Double-Sided printing (Vandercook or C&P)

Hey everyone. So I have access to a Vandercook Universal I, III, and SP15 as well as a C&P Pilot (thearmnyc). I’m working on a business card and wondering what the best process for it is. The front is a simple black ink run and the reverse is 2 color. Not sure if I should be going 2up or 4up or just 1 at a time.

What is the easiest way to go about correctly registering. Below someone suggested by hand on the C&p and poking holes to get the right registry.

If i were to do it on the vandercook with more up on a plate, would would I need to be aware of for that? It seems unlikely (right?) to get the initial print perfectly centered vertically on the paper in order to get the reverse side in the same exact spot.

Any info you all have would be very helpful. THANKS!

image: Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 2.11.00 PM.png

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 2.11.00 PM.png

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Print both sides on the Pilot and then die cut as the final step. You’ll have nothing but headaches trying to feed/register those scalloped edges.


Brad….How can I be sure to match the positioning on one side of the card to the other?

set up the same registration marks that you have on front (the circle with cross hairs) in the same position on your digital files for each back plate.

when printing…
1. print the front as is
2. set up the back plate on your base lining up the registration marks to the front print (i literally use a pin to poke a hole through the marks to check for alignment)
3. adjust your gauge pins until all 4 marks align to the front.
4. print 1st color on back side
5. set up 2nd color plate lining up to the 1st color registration marks
6. adjust pins and print 2nd color when all is aligned
7. die cut

i’d also recommend printing more fronts than you anticipate to account for all the registration adjustments you’ll need to make…

So I should pretty much prepare for a decent amount of “test” prints just to get the registration correct right?

Would it make more sense to print 2 up or 4 up on a plate and work with the Vandercook?

If you don’t want to pay for the die fabrication, I am told that Paper Presentation are doing pretty affordable laser cutting of print jobs. There is also a place called Fabberz in the city that rents time on a laser cutter. My only concern would be what would happen in outsourcing this last step where registration is so important.

Were this my project, I’d probably print these 4-up with crops and registration marks with the pattern on the back bleeding over the whole 4-up as a single pattern.

Poking with a pin through registration marks to confirm/adjust registration from one side to the other works well for me.

In a perfect world they’d be duplexed to allow you to print the sheets on just one side and get the impression I expect you want from the back pattern, but unfortunately here at The Arm we can’t have a Potdevin gluer without glue getting all over the shop, so in-house duplexing is out. You’ll have to find the happy medium between impression and bruising through the reverse of your sheet.


I recently did a double-sided card from photopolymer. The card was going in a wedding invitation so registration had to be perfect. I put crop marks in my artwork so they would be in the plate. When I got the plates, I took a ruler and a sharp knife and carefully cut inside the crops by laying the ruler against the inside edge of the crops on the photopolymer and cutting between the crops so that I made a very precisely sized removable frame. I set up the first side, got it centered, true and square to the paper, printed that side and then stuck the crop marks on the base perfectly around the plate. I peeled off the first plate and then carefully placed the second side’s plate inside the crops frame. I finally removed the crops frame and printed the second side. This allowed me to use the same gauge pins and makeready for both sides.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Print 2 colour on one side first and print a transparency same size same registration add the dieline and use it to ensure back is in correct position. I do this all the time .

This is so easy. Since the die cut is symmetrical. Assuming the copy is centered on the face or at least centered within the outline of the die cut. Print the first side. Then print the second side onto the first side to get register. Then print the run on the second side.

Mike and Steve have given you very good advice. If you look at the vast world of printed materials, printing on two sides is the rule, not the exception, and “backing up” is always a concern.

Early on I learned that a key to proper positioning is to make certain to use the same guide positions when printing the second side. The sheet must turn over, so simply switch sides of the side guide (Vandercook) or side gauge pin (C&P & Pilot), in order to contact the same edge as the first printed side, and variations in possible paper cutting length will not come to mar your positioning.

John Henry

Ahhhhhh. I like the same side printing idea. Excellent thought considering the die IS symmetrical. I’ve only been using the Vandercook I (which I love) and to my knowledge I can’t change the side guide with that (Dan would have to weigh in with that). But my goal should be to first get the positioning of one of the sides either perfectly centered vertically or horizontally right?


If you can’t change the side guide physically for some reason, just use a taped-on piece of metal rule or ledding on the side opposite the original side guide side, and that will serve. You could use a Henry Gage Pin, which sticks in place using removable adhesive as a guide. I have done that when I’m printing something on the Vandercook which is too narrow to center using the standard side-guide on my UNI III.

Yes, you should position the image where you want on the first side, then do the same on the second.

John Henry

If you can’t change the guides on the press the I would keep the same side guide and flop the sheet as the top and bottom of the back don’t look as critical as the front. Then die cut to the front. This is how many a 2 sided job is run on Heidelberg platens.

There are a few ways to move the side guide to the other side on a vandercook. If like most models you have a steel feed table, you can use a galley magnet. I’m not a fan of that. My feed table is wood, so what I do is tape a piece of tympan paper down to the feed table and use a double-grip register guide, which is easy to adjust. A more expensive option is the type of adjustable guide you can buy from bar-plate.

I always used a few slip sheets of digital paper (Text, not cover-stock) slipped in with the cotton-rag paper so they’re cut the same size. That way you have a stock of sample sheets to run for proofing and you can hold up to a light to see through the other side and check your front-back registration. Saves some money not using your production stock; but always check the production stock too. The thickness of the stock can change registration!

Alternatively, if you’re good, math works. I always use crop marks and tried to keep a .125 bleed with .25 margins on all sides. That way you have an easier time and start off closer to a good registration. So a 2.5x3 business card ends up being a 3x3.5 stock sheet.

Sorry, only saw the one color photo.

Still not crazy about the website and email design.

Some of the higher end European reproduction presses, Asbern, F.A.G., could be purchased with double side guides. For a Vandercook, Bar Plate makes a couple of guides that can be used for the same purpose. A tad expensive but they do what they are supposed to, without problem.