Will pay for tutor in SoCal! Please read…

Hi everybody!

I’m looking for a letterpress tutor/time rental of someone’s printing press.

I’m a novice, having only taken 9 letterpress classes over the course of a year at Irvine Fine Arts Center on a Vandercook Proof press and Kelsey 3X5.

I love it as a hobby, but don’t own my own press.

Now I’m engaged, and want to print my own wedding invitations. I’ve worked with a wonderful professional graphic designer who is currently producing letterpress-ready files for me, separated by color. Then I plan to use Elum to make my plates. This fall, I’ll need to start printing 92 wedding invitations, each w/four different colors, as well as 92 reply cards with two colors, and 92 save the dates with 3 colors. Additionally, I’ll have a four color wedding program I’ll need to print. I’m having the paper cut to 5.25 x 7.875 out of Crane’s lettra for both the invites and programs. The save the dates and the reply cards will be smaller. I’m attaching photos of the exact invitation and the exact program I will be printing.

Basically, I’m in search of a tutor who can supervise me as I get started (I will pay for this tutoring), help me match the colors as I mix them, and then, once you are comfortable that I know what I’m doing, rent time to me on your printing press. It doesn’t have to be a Vandercook Proof—in fact, I’m very interested in learning on presses that are new to me.

I am on a limited budget, and am looking for something less expensive than the IFAC’s $20/hour lab fee.

I am able to do a work exchange in lieu of paying or in addition to paying your fee. I can clean, cook, do yardwork, babysit, etc. I’m 25 years old and live with my fiance in UC Irvine grad student housing.

I’m also open to renting a good tabletop press, but would also need to hire you as a tutor while I get a hang of it.

I’m so hopeful this will work out, because I really want letterpressed invites instead of flat printed…and I also want to become better at this amazing hobby I’ve taken up!

If you know of somebody who might be interested, please let me know their contact info! Thanks!


P.S. I’m willing to travel to a studio as far away as an hour’s drive from Irvine, CA.

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Since part of learning a craft is mastering the terminology, here are a few pointers. You will not be letterpressing your invitations, you will be printing them. Also, you will not be using a letterpress machine but a printing press. Letterpress describes a particular kind of printing process such as offset printing, intaglio printing, etc. There are different kinds of printing presses used for letterpress printing such as platen presses, cylinder presses, hand presses, etc.

No criticism intended; you seem genuinely interested. Nice looking invitations, by the way.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Thank you Rich!!! I corrected my post and have tried to commit these terms to memory. At my community studio, I know they teach us the terminology, but since they’re teaching a big group of novices, I think after the first class, they tend to give up on correcting us! They let people get away with saying font instead of type all the time. Maybe I should get a book on letterpress to read about it…any recommendations? Thanks again, it’s much appreciated.



Probably the two books I learned the most from and still turn to most often are Platen Press Operation by George Mills and General Printing by Glen Cleeton and Charles Pitkin. Each have their strengths and weakneses but each seem to make up for what the other lacks. An excellent website with plenty of other references is Introduction To Letterpress Printing at:


Aside from many pointers from printers I’ve met in the last 2 1/2 years I’ve been doing this and help from internet sources like this site, I’m completely self-taught. While only experience and practise can make you good at anything, a firm foundation is essential and allows you to take better advantage of hands-on learning.

So I highly recommend getting these and perhaps a few other books. You’ll get a lot more value out of any lessons you take and you will have a much better idea of what you need for your shop, what to look for in a press, etc. They will alsao serve as a constant source of immediate reference that believe me, you’ll be grateful for.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Hi Elizabeth,

I’m impressed by your beautiful invitation design, your enthusiasm, and your genuine desire to learn about letterpress. The design is a challenging one, even for an experienced printer, but certainly doable if you give yourself enough time and enough extra paper.

