Setting up my shop (looking for studio layout do’s and don’ts)

Hi all! I signed a lease on a space for my shop today! Still feels surreal. I’ll be moving into my space over the course of the month, but am wondering from people who have run shops for a while if there are any definite Do’s and Don’ts of setting up shop. my space is a long, narrow space (10 feet wide by 60 feet deep, with an 8 foot overhead door on one end and a standard door on the length of the wall. Most traffic will probably come through the overhead door (which is on the street) but there will also be traffic from the interior door, which leads into a building with other businesses. I’m hoping to build a moveable wall a few feet from the overhead door with a standard door and shelving on it, to create an entryway inside of the overhead door for foot traffic clients.

I’m intending to have a small retail area for prints and other non-print work I make, a table and chairs for meeting with clients (or a couch, chair and coffee table), and then the print area, which will have a 12x18 c&p new style and a vandercook 01 tabletop press. (I’ve been operating my tabletop press in the corner of my bedroom (tough times) that is nothing other than my press on a drafting table, a firecan, a type cabinet with a furniture cabinet on top of it, a paper organizer with a cutter, and shelving for inks & solvents above my table.) I guess my question is, when setting up this space, I have the opportunity to build an office at the back to store things, or I could use the back of the space as the printing area.

I want to show my press off (the one I purchased was at some point painted a bright mint green, orange and yellow) but I also want to set my shop up in a way that isn’t intimidating to clients and will prevent possible injury by people checking out the shop or just buying retail. Has anyone had success with how they separate their printing and retail spaces? is there danger in having clients walk through my retail and print areas to an office that’s at the back of my shop?

Opinions, pictures, anything are welcome! I’ve attached a drawing of the floor plan for the space below, and I’d love to hear your success and failure stories as well as how you would divvy up my weirdly shaped space!

image: image.jpg


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600 sq. feet is a good bit of space. Be very careful that you do not fill it up with accumulated stuff.
There is no one only right way to set up the shop. There are some wrong and inconvenient ways.
The opportunity to see the ancient piece of iron from which you create beautiful prints can be fascinating to some people and may be a plus.
First a story. I worked in a storefront offset shop. The customer service area was separated from the printing area by a wall with a door that was always open. A lady came one day to place a printing order. She made a face and asked how we could stand the awful smell. The smell of course was ink and solvent and was printer’s perfume to us.
Thus, too close to the ink and solvent may not be a plus.

I would favor a reception, print display, and business area in the front. Next a waist high fence/railing with a swing door. Next the press, imposing stone, inks, etc. This will allow the visitor to see where the work is done and perhaps watch you operate the press. Unless they specifically ask to see the press up close, they are to stay in front of the railing. If you wish to show them the press up close, it must be stopped.
The remainder of the space should be arranged to suit the work flow. No matter how you do it first, you will change it. It is like changing furniture arrangement at home.

Get in and do it and

Get some ink on your shirt

First of all, congratulations!

I second Inky’s suggestions, especially on the waist-high fence with a swing-door. That is exactly what came into my head when you described your situation.

I’m jealous. :)



How’s the lighting situation in that space? Are you allowed to bring in an electrician to add/remove lighting as needed, or are you stuck with what is on the ceiling?

Do not forget you need table space.I have a 30x15 shop, and once I got all the equipment in, I over looked the one main item. You need places to put paper and work on lock up of type for printing.

So add table space the size of your largest item.

Thank you guys!

Keelan—The ceilings are 30 ft tall with fluorescent track lighting. The woman I’m renting this space from runs her business next door, and her sons build industrial “chandeliers” with pipes, wood, and edison bulbs in the same building. So there are lots of their creations hanging about, and I’m free to drop lights wherever I need them. Her husband is an electrician and says he will also happily drop me a dedicated power line where I want my press because the building has 12 free breakers left and I’m the last space they needed to fill.

Aaron—I’m looking at Uline tables (the steel leg ones with composite wood tops) but I’m not prepared to drop $300 on a table right now, so I’m just planning on working off a 6 foot long ikea desk I have for now. Does anyone know where to find that type of industrial equipment (like tables and shelving, etc.) used? I live in rural Indiana so I know there’s got to be somewhere that stuff goes, but I haven’t had any luck tracking anything down yet.


Cordon the press off. Make it a separate area that will be able to be out of the normal flow of traffic. Instead of between the doors, in that area at the top that is outside of the normal flow is the best space to me. You can have the back of the press face a wall with enough clearance to oil it.

I can’t tell if the area will allow for it based on your scale, but here is my suggestion:

Home Depot online has a lot of great $100 free shipping work tables. I just got one myself. Good table.

I suggest you look for some school auctions. I purchased heavy made tables, way under value.

10 feet wide is not a lot of space. I presume there is an exit in the back, or just access from the front?

One thing to keep in mind is the ability to add/remove equipment. You should keep an “alley” through the shop, sized for the largest equipment you need to shift through an area toward the entry.

If it were my shop, I’d put the retail/counter up front, followed by bindery (tables/paper shelves etc). Presses would go behind that and composition/type at the rear. The presses will be the bulkiest items you’ll likely have to deal with, and simpler to shift the bindery and front counter out of the way, than to try to get type cabinets and imposing stones moved aside while bringing things in or out.

Workflow organization is also important, especially as your shop is very long and narrow. Think ahead of what machines, tools and equippment belong together, dont put your imposing stone or inkshelf on the opposite ends of your room, there is nothing more annoying than running around your shop again and aagain yust to finish one job.
So, a drying rack right beside your proofpress, maybe try to establish a central workstation in the middle from where all you equippment is easy to reach. As your shop is very narrow it is important to carefully plan ahead, so you dont have to rearange things after a while which could end in a chaos.
What is the floor made of? It is important to put something easy to clean like linoleum underyour presses, Idont know how your landlady will react about ink and oil stains on the floor which will occur, no matter how carefull you are.

How about ventilation?