Letterpress | L Letterpress from Lifestyle Crafts

Welcome to the first post in a new (mini) series of articles on Scrapbook Update! Over the next few weeks I’ll be bringing you closer looks at tools and systems that bring a hot trend in stationery and cardmaking right into your scrap room: letterpress. Whether you’re planning a DIY wedding or party, or just want to add a touch of elegance to your everyday cards and scrapbook projects, Scrapbook Update will bring you all the information you need to choose which home letterpress option is the right one for you.

Some of the options for home letterpress that I’ll be exploring in these posts are add-ons to tools you may already own, some of them might actually be things you already own but didn’t realize could be used this way, and today’s focus, the L Letterpress kit from Lifestyle Crafts, is a complete setup that will have you making gorgeous projects right out of the box.

The L Letterpress Combo Kit comes with absolutely everything you need to start making basic cards and projects. Included in the box are the Epic 6 die cut machine, several letterpress plates, black letterpress ink, a brayer and ink base, a sample pack of letterpress paper, and the bases required for both letterpress and regular die cutting with the Epic 6. If you already own an Epic 6 tool, there is a separate, smaller Starter Kit available containing just the letterpress-related items.

Pre-made letterpress plate sets are available in a variety of styles and for a variety of holidays. Lifestyle Crafts also offers a custom plate service for customers who want to create their own specialized designs – a great option for DIY brides! Custom plates are 6″ x 8″ and can be ordered for $39.99, a fraction of the cost of custom letterpress invitations!

The ink included in the L Letterpress kit is a specialized oil-based formula that has a slightly tacky feel to it. The first and most important thing to know about using this ink is that less is truly more when working with it. Ink control is the key to getting crisp impressions from the L Letterpress tool, so when you get started it’s best to squeeze out a tiny amount of ink (refer to the small pea-sized drop on my ink base in the photo below). You can always add more if you find you didn’t use enough, but too much ink can cause “bleeding” outside the edges of the debossed image.

Once you’ve squeezed the ink out, use the brayer to roll it evenly until the ink base is covered. The ink should be spread very thinly and take on a slightly translucent quality. Remember when I said that less is more with this stuff? That tiny drop of ink covered my entire ink base, as you can see in the photo below!

The letterpress plates are adhered to the carrier using a removable adhesive sheet. Simply peel the protective paper off of one side of the included adhesive sheet, adhere the desired plate(s) to the sticky side of the sheet, and trim around the design.

Once the adhesive has been trimmed, the backing liner can be peeled off and the plates adhered to the top (clear) flap of the carrier base. (As an aside, I also had great results when experimenting with using Glue Dots to adhere the plates and found them a much faster option than trimming around the edges of the plate.)

Both the clear top and the base of the carrier are clearly marked with matching sets of measured grid lines to assist in getting a proper registration (alignment) of the paper to the design. The L Letterpress kit also includes a set of foam registration guides that can be temporarily adhered to the base of the carrier to ensure that the paper is placed in the same spot over multiple passes – a great option to have when mass producing a project!

Once the paper and letterpress plates have been placed and properly aligned, it’s time to ink the plates. Roll the brayer across the ink base, using several passes if needed to achieve even coverage across the roller (but, again, don’t load it up with too much ink), then roll it across the letterpress plates to transfer the ink, making sure that all parts of the design are evenly coated.

Then it’s time to flip the clear top over to close the base, insert the base into the machine, and run it through just as you would a normal die cut sandwich.

I was pleasantly surprised with the results from the L Letterpress kit. The card below was produced on my very first try with the machine, and I was pleased with both the crispness of the image and the depth of the impression.

As I mentioned earlier, Lifestyle Crafts offers a wide array of letterpress plates, including a fantastic selection of background designs. These are available as add-ons and not included in the starter kit, but I picked up a few to use for this review. This particular plate is from the “Tile” collection and produces a beautiful lattice print.

Notice all the cross-hatching on the plate? Those are supports running across the back of the plate to support the large, filled portions of the pattern on the front. These supports help prevent buckling in the plate as it comes under pressure in the Epic 6 tool and ensure an even print.

While inking this background plate I discovered a small drawback to the brayer included in the L Letterpress kit. It’s quite small and is a harder rubber than those typically used by stampers, and I found it difficult to get even ink coverage over such a large surface area. Not to mention that it took a very long time to ink the entire plate with such a small roller!

I decided to experiment and instead used a 6 inch soft rubber brayer from Speedball to apply the ink. They’re very inexpensive (mine was less than $13.00 US), and I’d actually recommend that you pick one up for almost any of the letterpress options that will be explored in this series. It made a world of difference when working with the larger background plates in the L Letterpress collection, and I was very pleased with the even results I achieved. The small brayer is good for the tiny, intricate plates, but for larger surfaces you’ll definitely want a bigger roller.

