Letterpress Experiment {part 2}

After playing with my homemade letterpress the other day I was thinking of other things I might make printing/debossing plates with when a lady on the SCAL/Cricut yahoo group suggested that I try magnet sheets. It just so happened I have a bunch of sheet magnet scraps given to me by the local sign shop so I gave it a whirl and guess what? It worked!

The green swirls were done with my magnet sheets.

I cut the magnet sheet with my Cricut. I used the Accent Essentials cartridge and the multi cut feature on my Expression. I made sure to tape the magnet sheet down on all 4 sides to my mat to make sure it didn’t move while cutting and I used a deep cut blade depth 6, pressure max, speed low. You need to cut it twice to make sure it goes through the magnet (probably 3 times would be better because it still didn’t go all the way through but I was able to pop the design out of the sheet.) This was the first time I used the multi cut feature on my Expression 😉 Here is a look at the debossing without ink:

The magnet gives a clean crisp debossed image when run through the home-made letterpress.

Here is a detail of the card. I kinda go overboard with my brayer and ink but you can still see the pretty design.

The damask and text plates are from Lifestyle Crafts (L) the swil is my magnet plate.

Since my homemade letterpress worked so well I decided to make a prettier one with a grid for lining up and measuring. Here is what I did. I used a new Big Shot cutting pad (I bought 2 new cutting pad sets at JoAnns today as they were on sale for 40% off as was all of the cricut and sizzix products so ou may want to stock up…I’m such an enabler) 😉 and a piece of masonite cut to 6″x9″ (it was a scrap of wall paneling board I cut to size with a craft knife, you can get discontinued paneling samples from the hardware store for free if you ask or use 1/8″ masonite or a spare cutting pad.) I printed graph paper off the internet from this site, trimmed it to 6″x9″ and glued it to the masonite then covered the whole grid with a laminating sheet so any stray ink could be wiped off. I taped around the edges with clear packing tape overlapping 1″ on the top and bottom of the masonite board on all 4 sides. I place the clear cutting pad and masonite board end to end leaving a 1/4″ gap between them and taped them together with duct tape to make a hinge. Be sure to wrap the duct tape all the way around for a sturdy hinge. Then I used a ruler and a purple sharpie to make lines on top of the clear pad and the grid paper to make it easy to line up my paper. Here is a look at the pretty version:

I used a new cutting pad and added a grid on my revamped letterpress gizmo.

here is the letterpress open, see how easy it is to line up the plates and paper using the grid.

I place the letterpress on the spacer with two sheets of cardstock to shim (or pack) it.

Here is the debossed image using the letterpress plates from Lifestyle Crafts, if you want a colored debossed (letterpressed) image ink up the plate first. see my ink recipe and instuctions below.

Here is a recipe for homemade printing ink:

1 part Prang Tempera Paint (I like the metallic and the dollar tree sometimes has it) mixed with 1 part Reeves brand Gauche Paint (you can get a set of 18 colors at AC Moore for $10 or cheaper on-line. Mix together and place a bit on a ceramic tile then roll a rubber brayer over it until it is evenly inked and you are ready to use the brayer to ink up the printing plates! If the ink seems too wet add more gauche, if it is too dry add more tempera. You could use acrylic paint however you need to clean your brayer and plates meticulously and quickly after using because if the paint dries on the plates or brayer they will be ruined. Gauche and tempera are like opaque watercolors and can be washed off even when dry.

If you don’t have a clue what I am talking about in this post you can read part 1 of my letterpress article here. Thanks for stopping by and til next time happy crafting!

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 😉

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 😉 Till next time happy crafting!

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