Let's get into the weeds.

Even when printing custom cards, we keep things simple around the shop at Hoban Cards. We specialize in minimal, typographically focused one or two color prints. First, let's quickly cover some services that we offer, as well as some services we choose to not offer:

Services We Offer

  • Single and double sided printing
  • Design / layout services
  • Blind (inkless) impressions
  • Die cutting
  • Worldwide shipping
  • Bulk and reorder discounts

Services We Do Not Offer

  • Foiling
  • Duplexing (gluing two sheets together)
  • Large areas of solid ink (why?)
  • Light ink on dark paper (why?)
  • Poster printing
  • Full color printing
  • Offset or digital printing
  • Embossing (we "deboss.")
The information presented below is to help designers better prepare their files for letterpress printing. If you're not a designer, the information below isn't meant to overwhelm you. We can help! Just fill out our simple custom order request form and we'll be happy to assist you with your custom order. If you're just looking for our pre-designed calling card options, you'll probably find what you're looking for here.

Table of Contents

Our Printing Philosophy

There are many letterpress shops doing incredible, intricate and imaginative work. We love them and are inspired by them. We choose to focus on doing what we love and strive to do it very well. That is, to letterpress print simple, minimal items that exemplify what letterpress was originally created to print - type on paper.

Designing for Letterpress

File preparation and formats

Before starting your layout, it's important to begin with the correct format. In order to make plates for your letterpress project, we need your files as vector artwork. Photoshop is not the correct tool for print layout because it works with raster (pixel based) graphics. Instead, please use software like Adobe Illustrator or InDesign.

The final print ready files can be delivered as .ai, .pdf or .eps files. All fonts need to be outlined (converted to paths) to prevent font conflicts. No crop marks or bleeds are required. Make your artboard the same size as your printing piece.

Type/Font choices and sizes

Because we create physical plates from digital files, we aren't limited by a certain physical set of type. So, feel free use any font you'd like when creating your layout. Also, try to keep your font size above 6 or 7pt. Some thin fonts at smaller sizes can get washed out during the plate making process.

Line Width

As with small type, thin lines can also be compromised or washed away during the plate making process. It's good idea to keep your lines and rules .4pt or greater.


In contrast to conventional printing methods, letterpresses print one solid color at a time. So, full color printing is not an option with letterpress printing. We can't print photographs or graphics that contain any gradients of colors. Here are some other items to keep in mind:

  • Matching: If color matching is important to you (perhaps you have a company style guide you must adhere to), it's a great idea to look at a physical Pantone swatch book for printing. We mix to match spot colors from Pantone's Uncoated Formula Guide to ensure the color you're looking at will ultimately match the color we will print. This isn't possible by just looking at your screen because all computer screens render colors differently. If exact color matching isn't essential to your project, we can mix ink colors by eye to those provided in your file.
  • Coated vs. Uncoated: We mix to Pantone's Uncoated Formula Guide because we do all our letterpress printing on uncoated paper. If you've chosen a coated Pantone color, or your branding guidelines dictate one, it's a good idea to get ahold of an uncoated formula guide to make sure the color will print as you expect. Many times the coated and uncoated colors can differ quite a bit. For example, if your guidelines call for swatch 280C, make sure swatch 280U is acceptable to you as a stand in. (Psst! Hey designers! Provide your clients with both coated and uncoated swatches when submitting your final branding package! )
  • Number of Colors: In our shop, we limit the number of impressions to 4 on any given order. So, if you're printing a single sided card, you can have a maximum of 4 impressions on the one side. For double sided cards, you could have 3 on one side and 1 on the other or 2 on one side and 2 on the other, etc. Blind (inkless) impressions count into this limit.

Double Sided Printing

We can print either single sided or double sided cards. If you're keen on a double layout, here are some need-to-knows:

  • Because impressions are coming in from both sides of the card, it's a good idea to stagger your artwork from front to back as much as possible. A little overlap is fine, but avoid larger areas of solid impressions fighting one another. This will allow us to get a deeper "bite" into the paper when printing.
  • Another consequence of printing on both sides is the necessity for a very thick paper. Many people love the double thick 220# (600gsm, 42pt) stock we generally print double sided cards on, but they can also be too thick for some people. If you need to carry around many cards with you at once, it might be better to design for a single sided card.

