Letterpress printing is an imperfect art.

There are reasons the commercial printing industry ditched these machines in favor of offset – and now digital – presses. They have issues with register and ink coverage and gradients. Frankly, it’s these challenges that endear me to this particular method. It’s one of the reasons you see it in a lot of our work.

Then there are sometimes when it’s best to squeeze a little more out of your press – bring reality even closer in line with vision.

Yesterday, I was printing a piece for my friend Terence at Tinlun Studio. It’s an 8×8″ of his “Stay Humble” lettering piece (that you should buy when he launches it for sale). We printed silver ink on French’s Speckletone Black. Now, most letterpress inks are pretty miserable at providing coverage on dark paper. White on black? Unless you want a very specific look, you’re probably better off with foil. Metallics are the exception and I was thrilled with the coverage this silver Van Son ink gave Terence’s print. Then, I asked my favorite question – what happens when…? I wondered what a second hit – running the press sheet through again, effectively double printing the image – would do to the final product. The design was large enough that very minute misregister would probably not be noticeable. Could I get even ink coverage on a second hit?

Stay Humble Letterpress Print-2

This is why I love asking what happens when…? The results were outstanding. You can see in this side-by-side just how much more impactful and even the print on the right is after a second hit. And, as my client, Terence gets an even better product than he bought.

Sometimes, asking what happens when…? yields a less than favorable outcome. There’s so much to learn in those times! It’s a chance to start over and make even better art than the first time around.

So, how about you? What happened the last time you asked what happens when?

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