What We Do, and How We Do it.
At Radix Media, we utilize three printing processes: traditional offset lithography, letterpress, and digital printing. While they all result in a physically printed object in your hand, they are all very distinct processes with their own strengths and weaknesses.
We’ll walk you through your options to achieve the best possible printed product. You can read more about our processes below, as well as our selections of house paper and ink.
Offset lithography has been around for over a century and is still the most popular method of producing most books, magazines and newspapers in existence today. The image begins on a plate that is mounted onto the plate cylinder, and is then transferred to a rubber blanket, and from the blanket ultimately to the paper. The process is based on the fact that ink and water do not mix; water keeps the non-image area of the plate clean, so the oil (soy-based ink, in our case) only touches the area intended for print.
Our offset press is a two-color Ryobi 3302. With offset presses, there is no auto-duplexing. Each side of a sheet of paper is printed separately, and requires its own plate and setup. The same holds true for each color in a multi-color job, and each spread in a multi-page document such as a book. Ink density and color registration must be set and carefully monitored throughout the run. This is especially crucial if doing multiple passes of the same sheet.
While this kind of printing process is involved and can sometimes require extensive setup, once a job is up and running, hundreds of thousands of copies can be run at lightning speed, with top-notch quality and ultimately a better finished product.
If we told you that the Sunday edition of the Times sitting on your coffee table was once set by hand, letter by letter and space by space, into the headlines and columns we know and love today—would you believe us? And did you know the Protestant religion and the organization of labor would have never have come into existence if not for this printing process? We have our very own letterpress machines plucked straight out of this weighty history and settled beautifully in our print shop!
Our letterpress equipment is beautiful, incredibly capable, and ranges from vintage to antique. Our Heidelberg Windmill was manufactured in Germany in 1977 but still turns as perfectly as it did when it rolled off the factory floor. This versatile piece of equipment used to be a standard in any pressroom. It can print traditional letterpress as well as foil stamp, and can even score, die cut, emboss and deboss with speed, accuracy and grace.
The Vandercook 219 Old Style sitting on our floor is a massive piece of cast iron dating back to 1936. It is heavy, but can print fine type like nothing else. We mostly use this for posters, book covers, broadsides, and other over-size short run projects.
Letterpress offers a refined, almost sculptural component to the printed word. The letterforms are pressed, or debossed, into the paper. When you run your finger along the words, you can feel the indentation. This mark of contemporary letterpress is what used to be known as “crash printing.” It was seen as sloppy craftsmanship, but in today’s world where the “kiss impression” is the standard of digital and offset, it’s letterpress’ depth that sets it apart. The use of polymer plates has allowed for the marriage of digital design and letterpress’ physicality and has brought about a revival of letterpress that has captured the attention of artists, designers, and entrepreneurs alike. It’s created with a fine attention to detail for an audience with an even finer appreciation of detail.
The quality of digital printing has progressed leaps and bounds since its early days in the 1980s.
Once upon a time, small runs were considered elusive to printers, as setting up an offset press for just a few copies was prohibitively expensive. These days, digital presses offer lightning fast speed, quick turnaround and near-offset quality. Most importantly, the rates for small runs are much more economical.
Our digital press is a Xerox C75 Digital Color Press, a beast of a machine that pumps out all of our full color work like a champion. As with all toner-based printing technology, the toner is fused to the sheet with heat and does not permeate the paper like conventional inks. This gives digitally printed materials a slight sheen, which varies depending on coverage and density. We calibrate the machine regularly, ensuring consistent color from job to job.
We have chosen the following house papers for their affordability and performance on our presses. While these are the papers we stock regularly, there are many other options out there. Feel free to ask about specific weights and finishes. Keep in mind, though, that not all papers are available in all weights and sizes. Particularly for small quantities of digitally printed materials, the range of paper available will be limited.
All of our house papers are 100% post-consumer recycled, except where noted.
We stock this paper in 70# text weight and 80# cover weight. It is our go-to for booklets and zines. This paper is very affordable, but not “cheap.” The 70# text weight limits bleed-through of color images and feels more substantial in your hand than the 20# copy paper used in your home printer.
Neenah Environment PC100
Neenah makes amazing paper, and their Environment line is no exception. We stock this paper in 100# text weight and 100# cover weight. The 100# cover weight is our default for business cards, postcards, notecards, and art prints. It’s a bit brighter than the Rolland Enviro100 and very sturdy.
The 100# text weight is our default for premium brochures, flyers and posters. It’s also a wonderful option for comics and photo zines.
Looking for a bit more thickness to your business card or postcards? We stock Cougar Opaque 110# cover for just these instances. It’s also brighter than the Neenah Environment. If your project requires a brighter, thicker stock than PC100, Cougar Opaque is your best option. This stock is 10% post-consumer recycled. Please note that 110# is the thickest that will run on our digital press. For offset and letterpress jobs, Cougar is also available in 130# cover.
For projects with colors that need to pop, we stock this coated (or “glossy”) paper in 100# cover, typically for posters, placards and booklet covers. It is also available in 80# text and 100# text for booklet interiors. ChorusArt is 30% post-consumer recycled.
What the heck is a Silk finish, you say? Well, it’s a hybrid of coated and uncoated stock. It’s a bit glossy so that color images look fantastic on it, but the sheet has a bit of a matte feel to it in your hand. We most often use this in the 100# text weight for annual reports, where there’s a healthy mix of text and color images. It’s an extra touch while still remaining very affordable. McCoy Silk is 10% post-consumer recycled.
Reich Savoy Brilliant White
This is our house paper for letterpress projects, and we stock it in 184# cover stock. It’s made of cotton and comes from local paper producers Reich Paper in Brooklyn, New York. It has a velvety texture and a perfect thickness for things like business cards and wedding invitations.
On our offset presses, we use Zipset vegetable-based ink for our letterpress and offset presses. This ink is low-VOC (volatile organic compound) and better for the environment than rubber-based inks. For letterpress printing, we use Van Son standard oil-based printing inks.
House colors are Radix Red, Wasp Purple, Reflex Blue, Pantone Green, and Process Colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). Metallic ink also runs beautifully on these presses. We’ve got Metallic Silver as well as two shades of Metallic Gold.
Please note that for all its benefits, vegetable-based ink does take longer to dry. If your offset printed job has an ink flood (i.e. full coverage) or a very large solid, the turnaround time will be longer. Be sure to account for this when scheduling your job with us. Also note that this ink is not 100% opaque and the color may shift when printed on different stocks.