designing the card

A Christmas card can be said to consist of four pages, which we will print two at a time on the inner and outer forme. The outer forme consists of the front, which usually has a picture on it, and the back, which will have a colophon, in this case consisting of the words 'Hand printed by . . .' and your names. The inner forme consists of the left hand inside page, which will have some sort of text of up to fourteen lines of verse or rather less prose: a poem, in other words, or a short prose passage. The right hand page will have something like 'Happy Christmas from'. Here is a rather basic diagram.

The first stage is to decide on the size of the card. This will largely be determined by the size and shape of the envelope, so first you must visit stationers and find out what size, colour, and shape of envelopes are available. Also at stationers you can see what sort of card they have--whether, for instance, they have card that will match the envelope or not. Criteria for choosing card are:

Finally, you will find that card usually comes in sheets, so you will have to decide how many cards of the size you want you can take from the sheet you have, and what is the most economical way of cutting it. When you've worked this out, take the sheets to the University bindery and ask them to cut the card for you. They will do it very neatly at a small charge. The bindery can be found by going down a passage in the side of the library that faces on to the small Arts Faculty car park: the bindery is through the glass doors on the right at the end of the passage.


The next stage is to select a text and a picture. The text should be long enough to give each of you 3-4 lines of text, but not much longer, or you will run out of type. Verse is much easier to handle than prose; and, of course, it's a good idea to have the text co-ordinate with the picture on the front.

N.B. The above stages--that is, as far as selection of the text--should all have been done by the time you start printing; without them, the first printing session can't happen. You have been warned!

Pictures are printed from blocks. The crucial thing about the picture is that it should not be a half-tone but a line block. Half-tones are printed in letterpress printing usually by tiny dots; they have a photographic effect, and show shades of grey. Line blocks have a woodcut effect, and the resulting image is only black or white; grey is indicated by (usually) black lines in a rough shading. The main thing to remember is that you should avoid tones, and go for clear solid black and white. Medieval woodcuts are ideal, and the crudity of the design usually prints well and goes with any little infelicities of printing that you might inadvertently achieve.When you've found your picture, photocopy it, making sure that the machine is working well and producing nice solid blacks. The photocopier in the Department Office will scale up or scale down very finely and efficiently, so you can reduce an image to whatever size you want. A reduced-size image often looks better, note. The size of the image will depend on the size of the card, obviously.


The block makers are

Stampreo Rubber Company
42-44 Princes Road
Hull HU5 2RE

Phone: 0482-48134

and at the moment (7/10/92) their charges are:

Minimum charge: £6.84 for 2 square inches
£1.07 for each extra square inch
Add VAT at 15% to the total

Send off your nice clean sharp black and white image to them, and they will send you a block by return of post plus one day. Or so they say; however, experience shows that it's best to allow a whole week. If the image isn't nice, clean, sharp, etc, they will either refuse to handle it, or touch it up and charge you. The arrangement is that you should estimate the cost (including VAT) and send them a blank cheque, signed and dated, with the words 'NOT MORE THAN' followed by your estimate of the total plus £5.00 clearly written on it--in other words, if you think it will cost twenty pounds, you will write 'NOT MORE THAN £25.00'.

New addition (15/10/95): another firm that makes blocks is

Stephenson Blake & Co. Ltd
199 Upper Allen Street
Sheffield S3 7GW
phone 0114-272-0065

I think they may be more expensive, but it would be worth phoning them for a comparative quote.

Another new addition (19/11/95). Apparently there's a firm in Birmingham. They're called Siviter Smith, and you can phone them on 622-2021. They may be cheaper...

By the time you arrive at the first printing session you will need a sample of card cut to size, and your poem; for the second printing session, you will need your block ready to print plus all of the card ready cut. If any of these aren't forthcoming at the appropriate time, the session can't happen. Please note.