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Type setting Leading and em spaces

Working with bigger point sizes. Mixing Inks.

Calculating and maintaining spaces.

Concrete Poetry. Composing and Printing.

Jasleen Kaur S1101108 | Graphic Design PGDPD ‘11 National Institute of Design SKILL BASED PROJECT To Letterpress Type set in Kepler Std. Headings and Chapter titles in Didot LT Std. Cover Page Photograph by Siddharth Dasari

xq# x¨foUn n¨u¨a [k³s] dkds ykxw ik; A cfygkjh xq: vkius] x¨foUn fn;¨ crk; A Guide : Tarun Deep Girdher Senior Faculty, Graphic Design & Head, Printing Labs. National Institute of Design

To my mother, who introduced me to printing.


To Letterpress, is a project very close to my heart. This project could not have been possible without the immense, untiring and everenthusiastic support from my guide, my teacher and an inspiring designer, Tarun Deep Girdher. In me he vested his faith and as he has been saying throughout my project “Some things you plan to do and never really get the chance to do happen through your students. God finds peculiar ways to fulfill your dreams.” A heartful thanks to Immanuel Suresh, Graphic Design faculty, for guiding and critiquing while Tarun was away. You inspire me! I also want to extend a heartful gratitude to the ones who were there throughout the project with me, sweating and cheering always - staff at the NID Print Labs. Shirish Bhai, the incharge of Print Labs; Bharat Bhai, Patel Bhai and Suresh Bhai for their tips and taking care that I did not skip my lunch. A special thanks to Sachin Bhai without whom, I might have taken a lot more time to compose. He has been the pilot force to all my works. I’d like to thank Siddharth Dasari and Deepti Ahuja for the wonderful pictures. I would also like to extend my gratitude to all the other members at the print labs for extending their help and support.

Thank You everyone!

INDEX The first four chapters in this document are about my learning and understanding the printing process - Letterpress. While the next three chapters are dedicated to the final deliverable for this project.


11 Introduction

14 Getting Started

Print One


22 Print Two


28 Print Three

36 Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Passing by the Woods

40 Stars are Mansion

Learning & Reflection Bibliography



THE DESIGNER AS THE PRINTER. Design does not happen in isolation. One has to work in close proximity with print and how printers work! A good design is one that has been designed keeping in mind the print process and post production work.

I grew up watching my mother indulged in making oil and acrylic paintings, beautiful nail and thread canvases, When I was around 14 years old, she started her own boutique at home and hence started her own range of hand painted, screen printed and wooden block printing clothing. Hence, thereon started my inclination towards printing. When I came to NID, in the first semester we had a course in Print Production, where due to shortage of time, couldn’t get into experimenting letterpress printing. And with the Skill Based project in our fourth semester at NID came the opportunity to take up and explore Letterpress printing. Rupesh Vyas, Head of IT Lab, and a Graphic Design faculty, anchored our projects and was very encouraging. He suggested me to take up printing if I was so inclined to Letterpress and also suggested me to discuss the project with Tarun Deep Girdher, who eventually also guided me on my project, is the head of the Print Labs at NID. Tarun asked me to talk to Shirish Bhai and set a timeline for the project and also check if n other print work was lined up at the print lab.


California job case chart. -The character is placed onto the composing stick read top to bottom and right to left, so that the print is read left to right.

//How to Compose //The Tools First day at the print lab, Shirish Bhai assisted by Sachin, gave me a brief introduction to the tools that I shall be using. Sachin Bhai neatly placed everything on the table. He opened up the cabinet for me to chose the typeface I would like to begin with. I chose Univers Bold | 12 point. Accordingly, he then took out the leading, the quads (spaces) and the composing stick. Shirish Bhai explained to me the process of hand composing step-by-step. - We start off by setting the paragraph width. I had chosen a famous quote by Marilyn Monroe. Shirish Bhai set the width at 24 point on the composing stick. -After this, proportionate to the point size of the type and the width of the line, we decide on the leading. -All the characters are placed in a case with sections. There are universally assigned places for these charters. I managed to pick the right character from its place using a map, called

- Hold the composing stick in hand with the thumb placed on the stick to push the metal type and prevent it from falling. -The spacing material to be used should be the same size as the type. -Make sure to note down what type you are using and the size too! -And remember throughout, be very patient!



Composing Stick

Picas / Quads


Type Case



California Job Case Chart

Offset Ink

Metal Type

Type Specimen Book





Shirish Bhai asked me to compose a text with three to four lines. Therefore, I took up Marilyn Monroe’s quote to compose.