Now that we’ve taken a look at how the L Letterpress works, I’d like to talk about cleanup. Surprisingly, cleaning the letterpress plates took a lot of work, and a little experimentation with cleaning products since normal soap and water won’t cut through the L Letterpress’s oil-based inks.

The entire base, with the exception of a piece of white paper underneath the grid on the bottom of the base, is plastic and can be submerged for easy washing. Just be sure to lift out the clear grid and remove the paper before placing the base in water.

Lifestyle Crafts sells a special cleaning wipe for use with the L Letterpress system, but I didn’t find any available locally. After doing a bit of research online, I found that others were having great results using Goo-Gone, an organic solvent, to clean the ink. I found a bottle easily at my local building supply store for around $7.00 US, and it worked miracles when cleaning up the L Letterpress’s somewhat messy ink.

Once I’d completed my initial tests with the included paper and ink in the L Letterpress system, I decided to do what all crafty people enjoy doing: experiment!

The first thing I tried was a different type of paper. Some of the other letterpress options we’ll be exploring in the coming weeks work with watercolor paper, so I swapped out some Strathmore 300 Series cotton watercolor paper for the included L Letterpress paper (also a thick cotton paper, which is a requirement for deep impressions).

I was less than pleased with the ink coverage results, though I fault the paper and not the L Letterpress system as it performed flawlessly with its own included papers. Strathmore 300 Series, while decent, is not top-of the line paper and has a deeper, more uneven grain than more expensive watercolor paper does. I definitely recommend that if you substitute papers in the L Letterpress system that you go ahead and spend a little extra to get the highest quality paper possible.

I also experimented with using a normal stamp ink, in this case VersaColor from Tsukineko, instead of the included letterpress ink.

When using ink pads with L Letterpress plates it’s not necessary to use a brayer, and the ink can be applied directly to the plate. (Note that I’m inking a detached plate here for photographic purposes, but normally you’d attach the plate to the clear top of the carrier base before applying ink.)

I found that pigment inks (thus the use of VersaColor) worked best for this application. Dye inks are normally water based and tend to “bead up” on the plate’s surface, resulting in uneven prints. Chalk ink tends to “clump” around the edges of the plate design, resulting in impressions that are less crisp than are desirable.

One last experiment I performed with the L Letterpress kit had nothing to do with letterpress at all, but instead shows a hidden talent of this tool. I love it when my tools multitask, and I was thrilled to find that the L Letterpress base when used on its own (without the Epic 6 tool) is a superb stamping platform!

Using the L Letterpress platform for stamping is extremely easy. Simply lay out your clear stamps on the clear top as if it were a giant acrylic block…

…ink them up…

…and then insert your paper and close the base’s lid.

You’ll want to apply a small amount of pressure over the stamps with your fingers, about the same amount as you would when using a normal acrylic block.

The same grid features and alignment tools that make the L Letterpress base perfect for mass producing letterpress projects are well-suited for mass producing stamping projects, as well.

And a major benefit of using stamp inks? Cleanup is much easier than with letterpress inks. Here I simply used a baby wipe to rub away the stray ink.

The huge array of L Letterpress plates and ink colors available mean that you can customize this system to create almost any project you could ever need or want. I’ve made just a few items to show off the versatility of the L Letterpress.

Supplies | Letterpress Paper: Lifestyle Crafts. Cardstock: The Paper Studio. Patterned Paper: Authentique (Glowing: Foundations). Die Cuts: Authentique (Glowing: Icons). Buttons: Papertrey Ink. Ink: Lifestyle Crafts (Orange, Black). Letterpress Plates: Lifestlye Crafts (Spooked).

The mini album below shows how the L Letterpress can be used by scrapbookers as well as card makers. I used papers made with L Letterpress background plates as pages in my fall mini album! You’ll be seeing more pages from this album in coming articles that explore other home letterpress options.

Supplies | Letterpress Paper: Lifestyle Crafts, Strathmore Watercolor Paper (300 Series). Cardstock: Core’dinations (Tim Holtz Kraft-Core: Nostalgic Collection). Patterned Paper: Bella Blvd (Finally Fall At the Patch, Bliss, Quadrants, Borders). Chipboard: Bella Blvd. (Finally Fall Icons). Stickers: Bella Blvd. (Finally Fall Alphabet + Bits, Miniatures). Journaling Spots: Elle’s Studio (L’il Snippets Labeled Halloween, Spooktacular Autumn Tiny Tags). Ink: Lifestyle Crafts (Orange), Tsukineko (Staz-On Timber Brown, VersaColor Pacific, VersaColor Bark). Letterpress Plates: Lifestyle Crafts (Spooked, Tile). Date Stamp: Office Supply.

