I have a client who is looking for a watercolor effect on their invitation suite as well as letterpress printing. While I could obviously hand-color each one with watercolor, I have a feeling that will be a bit cost-prohibitive for my client, so I was wondering if it would be possible to offset print (and/or print on my high-end printer at home) and then put those on the press for letterpress printing the finishing touches.

I'm not sure if Lettra Digital (90lb) can hold up to letterpress printing, can it? And I'm not sure if my printer (a Canon Pixma ix6520) can handle 110lb Lettra, either. I could outsource, I guess, but then I have a feeling that's going to end up being cost prohibitive, too.

Has anyone here done that digital + letterpress combo? How did you do it? Can you give me some ballpark costs so that I can see if this is going to work out for the client or if I should recommend another method? Would it cost less (my time + money-wise) to just paint each individual invitation myself instead?

Ummm ... yeah. Any help in this area would be really welcome as I'm not sure how to get back to my client at all.

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I did this exact thing once. Here is the thing - you will ruin your printer if you put regular lettra in in for a long run and digital printers do NOT print evenly as the grippers which pull in the paper to the printer shift, on the same part of the page, so you wouldn't have hairline line up if you needed it. I really liked Hahnmule paper for this, it digitally prints and letterpress prints beautifully but it isn't super thick so be aware, plus it is expensive and cost me a fortune in ink and time. Offest is going to cost you a ton if you do a fully color print, don't bother with that either.  

Why not just do a halftone watercolor splash like I did in the halftone discussion? You could even do a split fountain (gradient) and get a two tone watercolor splash that would look stellar. Printing inkjet is SO slow, it took me about 14 hours of printing to get all the inkjet prints done, it was awful, but for the book I was doing it was needed. I suggest going the halftone route, I really really do. 

By ruin your printer, I mean that the fibers will begin clogging the ink head and start spurting out black ink dots on your prints halfway through the run. Lettra is too cottony and it is uncoated meaning the digital prints will be dull and soft. 

I tried to recommend this, but the bride's grandmother was hand painting full-color watercolor flowers for each of her 5 pieces. Yeaaaaaaah. So, that complicated things.

I actually found a local printer in town who has done offset printing on Lettra Digital (and Savoy Digital, my preference), which is about 90lb instead of the standard 110lb. They wanted to test the paper, though, because like you mentioned, long runs often get terrible results. Luckily, I only need about 150 prints (200 would be preferred, but my bride only needs 90 invite suites total), so at least I'm not printing too much. Our hope is to gang up all the work on a single 12x18 or 19x13 sheet and then cut after, which also made me happy that they included cutting in the estimate. It turned out to be only $250 to get all 5 pieces printed. Not too bad, in my opinion.

That said, I sent a quote and samples and haven't heard anything back from the bride ... soooooo ... hmm.

Go the simplest route you can.

Also I should note, Lettra is HORRIBLE for watercoloring in, it will bleed, warp, stretch, and then dry super dull and ugly. If you insist on hand applying the watercolor you need to buy a watercolor paper (they all lettrepress well) which will cost you double per card what Lettra does at least. I was an illustrator before I was a printer, dont even think about hand watercoloring on Lettra if you want that beautiful bright, watery look. It is not a paper that soaks well, let alone paints well. 

Nnooooo, indeed. Lettra is incredibly thirsty. It can really soak up letterpress ink, so I can only imagine what it does with watercolor ... terrifying.

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