A Letterpress Christmas 2009 : Smock

A Letterpress Christmas 2009

I was like a kid and a candy store when I first got an eyeful of the beauties from Smock’s 2009 holiday line. Red, teal, cornflower, silver … some of my favorite holiday colors, and the patterned envelopes (I’m squeeing over these!), not to mention the letterpress greeting cards, invitations, and gift cards, are simply lovely. Reversible patterned gift wrap, too, so you can have a completely coordinated gift! Here are some of my favorites (see the entire line here):

Smock Letterpress Christmas Cards

Smock Letterpress Christmas Cards

Smock Letterpress Christmas Cards

Smock Letterpress Christmas Cards

Smock Letterpress Christmas Cards

Super pretty reversible gift wrap:

Smock Gift Wrap

Smock also has a great sale going on today — Green Friday, instead of Black Friday, as it’s known Smock headquarters. They will be donating 50% of the proceeds from all Friday sales through the Smock website to the Amazon Conservation Association, an organization integral to the fight against global warming through their efforts in protecting the Amazonian rainforests.

Smock Green Friday Sale

images from Smock Paper

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving by Martha

This will be my last post before the Thanksgiving (US) holiday, and I wanted to wish all of you who are celebrating a wonderful day, filled with lots of good fun, conversation and, of course, delicious food. If you’re traveling, I also wish you a safe trip to your destination and back.

I will have a couple of posts scheduled for Friday, including the latest Weekly Wrap, which I think you’re really going to enjoy! See you back here on Monday. Happy holiday and happy weekend, everyone!

The image of the completely gorgeous teal and gold Thanksgiving table setting is from Martha Stewart. I am so loving these colors!

A Letterpress Christmas 2009 : Kirtland House

A Letterpress Christmas 2009

I’m absolutely loving the mix of awesome typography and vintage style illustrations in Kirtland House’s line of letterpress holiday cards. The pale seafoam shade of ink that plays a prominent role in several of the designs is one of my new favorite things, or maybe it’s that fantastic typography? Either way, these are some truly lovely cards:

Kirtland House Letterpress Christmas Cards

Kirtland House Letterpress Christmas Cards

Kirtland House Letterpress Christmas Cards

Kirtland House Letterpress Christmas Cards

images from Kirtland House

New Advertiser : Turnaround Design

Eco Friendly Turnaround Design

I’d like to welcome Paper Crave’s newest advertiser, Turnaround Design, creators of modern, eco-friendly stationery, greeting cards, and art prints that are bright and stylish with a hint of whimsy. I’m really digging their line of holiday cards (Joy shown above)! All products from Turnaround Design are printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper, and stationery is paired with 100% recycled envelopes. Orders are packaged using either plant based or recycled materials, and printing is on demand to reduce waste.

If you’re looking for paper gifts or holiday cards, then you’ll want to check out Turnaround’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Save 25% on all holiday greetings and calendars on Friday, November 27, 2009, and save 15% on all stationery sets from Friday, November 27, 2009 through Monday, November 30.

L Letterpress Review Update with Preliminary Custom Plate Results

In case you didn’t notice the update in the first part of my L Letterpress tool review, I actually went and purchased one. I got it for a 50% discount at A.C. Moore, and for that much less it was worth it to me to check it out. Plus, I needed something with which to test custom plates. Look for the custom photopolymer plate review later in this post, and many thanks to Boxcar Press, who generously sent me a custom photopolymer plate with which to test. Details about ordering custom plates from Boxcar also coming later in the post.

I’ll give you a little background on my experience with printing, specifically with a brayer and ink. Basically, I have none. I do some rubber stamping and stenciling, and neither of these involve a brayer, but I figure that I probably have a background typical of someone who’s in the market for one of these little machines.

Aside from adjusting Curves in Photoshop to make the photos a bit brighter, I have not altered any of the photos in the review because I wanted you to see them in all of their unsharpened glory.

Be warned, working with the ink and the brayer is messy! Before you begin, make sure that you have plenty of paper towels or rags on hand and, most importantly, that you have a good supply of something like baby wipes or Wet Ones, which is what I used to clean things up. Lifestyle Crafts sells cleaning towelettes to use with the machine, but my assumption is that they’re pretty much the same as the wipes that I mentioned.

