How to letterpress – Adana 8×5

how_to_letterpressI have already shown the finished product on my blog and will provide a link to it at the end of this post but I have not really answered the question how to letterpress. This is just an example of how letterpress works using a small table top press, in this case an adana 8×5 or as it is also often written, adana eight five. Although there are many other printing methods this is my favourite hands-on method and although I also like to do lino-cuts and wood cuts etc. i find that with letterpress I  can get top quality results. This small press can be fantastic for achieving professional results but take s a bit of tinkering to reach them. Business card size is idea as you can really get a nice even impression and also as deep an impression as anyone would need. These particular letterpress cards were for a luxury clothing brand based in luxembourg and the nature of the business it was very important to have a luxury label to suit the product itself. We used a 100% cotton paper for the labels which was designed to maximize letterpress imprinting but they also have a really smooth feel to them. The Client had suggested a further element to the cards and so when the letterpress printing was completed the cards were then given a red wax stamp which really completed them. Here are some pictures of the press and the process of printing the cards using a photopolymer plate for my type in this case.

Letterpress printing is not easy in the beginning and everyone needs to get to know their machine and papers and of course which ink suits them best. In this case the job was quite urgent I had to use oil based inks rather than my usual rubber based inks which take longer to dry. In the end the client and myself were very happy with the results  

the rollers are just laying a thin layer of ink onto the polymer plate as they roll down and then up again. to many passes can overink the polymer/type and this causes a mess and it is a pain to remove the ink from the plate or type as it is easy to knock your registration off while doing this. Lessons already learnt… the hard way πŸ™

the polymer plate with a thin covering of ink ready to be pressed against the paper.

Here you can see the ink has made contact with the paper and I have achieved just the right/desired impression with my print. Deep enough to feel the indentation with a finger tip, but not so deep that the edges of the paper bulge around the type, although often used in letterpress today I find very deep impressions a little ugly. Unfortunately, there is always the desires of the client to take into account and so sometimes, we have to make more impression than we would like to get the right effect for the paying customer.

previous post featuring the finished cards can be viewed here and another post showing a great letterpress video A collection of inspiring Simple Letterpress Business cards can be found here, enjoy!

If you have any questions about Printing with an ADANA 5×8 then just drop me a line in the comments box. I would be glad to share my experiences and findings.


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18 thoughts on “How to letterpress – Adana 8×5

    1. Hi Kat, for these cards I used cranes Lettra florescent white 100% cotton paper which is really soft and takes a nice impression. It is also hard to get a bright white paper in cotton so it is ideal where contrast is important. My favourite paper to date for printing is Somerset 100% Cotton; it takes a really nice impression and the texture is beautiful. The only drawback is the colour is not very bright white, although it is definitely not cream in colour it is not the brightest ivory either. Another great paper is the gmund cotton (very expensive mind unless you can afford to buy it in a ream of 1000, otherwise it is 80 pence a sheet or thereabouts, it is not really ideal for letterpress printers trying to get into the business. It is also ivory rather than a bright white)

  1. Can I print 6 x 4 and 5 x 3 on a 8 x 5 Adana press?

    I am about to buy one and am curious as to which size to buy.

    Many thanks in anticipation.


    1. hi there, you can print that size but i will be honest you will not have much impression on a larger size. I have just finished printing Din A5 envelopes using a wooden base almost the full size of the chase but in my opinion the adana is really best for printing business card sizes, once you get bigger than the 8cm by 5cm size the impression starts to become uneven. One tip though, if you moisten the paper and then give it your best shot you will get a nicer impression. I also have a golding official n0 6 which has roughly an A4 size chase and it is still not easy to get a very even nor deep impression…text is fine but if you have for example a solid area at the top like a banner or block of Solid letters and then finer 12pt text on the bottom part, you will get a nice impression on the finer text but the larger solid area will not bite the paper nearly as well and may even just turn out as a kiss impression which of course is fine but not if you have deeper impression on the other part of your card. If you want to do some greeting cards then I would advise going for a larger machine like a vandercook or a windmill the table top presses can manage it but they are not built for it and will just snap eventually. The adana is a perfect press for business cards and kiss impression on larger cards BUT i find it needs to be fiddled with ALL the time…which in the long run means lots of wasted paper and of course time. Another good machine is the arab, if you can get one of those they are supposed to be very capable machines.

  2. Hi Nick,I am sorry to have to take issue with you on your comments about the Adana 8×5. I would be glad to have you vist our showrooms anytime where I will happily show you the capablities of the machine far and beyond printing business cards!
    Having first used an 8×5 when I was 8 years old, I speak with some experience on the matter, not to mention the thousands of satisfied customers we have world-wide producing all sorts of wonderful work and often to the maximum size of the machine.
    If anyone out there requires information, tips and hints about any of the Adana machines, we are here to offer it along with re-manufactured machines, type, letterpress inks and sundries, photopolymer plate making kits, thermography powders – you name it! We have years of experience in letterpress printing and are happy to share it. Call us anytime on 01727 85 22 11
    I must say that your 8×5 looks pretty spectacularly kept in the photos!

