Design Tip: Line Weight

Tips & Tricks
October 19, 2020
Design by:

Kelly Chesley

Public Print is here to help educate and inform anyone who is interested in print and design about the processes and tools of the letterpress trade. We feel this is important because as the saying goes, knowledge is power. We feel that if someone needs something printed, the more educated and comfortable with the process they are the more confident they will be in their work. That's ultimately what we want, for people to feel confident and proud of the work and designs they are creating and they can use our shop as a resource to accomplish their ambitions and dreams with print. We are fully aware that the printing process, specifically letterpress, foil stamping and screen printing can be a little bit intimating. It's different than what we are use to so it makes sense that it can be a little confusing. We are in a digital age, which is really cool and technology can be interesting and exciting and we are well aware of that as well. So how do we mix the two and make them work? We will break down some of those most common questions we get asked here on our blog to answer just that. We are stoked you're here and are interested in what we are doing at Public. For this first tip on our blog we are covering one of the most common questions and issues we run into - line weight.

Why is line weight so important with letterpress, foil stamping and screen printing? To answer that we have to look at the process a little bit. We are using certain materials in print that make line weight in artwork something that we have to consider when we start designing. We are using photopolymer plates for letterpress, which is a UV sensitive material that when exposed to light, hardens and becomes rigid. When letterpress plates are made, they are vacuum sealed with a film negative and exposed to UV light, then washed out with water. Anywhere that is black on the film washes away and the artwork or "clear" areas harden to create a raised or relief plate. The polymer in its normal state is soft and pliable and has a plastic or metal baking. So you can imagine if a line in your artwork is too thin, during the washout they can fall off and disappear. We see this happen often with dots above "i"s and "j"s and if a serif font get's too thin on certain parts of the letter.

Foil stamping dies are made out of magnesium and go through a chemical etching process and can actually hold a little bit more detail, we really hardly ever run into issues with foil stamping dies so typically thin lines and typefaces are safe here.

With screen printing, if things get too tiny in the artwork, they can look muddy or unclear when being printed because we are pushing a lot of ink through a thin mesh. There are ways to combat this though, we can using a finer mesh which doesn't allow as much ink through but we still have to be cautious of it.

So what's a safe line weight and letter size? We recommend no hairlines in your artwork and using point sizes starting at .25 or larger. For dots anything 1pt and above is ideal and won't get washed out during the platemaking process. We see this happen often as well, some designs may come to us with a .25 line weight on the artwork, but type get's overlooked. Type can have super hairline strokes, especially in decorative fonts and serif fonts. Script fonts that are commonly used for wedding invitations can also have very thin lines and swirls. If it's hard to see on your screen or if you print out a copy of it on your desktop printer and it's not super visible, we recommend beefing up those lines a bit, even adding a .25 stroke around thinner areas can really help.

We strive to make sure all artwork is correct when we go to production so if we notice issues when we receive the art we will always try to catch problems and alert the customer that we may need to rework some things. We want you to be happy with your prints and will do everything we can to insure you're stoked when you get them.

We hope this answers the question in regards to line weight and why it matters so much. With digital and offset printing things are a little more forgiving when it comes to the tiny details but even with letterpress and foil stamping there's ever evolving technologies that allow us to achieve really fine results with print. Thanks for reading this weeks design tip, keep checking back for me!

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