Demon Press

Anna Filippova, January 15, 2015

Demon Press is the main relief printing workshop in the country. And they also go keenly into publishing and enlightenment. We have seized the opportunity to ask the founders of Demon Press about relief printing. The educational program on the topic we’ve got is a must read for illustrators.


What is necessary to know about the process of relief printing?

This method had been the major one until the middle of the 20th century. Relief printing is technically the printing from the wood block which has its embossed parts colored. The paint is transferred onto the paper by means of pressing. Today it’s mostly used in repetition works of package and labels production. Small workshops specialize in art printing and limited editions. Xylograph and linocut illustrations are the best variants for relief printing, ink drawings and etchings also come out well. The less colors the drawing has, the easier the printing is. The more white space the picture has, the more important the printed lines are. The misuse of the tool is likely to complicate the process of printing so that neither the process nor the result would be interesting. So it’s important to define relief printing as a process in which minimal resources are used to get maximal results.


Speaking about the technological side, we’d single out the following:

Wood block type-setting was traditionally used for relief printing, and zinc or copper blocks were used for illustrations. Nowadays a special photopolymer is used instead.

Color Every color is printed separately, so, if there are several colors in an illustration, they are all printed separately one after another. The color is selected by means of the pantone fan Pantone Solid Uncoated. One of the useful things is a combination of several colors in order to get extra tints.

Dies printing The dies (areas painted in the same color) on uncoated paper aren’t easy to print by any kind of printing. That’s why one shouldn’t expect deep and vivid colors on relief prints on authentic paper. But the limitations became advantages here: due to that characteristic some beautiful effects appeared. We call them “cloudiness” or “salt”.

Printing on dark paper We don’t normally print on dark paper as the colors for relief printing have transparent base. But prints of the same color as the paper look really great. 

Line thickness The minimal thickness of a line is 0,15 mm. But it isn’t important if the picture is made in engraving technique. 

The number of copies Relief printing is a circulation technique. At least 10 imprints are made to adjust the color combination and choose the color of printing. One hundred copies is a minimal circulation, the maximal number of copies is limited only by the time, budget and our potential.

File preparation for printing We print using photopolymer blocks that need vector files or bitmap pictures with 1200dpi resolution to be made. If several colors are used, each color must be in a separate layer.

What peculiarities of relief printing should be taken into consideration when drawing the picture?

Color stacking. We mostly use non-stacking colors, that is to say, you get new tints when you overlay colors.

Use of raster. We use raster to get half-tints having one color.

Use of stochastic raster. We use it when the picture is a combination of spots placed at random.

Dies printing. The granularity of colouring appear.

Pressed-out dies printing. The inner details become embossed.

The relief of varied depth.

Blind stamping. It’s when pictures are printed in very light colors.


What should one know about paper? Which paper suits different illustrations?

The bulk of the paper is very important for our technique. There is a wonderful term which Varya Vedeneeva used about paper, that is “paper paper”. Cotton, bulky paper is good for narrow lined illustration to get some relief. Smooth (calender bowl) paper is better for dies printing and more vivid colors. Handmade moulding paper is ok for the compositions where the texture becomes a part of the illustration. Non-standard paper is used for experiments and different effects.


What is your idea of a good illustration?

Illustration is a tool which transfers or defines an image, a thought, an idea. To illustrate is to clarify. If you succeed in it, then the illustration is good.


Should an illustrator see the process of printing with his/her own eyes?

It’s a good thing to do. That might be inspiring. And it can also help understand how to draw.


Thank you for the interesting information. Please share your favorite projects with us.

Some years ago Anya Altabaeva suggested we illustrated the poems of Sonya Shatalova, a disabled girl who turned out to be a wonderful poet. Anya made a series of postcards that we haven’t printed yet but we did print a calendar which was soon sold out. And we gave the money to Sonya’s family.