I found that the L Letterpress system was easy to use and produced beautiful results right out of the box, with the only small drawbacks being the limitations of the small included brayer and the unexpectedly long cleanup time needed after a project had been completed. The system is also flexible enough to be useful in other areas such as stamping, making the L Letterpress a great value as a multitasker.

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33 Responses to Letterpress | L Letterpress from Lifestyle Crafts

  1. KathyinMN October 13, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    Does it work in a sizzix machine?

    • Robyn October 13, 2011 at 3:13 am #

      Now you have me thinking….wonder if I could use acrylic stamps in my cuttle bug?????

      • Melissa Stinson October 13, 2011 at 6:18 am #

        Robyn- when I used clear stamps with the L Letterpress base, I did it without rolling it through the machine- I just used it like a big acrylic block on the table. The actual letterpress plates are a harder plastic than regular stamps and can stand the pressure of being rolled through a machine.

    • Melissa Stinson October 13, 2011 at 6:16 am #

      Kathy- I’m not sure as I didn’t try it, but from doing a quick Google search it looks like others have had some luck with it in the Big Kick/Big Shot. Apparently it won’t roll through a Cuttlebug. The tolerances on the L Letterpress are very tightly engineered and have been optimized for the Epic 6, so it may take some experimenting to get it to work with other machines, but I’m sure it’s not impossible!

      • Stacy October 20, 2011 at 1:22 am #

        I have only used my L Letterpress in my Big Shot and it works wonderfully. Clean and crisp results everytime!

      • Heather October 27, 2011 at 9:19 am #

        Cuttlebug letterpresser here! It does fit.

        • Romenna June 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

          Thanks! I saw a Youtube vid where someone did what appeared to be a full order of wedding invites with the Cuttlebug. Do you know where I can get the plates only for mine, for a great deal?

    • Sue S October 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      Hi! I can vouch that it does work in a Sizzix Machine. I have the Sizzix BigKick and bought just the Letterpress starter kit (with out the Epic 6) and they work perfectly together.

      Thanks for the tip on the Goo Gone and using it for basic acrylic stamping. I bought the wipes that are made for the set but they still didn’t get ALL the ink off so i am going to look into trying the spray. Plus I never even thought to use it for my acrylic stamps.

      And a quick FYI, my Hobby Lobby store has almost all of the plate kits on clearance, I got quite a few for $5-$8, so you might want to check it out 🙂

      Thanks for the great article, I am Evernoting it for future reference!

  2. Monique October 13, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    Great review! I especially like the ideas for multi-use helps me decide whether to purchase or not!

  3. JOANNE October 13, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    Great write-up. I was wondering how you achieved the mulit-colored effect. I would play with the Big Shot platforms to see if the design plates can be run through with ink. You have my mind spinning with possibilities!

    • Melissa Stinson October 13, 2011 at 6:19 am #

      Joanne- I achieved the multi-color effect on the card by making two passes through the machine- one with the black frame, then I removed everything (and cleaned the base) before setting up for the orange pass. I had an extra ink base and brayer so I could use two different colors of ink.

    • Melissa Stinson October 13, 2011 at 6:20 am #

      Oh, and a note about the Big Shot design plates- I’ve seen something simlar done, by Tim Holtz at CHA, no less! The difference is that most embossing folders work by putting an impression on both the front and back of the paper, while letterpress debosses and only pushes in on the front. I’ll actually look at using some regular plates for letterpress in one of the upcoming articles, so stay tuned!

  4. tencraftyfingers October 13, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Wonderful! Love, love, love the tip about the Glue Dots and all the experimentation. Great article.

  5. Juliana October 13, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Great review of this product and thanks for sharing the extra tips and uses for it!

  6. MichelleGB October 13, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    What an excellent article! I have been resisting the urge to get this product, but you showed that it’s really pretty versatile! I think I’ll be getting this after all.

  7. Wendy Jordan October 13, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Great review Melissa. I am a sales representative for Lifestyle Crafts and YES….you can use the Letterpress Platform in a Cuttlebug as well as the Big Shot.
    Another key point is that clean-up is very easy with the Letterpress Cleaning Cloths and Deep Cleaning Solution. Stores need to stock these items WITH a Letterpress Machine. Essential. I had not heard of the Goo Gone. Let Letterpress Cleaning Clothes, cut right through the ink and can be re-used when using multiple plates at a time.
    Again, thanks for the great review. I may be passing this review along to some of my stores social media pages.
    Have a good day!