//Hand Composing -Setting Line Width -Transferring Type -Feeding Paper

Setting the line width using slugs on the composing stick, I locked the line width. Removing the slugs, I then started composing the text. Arranging the characters one-by-one, I completed composing the text which took me two hours! While composing, it is important to measure the spaces constantly on both sides of the line

Typeface : Univers Bold | 12 point Paper : 100 gsm coated matt + 100 gsm uncoated paper Ink : UL/2524 COLO Q.S. Gloria Red

if you are centrally aligning the text. Transferring the forme onto the galley and then to the machine, we locked the forme

that ink is evenly distributed onto the roller that comes in contact with the type. The forme was then inked by rolling

using metal furniture and magnets. I wanted

the rollers back and forth onto the forme.

to print the text in red ink. Here, we do not

Paper was then fed into the machine. The

have the letterpress printing inks. Therefore, I

letterpress machine has grippers that

switched on to using the offset printing inks.

help rolling the sheet on the bed so that

Gently, taking ink from the container, I applied

impression can be taken. As I was using 100

it onto the roller, spreading a line evenly onto

gsm coated matt paper, accordingly, Sachin

the roller. Switching on the rollers of the

Bhai set the pressure of the machine. This

machine, they rolled against each other so

is very important. If the pressure is more, the impression is deeper leaving the sheet embossed and also damaging the bed. If the pressure is too low, the impression is very light. Here is the chart at the lab that guides the

printer what pressure to set for the type of paper. Next page shows the final impression of the first hand composed forme.






Day 3 at the print lab, I decided to compose a poem (well, part of it). I took up the poem by JOHN KEATS, A thing of beauty. I just

//Aligning Text -Working With Bigger Point Sizes -Mixing Inks

love these words. At the NID Print Lab, we have limited resources and this made it even more challenging for me to come out with something I could say that I Did It! I decided to compose the text in Bembo Regular | 36 point. I set the paragraph length, keeping the text left aligned. While in school, my english teacher had taught us that while writing a poem, if the space finishes but there is still some text in a sentence then the remaining text is then right aligned. Keeping that in mind, I composed the (2 paragraphs of the) poem. While working on this composition, I understood how leading plays an important role. While working on the computer, we never pay attention to such details. We try to adjust text, edit things but while using actual, real type, one understands the importance of tracking and leading. Also, working with bigger type sizes with the actual type in hand is an experience. Imagine, holding a 36 point

type in hand! Its huge. The fun of setting type

Typeface : Bembo Regular | 36 point

by hand is that it involves a lot of challenge!

Paper : 100 gsm coated matt + 100 gsm

When composing, and defining the paragraph

uncoated paper

width one has to calculative of the length of

Ink : Offset Inks (Mixed more than 2 inks)

line and the number of words that would fit in considering the point size of the type being used. I have developed this sensitivity towards type setting be it now virtually or practically. A good designer is one who is sensitive not only towards the subject but also to the design s/he employs. A lot of things that we tend to ignore, and ignore very often, that are integral part of our design fail us to the responsibility we

carry towards our fellow designers who with so much time, patience and sensitivity design and create an idea into a tangible form. I dedicate this hand composition to my English language teachers, and to all the Francesco Griffo, type designer of Bembo.




I had understood how to compose sentences, and paragraphs of text. It was time for me to experiment with the spacing and play

//Understanding Spaces -Points And Picas -Hierarchy

around with the space. I decided to create a composition which would deal with the calculation of space and arranging type on it. I remembered once looking at a graphic poster letterpressed for the EYE magazine by Dom Sylvester. I thought of experimenting with the alphabets of the English language. It needed a set of 21 characters. Therefore, I decided to use only consonants. The first day I spent composing the characters, but I

Typeface : Grotesque Regular | 90 point Paper : 100 gsm coated matt + 100 gsm uncoated paper Ink : Offset Inks (2-colour print)

failed. Then my guide, Tarun, suggested me to create a 8 pt x 8pt (6 pica) grid and then

into the machine. Roll it. And voila! Once you get the impression, corrections

place the characters on the grid and calculate

can be made and again a proof can be taken. I

the measurements. I then started placing the

corrected the spacing again, after taking proof

letters cut from paper (proof print that was

print. Once I was satisfied with the output, I

taken by placing carbon paper between two

then in conversation with Tarun Deep decided

sheets). This process took me a full working

the ink colours and which character to print in

day. But I was happy I understood how to

what colour.

measure spaces and then it’s construction with tangible metal type, furniture and quads. While composing this, all that was playing

The next challenge was, printing the forme in 2-colour. Tarun Deep, my guide, suggested to take two small rollers and ink each

in my head on the loop was a statement once

character with hand than use the roller of

made by Tarun :

the machine to avoid registration problems.

