My previous posts have been about creating greeting cards and stationery that home-based printers can print for their own use, or sell to the public. In today’s project, I will demonstrate how printers can make a booklet of “ink-on-stock” sample cards to keep on hand for referencing how your favorite inks print on your favorite stocks from

These sample cards will allow you to see how different inks perform on different papers. It may be impractical to create a card for every possible combination of ink and paper, but for the most common pairings, these are a real time-saver to see for yourself or show a client how a finished piece will appear. They are especially useful if you want to maintain a supply of several “house” stocks (your go-to brand/weight/finish in white and ivory, for example) and show them with different colors and kinds of ink.

Start by choosing a paper (stock) that you print on often (your house stock), or with which you want to experiment. Today, I used Savoy 100% Cotton Bright White 118# Cover and Pop-Tone Whipped Cream 65# Cover. Both of these are available in 8.5″x11″ sheets, and you can cut four (4) 3″x5″ sample cards from a single sheet (see below.)

Four each of two stocks trimmed to 3″x5″.

Next, you will need a form to print. Ideally, this will be a “standing” form that you keep on a galley or in another safe place in your shop. By using a standing form, you will have a consistent look, no matter what paper and ink combination you print.

In The Norlu Press, I print from a variety of relief sources, so the standing form for my 3″x5″ sample cards includes many of those sources. It is a combination of antique metal foundry types, Monotype, newly cast metal types and an old zinc cut that is a little worse for the wear but was used by my dad when he pulled proofs of type as a journeyman typographer and member of the International Typographers Union (see below.)

When you build your standing form for your ink-on-stock samples, use as many of the various kinds of types and cuts you print from and include hairlines and solids as well as types with serifs and without.

There is one section of your standing form that will change: the lines of text used to identify the ink you are using for this particular iteration of the sample card. The easiest way to create this part of the form is to set the color information and manufacturer information on two (2) 18-pica measures. I use 65-year-old 24-point and 14-point Futura Montoype for this part of the form, which provides a nice contrast with the 8-point antique Century, new 36-point Elongated Roman and various cuts and other elements of the standing form.

When you need to print a new card, simply lift this section out of the form, set the types to match your new ink, then replace them in the form (see below.)

Lifting out the two lines of text that identify the specific ink color and manufacturer to be used for the sample cards.

For this project, not only did I choose two stocks for the paper, but I also printed in two colors of ink. Brothers Rick and Charley Harden at Southern Ink Company produce high performing inks that stay open on press but dry quickly and can be made in any Pantone color. I chose PMS 877 Metallic Silver and PMS 185 Red.

I find myself frequently using these particular inks, especially for holiday greeting cards and patriotic stationery, and I wanted to see how they printed on the two stocks.

The Harden Brothers’ Southern Ink Company letterpress inks are primarily vegetable oil based and contain a small amount of petroleum oil, as well as other additives/components.

My standing form contains many different relief surfaces, and although each is American “type high” time and use over many years can create subtle variations that require a bit of make-ready on press to ensure a reasonably consistent amount of impression (see below.)

Hasty make-ready ensures the various elements of the card will print evenly by making the impression consistent.

Once the cards are printed, I used a single-hole punch to put a hole in the top left corner. Since I only make four booklets on ink-on-stock sample cards, this method is more expedient than locking up a second form to die cut the small number of cards. Then you are ready to insert a 1″ snap-shut book ring that holds the new card together with the cards I have printed previously (see below.)

Adding a 1″ snap-shut book ring to the new card and stack of previously printed sample cards.

I also write information about the stock used and the date I printed it on the back of each card, which completes today’s ink-on-stock sample cards project for your print shop (see below.)

Do you have house stock that you use for projects that do not require a specified paper? What kinds of ink are you running? Have you found that inks perform differently on different types of papers/finishes? I am interested to hear how you are using paper and ink in your shop. Please leave a comment below and don’t forget to follow the creative folks on