Using ornaments on a letterpress

If you’re a printer, you can bring the old ornaments in our Cuts & Caps collection full circle by printing them on a letterpress. Photoengraving companies can produce a cut, sometimes referred to as a linecut or a die, from the most detailed image. The cut is mounted on a type-high block of wood, ready for letterpress.

The service is quick and inexpensive; for example, a 4 square-inch magnesium cut mounted type-high on wood can cost less than $10.00. Polymer plates are becoming increasingly popular for letterpress printing. See the Printer’s Yellow Pages for companies that make these and the metal cuts.


The frames and borders in our collection can be customized to achieve patterns similar to those that are formed using metal type. Many of the files that are displayed in our samples are made up of individual pieces that have simply been duplicated and arranged to make the patterns shown. The pieces can be duplicated and resized in any vector-based application, and arranged on the computer in much the same way that one sets metal type, only with this method, you will never be short one border piece again.

Most photoengravers require camera-ready artwork to manufacture a cut. A laser print of the image, or a high-quality inkjet print, is all that’s needed. We’ve found it useful to print the source image at precisely 200% of the desired size, indicating that the source print should be reduced by 50% to make the finished cut.

Some of the Cuts & Caps in our collection are better suited for letterpress use than others. Often, the postscript file retains some of the minute idiosyncrasies of the printed image from which it was drawn. This gives our images a slightly imperfect, hand-printed character that is appropriate to their age. However, you may not want this quality in your print job. To determine if a particular image meets your requirements, be sure to print it out at the desired size and examine it closely.