Six Color (monochrome) Letterpress Portrait

Six Color (monochrome) Letterpress Portrait

We’ve attempted a six color letterpress portrait – a monochrome 6 gray levels (so 7 levels including “non printing white area” for a whopping 1 less than a 3-bit image 🙂 .

Six color letterpress plan of action
The plan for six colors


We used three different paper types, Crane’s Letter, French Paper Company’s Butcher Extra Blue-Dur-O-Tone and German Etching paper… They were all cut to 22 x 30 inches.

We learned Butcher Extra Blue should not be stacked (we enclosed a blank bond paper in between) especially when having had large solid areas printed as the ink will adhere to the paper above causing blotchy areas. We were able to recognize this early and were able to mitigate by drying them individually for the last few colors which covered the blotchiness away (large solid areas of the portrait’s hair area).

Deckled edges were trimmed on two sides on German Etching papers, being careful not to trim off the watermarked logo, so they can be aligned on one corder for all 6 runs. It suffered from delimitation in large solid areas after repeated pressings.

German Etching paper delaminating
Delamination can be seen in some German Etching paper over large solid areas…


Portland Intense Black relief ink by Gamblin. We ran out of Gamblin white after 3rd plate so we used some Gans Ink’s. No transparent mediums were used. The last color was 100% black.


We could definitely have had started much lighter. The first 2 or three shades could’ve had a bit more white to it.

Registration worked okay. We are receiving 9 short high speed quoins this week, so that should aid us in adjusting the plate position going forward. But given that the total count of paper was in the mid 20s, the registration was pretty alright for what it is worth…



First color
1/6 color on Butcher Blue
2/6 on Butcher Blue
4/6 on Lettra
5/6 on German Etching paper
Godzilla for scale; these are large prints…
6/6 on French Paper Co. Pop-Tone Butcher Extra Blue

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