Week 7:

It’s crazy to think that this will be my final post. It marks the end of my Practicum and the end of my time at IDEA. In honour of this I thought I would do something special and ask the lovely people of Porchlight Press some questions.

Felicity (Printing Supervisor and Printer):

What attracted you to the industry in the first place? I’d like to say genetics, my family owns a letterpress, Barbarian Press and I grew up around it.

What kind of training did you do for it? I had a mentor for the first year that I worked here. Otherwise I just acquired knowledge I didn’t have any formal training.

What do you love most about working here? I love the Industry. The fast paced, high-energy atmosphere that comes with commercial printing. And then the craft associated with letterpress printing.

Felicity busy printing

What advice do you have for students about to graduate from a Design School? I would encourage any designer to acquaint themselves with the different printing mediums. The biggest challenge is when designers come in who don’t know the limitations or strengths of letterpress. Sometimes we get design jobs that makes me wonder why they ever chose letterpress, it could have looked way better offset printed for example.

Michael (Estimates and Design):

Did you or would you ever consider a different career? No, I think if I ever had to do something different it would still be design related or I would be making something and expressing myself creatively.

How do you overcome creative block? I find that stepping away from the project is the best way to overcome creative block. Just doing something differently, maybe going outside. Putting that distance between you and the project gives your mind that space to look at things differently when you come back to it.

What is the best advice that you ever received in your graphic design career? After you’re done proofing something proof it again. Proof it 4 times! It’s never a waste to redundantly check your work. We always get work that has errors in it and it creates such a hassle, it’s also just unprofessional.

Kristen (Printer):

When you graduated the did you feel prepared to work in your field? Are you working in the field you’re studying? Why/ why not? No. I graduated for Emily Carr and they don’t really set you up for real life. We only one class dealing with business skills/ life after university and it definitely wasn’t enough. I was also a painting major so unless you’re picked up by a gallery there isn’t really anything for you, they also didn’t show you how to make that happen. On the job experience like you’re having would definitely have helped!

What attracted you to the industry in the first place? Just a class offered at school. I worked on a VanderCook and loved it. It also seemed like there was a greater chance of getting a job.

What advice do you have for graduates wanting to break into the industry? Bang on the doors of the place you want to work. Go and make those connections. Letterpress especially is a small industry, everybody knows everybody. Volunteer at places and gain their knowledge. Be persistent and deliberate.

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Thanks Team Porchlight!


Week 6

What a crazy week it has been! As you might have seen from last week’s post, we started to print our Christmas cards…well this week the aim was to finish them all and to mail them to the stationery competition taking place in the States (and to have a set of cards that I could have on display at my Grad Show). It was a frantic rush to the finish to say the least!

The collection of Christmas cards

The next paragraph will probably make you cringe, but I think it’s valuable to share our failures as well. We had a few printing mistakes some of which was entirely my fault and I felt terrible. Remember the last point on the list I posted last week? CHECK YOURSELF! Well…quadruple check yourself. When one of our cards were printed we realized that there were some stray markings beneath other colours that I didn’t pick up (and that were supposed to be too small to be able to print anyway), but lo and behold they did! That meant that we had to scrap the cards that were already printed, make new plates and print them again… and the worst one yet… a layer that I thought would be printed in ink that was actually foil. So yes we had to get a new foil plate made somewhere else, shipped to us and printed in time.

The mistake (gold foil on banjo)
The final card with the new foil plate

The people you work with and the work environment is so important. I’m so grateful to be working with the Porchlight team. Even though I made some mistakes (and cost them a good deal of money in the process) they’ve never made me feel bad about it or referred to it again and again. They’ve been so considerate to the fact that I’m new to this whole process! And when we’ve spotted a mistake everybody tries to problem solve and see if they can’t come up with an alternative solution, it’s been an amazing process to be part of (still I hope I’ll make less mistakes in the future!).

My favourite part of the whole process was seeing how excited everyone was when the black ink layer was printed on a card. It’s not just a card that I drew, but it’s Porchlight’s card and every member of this studio has had their hands on it at some point whether it was picking out the right Pantones, making the plates, giving feedback or doing the actual printing. And we all huddled together around a table to match each card with an envelope colour. Below is a few of my favourites:

The cards turned out beautifully! I couldn’t be happier about the experience or the results. You should definitely keep them in mind when the Winter Holiday comes around again. I’ll be staying on at Porchlight, so hopefully you’ll all stop by for a special card at some point in the year. Thank you for the most wonderful 4 years. I can’t wait to see you again!


