simultaneous two sided printing?

I’ve got kind of a crazy idea — I have a ridiculously big order, one which I’m probably insane to take on. That aside, I have an idea to try to speed things up…. I wonder if anyone has tried anything like this before.

I’m not printing on a platen; I’m using an etching press. I use photopolymer plates, inked by hand with brayer. I need to two sided coasters — I was thinking I could ink up both plates at once and sandwich the coaster between them for the trip through the press. More of a kiss impression than bite. Has anyone tried this?

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Ummm, ridiculously big and etching press does not sound like a good combination. Your idea of printing both side with plates in one pass certainly sounds like a workaround, provided you can place the coaster and the top plate without slurring any of the images.

Unless the plates are metal backed, I’d worry that the top plate would deform under the press pressure and have the plate edge either blind deboss or otherwise mark the stock.

Frankly, depending on how fast you can run stock through the press, you probably will be better off doing one side at a time, as you won’t have to ink two plates at once, and spend the time placing the second plate—just ink the one plate, place stock and impress.

Depending on the size of the job, it might be worth asking in your network to see if anybody has a platen press to run this. It’ll go a LOT quicker. Good printing just the same.

I would run it 2 up, a front and back side by side, print first pass flip the stock print 2nd pass cut in half. You would have the same number of impressions as your proposed method.

Etching Press is to slow for this, especially if you want to do
a “large order “.

I would opt for multiples up or put the job on a Windmill or Platen Press

I would be interested to know what the order quantity actually is. If it is in the hundreds or thousands, and you place a value on your time, it would definitely be cheaper to farm it out to someone with a platen press.

Just for the record, if you print both sides in one pass through the press, that is called “perfecting,” (pronounced with the accent on the “fect” syllable). This is not uncommon in commercial printing.

Also, what Village Press Inc. suggests is called “work and turn,” and I agree that doing it this way or even 4 up would be worth a try.

Great, thanks for all the suggestions, as well as the useful terms so I can sound like I know what I’m talking about! :)

Because of the size of my press, I can do about 15 coasters in one pass through the press, which should eliminate at least a little of the advantage a platen has over me. However, I’m planning on using precut coaster blanks, so each one still needs to be placed individually. I’d have to think on how this could be done with “work & turn”… if I do the perfecting, the second layer of polymer plates would be mounted on an acrylic sheet; I don’t think I would need to worry about deboss where it shouldn’t be; slurring could be a problem.

As for the number of coasters I need to do… in the thousands. Waaay more than I typically would do, but the money is good; they’re fine paying for handprinted. It seems foolish to use the excuse “I don’t want to print a bunch of the same thing” as a printmaker!

It sounds like you don’t have a platen job press to run this on.

Another approach using the etching press and running both sides would be to make plates to fit one side on half the bed and the other side on the other half. Load the coasters on the inked plates, run through, remove to two stacks for the two sides. Continue until the total job quantity is run off one side. Let dry overnight, then repeat the same process but with the fronts placed on the back plates and vice versa. Inking and printing should go a lot faster without the problem of manipulating the backup plate. I will guess that the total time to print the entire run will be less than the way you were proposing to do it, but you can do it on your etching press. The plates will be expensive, though, for that size printing area.


I’ve always been frustrated when I try to print something on a press which really was not designed for the purpose. As stated before, a platen press is the best choice for this type of work.

I think doing both sides at once would have a certain appeal, but I wonder if the voids in the raised image surface on one side would provide a firm and even enough backing to support the printing of the other side.

Thousands, huh? Well please report back with photos of how you make out on this printing task.

John Henry

Is there any way for you to arrange this so that you’re not printing it on an etching press?

I cannot see how you will be able to make good money worth the sweat on this job unless you are charging more than 4.00 a coaster. You are going to lose so many in the process, as hand laying coasters onto plates stuck down is going to possibly slur very badly. QC goes out the window after the first lot of 2-300 in hand printing unless you’re just a very patient person who is naturally imbued with a sense of tension coupled with a sense of release, like a clock wound up over time.

I honestly think if your customer were educated and could see the difference between what you are going to do and what a person with a kluge or even a handfed C&P would do, I am willing to bet unless they just love YOU they would consider the alternative to your services as outlined here.

I almost want to suggest you farm the job out to a platen printer. It’s not a difficult to conceive operation.

I wish you the best of luck, and not to be impolite, but this sounds like a fool’s errand to me and I can’t help but remark as to why. I’m someone who does hand print, litho, etchings, woodcuts/lino, and uses letterpresses like a C&P platen and an automated papercutter- so having access to both I kind of shrink a bit away at the thought of doing this task, in this way.

Mind you Nuclear85, I do not mean to sound the least impetuous- it’s just-
you’re stacking up the work in a way that is like

trying to unscrew
hundreds of phillips head screws;

with a flathead screwdriver which is the wrong size.

I have an etching press sitting in pieces in the corner of my studio that I haven’t experimented with because printing on the platen is real nice. It sounds like even though the scope of this job on an etching is singular and daunting, what’s your set up on the etching press with photopolymer? Have you tried type? I’m curious to hear your experience.

Also for coasters 15 up a large jig would be your best best for registration. Would help cut down on the slurring. I’d do an even number and divide equally between the backs & fronts to do a 7 x 7 work & turn. Good luck!