Homemade Letterpress!

I feel like an evil genius! I figured out how to make my own letterpress contraption to use with my Big Shot Die Cutting machine, lookie at what I made:

Some cards made with my homemade letterpress and printing plates from Lifestyle Crafts.

Here I debossed the images without ink then used a brayer to add ink over the debossed designs.

You may be thinking “what’s the big deal? It looks like stamping” but that is only half of it because when you letterpress it debosses too! You can just plain emboss, ink the plate first and have a colored debossed image or you can run your paper through uninked then brayer ink (or swipe it with an inkpad) over it to highlight the raised design. It’s totally cool!

This is how it looks without inking. I like it!

Here I inked the crown with purple ink before printing. The card base was pressed uninked then I used the same purple inkpad to rouge the edges.

When I saw the home letterpress kit from Lifestyle Crafts I was intrigued but I wasnt about to spent $150 on a whim especially since I had a die cutter and zillions of rubber stamps already, they also have a starter kit that has the contraption that you use the printing plates with, ink and paper for $70 but that is still a lot of money in my book. So I took an old plexiglass cutting pad from my Big Shot, a piece of Masonite and some duck tape and made this:

I hinged the plexiglass plate to a peice of Masonite with duct tape to make my press.

The results of my Homemade snowflate printing plate.

I purchased the Everyday letterpress printing plate at AC Moore, I just about fell over yesterday when I saw that they had the whole line of products (and I had a 50% off coupon in my pocket.) The plates sell for $24 a set but with the coupon they were $12, a reasonable price for a few hours of fun and experimentation I think πŸ˜‰

Here is the set I purchased, I really like it!

For my first experiment I used Rives BFK printmaking paper because you need soft thick paper to get the full effect. I used the adhesive that came with my plates (double-sided tape will work too), stuck a printing plate to the plexiglass side, put my paper on the Masonite side, closed the contraption and ran it through my Big Shot. The debossing was gorgeous!

Then I inked up the plate with a pigment inkpad, it looked OK but I got a much cleaner result when I used a soft rubber brayer to ink up my plate.

Then I tried the plates un-inked again and used a brayer to apply ink over the design. I like that a lot.

So then I thought I would try to make my own printing plates. I used thick stencil plastic that my SIL who is a quilter gave me and my Creative Hot Marks (woodburner) with the tapered stencil tip on it to cut my own plates. I made an Asian character, a frame, and a snowflake. I printed the Asian design on paper and placed it under the film so I could see it as I cut and the others I just took die cuts from the Cricut and cut around them, both ways worked equally as well. I had to use a craft knife to trim away some of the plastic burrs on the plates but they were quick to make and worked nicely.

Some homemade letterpress plates made with stencil plastic and a woodburner.

I used my homemade Asian plate for this. the background is a LC plate inked with gold before pressing.

I experimented with paper and it seems that the ticker the paper the better it worked. Watercolor paper and printmaking paper worked the best, DCWV textured cardstock worked very well too, I wasnt as pleased with regular cardstock and paper though. If you try this and don’t get any embossing you may need to shim (or pack as they call it over at Lifestyle Crafts) your contraption. For my homemade plates I place a sheet of rubber gasket under my homemade letterpress before cranking it through, for the purchased plates I used 2 sheets of cardstock under my press for a shim. Do not over pack it or you my crack your plates, I noticed little stress cracks on one of my plates when I used too thick a shim. I have been “making art” for a long time so i had a lot of supplies like brayers, ink and paper on hand, if you don’t it might be cheaper to get the kit if you are dying to try this craft.

I would love to try the Lifestyle crafts kit to see how it compares to mine, my niece is getting married and I have been asked to help with the invitations and I think these designs will be beautiful for that. If you try this let me know how it goes, I sure did have fun playing with this today πŸ˜‰ Till next time happy crafting!

