How-To: Lasercut Printing Plates

Craft & Design Workshop
How-To: Lasercut Printing Plates

There’s something so charming about combining high and low tech, which is why I like Trammell Hudson’s latest tutorial. The NYC Resistor member posted an excellent guide on how to use a lasercutter to create intaglio letterpress plates out of acrylic, which is much less expensive than using the traditional copper. Intaglio plates have the positive image etched into them which creates reservoirs that hold the ink and are transfered to the paper. He also plans on posting a separate guide to creating letterpress relief plates, which have the negative image etched into them, creating protrusions that are inked and then transferred. Thanks for sharing your tips, Trammell!

10 thoughts on “How-To: Lasercut Printing Plates

  1. William Abernathy says:

    Interesting, but there’s a serious terminological flaw. Intaglio and letterpress are different processes. In intaglio, the ink is rubbed into the low spots on the plate and off of the high spots. Then, the paper is mashed into the plate hard enough that the ink transfers from the grooves to the page. Letterpress is a type of relief printing. You roll ink onto the high spots, and transfer it directly from the high points of the type or plate onto the page, using less pressure than intaglio.

    1. Joby Elliott says:

      Would you say the difference might be summed up as how intaglio has “reservoirs that hold the ink and are transfered to the paper,” and letterpress and other relief printing is “protrusions that are inked and then transferred.”

    2. How-To: Lasercut Printing Plates Matt Richardson says:

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ve struck “letterpress” from “intaglio letterpress plates.”

  2. William Abernathy says:

    Matt: Thank you for being so responsive!

    Joby: I would sum up the difference most succinctly with “innie vs. outie” but my printer friends might throw some type at my head.

  3. walker says:

    Another important distinction between the two ( besides the nature of their lines) is the type of ink used. Intaglio uses a very runny low viscosity ink whereas letterpress uses a stiff high tack ink. Laser has been used for both processes before but most printers find polymer plates more economical. Check out and Graphic Chemical and Ink. This is a good research project but my experience is that the laser diode must be of the finest quality to get the line results needed for fine printing. Don’t forget paper quality too! Letterpress can be printed on dry sheets whereas intaglio must be printed on damp rag paper to be successful. Good Work. Cheers.

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Matt Richardson is a San Francisco-based creative technologist and Contributing Editor at MAKE. He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.

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