once-off letterpress possible?
November 17, 2012 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I want to print a once-off version of a long poem I've written for display; all I have so far are the words (no specific designs or illustrations or whatever). I really like the look of letterpress but it seems that letterpress places only do bulk orders. Is this true? Are there other options?

( I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area if you have company recommendations.)
posted by divabat to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The major cost of letterpress is actually setting-up the piece for printing. If you're doing actual letterpress, there's the time and labor involved in hand-setting the type. Actually running prints is relatively cheap and quick. And, then, there's labor in cleaning the press after the run. So, yes, a one-off letterpress print is going to be astronomical, on a price-per-item basis. Honestly, most presses aren't going to want to go through the effort for a one-off, unless it's some kind of amazing artistic typographic design.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:45 AM on November 17, 2012

I'm sure they'll do one-offs if you're willing to pay as if you were making more. Your budget is going to be the only limit here. Many people have paid ~$100 for one custom record that will last 20-30 plays.
posted by rhizome at 12:01 PM on November 17, 2012

Response by poster: Blah. Are there any other options for printing out pretty artsy versions of stuff you've written? I don't have access to a printer or design software otherwise I'd just DIY it.
posted by divabat at 12:02 PM on November 17, 2012

I have a friend who just visited this guy's place and did some one-offs of various pieces. He's in Sebastopol - about 50 miles north of SF. I can try to get more info from her - memail me if you're interested!
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:08 PM on November 17, 2012

This sounds like a job for a calligrapher, not an engraver.
posted by tel3path at 4:25 PM on November 17, 2012

Printing is cheapest in standard sizes, so are we talking postcard, giant postcard or poster sized?
posted by DarlingBri at 6:15 AM on November 18, 2012

The type doesn't have to be set by hand for letterpress- you can actually have a photo-polymer plate made from a computer file, and then just print from that. This is much cheaper than having someone set it by hand, though you'll still need to set up the file and have someone run it through the press. It looks like Boxcar Press (in NY state) might do everything for you, and I'm sure there are other options in the Bay Area. It's also pretty fun to do yourself, if you want to take a class. The SF Center for the Book offers classes.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:46 AM on November 18, 2012

Response by poster: Closer to poster size.

Calligraphy's another option that I'm exploring...I don't have any skills (let's just say I'm way better with typing than handwriting) but I'm looking at custom options now.
posted by divabat at 9:39 AM on November 18, 2012

You can print posters at Vistaprint.com for $5 plus shipping. People complain about it because it's sort of the Wal*Mart of printing but I print a ton of short-run stuff there and have been entirely happy with all of it.

Normally I do the whole pre-press production thing in Illustrator, but yesterday I needed something very simple done and did the following:

1) Started with the blank Vistaprint "Upload your own" option for the correct size item (in my case, postcards; in your case, poster.)

2) Uploaded a background image. I used this but there are loads.

3) Used Vistaprint's "Type in the box for idiots" feature to lay out the text over the image. A lot of the fonts are horrid but there are a handful of Real Fonts including the lovely Adelle.

My whole thing took 20 minutes, cost $12 shipped, and required zero specialist skills or software. Easy.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:47 PM on November 18, 2012

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