana.

I use steel-backed plates and Bunting Bases to meet a very specific need. I would not have been able to adequately produce the Horkey Illustrations with polyester-backed plates on a aluminum flatbase. I won’t go into the reasons why. But I am quite familiar with polyester-backed plates; I use them in instruction, I process them for a percentage of my clients, etc. They will satisfy most folks needs.

Ahem, polyester-backed plates are not “pure,” in fact, other than their backing there is no difference between them and steel-backed plates in terms of the photopolymer itself, except for the specifications (hardness, height, etc.) used to determine proper usage.

What I see in your photo is simply a possible combination of over-inking, overly loose ink, soft packing, etc. (sort of a letterpress perfect storm). Tighten these up and get control over your roller height and you will be on the right road.

Hang in there