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Laboratory Press

Otis Laboratory Press is a fully functioning letterpress studio with four Vandercook proof presses and a comprehensive collection of wood & metal type. Established in 1984 by Sheila de Bretteville as part of the Communication Arts Department, the Lab Press has a rich history of small edition book publishing, introducing generations of students to the origins of typography and the notion of the book as a visual communications medium. Conceived as a laboratory for aesthetic exploration and a place for practical production, the Lab Press is an integral part of the graphic design curriculum. It provides a key link between traditional tools and digital media.

Otis Laboratory Press is unique among Southern California schools in having the ability to make & utilize photopolymer plates in letterpress printing. Photo-polymer plates are the contemporary and versatile medium that has become the industry standard for printing images and type. Our efficient, well-organized assets in the lab enable experimentation and smooth production.

We are the only school in Southern California that offers a Printmaking and Bookmaking Minor. Students actively participate and produce award-winning books that have become a permanent part of rare book collections throughout Southern California. 

Our experienced technicians and instructors are working professionals, whose work is represented in book special collections and shown in museums and galleries internationally.

Lab Hours

Technical support services is a service for the students: 

TSS oversees the operation and maintenance of the model shop, technology output center, wood shop, metal shop, photography lab, lighting studio, printmaking lab, laboratory press, ceramic studio.  TSS has a complete supply of tools and equipment that currently enrolled students may check out.  TSS is continually working on improvements to the facilities to provide students with a safe, constructive, and creative working environment.  An otis technician is always available during the operational hours of each respective facility.  Otis technicians are happy to provide assistance with safety issues, proper use and set-up of tools and equipment, as well as specific demonstrational questions and problems should be directed towards a technician.


Lab Policies

The paramount rule, transcending everything that follows, is be safe! Never use a piece of equipment for which you have not been instructed regarding its safe use.

Only students currently enrolled or those who have completed the standard safety and printing demos from lab press or authorized staff or faculty may use the facility.

Proper attire for working in the lab press includes no open-toed shoes, no dangling jewelry. Tie back long hair and wear an apron to protect your clothing. The lab press is a green studio, however, if you are sensitive to chemicals of any kind, you must wear protective gloves, a dust mask, respirator and/or goggles when appropriate. Become familiar with the MSDS ( material safety data sheets) hanging on the wall by the door to be informed of the specific hazards of the chemistry and inks we use. Lab press assets are for otis students only, not for commercial use. Removal of otis lab press assets, or another individual’s materials will result in loss of access and legal action. In case of injury, locate eyewash in the lab or the first aid kit located by the sink or in the hallway.

In an emergency, use the red phone across from the elevator in the hall:

  1. Security desk (security extension x 6965 pager: 310.665.6965)
  2. Student health & wellness: x 5738 (310.846.5738) ahmanson room107>
  3. Call 911 at the red emergency phone.
  4. Los angeles poison control (800.825.2722).

Each time you use a Vandercook press, you must sign on and off using the press log located on each press noting the condition of the press. There is no eating in the lab press, but sealable beverage containers are allowed with care taken. All personal items should be stored in the cubbies on the back wall or under the table.

Only students currently enrolled or those who have completed the standard safety and printing demos from lab press or authorized staff may use the facility.

Required safety practices for students enrolled in lab press classes:

  1. All students using the lab press must sign up for a galley. This will be your galley for storing type, linocuts, and polymer plates. If you need another galley ask a lab tech, and be sure to put your name on the galley assignment sheet located above that galley cabinet.
  2. When using type in the type cabinets, always pull out the case below halfway, then pull out your case. You must distribute all of your type properly. If in doubt as to the size of type, measure it or compare with type in labeled cases. Measure leads, slugs, and furniture with pica rule to be sure they are placed in thecorrect location.
  3. Before putting your type away, clean your type off with a clean rag, and use type wash for hard-to-clean type. Make sure all furniture, leads, and slugs are clean and put back in the proper location.
  4. Galleys must include galley notes with type identification and proof of type.
  5. Type must be tied up properly. Do not leave composing sticks or magnets in your galley.

