Registration problems (due to multiple processes, ie. foil + letterpress)

Hi everyone,

I’m having trouble with tight registration on a job that requires Gold Foiling + Letterpress printing. Usually, multi-color jobs that I do myself are fine. However, this time, it involves printing on TOP of work done by someone else.

Here’s what is happening:
-Foiling occurs first, 6-up on a large sheet (not done by me)
-I take the 6-up, and get it cut it down to 1-up, and proceed to letterpress. I can’t do 6-up, because my press is too small (10x15).

The problem is that in the process of cutting the 6-up, it is almost impossible to get every cut exactly the same. There will be minute differences in alignment between each “up”. This is despite the paper cutter being computer controlled.

As a result of this, my letterpress prints are not in 100% register. Some are good, some are not so good.

Any thoughts on how I could solve this problem?

One source of the problem lies with the cutting process being inconsistent. But I am also now thinking that maybe the foiled 6-up sheets are also not 100% uniform in alignment (before the cutting happens)

I was thinking of doing some like stacking up all the 1ups, drilling holes (in the bleed areas). By looking at where the holes appear (in relation to the artwork), I can visually ascertain which pieces are uniform in alignment, and grouping them accordingly. My guess is I’d probably have ~6 groups of different alignments (which would correspond to the 6-ups)

I am not sure if this is a smart way to solve the problem.

Appreciate any ideas on what I could do! Thanks in advance.

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If you can get the sheets cut just once before you get them (assuming that makes it possible to get in your press), the original side guide of the sheet used on the foiling press could be retained, and you could print all of one stack prior to a slight re-adjustment for the second stack. Any way you can retain the original guide sides of the sheets will assist you in registering to an already printed sheet.

If that size doesn’t fit your press, perhaps two cuts could be made, producing a 2-up sheet for your press, eliminating a bit of the variation you are seeing.

Make certain the cuts are made relative to the guide side of the sheet from the foiling operation, or all is lost.

Although an extensive process, you could continue to let them cut into 6 pieces, but have them keep each stack separated by original sheet placement. Then you could run each stack, making slight adjustments between stacks to compensate for slightly differing positions.

John Henry

Does the foil image have register marks? If nothing else, it would be instructive to cut at a set of marks and see how uniform the position is (wavering register on the foil pass.

So far as registering to a multi-up sheet, try to cut the parent sheet into pairs—so splitting the original sheet into three sheets of two. If the cutting is done well, and uniform gripper distances are maintained, you would be able to run the first position, with minor adjustments, to the first three positions, then step your form and do the other image on the sheet—again with minor adjustments on each of the three sheets. This is a variant of cutting the original sheet into six pieces, per John Horn.

I encounter this all the time when cutting digital sheets, and have gotten the customer trained to segregate and mark the various portions of the original press sheet, so I know when I have to nudge the guides to make register (for die-cutting).

it is almost impossible to cut into better register.
just got to get it right the first time. lots of sorting and cutting otherwise

I’d go further, and say it IS impossible to cut and then re-register. You’d have to hold such strict tolerances with the cutting, you are probably physically unable to.

Piles tilt top/bottom under the clamp, and even the sharpest knife can also pull the pile slightly. Even if a cut appears to be straight top to bottom, if you could accurately and reliably measure it there’s probably at least a variance of +/-.007”.

Add to this the fact that no matter how carefully you think you’ve jogged a pile, physically you can’t make it perfectly square. You can keep it within a certain tolerance, but not enough to usually register further work to.


I had a guy foil into an offset job once; he explained how he would do it and then did it another way. He cut the job before printing one of the two pieces, and completely botched the job. Was way out of register.

Anyhow, sorry for your unfortunate circumstances- but next time get it printed 1 up, give careful information to the foiler about your guides/placement of guides, and also be sure it is done the way you ask.

The best advice I can give is to get the ruler out and measure each cut sheet using the point guide. Sort into piles for each measurement and register each pile. It will be a long day/night but I think it is the only solution.
Best of luck

prob cheaper to just reprint and do it correct.

Thank you for sharing the knowledge!

Lesson learnt. Only cut “multi-up” sheets after all printing is done.

I’ve been struggling with paper cutting for awhile. I too have found that, its almost impossible to be perfect, even with sharp blades and shorter stacks (to limit the “draw”). 100% cotton (lettra) is also much harder to work with than regular paper.

Looks like I’m in for either a long day/night ahead, or to try to get the foil guy to re-do the job.

print small, foil small, then die cut, it will maintain your register, if it has to be perfect.

I would highly suggest having them printed 1-up on foil then run your part then cut. I usually do my foil on 10x15 windmill 1-up on registration then run the letterpress. I’ve never had a problem.