    1. Hello Roy,
      nice to hear from you, many thanks for your comment, and all comments are of course welcome. I love the Adana, don’t get me wrong, it is lovely to work with and so easy to clean up afterwards. I just prefer to use it for business cards as when I am printing larger than the size of my chase, then it is much more work having to put the same page in twice and make sure registration is perfect. And even by dampening paper, adjusting compression screws, hard and soft packing, experimenting with polymers and exposure times etc. I still can’t get a nice even impression on anything over A6 size and I am not trying to crush my designs into the paper but rather just create a very subtle bite that you can see as well as feel. I know the Adana is a great little workhorse and when I am using metal type or image blocks rather than polymer I am really impressed by the sharpness of the prints.

      I have since seen some very nice work on the very same model and since writing that post I have been talking to a few people from the British Printing Society who also speak highly of the little press. As you mentioned, my press is still in very good condition, since purchasing it from yourself a few years back I have been using it a lot. I won’t be selling it in a hurray and I look forward to getting around to experimenting some more as we use it more and more. It will continue to be part of our studio and probably be used on a daily basis by my wife and I as we prepare our products for the launch of our online shop

  3. Hi again Nick, and many thanks for your further comments. The problem today is that so many people with little or no real experience in letterpress printing are only too willing to splash their little knowledge about on the net. And things taken out of context can be very confusing. The sad side is that others read it and believe it! Hey Ho!
    Keep in touch and good luck with your online shop!

  4. Hello.
    I just received an Adana 8×5 [first press of mine], and I've run a few preliminary tests. However, with my custom die I had produced, it seems like the rollers are inking the top and bottom of the die itself, as if the die were protruding out of the chase too much. Do you have any suggestions as to how to avoid this?
    Also, with some prints, I'm seeing 'double lines', meaning the die is pressing upon the paper twice. Any idea as to what would cause this?
    Many thanks!

    1. Hi There Louis, it sounds like your rollers need to be raised a little. You should try taping the rails to make them raise from the height of the plate, is the plate type high as the adana is generally spot on with type high blocks or normal lead type. I have seen this sort of double edge printing or smudgy lines a lot while working with the Adana and usually it comes down to either the roller height or the amount of ink on the disk. I usually put the absolute minimum ink on the disk as it is so easy to over do it with the smaller disk. Give that a go and see how it works for you and keep me updated. Cheers, nick

  5. Hi there
    I  thinking about buying a Adana, but doing some research first. Thank you for some good "articles"

    I have a question, how do you make your Lino-cuts ? πŸ™‚ I have trouble figuring out the right solution. 
    Thanks in advance!   //Ida

    1. Hi Ida, thanks for your comment. Do you want to primarily use lino for the adana as although it is possible it is not nearly as perfect as using photopolymer plates.But then maybe that is the effect you are after. I have not made any lino cuts for quite a while now, but in the past when I did use it, I just used the standard lino from the art shop and taped it with double sided tape to mdf cuttings which were milled to reach the correct roller height when the lino was taped to them. The lino itself i just drew it out with a fine black marker and then cut it out with the lino cutting tools. If you want more info about the Photopolymer then let me know and I can elaborate on my experiences.

  6. Thanks for your reply!
    I´m not sure witch I primarily want to use, depending om the art. I am just trying to figure out the procedure for both. I have made lino cut as a child, so this is not that unfamiliar to me.  – At least not the cutting part. πŸ™‚

    Unfortunately I don´t have the space for many different types at home, therefore, a combination of digital design using photopolymer plates/lino and printing with types would be an optimal solution for me.
    Buy is it possible for me to make hotopolymer plates myself?
    How have you made the logo in this blog, with the type and crown?

    Some more information about Photopolymer would be great! THANKS
    – by the way, I´m from Denmark, so sorry if my english is´nt so correct πŸ™‚

  7. Hi there, I’m printing some wedding invitations on my Adana 8×5 and using a photopolymer plate of my design. As my design is 8×5 I wasn’t able to buy a’ chase base’ to make sure the design sits at 21.8mm so have made an mdf jobbie to get my design to this height.
    However, when I have gone to print the roller are not only inking the design but the background layer too so when it prints out my design has a smudgy background. I’ve tried a lower base but this is not deep enough to ink the plate.
    Am I able to raise the rollers at all. If so, any ideas how I do that?

    Many thanks,


    1. Hi Chrissy, I use tape on the rails when I don’t have the correct base and polymer height, masking tape is fine. You could alternatively tape the trucks with electrical tape which works in these cases. Let me know how you get on. I think that it may be the base is too big and the inking of the plate is at the top and bottom of the plate, but that is the only thing I can’t think of as a ‘quick fix’ for your situation, I hope this helps.

Thanks for reading my post. I would really love to hear your comments.