Business Cards » Artwork Setup

The Distillery Letterpress Printing

Artwork Setup

When designing artwork for your letterpress business cards, please follow our artwork set up guide below. It is important a letterpress friendly PDF is created.

Don’t have a graphic designer yet? The Distillery can assist your organisation with branding and design services, and artwork set up.

Letterpress Friendly Artwork


Set type no smaller than 5pt, to compensate for ink absorption.

Identify all thin lines and terminals especially prevalent in script and italic typefaces. These areas will require an additional 0.1 outline stroke to ensure they print properly.

Convert all text to outlines (curves), and increase tracking to at least +5 to compensate for print impression (the deboss) into the paper.

Reverse type set on a solid colour should be no smaller than 12pt, to avoid the type being clogged with ink. To compensate for ink gain, you may also need to add a small stroke to the type.


Use vector based images where possible.

Raster images can be letterpress printed, but requires more specific effort to be set up in Bitmap mode. To do this, in Photoshop select Image, Mode, Greyscale. Then convert again via Image, Mode, Bitmap. Output resolution must be set at 1200dpi, with a 50% Threshold or Halftone Screen method. To achieve best results, we recommend adjusting image levels and tone before conversion to Bitmap mode.

Large Solids

Use fills sparingly. The features of letterpress are best appreciated when ink and elements are used sparingly on the page. When ink and elements are used sparingly, the features of printing impression (deboss) into the page are best noticed and felt.

We do not recommend flooding the entire page with large solid areas of colour. Large solid areas reduces the total amount of printing impression (deboss) available. Printing impression may be a primary reason why you have chosen lettterpress, and flooding with massive blocks of colour is thus counter-productive.

If flooding blocks of colour is important we can produce this by printing your art with additional print runs, which will increase the total cost of your project. Very large solid areas of colour may also print with a mottled cloudy effect, which may be desirable in some but not all projects.


Use Pantone uncoated spot colours only. CMYK process colours must not be used.

Double check your PDF by selecting,  Advanced, Print Production, Output Preview. All elements should only use your spot colours, and all disappear when the boxes are unchecked.

White on Dark Stocks

It is not possible to letterpress print opaque white ink onto black and dark paper stocks. Dark paper stocks will always show through white and light coloured inks. The next best letterpress effect is to mix white with a metalic silver ink (which feature more opacity).

Another alternative is to hot foil stamp white onto dark stocks.

Stroke Weight

Lines and strokes should be set at 0.25pt or thicker. If it is an isolated line, please use a minmum of 0.5pt.

Parallel Borders

An additional fee is applicable for printing artwork which features a continuous border within 5mm, and running parallel to the edge of your finished piece. The reason is that letterpress cotton papers are extremely soft, and therefore difficult to cut straight in large volumes. When we cut pieces down to finished size, there is wastage associated with imperfect cuts caused by soft slipping cotton paper. Wastage is exaggerated with borders parallel to the edge of finished pieces, and to compensate, we must print a great total volume compared to artwork without parallel borders.

Dies & Scores

Dies should be indicated with a 1pt Magenta spot colour, and scores with a 1pt Cyan spot colour.

Bleed & Crop Marks

Set bleed for all elements at 5mm, and export with crop marks.

Export your PDF with 0.5pt stroke weight crop marks, and 5mm of bleed.

Artwork Check

Once you have finished designing, we recommend you run our Artwork Check guide. We cannot begin the production process until we have a letterpress print ready PDF.