These are some of the standard “plates” that come with the L combo kit, pressed without ink on a piece of standard cardstock. I was pleasantly surprised by how crisp the lettering was:

Standard L Plates No Ink

Standard L Plates No Ink

An example of the pattern plate that comes in the Everday printing set, pressed with no ink onto the very thick cardstock that comes with the combo kit. It was difficult to run this piece through the machine; the combination of the very thick cardstock and the plate was almost too much. I was a little scared that I was going to break the hand crank on the Epic Six tool, but I have to admit that it did come out rather nice:

Standard L Plate Pattern

An example of most of the plates that come in the combo kit, inked with the black ink that comes with the L. As you can see, there’s very inconsistent ink coverage, especially on the non-type pieces. These were also printed on standard cardstock, and you can see the impression best in the third image:

Standard L Plates Ink

Standard L Plates Ink

Standard L Plates Ink

Things started to turn ugly when I went to wash the ink off the plates. Crack, crack, crack … I noticed cracks on many of the corners of the pieces, which don’t seem to stand up well at all to the pressure of being run through the Epic Six tool – the part that does the pressing. I had run them through less than half a dozen times when this photo was taken:

Standard L Plates Cracks

And, if you hadn’t noticed in the previous image, the ink doesn’t exactly wash off very well. I scrubbed and scrubbed with a Wet One, but the plastic pieces were permanently stained. I thought about taking some rubbing alcohol to them, but I didn’t want to damage the plastic even further. Here’s a before ink (left) and after ink (right) shot:

Standard L Plates Ink Stains

Not only that, but the next time I ran them through the machine, some of the ink that I was unable to get came off onto the paper:

Standard L Plates Ink Stains

Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy about this. I expected the plastic “plates” to last longer than a few runs, and the other printing sets that are sold for the L cost $25. Not inexpensive, and I’m apprehensive about using plates from the additional set that I purchased because I don’t want them to crack. It seems that I’m not the only one experiencing the cracking issue, as I found when I went to the QuicKutz forum.

Now, for the custom photopolymer plates. The great news is that they work in the L tool, as a couple of you already confirmed in the comments and to me personally! Here are samples of the plate when pressed with no ink using the thick cardstock that comes with the L combo kit (top), regular cardstock (middle), and Strathmore Acrylic Linen Canvas paper on the non-canvas side (bottom):

Custom Plate No Ink

Pretty exciting! But, unfortunately, I was unable to get good results when I started to use ink. Lots of muddiness, instead of a nice, crisp print. Here are samples pressed with the black ink that comes with the L combo kit onto regular cardstock (top), Strathmore Acrylic Linen Canvas paper on the non-canvas side (middle), and Strathmore Acrylic Linen Canvas paper on the canvas side (bottom):

Custom Plate Ink

Stay with me, everyone, because there’s good news to come! Harold from Boxcar Press also has an L machine for testing, and he’s helped me understand why I was getting such muddy impressions with the custom plate. It seems that the tools supplied with the L Letterpress kit aren’t exactly conducive to getting great results, and if you use the tools that come with the kit then you will almost undoubtedly experience results similar to my own. In other words, you should probably repurpose the brayer as a paperweight or Christmas tree ornament because it’s not going to give you the desired results. However, here’s what Harold was able to achieve in very little time using a few tips and tricks of the printing trade:

Custom Plate Pro Results
image courtesy of Harold Kyle / Boxcar Press

What a world of difference, huh? I was completely amazed by how excellent his results were. So, how did he do it? You can see the in depth explanation of his process on the Boxcar Press blog. There’s definitely some effort (as well as some trial and error for newbies like me) involved in getting a good print, but I think it’s worth it for great results. I’ll be posting my own results as soon as I’m able to get the additional supplies needed for testing with Harold’s technique.

If you’re interested in getting your own custom plates to work with, then I highly recommend Boxcar’s plates. They come with adhesive backing already on them, and you can reuse them time and again without worrying about them cracking or becoming stained. I even got soap and water on the adhesive, and afterward it still worked very well. My overall experience with the plates was excellent.

The plate style that you should request when ordering is KF152. Boxcar’s printmaking is charged by the square inch, $0.67 cents per square inch, with a minimum purchase of $30, which works out to roughly 45 square inches, or 8.5” x 5.25”. The plates are easily cut with scissors, and you can gang up your designs in the space in any which way you want and can cut them out to form separate plates. You can submit your files in Illustrator or InDesign formats, and PDFs are great, too. Read more about prepping files for Boxcar here.

Well, everyone, I hope that this has helped you make your decision about the L Letterpress. I also plan on using the tool in embossing an die cutting projects (pieces for doing both are included in the combo kit), which is an added bonus for me. And I’m super stoked about the fact that custom plates will work in the machine. Can you imagine the possibilities? I can’t wait to try out the new technique! On a final note, for this post at least, please beware of buying the plastic “plates” sold by Lifestyle Crafts for the tool, at least not until they figure out a way to stop them from cracking around the edges!

images, unless otherwise noted, are by Kristen Magee