Does your graphic designer understand the letterpress process? With your rather tight registration of four colors, it’s important that you have a solid plan for pulling it off. What I’ve been trained to do is to include a one-point rule in the file that can be shaved off the plate once it’s registered. Better yet would be to have the rule situated so that it can be printed on all copies and then cut off when the paper is trimmed. I recently used this method to print a four-color, tightly registered image, and it worked like a charm. Are you having the paper cut to size and then printed? It might be better to have the paper cut after it’s printed. This would give you more options for crop marks or the registration line.

I love putting the program on a fan. I presume the wedding will be held outdoors in the summer — lovely! Will you be printing the program on something lighter weight and then adhering it to heavy stock? Keep in mind that if you plan to be using a cylinder press, the stock needs to be able to bend easily around the cylinder.

Good luck with this project. There are lots of resources in Southern California. If I lived closer to Irvine, I’d be tempted to help out. The offer of work in lieu of money is very attractive. There must be other printers who, like me, have many “deferred” chores around their studios that they just can’t get to.


Rich: Thank you very much! My mom is a librarian, so she managed to find me the second, General Printing, through interlibrary loan. But I think I just may splurge and buy it on Amazon! The first book you mentioned, Platen Press Operation, is sold out on Amazon and nagraph.com, although the latter states on its website new reprints will be available sometime this year—yay!

That is INCREDIBLE you taught yourself. Wow! That’s such an inspiration and source of hope to me that with determination, I too could someday have a better working knowledge of letterpress printing.

Thanks also for the website! I spent like two hours reading it last night.

Barbara: Thanks so much for your great comment and tips!!! I definitely plan on having many sheets of extra paper, and hopefully can pursue this project with the guidance of someone much more experienced than I am!

My graphic artist says she is familiar with letterpress ready files, but I’ll be sure to bring up the topic of the one point rule (not sure exactly how that works..would I just hand file it down once I receive the plates), and also talk logistics of perhaps cutting the paper into that fancy shape after printing. I’ve never worked with photopolymer plates before nor have I ever done a four-color, tightly registered design! I’m having a minor freak out in my head right now thinking I may be in way over my head. I guess I always knew that and figured if I discover I can’t handle printing them myself, then I can hire a professional. Ideally, I’d love to hire a professional to guide me through the process, so that this may be a learning experience for me from which I can benefit for years to come. :)

Thanks for all the help! It’s so greatly appreciated!

Very Best,


Hi Elizabeth,
Well, you are defintely reaching for the stars!
The best way, in my book, to run this is this way…
Run all polymer plates for each image on square flat sheets then die cut them into the shapes you want. You don’t want to cut them into shapes first as that will be a nightmare for registration.
Running them on a Windmill will be your best bet for your registration needs.
I run a shop in S.D. and do some clinics as well as classes and may be able to help you. I do have an intern already so I don’t need any pressroom help at this time.
We may be able to work something out to have you involved in the process depending on your deadlines.
Keep in mind that you’ll need a lot of plates plus a diecutting die to achieve your design.
I work with MANY designers to help them with the particulars of custom invites and should be able to help you get the finished product you want.

I realized I never came back to Briar Press after my amazing experience under the training of Inky, whom I met through Briar Press. The time I spent at his old platen press learning the art of letterpress printing was one of the best experiences of my life! I was able to create the most beautiful, four-color wedding invitation suite, but more importantly fall in love with a new art form, and make a new friend. Briar Press allowed it all to happen, and I majorly lucked out to meet Inky here…and for that I am eternally grateful.

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You may find Jessica White’s book, Letterpress Now, helpful.

Its $13+ on Amazon


This is a good book for a novice who knows some, but not everything. When you read it, you may find that you were
taught how to do something things differently, but as you gain experience, you will find that there is more than one way to skin the cat! I’ve taken classes at Bookworks in Asheville, NC, and the instructors there (including Jessica) taught me different ways to accomplish the same thing.

Good luck with your print job!

LD is SC

That Inky really knows his stuff, great guy, he was visiting relatives near me and stopped in my shop a couple of years ago, only thing I couldn’t find any traces of ink on the guy?? We traded stories all afternoon, it was a good day.