Experimental Wood Type


Piet Zwart—Trio–Reclameboek, inside page 1931

Artist/Designers experimenting with Letterpress and WoodType


Assignment: Experimental Wood Type

Phase One—Hand Printed Wood Type

  • Explore the possibilities of design from hand inked and hand printed wood type.
  • Experiment with hand inked individual wood letters.
  • Pay particular attention to repetition and rhythm positive and negative shapes as the ground is activated by positioning the letters closer together or overlapping the forms.
  • Concepts such as repetition with variation, figure and ground relationships and rhythm are important to consider.

In this assignment we are also exploring the relationship between design experimentation as it eventually influences production process. Innovation as it influences invention and possible new directions.

Phase Two—Digitizing the Print

As part two of this experiment, scan smaller segments, parts or “Passages” of your letterpress prints as modular units. Import these into the computer. You may add effects or color shifts using Photoshop. Then, use Illustrator to repeat them as pattern, paying attention to the same general design concepts as before. In this version, you are also reflecting on the results of combining technologies (old-school wood type letterpress and contemporary digital applications). Print to the BFK Rives paper from the inkjet printer.

In Photoshop:

  • To remove background>>unlock BKGRND>>select white with Magic wand>>delete
  • Experiment with adjusting the image with
    • Image>>Adjust>>Levels, Curves, Brightness/Contrast
    • Selection>>Fill with Content-Aware
    • Filter>>Render>>Lighting Effects
    • Filter>>Stylize>>Solarize, etc.
    • Layer Pallette>>options found under “Normal” for how layers interact with one another
    • Save as PSD file to maintain any transparency and place in Illustrator

In Illustrator:

  • Make use of Repetition with Variation=Pattern
    • Option Copy
    • Transform Each function (rotate, scale, move)
    • Duplicate function
    • Make with Envelope Distort
    • Opacity settings and overlapping images
  • The Digital Print is printed to a sheet of BFK Rives paper, 15″ x 22″. (check to see if your particular sheet has a watermark. If so, be sure to insert the paper so that the watermark and your print will both be right side up and right reading)
  • Your print should be centered within a rectangular box that measures 9″ x 14″, centered on the paper

WoodType Digital Print


  • If printing from your laptop, be sure you have downloaded the correct printer driver first. (The printer we are using in this case is the Epson StylusPro 4800) Do a Google Search for Epson Stylus Pro Printer Driver to locate the correct one for your laptop.
  • In the Printer’s Display window:
    • select the “single sheet” icon
    • from the Menu Button (which is also the right arrow button), hit this button twice to reach “Platen Gap”, Hit the right arrow once more to reach the default “Standard” setting. Hit the down arrow three times to change this setting to “Wide”. Hit the Right arrow one last time to confirm this setting (you will see a * appear). Left arrow back to “Ready”.
    • The Display Window should now look like this below.

printer window settings

  • Feed paper into the Manual Feed slot.
  • Follow the normal directions for Digital Printing to the Epson Printers plus the following:
    • Choose the “pro4800 Standard” profile from the “other profiles” option. Be sure to also make this same choice in the Color Management window.
    • Select “Plain Paper” as the media type
    • Select Manual Feed

Student Examples

Phase Three—Book Jacket

This step requires you to narrow your digital experiments in Illustrator and Photoshop down to 3 designs. Carefully analyze each design. Ask yourself “what are the design’s main characteristics”. You should come up with a short list of at least 6 characteristics for each design. These lists might include words such as; bold, mysterious, expressive, playful or candy-like, licorice-like, fence-like, etc. Then, taking your cue from these lists, decide on a category of book (mystery, adventure, love story, comedy, satire, etc.). Finally, match your design (based on its defining characteristics) to one of these book categories (genres) and either redesign the dust jacket/cover for an existing book or make up a title for a book that could be in that genre.

Layout your dust jacket design in Illustrator. Use sizes from a real book that you own. The final size of each panel depends upon the size of the book that you wrap. (you will be wrapping the final print around this book for you to photograph, so it must fit). Consider the possibilities of a wrap-around design (one that extends across front, spine and back panels).

Pay particular attention to the following typography:

jacketYour dust jacket design must include 5 panels:

  1. front
  2. back
  3. spine
  4. inside front flap
  5. back inside flap

Your Dust jacket design must also include the following minimal information:

on the front

  • Author
  • Title

on the spine

  • Author
  • Title
  • Publishing Company Logo

on the back

  • bar code Generator screenshot (command + shift + 4)
  • screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-3-46-11-pm
  • Publishing Company

on the inside front or back 

  • info about the author + picture + other books written by her/him
  • info or short synopsis about the book/story