“Don’t mess with my white space.”

Therefore, I stuck to inking all characters

Sachin Bhai took out the type case, (Grotesque Regular | 90 point) the galley, and most important, the furniture and spacing material. Keeping the cut-paste grid sheet in front, I started placing the characters onto the galley tray and maintained the spaces using metal furniture. I continually measured the distance and then composed the forme onto the galley. Every time, before inking the roller, we take proof prints using carbon paper. Take a sheet on which you want to print. Place a carbon paper on it with the inked side facing the paper. Put another sheet on top. Feed this

individually. Trust me on this, IT IS NOT EASY AS IT SEEMS!

After hands on practice and composing, understanding spacing, typesetting, transferring forme onto galley and then the bed of machine, dispersing the type and distributing into the case (a lot of work) it was time for me to figure out what I would do.

So, while flipping through the numerous books in the library, I decided to stick to my previous plan of doing Concrete poetry.




Before starting to compose the text of the poems, it was necessary for me to figure out what and how did I want to compose. I started to sketch small thumbnails. Shirish Bhai asked me to keep the text either horizontal or vertical so that composing is easier. I started to experiment with spaces. On the left are a few thumbnails I did. After finalizing the layout, I again did a cut - paste actual size layout which would help me measure and compose easily. Also, the composition comprised of characters and text being placed at various angles. This interlocking is not

Typeface : Grotesque Regular | 180 point Bembo Regular | 14 point Paper : 100 gsm coated matt + 100 gsm

possible with the furniture and metal spaces available. Therefore, I had to cut wooden right angled triangular blocks to lock the spaces.

uncoated paper + Khadi Paper

The layout was very challenging. Shirish Bhai

Ink : Offset Inks (2-colour print)

and Suresh Bhai at times, told me to change my layout and do a simpler composition, but I was a lot determined. My guide, Tarun’s immense motivation and support instilled faith in me to execute this. He told me how once Weingart had visited NID and demonstrated hand composing and cutting wooden blocks to be used as

furniture to lock the composition. With the

Next day at the print lab, I started composing

help of my friend from Product Design, Bala

the poem for the second colour printing. Again,

Kumar, I managed to cut wooden blocks.

I used the same wooden blocks as furniture. A

Keeping the cut-paste sheet in front, I placed

lot of jugaad (Indian way of fixing things :p) had

the characters for the first colour print. It was

to be done to compose the forme. Suresh Bhai

very tedious and employs a lot of patience.

dedicated a lot of time and effort with me to

Sachin Bhai made sure that every point was

lock the whole composition. He would re-cut

measured and not left.

and re-size the wooden blocks to fit in the metal

Setting the forme onto the machine, having freshly cut khadi handmade paper and mixing

type in place. The mistake I made was I did not compose the whole forme at once! It would have been easier that ways to once compose the whole composition and then take out the blocks to be printed in second colour. It gives a better registration. Most of the time went into registering the second impression. One good thing Suresh Bhai did was to take the first ink impression on an OHP sheet. This really helped us to position the second colour forme.

inks, I was more than ready and excited! As the first colour, I took few prints in sap green colour while some in Gloria red.




While I started to sketch out thumbnails for

-Emily Dickinson

permission, but in vain. And moreover it had

my other two poems, Shirish Bhai told me to keep my layouts very simple so that I would not need any wooden blocks. The wood workshop at NID had been closed down for students as it was being renovated. I went to the workshop to ask for special been shut down for a month. Crap! Suresh Bhai, who has been a constant help throughout, asked me to experiment with background. He suggested me to take digital prints on the paper as background and then

Typeface : Times New Roman Regular | 36 pt Times New Roman Regular | 14 pt Paper : 100 gsm coated matt + 100 gsm uncoated paper + Khadi Paper Ink : Offset Inks (2-colour print)

letterpress the text onto it. It was already on plan, but for the last poem, I did not feel the need to print a background. Here came a chance. So, for my both the poems, I made simple compositions which I

could place against a background. Instead of

This time, I composed the whole forme at

doing one poem at a time, I sat and composed

once. Then, Sachin Bhai helped me to take out

the text for both the poems together at once

the composed text which was to be printed

which would spare me some time to think and

in the 2nd colour. This process is much easier

create backgrounds to print on.

and you get a better and closer registration.

The backgrounds that I made employed the

The earlier poem’s composition was more

use of tints and very subtle colours. I did not

complex than this one. Maybe, this thing

want to take away the attention from the text.

would have worked better then.

