Nelson P. Mitchell, 77, a retired printing company executive and a former president of The Printing Industry of Metropolitan Washington, died Wednesday at the Kensington Gardens Nursing Home. He had cancer.

A native of Saco, Maine, Mr. Mitchell bagan operating his own printing business there with his brother at age 13. Among other jobs, the company printed yearbooks for the Thornton Academy preparatory school from which Mr. Mitchell was graduated. The business was closed when Mr. Mitchell left for college.

After earning a bachelor's degree in printing management from what is now Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Mr. Mitchell came to Washington. He served as production manager of the National Publishing Company here for 20 years. In 1946, he joined the McArdle Printing Company Inc., a Silver Spring firm. He was a company vice president when he retired in 1966.

Besides serving as its president, he was an honorary life member of The Printing Industry of Metropolitan Washington.

Mr. Mitchell lived in Bethesda and was a member of Kenwood Golf and Country Club there.

Survivors include his wife, Isabel, of Bethesda; a daughter, Dr. Margaret Braungart of Syracuse, N.Y.; a brother, Alfred, of Saco; a sister, Persis Cragin of Comumbia, Conn., and three grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.