Shower Invitations Part Two: Mixing Ink for Letterpress

In the last blog post, I showed you how I prepare files for letterpress printing. In this post, I'll take you through the steps to mix the ink needed to print. For letterpress, you have the choice between rubber-based and oil-based, as well as soy inks. I personally prefer rubber-based ink, but I know many printers that use other types of ink and are happy with what they use for various reasons.

In the photo below I have a picture of the envelope and the liner I cut out for these shower invitations. I am going to be using two colors for my invitations, a red and a pool-colored ink. I already have the red mixed up, so here I'm mixing up "pool."

The color I'm using is Pantone 7464. The Pantone guide gives me a formula (see photo below) of what colors I need to mix, along with their ratios. So if you look closely, I need mostly white with a little bit of blue, and a tiny bit of yellow with an even tinier bit of black. The ink is thick and goopy, and it takes a little while to work through, but I was really happy with how the color came out on the first try. I might add just a tad more white to lighten the color up a bit.

A few notes on mixing ink for letterpress:

1. The Pantone guides are printed offset, so the color "recipe" is going to come out about a shade darker than the swatch you pick. It's usually a good idea to mix a shade lighter, that way it comes out just right.

2. Also with letterpress, most of us mix ink by hand. Some people use a scale to measure the parts, some buy the ink pre-mixed, and some mix it up by eye. I just figure the ratios of the colors I need and go from there. I've always been happy (and so have my clients) with the way the colors turn out.

3. It's a lot easier to darken up your color than to lighten it, in my opinion. I find that if a color calls for mostly white (like in this example), I will start off with white and slowly add in the other colors. Otherwise, it can take up a LOT of white to lighten the ink.

Questions about any of these posts? Just leave a comment and ask!