Once the backgrounds were ready, I got

But, I was happy. Because each day there

them printed at Siddhi Printech on Cartridge

happened new learning. I was quite happy

paper and 100 gsm coated matt paper.

with the output.

Cartridge paper prints look very raw but fresh too. It has that feel of ‘done with hand’.

Unfortunately I could not click pictures of the process for this poem.





STARS ARE MANSION -William Wordsworth

The poem had already been composed. For this poem, I chose to highlight certain words from the text which I would maybe, do up in a special colour like silver only if Shirish Bhai would agree. Stars, as we all know, some shine a lot while some have that fading spark. What I am trying to point out is that not all of them are the same. Keeping this in mind, I did the title of the poem with this similar idea. I used varying typefaces with varying point sizes for the title. In the text too, I used similar concept. A few words were set in a bigger point size which would highlight than the others. The

whole idea of this poem was to shine and

and its a lot more easier to register and align

stand out. Instead of looking at the poem

bigger type with the small one. The forme was

from the way the poet has written, I took a

mounted onto the machine and the roller

different perspective to it and did something I

inked with blue ink.

understood from it.

After a few prints, I realized that the print

For this poem too I made background

was lighter in the left while the right side

illustrations. One print used a photograph

seemed alright. Sachin Bhai increased the

of the night sky taken from National

pressure and then I again took print. Still the

Geographic’s web site. While the other was

issue persisted. He checked the roller for any

inspired from the constellations. I used simple

dirt. We cleaned the rollers and inked again. I

grid to express the constellation.

took the print but still some areas were lighter.

I used a royal blue and silver ink for this

We then checked the bed for any depression.

composition. We decided to print the smaller

There, we realized that the bed had a certain

point sized type first as it composed of longer

considerable amount of depression on the

lines. The major area was occupied by them,

right side. We figured out that using Khadi



used the silver ink. I was very excited, also because this was the last impression I was taking under this project. This was the third and final poem I was printing. The silver ink looked beautiful! I was awestruck looking at the prints! It was all very surreal.

paper, it had uneven surface which had created this depression. Sachin Bhai very neatly stuck Sirpur paper (a very low gsm

Typeface : Plantin Std Regular | 60 pt

paper) onto the bed. The next print was way

Grotesque Regular | 80 pt

better in terms of the print. I learnt that using

Bembo Regular | 36 pt

right kind of paper and maintaining the right

Times New Roman Regular | 36 pt

pressure is very important else, it can damage

Univers Bold Italic | 10 pt

the bed.

Paper : 100 gsm coated matt + 100 gsm

Post the prints were taken, we cleaned the

uncoated paper + Khadi Paper

rollers and then with Shirish Bhai’s permission,

Ink : Offset Inks (2-colour print)




These few months that I spent in the NID Print Lab were one of the best times of my life. The rush that the tangible metal type, the inks and oil, the rollers rolling against each other and the freshly pressed type onto the paper has given me, can be placed in comparison with what a biker gets from a long rough drive on the hills. No, I am not being dramatic! Letterpress may have been long gone, forgotten, but now is the time it is going through a major revival. In this fast paced, non human and more tech world, letterpress can give you that human-ness to your work. During these four months of rigorous and intense working hours, I have learnt to be a lot more patient, reflective and responsible for what I choose. I have built in myself a lot of respect towards type and type designers. The availability of limited type in the print labs brought out in me, a designer who can create within limitations. I cannot say that I have acquired full knowledge and experience of working on a letterpress machine, but what I have achieved is a beginning of kindling curiosity within, to know even more and explore this forgotten medium. NID has given me the chance of a lifetime. I shall always be immensely grateful to everyone who has helped me achieve better and more to those, who said : “This is not possible.�


Jury, D. (2011) Letterpress : The Allure of the Handmade. United Kingdom : Rotovision Boxcar Press. Retrieved March, 2013, from Benjamin Brundell. Letterpress From Scratch. Retrieved March, 2013, from http:// British Letterpress. A UK-centric view of letterpress printing. Retrieved April, 2013, from Naomie Ross. Letterpress (video). 2011. Digital File. Retrieved March, 2013, from http://vimeo. com/22639018 Danny Cooke. Upside Down, Left To Right: A Letterpress Film. 2012. Digital File. Retrieved March, 2013, from Throughout the time of work on this project, I maintained a blog featuring my learnings, processes I followed and experiences.


To letterpress  
To letterpress  

This is a documentation of my Skill Project done at NID as a part of my Post Graduate Diploma in Graphic Design. I explored letterpress prin...