I love stationery! Help me learn to make my own!
May 20, 2009 1:19 AM   Subscribe

I love stationery and letterpress and prints and graphic design generally and, for fun, I'd love to learn to make my own. Right now, I spend a lot of my down time oohing and aahing over pretty paper products on Etsy and at Design Sponge. I make my own party invites, cards, gift tags and wrap - but just in a cobbled together kind of way. I'd dearly love to learn to design and print lovely things like this and this and this. Where should I start?

What tools would I use? Illustrator? InDesign? Something else?
What would I need to know before sending files to a printer?
What would I need to learn about paper? Printing? Graphic design? Fonts? Colour management?
What online or book resources can help me learn?
Terms or search strings it would be useful to Google?

NB This is not a scheme to quit my day job and become a stationer or anything. I just like pretty things, paper, and design, and it would give me pleasure to learn more. Assume time and money are no object! (They are, of course, but a girl can dream, no?)
posted by t0astie to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Illustrator is the tool of choice (at least among professionals) for creating the kinds of things you've linked to. InDesign is more about creating page layouts where you need to work with paragraphs and blocks of text etc.

Actual letterpress printing is an entirely different process, and requires an mechanical printing press. Letterpress printing can be an incredibly rewarding hobby if you're that way inclined; small presses are available that would allow you to set up a mini print workshop at home. Probably the best starting-point for this is this excellent site. Some of the information is very UK-centric, but there's a ton of useful information there.

Your other questions are probably best answered by someone else with more of a background in design and typography (which is the term to google if you're interested in learning about decorative text).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:29 AM on May 20, 2009

When I said 'paragraphs and blocks of text' I meant 'photographs and blocks of text'. Sometimes I think English must be my second language (after gobbledegook).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:30 AM on May 20, 2009

Best answer: What tools would I use? Illustrator? InDesign? Something else?

Illustrator and Indesign are two different tools, with some overlap. Illustrator is for doing illustrations. Indesign is for doing page layout i.e. combing illustrations and text, usually over multiple pages like a newspaper or magazine. Based on the links, it looks like a combination of Illustrator and Photoshop would be good. That's expensive though, nearly 1k, so try the open source alternatives, Gimp and Inkscape.

What would I need to know before sending files to a printer?
-All printers are a bit different and you need to talk to them, especially about how they want files supplied.
-Understand the difference between RGB and CMYK and that you, since you're getting stuff printed, will need to convert stuff to CMYK
-Learn about fonts
-Understand the difference between linking to graphics and embedding graphics.
-Learn about raster vs vector graphics
-Visit istockphoto.com find bits of graphics you buy for use
-When giving files to someone else, you need to give them a file and usaually all materials used to make that file i.e. you need to include the fonts and graphics that are used in the file.
Google all of the above

What would I need to learn about paper? Printing?

The biggest thing is learning how ink takes to different kinds paper, how it saturates it (or not!) and how what you see on a monitor is different from what you get in print.

The traditional of learning this stuff is to copy what you see at first. Try to copy some of the wedding design cards you linked to, before moving on to more complex stuff. You'll probably make a lot of mistakes at first, but that's ok, you'll learn from them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:45 AM on May 20, 2009

Best answer: What about taking classes at a small print workshop? Here in Chicago I can think of a few places that have old letterpress machines, and also teach silkscreening. Invariably you could also do woodblock prints, polymer plates, etc at these places, and so on. Learning about fun papers goes hand in hand with these techniques.

For what it's worth, here are the places I'd recommend in Chicago (maybe they know of similar places in your city):
Evanston Print and Paper Shop
Paper Source could probably help you get creative
Chicago Printmakers Collaborative
Spudnik Press
Columbia College's Center for the Book and Paper Arts
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 4:57 AM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "The Artist's Manual" by Angela Gair, Chronicle Books, $25, is a very nice guide to customizing artist materials to your personal taste with some great photographs, explanations and applied examples.

Printing papers, for example, vary in their sizing preparation for receptivity to inks. Inks vary in their dispersion to dye the paper or sit on the surface.

Printing methods could range from rubber to metal, with varied difficulty and results.

At any rate, the text is wonderful, and well worth the money.
posted by effluvia at 6:10 AM on May 20, 2009

Best answer: This is my first go to place when looking up letterpress information:
Briar Press. It is a letterpress resource site- everything from press ID to letterpresses for sale to information about all sorts of book-arts related services and artists/artisans to classes and letterpress organizations and classifieds... After that, I go to the LetPress listserv, which is active and thriving.

There are a number of people who create invitation and card designs in illustrator and send them to a company to have them cast in polymer plates that they then mount on a base in their letterpress and print from there. It's nice if you don't have a big type collection, or make a lot of line art or you want to print things on an angle, but still want that glorious impression. I've seen really lovely letterpress items made from polymer plates.

If you are looking at all-digital cards, consider whether you want to send cards out for professional printing versus getting a nice printer and doing it yourself. A lot of the folks on Etsy take the second path.
posted by julen at 6:33 AM on May 20, 2009

Best answer: I've enjoyed using a print Gocco. An Etsy example.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:36 AM on May 20, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all! These are great, detailed answers. I can't wait to get started...
posted by t0astie at 6:53 PM on May 20, 2009

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