Plate Size

I am getting ready to print my wedding invitations at a local community print shop. They have Kelsey presses as well as another brand that I can’t think of off the top of my head. I believe they are all 5x8”. My question is if my invitation is 4x6 with a design that bleeds, will I need to get a plate made that is 4.25x5.25, cut the paper larger and then cut it down to 4x6” again? The girl that volunteers there said not to get a plate larger than 4x6 for a 5x8 press if you are bleeding off the edges. I haven’t been able to get a hold of her and I’d like to place the plate order today. Thanks for your help

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If your plate has any large solid areas you are going to have a LOT of trouble printing it decently on any 5x8 press, and more on a Kelsey. You have the process for getting a bleed correctly, but not the press. If you are using a soft paper and trying for a “letterpress impression” you will have even more trouble. A 4x6 plate with just a bit of light-design type might print OK on the Kelsey but be careful — you don’t want to break their presses.


There are no solid areas, it is mostly a light design and then type. Why would I worry about breaking the press?

Pressure. Pressure is measured in force per area. 1 Lb of force on the point of a pin is a huge amount of pressure. 1 Lb of force spread out evenly over a space the size of a roof is less than a featherfall. In printing terms, the larger the area of the artwork, the more force it takes to make a decent impression.

At the largest of plate sizes those small presses can take, the force needed is getting close to the breaking point of the cast iron. This problem is compounded on presses like the Kelsey because they were fairly lightly built to begin with. Thinner cast iron breaks easier. So, a large plate that fills the forme area of the chase could easily cause the printer to have to use too much force and snap something. Usually the handle, but sometimes other parts as well. This can mean permanent destruction of the press or at the very minimum expensive repairs that only competent metalworkers should attempt.

The general rule of thumb on any platen press is that the forme should not take up more than about 2/3 of the total chase area. On a 5 x 7 chase, that’s roughly 4 x 6 total printed area.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

You could print this in two passes. One for the bleed off border 4.25 x 6.25, and then print the text/design in the center of the card…it would be less pressure over all, but more press time/impressions.