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Article commissioned by Hickman Design, Author – J Hyde

When it comes to printmaking, there are various options to use depending on what you want to print and more importantly, what you want to print onto. Depending on the method of printmaking you choose, you’ll need a specific type of printmaking press which is what we’ll be looking at today. But first, let’s take a closer look at the printmaking press itself. 

Gutenberg Press

The printmaking press is a mechanical device used to apply the necessary pressure to an inked surface that’s sat upon a fabric or paper, allowing the ink to transfer.

The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, made for huge improvements for printmakers by creating a single renaissance printing press that could produce around 3600 pages of work per day – a far cry from the screw presses which were currently in existence, which had already brought people forward from the days of having to rub or brush the block or plate in order to transfer the printed design.

Fast forward to today and there are numerous different types of printmaking press, all suited to a different type of need. Each type of printmaking and thus each type of printmaking press is suited to a different technique that suits specific products or services. Today, we’re looking more closely at the Lino printing press, the etching press and the letterpress.

Recreated Gutenberg Press

Relief / Lino Printing Press

The Albion press is a great example of an early relief printing press. This model is an iron hand printing press, originally from the 1820’s. It worked via a simple toggle action. They were still manufactured well into the 1930’s and are actually still used to this day, mainly by publishing houses in the UK printing fine press editions of certain books or by fine art printmakers. While they can be great for Lino and even block and relief printing, they are extremely expensive due to their vintage nature and very big.

Next up we have the nipping or book binding press. These are great for relief, block and Lino printing. These were originally used for making the gutters or ‘hinges’ on the covers of hardback books, however, are now often used to flatten and fold pages, preventing warpage as well as for Lino/relief printing. While nipping/bookbinding presses are great for starting out, as they’re usually fairly economical, they can sometimes struggle to provide the pressure needed for block printing.

Intaglio / Etching Press

Etching presses are rather simple, encompassing two hard rollers that come into contact with a flat, hard bed. In order to operate the etching press, the user must operate one of the rollers. These can also be used for Lino and relief printing as well as etching/drypoint etching or intaglio printmaking due to the high amount of pressure output..

There are of course a great difference between the modern etching press and the older etching presses. While the modern etching press is ok, these new designs aren’t quite as good as the older ones and can actually be a little pricey. The older etching presses, on the other hand, are usually made from old cast iron, which although are strong and sturdy, are very cumbersome. They’re also extremely pricey too so it’s worth looking at the space and of course the budget you have to work with.

Letter Press

The Adana letterpress is great for letterpress as well as small relief and block prints. These were originally made for hobby printers, however, that hasn’t stopped them being utilised in a commercial fashion.

The earlier models of this type of letter press were actually flat-bed presses however they’ve since become famous for their ‘eight-five’ and other vertical style presses. These are perfect for those starting out however, these can also be a little pricey making them a tough option if you don’t have the funds to spare.

8×5 Adana Letter Press

Find The Printing Press That’s Right For You

There are numerous different styles of printmaking press, all of which serve their own purpose. Finding the right for you is paramount to successful printmaking. If you have any more questions regarding the different styles of press and what you need, simply contact us today.

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