Week 5

This week I’ll be sharing some helpful tips to help you to create the best illustrations/designs for letterpress. I know I will be referring to this list again in the future, so I hope it will be beneficial to you too.


When placing text in your design make sure that the type is at least 6 points and at least 12 points or larger for reverse type.


As each colour used in a design requires a different plate and printing run on the press, the cost of a project increases with the number of colours you use. So carefully consider where you would like colour and how many colours you really need. Foiling increases the cost a lot more, because they have to get special foiling plates made.


Most of the inks we use are translucent which means they work best on light paper. It also means that overlapping two inks often gives you an extra colour. So if you didn’t want an extra colour showing up, make sure you clean up your layers to make sure it doesn’t overlap in areas. Adding a bit more white space around colours is ideal, since colours can bleed a bit when applied to the paper/registration can be slightly off, but then at least  you’ll have a buffer area.

If you did want to use an extra colour in your design, using the overlapping method provides you with one for free! Just make sure you know what colour will be showing up in the end.

Overlap of red and green on our fish card

Just keep in mind that a light colour printed on top of a dark colour or dark paper will not be visible. If you’d like a light or bright colour to appear on dark stock you have to print a layer of white ink underneath (aka extra ink cost).


Letterpress is best suited for solid colours, not shades (since a shade would require the use of another colour). If you need shading in your illustration, use a dot screen or cross hatching to achieve the desired effect. Just keep line weight mind…


Lines should be at least .25 point wide. Thinner lines will not hold on the plate and won’t look as crisp. Dots should be at least 1 point.

Linework looking wonderful on my business cards!


Large solid areas of colour will appear slightly textured because of the way the paper shows through the ink. Large covered areas could also cause the paper to buckle slightly and the depth of impression will be less noticeable. If you need a coloured background why not opt for a coloured paper stock instead?

Checking colours on the 2nd layer of our fox card


This should go without saying, but remember to print everything to size on a normal printer first. Check that the thin strokes on your text aren’t too fine. Check the overlap of your layers (again). If it doesn’t look good or if things look too small, having it printed with a letterpress won’t make it look any better.


Week 4

Sooo… we ended up working on Christmas cards for another week. The beautiful sunny warm days made this especially difficult, but during week 5 they’ll definitely be printed, yay! This week we also had to de-tape 4000 sheets of paper. As you can see in the photo below, we have a guide taped to the table and then you have to place a strip of double sided tape in precisely the right spot on your paper. Those sheets then get die cut and later they are fed through the press one last time to crease the lines along which they will be folded into chocolate wraps (luckily we didn’t have to do any of the folding!). It took 3 whole days with at least 1 or 2 people de-taping constantly from 8am to 5pm!

De-taping Process

This week the team was working on a set of stationery for a wedding on Galiano Island and some elements were printed on the Vandercook Press! This machine is a lot easier to work compared to the Heidelberg. I was reminded of my first time printing with the Vandercook, it was last year on a CreativeMornings field trip to Porchlight Press! As you can see I had a lot of fun. Porchlight hosts a few workshops every year and I would highly recommend going to (atleast) one.

Vandercook Press setup at the CreativeMornings Workshop
Printing is fun
Our Prints that we got to take home

I’ve really enjoyed working at Porchlight and I can definitely see myself working here after my Practicum is over. I get along well with the team and we’re creating interesting and beautifully crafted work. The only downside is the commute. Coming all the way from Lions Bay I’ve known that I would most likely have to drive somewhere for work, but with gas prices as high as they are at the moment, it makes me wonder if I could keep this up in the long run. It’s something to think about and I’m lucky that that’s the only downside! Until next time…



Week 3

Wow it’s already the end of week 3. Next week is my Mid-Practicum review and I can’t believe time is going by so fast. So far this has been my favourite week. I had my instagram takeover on Tuesday this week so you can visit the @ideanineteen page to see a bit more of life at Porchlight. To no one’s surprise Marcel was the biggest hit, he’s such a Weiner.

Marcel loves paper a bit too much.
Taking a photo for my Instagram takeover

This week was spent finalizing the designs of our cards, adding type and getting the files ready for printing. As letterpress inks are transparent; and overlapping colours will produce different colours, how your files overlap are of utmost importance. If you didn’t spend time cleaning up your layers, your final product will look completely different from what you had planned and you would have been wasting a lot of money and time.

