Flood or Flop

If you have a basic understanding of letterpress printing, you’ll understand the risks involved with flooding a sheet. For those of you who are new to the world of printmaking, flooding is the process of applying ink from edge-to-edge on paper. For instance, if you wanted a background color to be printed beneath other elements, sheet flooding would be used. Unfortunately, printing presses use different mechanisms for applying ink to plate — each has a different result in a variety of coverages.

For a recent project our client was interested in duplexing for a black-on-white business card. We’re fond of duplexes, but limited in options for applying artwork to really dark papers. White foil stamping is common, but not something we’re set up to do at the moment. The solution we decided on was to knock out the artwork from a black flood. 

The C&P press we operate is great for so many specialized processes, but not flooding. Once the job went on press, it took around three passes per sheet (4-up) to get a rich enough black to match the digital mock. Multiple passes are great for increasing ink density, but sometimes cause registration issues due to sticking.

Completed flooding

Completed flooding

So that was that. We knocked out the backs of the cards, and slip-sheeted to protect from offsetting. Four days passed and it was time to trim those suckers down. We removed our clipsheets — this is when things went south quickly. The pressure on the cutter caused the fronts of each card to offset onto the backs of the ones staked on top of them. (Note: Offsetting is the term used to describe ink transfer from one material to another).

Who’d have known these cards could still be wet after almost 96 hours? Lesson learned. We’ll be incorporating some three-way drier or clipsheets when we experiment with flooding in the future. Our reprint of the cards is below. A simple inversion did the trick.

Offsetting from the flooded side

Offsetting from the flooded side

Reprinted cards

Reprinted cards

Have questions about letterpress printing? Looking for a letterpress printshop in the Austin area? We’ve got you covered for wedding invitations, business cards, and more! Email us at  hello@wkndpress.com for a custom quote or more information.

Shawn BuecheComment