Where to find good letterpress graphic designers

I’ve started a small print shop and I understand my design skills are not of professional quality. I’m in the process of learning the software and design aspect, but I want to hire a freelance invitation designer. I tried contacting a few of the major “design services”s to be told they will not design a project they don’t print. Surely there are Graphic Designers out there who don’t have this requirement. I just don’t know how to find these unicorns… any suggestions welcome

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That’s an easy way to see if you like someone’s work.



I am in China how to buy Letterpress for sale

Are you looking for someone to do paid freelance work?
If you just need one or two designs I may be able to help.
I have limited freelance time but would be happy to talk about it. I’m working with my first letterpress but have many years of design and illustration experience.

Note too that a hired designer is likely to be somebody who is working in photopolymer—as metal design is difficult without access to the printing shop’s inventory of type and materials. Also, there are different schools of design that work better on platen presses vs cylinders (large solids, screens, reverses etc).

Whomever you hire for design services should have a working knowledge of the capabilities and limits of the equipment in your shop.

If you’re looking for a designer, I run a boutique design firm by day and a letterpress shop by night. I can help you on the design end if you need. PM me for more info…

To anyone interested in typography

Soon after I started my apprenticeship, the foreman (an old-time printer) told me the story of how the typeface used for the (country) newsaper text was chosen:

Some of the owner’s family had done apprenticeships. The “man with a beard” owner asked the foreman to find the typeface most legible. They accumulated several different typefaces which would be available for their process of typesetting and printing and and used them all in the printing process, then took the result and read the pages by the light most used by the people who bought the newspaper — a yellow-flame lamp. One typeface “jumped up off the page”, Mergenthaler Ionic No. 5.

The following notes have been found on the Internet:
Ionic No. 5 is a serif typeface designed by Chauncey H. Griffith, and presented by Mergenthaler Linotype in 1925. It is one of five typefaces in Griffith’s “Legibility Group” which contains typefaces especialy well-suited to newsprint including Corona, Excelsior, Opticon, Paragon, and Textype. Griffith took Lanston’s sturdy 6 point Monotype Ionic 156-J as a starting point for Ionic No. 5, and in five trials produced the first contemporary typeface designed specifically to solve the technical problems posed by stereotyping and high speed printing of newspaper text. The News 701 typeface by Bitstream is almost identical to Ionic No. 5.

Excelsior is a serif typeface, designed by Chauncey H. Griffith, and presented by Mergenthaler Linotype in 1931. It is one of five typefaces in Griffith’s “Legibility Group” which contains typefaces especially well-suited to newsprint. Before designing the fount, Griffith consulted the results of a survey of optometrists regarding optimal legibility. Opticon and Paragon were released in 1935 as slightly heavier and slightly lighter versions of Excelsior designed for newspapers that deliberately underink to favour halftones, or overink to favour text and headlines. The News 702 typeface by Bitstream is almost identical to Excelsior.

The following is an external link: Font Designer - Chauncey H. Griffith (http://www,linotype.com/398/chaunceyhgriffith.html)

[end of quoted material; not all material is reproduced here]

When the (daily) newspaper (where I worked)went to cold type, the pages were pasted up and negatives made in camera to enable making of offset printing plates, only one negative of each page; at another site of the chain of newspapers, a blank space was left on the negatives for half-tones, which were processed separately and stripped-in to the blank spaces. If the whole page is done as one negative, there is only a narrow range of exposure when making the negative to produce reasonable results of halftones versus text and headlines. Processing halftones separately allows differing exposures for halftones and text. [Think of “dot gain”.]

One of the daily newspapers (not of our chain) was known as the Cxxxxx Ghost where Cxxxxx represents the name of the town; it was printed underinked, now perhaps I know why?

Do the foregoing descriptions hint at a suggestion that print results are sometimes a compromise? Does the inking of the forme need to be adjusted according to which part of the image is to be favoured? On one occasion one of the pressmen came to me and asked me if one of the linotype machines put more (minimum) space between words than the others; the pressmen glanced over the printed columns of text, and judged the “blackness” of the text when adjusting ink flow. I was able to assure the pressman that one of the linos did indeed put wider spacing between words, I was working that machine; for part of the shift it was used for display sizes (headlines, etc) and for part it was used for text, but the (jumbo) spacebands were not changed.

Is it important for people who read newspapers to read the text easily? Does easy reading encourage readership? Should typography favour “making pretty shapes” or “communicating the message”? In the foregoing, are there (several) indications of looking after the customer?

The foreman mentioned at the start of this lengthy story told me that, when he started, one of his tasks was to clean the filters of the plant which produced gas from coke as fuel for the engine which powered the whole printing shop; a lineshaft under the upper floor for the linos, a generator for electricity for light. During renovations, it was found some old wiring was still in place, though not used — it was conductors with (paper?) insulation and a lead sheath, possibly to frustrate rats?


