A large embossing die and counter used for the certificates.
We had the pleasure of creating letterpress certificates for Alyce Hoggan for the Kynamatrix Research Network, a non-profit focused on accelerating scientific research. We’ve worked with Alyce before, through Motivara – a Redmond, WA based graphic design firm. We took some photos of the embossing dies and the finished piece to give everyone insight into the production. Check out all of the photos after the break.
Here’s the assembled certificate. The finished size of the piece was 9″ x 16″ and had a final thickness of 0.42″ (220# lettra). Using the design supplied by Alyce, we letterpress printed the text using a Pantone Warm Gray 4U ink. Because of the size, these were printed on one of the Vandercooks. The cylinder press produces a nice clean/crisp impression that is uniform throughout the piece. Following letterpress, we mounted the embossing die and counter in our 12×18 Craftsman and embossed them.
In this photo you can see the fiberglass counter on the left and the magnesium die on the right. The counter is referred to as the male and the magnesium the female … (insert joke here)!
For most projects that involve embossing we use 1/4″ magnesium. Depending on the detail of the die, brass or copper might be a better fight but, they also cost more. Since the font was large with smooth lines, magnesium was the perfect choice. We always use a professional counter, they produce much better results than homemade ones made with epoxy.
We have a steel base that we use to mount magnesium to but this die was so large it didn’t fit. So, we had to fabricate our own base out of HDF (MDF’s heavy set in-law). We laminated several sheets together to get to the right thickness. You can see the HDF base in photo above (top-right).
Here’s a closeup of the emboss. It’s the perfect compliment to letterpress.
The word innovation spans the center of the certificate. One thing to be careful of when embossing is cracking on the paper. It’s especially tough with cotton paper. Embossing does mark the back of the sheet and while we minimized bruising for the letterpress portion there is still a faint bump.
The finished look of the certificates is very clean and simple. To keep everything clean, Alyce asked us to laminate an unprinted sheet of 110# lettra to the back side to create a 220# stock. We couldn’t have embossed a 220# sheet anyway … way too thick. The one problem with this is that once embossed you can’t trim them on a paper cutter (the pressure would eradicate the emboss). Once laminated we hand trimmed each piece to the final size.
The letterpress text contains a description of each of the projects the grant awardees worked on. These certificate alone would make you want to apply for a research grant, right?
Because the foundation awards grants every year, we hold on to the die for future orders. This helps as the die/counter are a significant portion of the cost. You can check out some of our other embossing work here: Aeris Aviation, Joseph Vetrone, Brownfield Development Team.
If you’ve got questions about embossing or want to discuss a project involving it, feel free to contact us (email@example.com) for more information.