    • Sherie October 19, 2011 at 8:57 am #

      Hi! I really like this letterpress in fact i purchased mine long time ago and just tried it trully last week when i got more plates that were on sale at hobby lobby. I found it easy to use and very interesting, the problem i had was that i did not get the deep impression i am looking for. I am wondering, was it because i used my cuttlebug?! I tried adding pressure but it cant fit thru my cb. Do you think it will do better with it’s epic 6 machine?
      Also, what other paper you can suggest, i’ve been thinking also about the watercolor paper but as melissa’s experiment it does not give same outcome.

    • laura russell September 22, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

      Looks like Melissa used only half the embossing folder. I tried putting the whole folder in my Evolution last night and it was too thick. Any ways around this?

  8. Hope October 13, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    thanks for the great review! I saw this demo’d on HSN and was really impressed.

    I was wondering how many images will it stamp with 1 inking of the plate? Do you have to go back and apply more ink after doing each image?

    • Melissa Stinson October 14, 2011 at 8:12 am #

      Hope- Yes, just like with a stamp, you have to ink the letterpress plates before each impression.

  9. Crystal Williams October 13, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am loathe to admit I didn’t really understand what “Letterpress” really is. I was VERY excited to hear you are doing a series on this topic! After just this 1st article I already have a better understanding of this process. I can hardly wait for the next installment. As always, “Scrapbook Update” is doing a great job of keeping me informed on a subject I love.

  10. Donna Salazar October 13, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Another great post Melissa! Your reviews are soooooo detailed! I LOVE IT!!!

  11. Christine October 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Really great review – helps me to understand – I look forward to seeing more!

  12. Gab October 13, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Oh wow that looks amazing

  13. KathyinMN October 13, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Thanks for answering my question! I keep looking at this, but not wanting to invest in another system. I do love the results and can’t wait to see more on this product.

  14. DorothyCC October 14, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    This is so cool! Another temptation for spending money – or possibly a request for Santa this Christmas.

  15. *Queen* Britt October 26, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    I have this letterpress system and I have some tips! Firstly, any alcohol-base wipes will clean the letterpress ink perfectly. I just make my own by draining and drying cheap baby wipes and pouring alcohol over the dry wipes to absorb. The cost is about half the branded wipes. Just wipe the clean surface with a wet paper towel after. Also, I use this with the CB and the best way to get a deep impression is to run it through until the roller has gone all the way over the image and then roll it back the other way and, with two passes, you get a nice, professional impression. Have fun!

  16. Heather October 27, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    I pulled out my letterpress this week for more experimenting, I tried all different papers I had on hand. The best results I got were with a paper called Stonehenge… we used to use this in art school all the time for lino and engraving prints. It’s pure cotton, acid-free, and CHEAP… I got a huge sheet about a metre wide for less than $2. It also comes in many different shades like grey, cream, buff, kraft and has a beautiful deckle edge. Anyway the impressions I got were nice and deep. I really prefer it to the “official” letterpress paper.

    Thanks for the great review! I had never thought of using it for a stamp press as well. For the record I have never even used the ink and brayer… when I first started out with it a year ago I didn’t have much time so just tried pigment ink pads. It worked so well I didn’t see any reason to get out the “real” ink. I imagine that doing a full-plate with an ink pad might make me change my mind, though.

  17. Kara Dawn October 27, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Thank you so much for this review! It really helped me out while in the middle of a dilemma at Hobby Lobby. I had bought the kit (without the Epic 6) earlier this week using the 40% off coupon (SCORE!) and went back tonight to buy the Epic 6 with another 40% off coupon (DOUBLE SCORE!). To my surprise, they sold out of the Epic 6 machine within the 48 hour period! The only other die cut machine I have is the Cricut Expression, so I had to figure out if anything could fill in for the Epic 6. I grabbed my phone and surfed the web for answers. Your followers helped boost my confidence in purchasing the Sizzix Big Kick (still using the 40% off coupon -WOOHOO!). Aside from this, I also found your review very informative and I look forward to more posts. Keep up the good work! =)

  18. Daisy November 4, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    Thanks so much for posting this! You are ten shades of awesome (:

  19. Deanna December 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Great information, thank you. The pictures are wonderful.
    I’ve been searching all around and can’t find this answer, though: Can I use the plates without the letterpress base? I have a Big Shot and just want to use some variant of the multipurpose base and/or shims. Anyone?

  20. kristen December 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    I saw that they sell white ink. has anyone tried it with dark paper?

  21. hannah April 23, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Thanks for the Goo Gome advice! it saved me 🙂

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