I’m also a freelance graphic designer/illustrator by day and letterpress printer by night. You can find my work either on Dribbble (dribbble.com/tif_smith) or some on my portfolio site (hellonifty.com). In case you need another solo designer on your list, don’t hesitate to get in touch. :)

Hello Woweber, I am a designer and passionate about letterpress. If you still require the services of a designer, I am available, so please contact me.

much appreciate info re optical type, also enjoy your fables, would like time to compare these fonts in moveable type with polymer…………

I am from Australia. In my wedding we give the order of printing my letterpress invitations to Inkpress Boutique in which they have used digital letterpress design technique,we have also seen their collections they are marvelous.If you are from Australia you can try for it.

to anyone and all

I do not do well when seeking a particular thread, so will put these thoughts here:

Some digital typesetting systems are very versatile.

Among the possibilities are (though not all offered in any one system, so far as I have noticed):
Range of sizes of typefaces, usually from 6 point upwards, though this machine will handle from 1 point, which may be as small as anyone would wish; sometimes half-point steps such as 10-and-1/2. Some systems up to 72 point, some to 1600 (sixteen hundred) point. An improvement would have been to depart the point system for typesizes of low size, say below 20 point, which would have allowed copy-fitting of text. Ideally, increments of about 3% for each increase of typesize. I realise that other means of copy-fitting are available, but would have liked this one to be available.
The white space between characters may be changed, either reduced or increased. I claim adding about 3% of the typesize to the inter-space adds to legibility of sizes below about 14 point.
Some systems allow a change of the relationship of the set-size (width) to the typesize. This makes for “skinnier” or “fatter” typefaces and can be useful in fitting a pre-determined number of characters into a line of type. I had a problem with this one on some systems, never resolved.
Right-reading and wrong-reading (wrong-reading is normal with many type systems, including letterpress).
Change the vertical angle of the type (false italic). Sometimes no limit on the angle, I made a “new” typeface by making the italic appear to be an upright (roman) face. Not sure, but I think making the angle 180 degrees makes a mirror-image character, which may be mixed-in with characters which have not been changed. I do not remember, but think that the italic appeared to be about 20 degrees of slope, so changed the commanded slope to 340 degrees, which made the true italic appear to be a false upright.
Reverse, which description we used for white on black type; should not be used for setting coupons in advertisements, it’s hard to write clearly in white ink.
Lines of type at an angle to the normal horizontal.
Type set in circular paths, or oval.
Ben Day (?) tints, which are not solid black characters, carry a pattern of dots or other designs on the typeface.
Even the facility of changing the face-design of individual characters, though this consumes large amounts of labour. I asked a young female compositor about this, she had left the newspaper and gone to commercial printing; Apparently a skilled/trained person can change (say) the shape of an initial letter of a page, make it more swash.
Shaded characters, I am trying to remember the names of other descriptions where special effects (shadows) are attached to individual types; there is also the kind with an added white strip inside the character.
Outline characters.
Special shapes to the text, such as round, oval, or fitting beside a picture.

One unusual program for typesetting printed-out normal (black) characters on a screen background,with the “weight” of the screen varying so that it was light near the characters, darkening in distant parts; this was done by changing the size of the dots of the screen; very effective, resulted in good legibility but with screen background. usually only one colour, if printing a screen of another colour, choose colour carefully. Warning, a bold sans-serif printed on a dark-blue screen background is often difficult to read.
Roman, Italic, light, bold faces are usually provided.

These are mostly to do with the individual character, but, also, many tools useful to compositors are offered, including copying and moving text.

Many other effects available; one is, in some systems, a “non-print” which allowed copy-fitting by omitting the text to which the command was issued. One keyboard operator put his frustrated thoughts into the text, then marked them “non-print”; the journalist-on-the-“stone” needed a few more lines to fill a column, negated the “non-print” command, so that the rural story was published ending with the words: “Put a new ribbon in your tripe-writer”; very embarrassing.

I was very pleased when my son installed the “magazines” of typefaces on my computer which included abut 300 (three hundred) pi characters, such as the English pound sign, Japanese Yen, various foreign language characters sometimes used in English, more fractions such as one-third and one-eighth, stars not being asterisks, acute characters, the marks which indicate pronunciation. Then a change to another computer, lost all those desirable extras.

I would like to be able to over-ride the computer when it gives me what it thinks I want, but I do not.

‘nuff for one effort?

[I am drowsy, hope I did my proofreading. I do not want to use the “draft” storage so that I could proof-read it another day.]


P.S. I tried for an apostrophe, not the single opening quote on ‘nuff, but failed. My system of accessing an opening quote immediately after a space works while using some systems.



There are very good reasons printers will not print material that they have not designed. You did put this in the Digital Letterpress category!!!

Graphic designers do not necessarily understand the requirements of the letterpress printing process nor the complications of photopolymer plates (I’m being kind). Not everything that is on the computer “screen” can be reproduced well. I make plates for folks and it is unbelievable to me how printers will bend over backward to “try” and produce near impossible requirements from their clients.


to Gerald at Bieler Press

Where I worked, the newspaper section set text for the commercial print section.

An organisation brought in its annual report, soon after Australia went to decimal currency. They wanted two strokes through the dollar sign, we had only one; I think the two strokes are rarely used in Orstrailyer.

But a designer who produced some leaflets (to be inserted in the newspaper) for a business called Citylites changed it to Citylights in the picture of the sign on the front of the building of the business, and the owner of the business complained.