Yes! We’re sorry, we have a FAQ page. We don’t wan’t to have one, and wish we could answer every single question we get personally, but there are only two of us that actively run Small Works, and it gets a little tought to get to everyone.  So—here is a FAQ page that answers questions about the shop, printing process, materials, inks, and has videos to show you how things are done. We also will be continually adding educational programming around the workings of presses, for all those who are looking to get into publishing.

So—you’re a community print shop? A Co-Op? Free Printing? How do you make money? 🤯

Yes! We are. Small Works makes no money, and will never make any profits aside from paying it’s own bills. It is our hope that in the next five years Small Works will pay off it’s loans, be moved into it’s own public space, and become social property that is marginally guided by voulenteers. If you want more information about how that works, email us at It would also do you good to read Danielle Aubert’s The Politics of the Joy of Printing.

It’s too easy to let things get exploited by capitalism, and while we know that there is never going to be a fix for this, we want to be somewhat of a holdout for those who wish to print things for the joy of having printed materials—for whatever reason. We also want to show that good print jobs don’t have to be expensive, or difficult, and that you don’t have to go to Kinko’s or Fed Ex or buy an Eco Tank. 

How fast can we get prints?

We have a two week turn around from delivery of file and payment. If you have single color flyers you want to run on open studio day, you can get them same day, but anything else expect two weeks if you’re not printing yourself. 

You all are kinda busy. Are there other places that have letterpress classes? 

Yes! Signal Return is a few miles away from us, and provides classes on Vandercooks and tabletop platens. We highly reccomend them, especially if you want to make larger prints.

There are also many private printers in the area who will give classes, and you can request a private class at Small Works as well. Just reach out and and tell us what you’re looking to do with letterpress, and we’ll find you a good fit. 

You have equipment and supplies for sale?

We do, and you can follow the link here to see more infomation about that. We update what we have around once a week. We also reccomend the following places for equipment, supplies, and general help. 

Hallagans - Ink and general supplies. Sells new and gently used equipment.

Botique De Junque - has equipment & parts.
Letterpress Things - has equipment, parts, and great advice. 
NA Graphics - parts & supplies

What is Mail Service? How can I participate? 

Mail Service is our monthy fundraiser that helps us keep going. It works like this:

we pick a 4 color palette for each month. 
we curate 4 artists to make works using that palette. 
we print a run of 200 prints for each artist. 
we keep 100, we give 100 to the artist.
we put together 100 packages of (4) prints for $10.
artists can sell their prints for whatever they would like. 

It costs us around $1 per package to ship, and around $400 in ink, paper, and labor to produce, which means we hope to make $500 a month to help support ourselves. If you want to be in mail service, hit the contact button above.  

My colors have to be Seperated? There’s a limited color palette? Help?

Yes! No problem. Both Risograph and Letterpress are “spot color” systems. This means the the colors are printed one pass at a time, not by mixing colors like CMYK process. Risographs are limited to the colors they stock, where as Letterpress ink can be custom mixed. 

We can get colors outside of our color palette, but it’s expensive (around $800 for a new color drum for the SF, and around $200 for the GR) and we only make those changes when we have a project that is big enough to warrant that. However—as us anyway, beause someone else local might have that color, and if we get a big enough demand for something we may order a new drum just to have it available. 

What Colors do you Carry?

We currently have Black ////////, Bright Red ////////, Copper ////////, Cornflower ////////, Flourecent Pink ////////, Kelly Green ////////, Metallic Gold ////////, Moss ////////, Orange ////////, Steel ////////, Sea Foam ////////, Yellow ////////.

We hand mix colors for the letterpress, so no worries there. Just let it be known that hand mixing for small batch runs is always a little different between runs.

What about printing onto different colored stocks?

Again, Risograph and Letterpress Inks are mostly transparent, so the ink will take on some of the stock below it. For example, if you print cornflower //////// onto yellow ////////. you’ll end up with a green /////// print. It’s best to test your files using blending modes to simulate how your print will turn out.

How big of a print can I print? How small can I print?

Complicated question! For Risograph we can print up to A3 (or 11”x17” for imperial) and as small as we can cut down later on the paper cutter. For Letterpress, we don’t print over a 5”x7” printing area. But there are so many questions that could change this, such as number of layers and the usage of the print. It’s always best to email us and ask about this one first. 

I want to print lighter colors onto a darker stock, is that something that you can do?

A good, short, answer is no. Printing lighter colors onto darker stocks is something best reserved for screen printing or foil stamping. Ink for Risograph and Letterpress are mostly transparent, so when you print onto a darker stock, the stock color will show through will show through.

There are many great printing resources in Detroit that can accomidate this, including One Custom City, Dunwell, Ocelot, Smplfd, and Aquarius House.

But I see super glossy/shiny ink on letterpress prints all the time!

Yes! Totally, but what you’re seeing is foil, not ink. Matte Foil or pigmented foil looks like ink, but it is a flat sheet of material that is pressed into paper while being heated. We’d love to have one, really, and we will certianly let everyone know when we do.

I want one paper color on the front of the card, and another on the back. Is this something you can do? 

Yes! But you have to have the paper duplexed, which is expensive. You can see an awesome video of our friends at Waltz Design printing on some Duplexed cards here. However, you still cannot print lighter colors onto darker colors, when you see that it’s 99.9% of the time foil. 

Will you not print my racially insensitive, misleading, tokenizing, wy pipo print?

No. We will not print any matter we deem to be inappropriate, and will have a kind conversation with you about why, and if the print can be reframed to be appropriate. We reserve the right to decline printing at any time, for any reason, because nobody is getting paid to work here and we don’t have to take that shit.

© 2022 Small Works