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37 Responses

  1. Very cool–thanks for sharing your techniques!

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  2. I love this. You are sooo creative. I will have to try it. I love your ingenuity. Your projects are gorgeous. This is one of the reasons I watch your blog all the time. I simply could not afford to buy another machine. I probably have the stuff around here to do this though.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

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  3. Wow! That’s fantastic πŸ™‚ Looks like a lot of messing but if it saves you so much money, then surely it’s worthwhile. The results are beautiful.

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  4. Linday, you are a genius. I don’t know how you come up with this ideas! Wonderful!

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  5. Great idea! Wish I had time to try it today! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Wow! That is some serious ingenuity! I am very impressed.

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  7. Excellent Lindsay!!!

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  8. I must be the only dummy reading this, but what did you use to do the debossing. I could see like a cuttlebug embossing plate or like that one kit with the damask you showed, but can you do it with rubber stamps, or what? I hope this makes sense. I love the idea of the homemade contraption!

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    • I have heard of letterpress but I (still) don’t really understand what it is – it really does seem a LOT like plain old embossing! I’m going to do some research tomorrow! See, Laurie, you aren’t the only dummy!

      BUT I also wondered if you could do this with rubber stamps. OR even a Cuttlebug folder? I definitely see how you could use the Cricut for this! Thanks for sharing another cool off the wall idea! Love your blog!

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      • I think the big difference between this and plain embossing is that it leaves an imprint in the paper but on the backside it is flat so if you ran a folded card through you wouls have a colored debvossed image on the front and it would still be flat on the inside for writing, it has a very luxurious feel in your hands after it is printed, probably has to be appreciated in real life;) I tried it with stamps but it did not work but I am going to try soaking my paper in water first and give it another go with the stamps. I’ll post my results;)

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  9. You know how I LOVE the Asian Stuff!!!

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  10. […] the L Letterpress has captured our attention, Lindsay Weirich at The Frugal Crafter blog has come up with a way to make similar debossing/letterpress set-up using her Big Shot die cutting […]

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  11. Great idea! so smart & great results πŸ™‚

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  12. Wow Lindsay! I’m way impressed – you are so creative and innovative! I too don’t really understand the difference although I can “see” it – beautifully done! Time for more research – too bad we don’t have AC Moore here.

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  13. Wow, you amaze me. That is awesome!!!!! You’re samples are beautiful!

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  14. […] Experiment {part 2} Posted on November 24, 2009 by thefrugalcrafter After playing with my homemade letterpress the other day I was thinking of other things I might make printing/debossing plates with when a […]

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  15. GORGEOUS Lindsay!!

    I’ve thought about doing the same thing…but haven’t tried it. I didn’t even realize that there was a kit for sale for this! lol
    I might just have to try this with my cuttlebug. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for sharing!!!

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  16. Hi, cool blog! I want to buy a small printing press, but can’t really afford it, do you think the Big Shot machine would handle inked up lino cuts and intaglio plates? Or do you always have to use their own brand equipment with it? It looks like it would work, your blog is very inspirational!x

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    • I think the lino cuts would be fine, I’m not sure about the intaglo plates because I’ve never dont that. The only downside is that you can only use plates that are 6″ or smaller. See if you can borrow a friends, you can get the big shot cheap at AC moore with a coupon.

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  17. There’s at least one new 12″ embossing machine. Here’s one I found, quite reasonably priced. Now if I could just use a coupon @ Michaels for it…it would be less than I paid for my BigShot!
    http://www.amazon.com/Spellbinders-W-001-Wizard-Embossing-Die-Cutting/dp/B001CRMEGI/ref=pd_bxgy_k_img_c

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  18. This is fabulous! TFS : )

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  19. That’s really cool…you are a genius!

