Category Archives: Typography

Type Design: 3D Print Letterpress (Part 3)

After aforementioned trials and tribulations due to the overuse of the Makerbot 3D printer, I sought out another resource to make my letter prints. Bob Oglesby, owner of Host Engineering in Jonesborough, Tennessee was kind enough to print them via his modeling machine. To save on materials cost, I extruded the models to .25in instead of type-height which would be .918in. I was very pleased with the resolution of the print quality(fig. 1.)


fig. 1

During the printing process there were several challenges. I had at first planned to also print my furniture in order to set my typeface onto the block like traditional letterpress. Due to time constraints, strips of mat board were cut and used as leading between lines and also along side the lines of type as rails (fig. 2.) The tracking of the typeface I meticulously built into the models so the letters were set flush to one another (fig. 3). Since only one copy of each letter form was printed, words and phrases with multiples had to go through the press several times. For example, the word “HONEY” (fig. 4) went through the press 2 times.

The letters themselves were slippery so the ink had to be thick and sticky. A glossy, red, rubber-based ink (fig. 5) adhered to the faces of the type well (fig. 6 & 7), it also made a wonderful “shick” sound when rolled on. (fig. 8)

The accompanying artwork are vintage woodcut illustrations which I digitally collaged and printed on Strathmore off white drawing paper. The lyrics used are from my original song “Free Running Soul.” 5 prints in total were produced, 4 illustrative posters and one specimen sheet. (fig. 9 & 10)


fig. 9


fig. 10

This poster series was displayed in the graduate show “New Media Collective” in the Digital Media center on East Tennessee State University campus on Friday, December 11th, 2015.

Type Design: 3D Print Letterpress (Part 2)

With the Makerbot Z18 on ETSU Campus, several test prints  of letters at different sizes were created. The first print was fairly successful, (fig. 1) printed 2 inches high at an an extrusion depth of 1/4 of an inch. The block was sturdy and had a consistent ribbed texture with the exception of the turns at the edges, which seemed to mound up a bit. The face of the type was much rougher than I expected, but with a little sanding would be usable.


fig. 1

My second test print was a “B” at a larger scale and a smaller extrusion depth (about .125 inches) than that of the “A” which achieved a much smoother face, so I converted the rest of my models to accommodate this larger, thinner format.  Unfortunately, a factor which I had not expected is the demand on print time nearing the end of the semester.  The third round of  prints, shown in comparison to the red “B” below, were much less successful (fig. 2). The printer head seemed misaligned and as time passed, the prints grew worse.


fig. 2

When I returned to do some trouble-shooting with the Makerbot and do a round of final prints, I found that the printer was not extruding filament at all. After further investigation I saw the cleaning brush was clogged with different color filament and the printer head itself was caked in plastic. This suggested that it was left running too long and it overheated, clogging the head completely. I changed out the filaments, heated and cleaned the print head and ran a few tests to no avail.

A new solution was needed. I gained access to a prototype machine in grey, Tennessee at a company called VinTec, courtesy of Bob Oglesby at Host Engineering (he’s my dad’s boss!) I converted my Maya Bianry Files to STLs, which are compatible with this machine and I am off to make some prints!

Type Design: 3D Print Letterpress (Part 1)

In my New Media Studio classes I have been exploring the combination of digital and traditional art forms. The idea? 3D print a hand drawn type design for use in a traditional letterpress. So the medium goes from traditional (drawn) to digtial (vector and 3D extrusion) to physical (3D print) and back to traditional (Inked and printed.)

1) Draw a typeface design
2) Trace the letterforms in illustrator
3) Extrude the letterforms in Maya
4) Export and 3D print the letters.
5) Compose, ink and run the letters through a traditional press.

To begin, I researched traditional letterpress lettering and payed a visit to Asheville Bookworks to get a feel for the components of a letterpress letter.  I gathered up graphs and diagrams from online resources and studied type specimen (fig. 1 -3.)  I began experimenting with letterforms, drawing my inspiration from the vintage type sets.


fig. 1

fig. 2 & 3

fig. 2 & 3

fig. 4 & 5

fig. 4 & 5

Once I had selected a favorite from my sketches,  I began scanning and drawing the letters in illustrator. Testing with phrases and names, I developed a unified alphabet, preserving as much of the hand-drawn character as possible, with the use of Wacom Cintiq (fig. 6-9)


fig. 6


fig. 7 & 8


fig. 9 (Final Character Set)

Once I had a final set, I decided on now many vowels and consonants I would need in order to create the desired words and phrases for my poster prints. I also made some fun catch word such as “and” and “the” and also two ampersands. Since the letterforms contained too many paths to be uploaded into Maya all at once, I broke up the letters into 4 printable sheets, and imported them separately  into 3D Space.  (fig. 10 – 12)


fig. 10-12 (3D Extruded Letters)