File Preparation


If you're not used to scanning or preparing digital files with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, don't panic you can still get your plates made. If you're not comfortable with preparing a file, we can help with the process.


Prepared Files: you supply the digital file as per the instructions below. The preferred format for your digital file is full-size, right-reading, press-ready, colour-separated PDFs with outlined fonts and embedded images .  Illustrator files, tiffs and EPS files are also acceptable.


File Prep Service: If you can scan an image at a high resolution then that may well be enough for us to produce a plate.  If that's not possible we can get your work scanned on a Heidelberg Drum Scanner. If you need to do something more complicated with your scan or want to incorporate text, we have a fast and friendly designer available at reasonable rates. We'll set out the costs in advance.





Line Art: letterpress is a binary system - on/off, black/white so it's ideal for line art - black ink on white paper. Scan your image at a minimum 600 dots per inch (dpi) - 1200dpi is best if you want to preserve as much detail as possible. Scanned artwork is a raster image (a matrix of dots) initially and is best edited in Adobe Photoshop where bitmapping reduces the image to two colours, simplifying the colour information and reducing the file size.

          Import the file into Photoshop and adjust the levels to get the whitest white and blackest black (100%) and clean up unwanted bits with the eraser tool. Next, turn your image into a bitmap by selecting Image>Mode>Greyscale, then Image>Mode>Bitmap with a method of 50% threshold and an output resolution of at least 1200dpi.

          If your file is just an image and you only have Photoshop you can send it as either a tiff with no image compression or a pdf. If you don't have Photoshop or a scanner, we can get your image scanned and prepped on a super high resolution Heidelberg drum scanner. If you want to incorporate text (always avoid using Photoshop for text) or if you want to turn your image into a vector for further scaling or editing, the next stage is to import it into Adobe Illustrator - see Text below.


Halftones: are used for continuous tone images such as photographs and illustrations that are not just black and white. Halftones can be challenging to print at higher line screens as the ink can fill the spaces. Choose high contrast images with good exposure and tonal range. Scan at double your intended halftone resolution (e.g. scan at 200dpi for a line screen of 100lpi (lines per inch)), convert to greyscale (Image> Mode>Greyscale), adjust levels and convert image to a halftone by selecting Image>Mode> Bitmap with a method of Halftone Screen, frequency of (e.g.) 100lpi and an output resolution of 1200dpi. If you want to incorporate text (always avoid using Photoshop for text) or if you want to turn your image into a vector for further scaling or editing, the next stage is to import it into Adobe Illustrator - see Text below.


Illustrator and Indesign Artwork: vector images created directly in these programs can simply be exported. Be sure to set at 100% CMYK in the color palette.





Illustrator: is great for creating artwork and setting type. You can also convert your raster image from Photoshop into a vector file for further editing. Many suggest that using the Live Trace function produces a sharper plate, especially if scaling is required. Adjust settings if required, erase any mistakes and set the colour to 100% Black (K) in the CMYK mode.

          Type gains weight not only when letterpress printed but also during the plate-making process. This should be taken into account when choosing a typeface on a computer. The weight can be reduced in a font modification program.

           All fonts must be outlined (Type>Outline) and images embedded (in the Links palette). Add crop marks if desired and export the file as a PDF, EPS or AI.


Indesign: is ideal for both typesetting and multiple page layouts. The same comments above apply.



General Notes


Solids: letterpress is not ideal for large blocks of solid colours as the texture of the paper can show through (but this can also look great) and there is no depth to the impression. Often it's better to print large blocks of colour separately from type. To do this you can use a separate plate or if the design allows, cut the plate into two or more parts  and print separately.


Font, line and dot size: though photopolymer can print very fine detail, it's usually best not to go below 6pt type. 0.25pt line thickness and a 1pt isolated dot. Paper, press and packing are just some of the determinants for fine printing.


Colours: one pdf is required for each colour plate. Output one colour only at 100% in CMYK mode. Remember, dark ink on light paper works best.


Combining files: it's more efficient to combine your files (or combine with friends) for a single plate. You can just trim what you want with a pair of scissors. The minimum plate size of A5 can accommodate 6 business cards. Standard practice is to leave ½"min between files if you're printing 2 or more up, but equally you can cut the plate up with a pair of scissors to create more white space - you just need to be more careful with your alignment.

          In any case, we will combine files to reduce costs unless you specify.


Border: usually there is a full frame around the plate. This can be trimmed off or used as roller bearers on your base outside the print area if you're having problems setting roller height or inking the base. Alternatively, leave extra space around your image for easy inking.


For more information on preparing files, check out Letterpress Commons or Boxcar Press.


If you're still having trouble or just would like someone to prepare artwork for you, drop us a line.



The Process        Specs          Safety Data Sheet           Pricing          File Preparation          Care and Storage          Bases





Remember, it's all about the white space





© Moana Road Press 2014