Only students who are enrolled in letterpress classes may use the presses.
When using a vandercook press, during class and open lab, you must sign on and off of the press log located on each press.
When presses are properly used they are perfectly safe. Never place your fingers under or near the rollers. Keep your hands away from the press bed or any moving parts when the press is in use. You should only have your hands on the handle or designated areas when operating the presses. Do not force anything through the presses. If a press is damaged or broken you are responsible for letting the lab tech know immediately.
You must raise the rollers when not printing. Cover the press when done using the press.


you are required to view the binding tutorial located on the computer before using the binders.
Please ask the lab tech to show you the tutorial if you are unable to access it. It is available on the computer at lab press, the lab press blog under tutorials, youtube, and facebook.
Never pull the blade attachment over hot glue! Turn off the binder when finished!

Paper cutter:

It is required that you attend a paper cutter demo and sign a release before operating the cutter. Only one person is allowed in the cutting area at one time.
Keep hands, rulers, pencils, etc. Away from the blade. Do not reach under the blade area turn the backgauge wheel to bring the paper stack towards you.
Always cut the shortest cut first.

Drying rack:

Prints will be removed from the rack after 24 hours, and placed in a marked cubby near the rack.

Allow enough time (usually a half-hour) to clean the press, and additional time to clean the ink slab, knives, ink cans, type, brayers, and put away the tools. It is your responsibility to leave the press and the pressroom clean and ready for use.

Be polite and leave lab press cleaner than you found it.

  1. You are required to bring your own gloves which are required for clean up.
  2. Shake rags off before using them to avoid lint on the presses. Fold in thirds and thirds again.
  3. Rags: conserve rags by using 2 rags per press cleaning. When cleaning, you will save time if you fold the rags properly.
  4. Clean the press by adding a small amount of crisco, oscillating rollers, and wiping off. Clean the metal rollers with gamsol, and the rubber rollers with removez it, do not spill removz-it on the presses or floor! Make sure the press is dry on all rollers and the bed of the press. Cover the press with the blue fabric cover.
  5. Clean the inking area glass and knives with vegetable oil, followed by windex.
  6. Before putting your type away, clean your type off with a clean rag, and use type wash for hard-to-clean type. Make sure all the furniture, leads, and slugs are clean and put back in the proper location.

Have a technician review your cleaning before leaving the lab!
All type must be distributed by monday of final week of each semester. No exceptions.

Blue trash cans are for recycled material only. The black can by the front door is for non-recycled material and food products. The silver metal can by ink station is for paper with wet ink. Please fold paper with wet ink so it does not get spread all over. The red metal can is for rags that are saturated with ink and/or solvents. Small black bucket by red can is for rags that can still be used.

Meet the Techs

Leslie Ross-Robertson

Leslie Ross-Robertson

Laboratory Press Manager


Rachel Curry

Rachel Curry

Laboratory Press Technician


Jamie Russom

Jamie Russom

Laboratory Press Technician


Jennifer Graves

Jennifer Graves

Laboratory Press Technician


Janey Kupchick

Janet Kupchick

Laboratory Press Technician



Photopolymer Processing

Laboratory Press can produce photopolymer plates for letterpress in two sizes 8.5” x 11” and 11” x 17”

We currently offer the 8.5” x 11” for $35.00 and 11” x 17” for $65. These fees include the making of the negative, the processing of the polymer plate, the backing adhesive, and a ziplock bag.

We typically do not proof the plates after processing, so we recommend that if you do not find a proof with your plate that you make one before starting an edition run.

For more information and for instructions on how to deliver your files, please email us at


Contact Us

For Questions, please contact the Laboratory Press manager, Leslie Ross-Robertson.

Phone: (310) 665-6846
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