With the loss of so many letterpress job printing shops in the ’70s and the explosion of inexpensive four-color offset printing in the late ’90s, graphic designers have reacted by creating four-color jobs that mimic the appearance of two or three-color jobs. It’s considerably more expensive now to print two spot colors than to print in full color, because presses are now set up to run full-color (four-color or process color) with minimal press adjustments between jobs.

We came across this example of the phenomenon in a vector tutorial by Rype (Ryan Putnam) on his Vectips site. To complete the illusion, he has given the piece an off-register look, as if the colors had not been perfectly aligned by the pressman. Color registration was a common problem in the past with web presses and large sheet-fed printing in which several jobs were run simultaneously (newspapers, the yellow pages, matchbooks, etc). Who could have imagined that someday we’d be nostalgic for low-quality printing?