Blind (inkless) Impressions

One popular technique is to print an impression into the paper using no ink on the press. This is referred to as a "blind impression." This can be used to great effect, but there are some things you should know:

  • Some small, thin or heavy font choices can be very hard to read as a blind impression. If legibility is important to you, consider increasing the size or weight of your font.
  • Small or thin elements can accentuate the impression into the paper for a more dramatic effect. Conversely, larger, broader impressions can appear shallow or subtle comparatively.
  • Fonts that have very tight tracking (letters are very close together) can also look a bit muddy and hard to interpret as an inkless impression.
  • If you are printing double sided cards, make sure that printing on the reverse side doesn't occupy the same space on the card as a blind impression. The printing on the other side can show through a bit or even reverse (or push out) the blind impression making it look bad.
  • Generally, it's a good idea to use blind impressions sparingly. It can be a great subtle touch to your layout, but overdoing it can easily be too busy or even gaudy.

Avoidances and Services We Don't Offer

Here are a few things to specifically avoid when you design for letterpress printing with Hoban Cards. Some of these are generally things to avoid when approaching a letterpress project and some are just services we choose not to offer:

  • Light Ink on Dark Paper: letterpress is not good at printing light ink on dark paper because the ink isn't opaque enough to retain its color with the dark paper behind it. Some shops get away with this by printing a foil instead of ink. We choose not to do foiling at our shop, so we stick to printing darker inks on lighter papers.
  • Large Solid Areas of Ink: Letterpresses were originally created to print type on paper. We choose to celebrate this tradition by sticking to that process as much as possible. Even though we can now print graphics, it's good to stay away from larger areas of solid ink in your design. Our letterpresses aren't created to spread ink over large areas, so the final product can turn out very worn or mottled looking.
  • Duplexed Papers: Duplexing is a process where two different sheets are printed and then glued together to make a final card. The process is utilized when one entire side of the card needs to be a different color than the other (imagine a completely white front side and completely black back side). We don't have duplexing equipment in our shop, so we currently can't accommodate layouts like this.

Embossing vs. "Debossing"

We often get requests to emboss business cards. Embossing is a specific printing method where the graphic is raised up out of the surface of the card. We do not offer this service. Many people confuse this with the impression the letterpress printing makes into the paper. We refer to it as "debossing." Instead of raising up out of the paper, we print with an extra heavy impression which pushes down into the paper. This is often semantics, but it's important to understand the difference.

Paper Choices

Our house stock is Neenah Cotton which is a 100% cotton paper with a great toothy texture. It's specifically made for letterpress printing and takes a very nice impression. For 90% of our projects, this paper is fantastic. We carry it in three shades of white - a bright white, a warm white and an Ecru, which is more of a cream / yellow hued paper. If you have a specific paper you'd like or a color you want, we can certainly order in different papers. We have recommendations, so please ask!

Bulk Orders for Teams

We love creating business cards or stationery sets for small businesses and teams. We give bulk order discounts for ordering multiple sets at one time. We also keep your plates in our shop for future reorders. All reorders get 20% off the original price.

Turnaround and Shipping for Custom Orders

Turnaround can vary depending on our current queue. We generally give a 3 weeks standard turnaround time. In many cases the cards will be shipped sooner. We can also often accommodate specific deadlines with a rush order option that will bump you up in the queue for a rush fee. We ship all over the world and charge no "handling" fees. We attempt to charge you the exact shipping costs. If you are outside of the United States, custom fees may apply to you depending on how your country handles taxing of imports.


Because projects vary so much, we don't publish custom prices, but we can quickly give you an estimate if you fill out our questionnaire on our custom order request page. We offer bulk order discounts and reorder discounts. The main variables that affect the prices are quantity, number of colors, and double vs single sided cards. If you are price conscientious, it's good to limit the number of colors in your design and consider sticking with a single sided card.

More questions about custom orders? Don't hesitate to reach out - we'd love to work with you on your next project.