Recently, I’ve received several requests for custom projects like business cards and broadsides featuring custom designs or logos with due dates within a few days or a week. Since this is impossible for me (or any other printer without an in-house plate-maker…. and even then!), I thought I’d share a typical timeline for custom letterpress projects to help foster more understanding for the process.
DESIGN: I usually create the first round of design options within a few days of receiving the order, but depending on how specific and descriptive the project parameters are, the time required for design can vary quite a lot. It’s always better to provide too much information rather than too little!
PLATE-MAKING: Once the design is finalized, I create files for the company that makes my printing plates. Letterpress is a physical process, with ink not only being spread across the surface, but the design is actually impressed into the paper, so three-dimensional printing plates are required. The design is etched into magnesium plates (backwards, of course), which are then mounted to a specific height of wood base. Then of course they must be delivered to my little island studio, which usually takes about a week, but can take up to two. I also order any additional supplies during this period.
PRINTING: Most one-color projects can be completed in a day once they’re worked into my printing schedule. If the project has additional colors, I prefer to let the ink cure for at least one week between colors to prevent smudging. If the design is double-sided, I’d rather set aside two weeks between sides.
FINISHING: Many projects end up being trimmed by hand, which takes several hours, or even a couple days, depending on the quantity. I always print more than the number of pieces ordered, so then I spend some time choosing the very best to send to the customer.
SHIPPING: Once the project is packaged and addressed with care, the Bermuda post averages one to two weeks for delivery within the continental U.S. Shipping can be expedited, but two- to three-day shipping starts at $51 for something as small as an envelope!
All told, most completely custom projects will take a minimum of five weeks after the design is finalized and approved. I do love printing custom projects though, so please do get in touch!