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

The Hummingbird Card Company

Laser Cut Holiday Cards

Laser Cut Holiday Cards

I am completely taken with pretty much everything from The Hummingbird Card Company, whose laser cut paper decorations and ornaments (shown above) will add such a special touch to the holiday tree. I think they’d make gorgeous embellishments for gifts, as well.

Hummingbird opened shop in 2007, specializing in laser cut wedding stationery — you can see their beautiful laser cut wedding stationery portfolio here — and, more recently, they launched a range of laser cut decorations and greeting cards. The Hummingbird Card Company is based in the UK, and they ship their paper lovelies internationally. Here are some examples of what you’ll find in their wonderful laser cut holiday card line:

Laser Cut Holiday Cards

Laser Cut Holiday Cards

Laser Cut Holiday Cards

Laser Cut Holiday Cards

images from The Hummingbird Card Company

A Letterpress Christmas 2009 : 12fifteen

A Letterpress Christmas 2009

12fifteen Letterpress Art Print

If you’re looking for a gift for the letterpress lover in your life, then you must see the wonderfully evocative limited edition Winter Wonderland print by 12fifteen. It reminds me of walking in the woods just after a new snow has fallen. So lovely. And you’ll want to check out 12fifteen’s gorgeous line of letterpress holiday cards, as well. Such soft, modern colors, and I’m absolutely loving the blind letterpress touches here and there. Plus, that squirrel … so cute!

12fifteen Letterpress Christmas Holiday Cards

images from 12fifteen

Bumble Ink Holiday 2009

Every holiday season, I look forward to seeing what new cards Bumble Ink will create. Their colorful and humorous greetings always make me smile, if they don’t make me laugh outright! The new cards this year include masochistic reindeer (if you’re into that sort of thing), sledding mishaps and mishaps waiting to happen, and wistful snowmen enjoying a rainbow of holiday lights. Cards are sold in sets of eight, and each is printed on paper made from 100% post consumer waste. See their entire line of holiday and winter cards at Bumble Ink.

Bumble Ink Holiday Cards

Bumble Ink Holiday Cards

Bumble Ink Holiday Cards

Bumble Ink Holiday Cards

images from Bumble Ink

Weekly Wrap #1 : Pretty Purples

Weekly Wrap

I’m so excited to introduce the new Weekly Wrap series! This is something that I’ve wanted to do, literally, for years, and I’m very happy to finally be adding it to the site. So, what is the Weekly Wrap?

The Weekly Wrap is all about inspirational gift wrapping and packaging. Every Friday, I’ll feature a different gift wrapping or packaging idea that can serve as inspiration for your own gift wrapping or packaging projects. I’m looking for original projects, projects that are standouts — sophisticated, modern, handmade, out of the ordinary. Do you have a gift wrapping project that you’re particularly proud of, or have you spotted amazing gift wrap or packaging in your web travels? If so, then I’d love to hear from you!

Weekly Wrap, Carolyne Roehm

First up, Carolyne Roehm. Carolyne is the queen of gift wrapping, and I know that you’ll be seeing more from her in the coming weeks and months on the Weekly Wrap because I’m a big fan. If I received a gift wrapped by her, I’d have an extremely difficult time bringing myself to tear into the gorgeousness.

Berry tones are very hot right now, and I love the use of the magenta and purple Christmas ornaments, not to mention the oh so clever luggage tag, as accents. And, of course, the the paper and bow are perfect, too!

image from Carolyne Roehm