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  20. lady you are one smart cookie! i’ve been looking at the l letterpress kit/system since it’s debut. i’ve always thought “hey, aren’t all these die cutting systems just flat bed presses?” then comes the l letterpress.

    but you miss missy are truly GENIUS! to get the most bang for your crafting/art buck is again ( i cannot say it enough) GENIUS!

    thanks so much! more to consider before i take the plunge ( i tend to over think before i make big purchases/commitments)

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  21. Hi there! I know this was a while ago but I’m hoping you can answer a question – How did you get the full thickness of the sandwich right? I found this same beautiful Everyday set for $8.99 but don’t have the letterpress platform. I have been trying to make a sandwich with my bigshot multipurpose platform but it doesn’t seem quite right. Are you using the Masonite instead of the multipurpose platform?
    Thanks!

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    • I used the white spacer then I made a letterpress gadget by duct-taping a sheet of masonite to a big shot cutting pag. Then I can shim if I need to with a sheet or two of cardstock. Let me know if you have trouble;)

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    • So sorry for the delay in responding, I used my multipourpose platform and a piece of masonite (botton) duct taped to a spacer plate (top) then i use a sheet or two of cardstock between the platform and my homemade press, one you get the cardsock shims right you will be all set;)

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  22. What were the plastic plates you SIL the quilter gave you?

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    • I’m not sure, they are thicker than stencil plastic but thinner than plexiglass and kind of ridgid. It might be styrene.

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  23. i know this is a really old blog, but i just stumbled across it and wanted to say “Hi! I appreciate this blog!” I have spent the last 48 hours or so trying to make my own letterpress plates and was actually going down a similar trail! I was using cardboard stacked from beer cases, but, similar idea! Since this blog is like 3 years old, i am sure you have probably figured out by now – but I did find the l letterpress line avail on amazon for about 40% or less of than the retail price! i am still bound and determined to create my own plates, but good to know i can buy them (relatively) affordably as well! thanks so much!

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    • thanks Rebecca! This post is old but theblog is still going strong;) Infact I am trying my hand and makng photopolymer plates and I should have a new post with my results fairly soon;) Good luck with your press and I’ll have to check out amazon!

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      • I just stumbled across this…it’s now 2012 and almost 2013, so I hope you’re still there! πŸ™‚ I have been fascinated with letterpress for YEARS. I learned etching during my years earning a degree in printmaking and painting, and have longed for some way to get my hands on a press. For Christmas this year I got a Fiskars Fuse, which will do embossing, cutting and printing. I noticed you were looking into making your own photopolymer plates. That’s what I’m researching, because I don’t really like using someone else’s designs and templates. I am MOST anxious to find out if you’ve done this, and if you could guide me a little in the process! Thanks for any help you might be able to give…will hunt through your blog and see if I can find anything, but if you want to email me at jennifersaks@gmail.com I’d really appreciate it!!
        Jennifer

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        • Hi Jennifer! Yes I am still here blogging away:) you can make your own letterpress plates with the Stampmaker by Photocentric, I bought one last year, I got the starter kit for $100 and then I bought some embossing/letterpress and stamp refills on sale too at Custom Crops. So basically you make a black transparency negative with your ink jet printer and you use that to expose the embossing pac to UV light in the stampmaker box. It is really easy. The stamps are high quality too. I have some posts about it, just search “stampmaker” in my blogs search box! You can make the letterpress plates, rubber stamps and stencils with this machine at about $2 a pop:)

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  24. You always inspire me to try new things! Thank you Lindsay! πŸ™‚

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  25. I love this!! And can’t wait to try it – I’ll go the Frugal Crafter way! Thank you for all your wonderful and oh so economical ideas. Love trying all these new things.

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  26. Hi Lindsay,

    Do you think that etching plates or lino prints might work on your machine. I want to buy a printing press but an embossing/die cutting machine might be a cheap alternative. What do you think?

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  27. I am almost 10 years late to the game but I have been thinking about how to do this! I am also reluctant to spend money to buy a contraption that looks just like two plates with a hinge πŸ˜… thanks for the tips!’

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