The Magic Behind the Press

June 30, 2016

The past couple of seasons have been incredible–we’ve been trying on a few different styles for size–adding gold foil, Pantone® colors, and new designs to our Red Cap product lines. Recently, we’ve been working on some brilliant new pieces, including gift wrap and sketchbook journals. Their release date is right around the corner, and because we get a lot of questions about our printing process, and how we stay true to our talented artists’ initial vision, we wanted to share with you a bit of how each design is printed and quality-checked to perfection. We want our cards and products to realize the exact result that the artist has envisioned. This week, we commissioned Carrie to answer a few of Red Cap’s most frequently asked questions and queries below, plus a sneak peek into the party that is our press checks:

Tell me about the process of selecting art work for your cards.
It all begins with the artist. Each artist we work with inspires a different story or feeling. I typically start the process by looking at their current body of work to help give them a general direction of what I feel would work on a card. Then we start a conversation about the kind of collection they’d like to create. Sometimes we have specific directions for mood, feeling, or story and other times we just use card occasions to guide the work.

Becca Stadtlander Wrap Project
Courtesy Becca Stadtlander’s Instagram

Do you have a hand in the creation of an art piece?
When we first began collaborating with artists I didn’t have much to say about the kind of artwork the artists were creating, and to be honest I had never art directed anyone’s art but my own. I always trusted my instinct to choose an artist and I wanted them to feel like they had the freedom to create work that they wanted to make. I truly believe that an artist creates their best work when they feel supported, not over art directed. I don’t think any artist enjoys that experience. Hal and I have always wanted Red Cap Cards to be a home for artists to try new things and experiment with ideas that excite them. That being said, over time I think I have become a much better art director and I have a pretty good idea of our customers and what works and what doesn’t work on a card. I will say that every artist is unique. They all have a different approach to their work and have different needs in terms of direction. My job is understand them and to give the support they need to create the work they love, but also make sure it’s right for the project. I think being an artist can be lonely. Sometimes you need someone to bounce your ideas off of, so I’m happy to be that person for the artists we work with. Collaboration was one thing I missed when I was at home drawing alone for eight hours a day.

Carolyn Gavin Sketchbook
Courtesy Carolyn Gavin’s Instagram
I do like to think of fun ways to inspire our artists and I’ve always wanted to find a way for them to play or inspire one another for a project. This summer we did a little experiment that we are calling the “summer wrap project.” The concept was simple. We took seven artists and had them create color stories that they shared with one another. Each artist had the opportunity to give and take, pulling colors and concepts from eachother’s story boards to create a collection that we hoped would harmonize in the end. It was a fun way to create a collection. I’m excited to share the end result with you.
Kelsey Garrity-Riley wrap art work
Courtesy Kelsey Garrity-Riley’s Instagram

How do you select your artists?
I’ve always been attracted to artists who seem to have a knack for storytelling or just simply have a distinct look and feel. I think each of our artists are uniquely different and you can easily recognize their work. They have a strong sense of their own personal style as well and a clear point of view. Most of our artists have a natural ability for creating images that are filled with emotion that translate beautifully to a greeting cards. Creating art for cards isn’t as easy as you think it would be. There are so many talented artists out there, but the work doesn’t always translate to a greeting card format.

After the work is complete, what are the steps from there?
The files are delivered to us and we send them to the pre-press department at our printers where proofs and plates are made for the press. Then we print, cut, score, fold, pack, and ship to our warehouse in Minnesota. Depending on the size of the project this can take between 2 and 3 weeks.

Anna Emilia Laitinen Wrap project
Courtesy Anna Emilia Laitinen’s Instagram

What is the actual printing process like? Are present for it?
Yes, we are there. We print here in Los Angeles not far from our house. Hal and I show up at 9am and we are on press all day. Our pressmen are amazing, some of them have been printing for over 30 years. We typically stand at the press adjusting colors until they are as close to perfect as we can get. This is a difficult process. There are certain colors that are really hard to print. We print multiple cards on a sheet, so managing to get them all perfect is not an easy task, but we do it!

What types of printing techniques do you use at Red Cap?
Offset and foil. We printed more letterpress in the past but we haven’t done that in a while.

Carolyn Gavin Wrap for Red Cap Cards
Courtesy Carolyn Gavin’s Instagram

Have you ever run into problems with artwork after you’ve printed?
Yes, not often, but it happens. The biggest disaster we ever had was running a 6-color spot color job. It wasn’t a problem with the art, it was the printing. Half of the job was one color and the other half was another color. It was a real mess. But I have since learned how difficult it is to run a 6-color spot color job. Consistency is not your friend. I don’t think we’ll be doing this again. Actually, knowing us we probably will. Printing is a real art form. Hal and I are not printers, so we learn something every time we are on press.

What is your favorite part about the process of making a card?
My favorite part is being on press seeing everyone’s hard work turn into something tangible. I get so excited. I start sending pictures to all the artists so they can feel like they are right there with us. I’ve been known to cry at press checks feeling overwhelmed with gratitude that we have such a killer job and work with so many beautiful people. We have run Red Cap Cards for 11 years now and every year it just gets better. I love our job and I’m super proud of the products we make…. Here come the tears….

Mirdinara Wrap Project
Courtesy Dinara Mirtalipova’s Instagram