Because we were finishing up the Christmas cards; I had the time to be involved in more of the day-to-day work at Porchlight. I learned how to set up a press, how to make plates, did press checks etc. Even though the studio might seem chaotic at times things are done very precisely and methodically. There’s a lot that can go wrong when you stray from the process.

plate making
Felicity making plates

Felicity showed me how to make plates and how to set up the Heidelberg Printing Press. The plates are photopolymer plates with an aluminum backing that is used for printing regular inks. They also use magnesium plates to print foils, but these require acid washes to produce them (not exactly something you want in such a small space) so they get them made elsewhere. When you are setting up the press you have to be very precise and mathematical. The inset that holds the plates is extremely heavy and you have to be extra careful when securing it to the printer. Your paper and the plates have to line up perfectly and if you have to adjust anything you never do it on the printer itself. Needless to say it took a long time to get the printer perfectly set up.

Plates of my business cards
Plates ready to be printed

I’ve also become a part of the press-check-chain. Whenever a job gets printed the printer goes around the studio and gets a press check from multiple people. Since a lot of their work is so intricate it’s easy to miss mistakes in certain areas. I’ve learned that you need to check to see if the overall colour and impression is consistent, and that the impression is deep enough. You need to see if the colour is dark/vibrant enough. And you check the registration and look at how individual characters have printed. If the print job has foil it’s even trickier.

Can’t wait to see what this week holds in store!


Week 2

Now that I’m a bit more settled into the day-to-day of the studio I was able to spend a bit more time learning about the workings of the shop: the projects, printing and processes that makes it all come together. Observing these aspects has proved very valuable to the way I’ve been approaching the designs I’m currently working on. I was also able to play a minor role in the less technical aspects of their jobs like applying and aligning adhesive tapes onto paper sleeves before they were die-cut (all done by hand on more than 2000 sheets of paper). You quickly realize that it’s the little details that makes their work stand out from the rest.

studio space
The heart of the studio

Heather was back this week and it was wonderful to see her again. On Monday we spent the day narrowing down our favourite concepts. We printed them all out, lay them flat on my desk and then went to work combining ideas, highlighting our favourite parts, brainstorming taglines and grouping the cards into different series’ of 3. We have a looming stationery award show deadline and to have our entries shipped and received on time, the cards I’m working on have to be printed by this coming week Wednesday. With this in mind I spent most of my week refining two of our favourite series’ of Christmas cards: Underwater Christmas and Christmas Animals. I can’t show the cards as of yet but will hopefully I will have the progress and results ready to show you in the next couple of weeks.

snow day
A snow day to help me get in the Christmas Spirit.
Treasures found around the shop

I’ve liked Heather from the moment I met her at Design Thinkers Vancouver and I’m delighted to know that we work very well together. I have been learning so much from her and the rest of the team! There are so many details to take into consideration for every project that Porchlight takes on. I have slowly been absorbing all things paper, ink and foil and learning how to design in such a way that it highlights the printing and is still cost effective at the end of the day. Letterpress printing is definitely a craft and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.

card inspo
Paper stocks, Pantone colours and Christmas card inspiration


Welcome to Porchlight Press

I had a great first week at Porchlight Press. I start each work day at 8am (to help increase my chances of finding parking in the busy neighbourhood) and I get to spend the next hour with Felicity (one of the main printers) until the rest of the team joins us 9am. The team is pretty small with a rotating team of 5 printers, Heather, Michael (handles accounts) and Marcel (the studio’s enthusiastic guard-dog).

Old Presses

The majority of the team had a terrible flu the week prior and the owner Heather Braun was away for a week, so there was a lot of work to do. Everybody was in good spirits, but very focussed on the jobs at hand. Just after noon the presses slow down and everyone gathers together around their “meeting table” to eat lunch together. I have a lovely desk which gets an ample amount of sunshine as the day progresses; and every now and then I feel paw on my knee, which lets me know it’s time to take a break to give Marcel a scratch or to throw his ball.

My Desk

My main focus for this Practicum is to work with Heather on updating and expanding  their stationary line. So we got started with that right away. We spent time discussing the Porchlight brand, looking at what they’ve made in the past and narrowing down what direction they’d like to move in going forward. My first assignment is “Holiday Cards” (which required a bit of a mindset switch as I’m already anticipating spring) and I spent my first week working on that. I did a lot sketching/ideating and sent my progress work to Heather. Since Heather was away for the week we had a daily check in either through email or a phone call to help narrow down more suitable directions.

Altogether I’ve had an easy-going and very productive week. I was well prepared for hours of sketching and the rhythmic sounds of the presses in the background are perfect to help me stay focused. I love the work atmosphere and enjoy setting my own work pace. Heather is back this week and I’m excited for the next steps.

Marcel soaking up the sun