Keen to reproduce an ancient design from a digital file? Or send a unique invitation that puts the class into classic? Maybe you need to give a whisky label that authentic touch. Charming and elegant, letterpress is currently enjoying a resurgence and is an art in its own right, with skills passed down through generations. The gratifying physical placement of type and its subsequent impression onto paper, is admired by the hobbyist and wedding planner alike, and a specialist printer ensures the ink simply ‘kisses’ the paper – barely impressing the paper, and leaving a slightly uneven coverage of ink so no two copies are ever the same.
It’s the crisp definition of text, combined with these slight imperfections that many brands are looking for – symbols of care, craftsmanship, occasion, individuality and uniqueness that just can’t be conveyed with an everyday digital print.
A classic printing process which adds status to your document. Ideal for invitations and other communications designed to convey character.
Particularly suited to applications where a heavy weight board is appropriate.
A classic technique that has never failed to leave its mark since the very origins of printing.
- Distinctive traditional printing with many applications
- Particularly suited to gsm board materials
- Combine with other processes in our collection for classic results
Letterpress publishing has recently undergone a revival in the USA, Canada, and the UK, under the general banner of the ‘Small Press Movement’. Renewed interest in letterpress was fueled by Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, which began using pictures of letterpress invitations in the 1990s. The beauty and texture became appealing to brides who began wanting letterpress invitations instead of engraved, thermographed, or offset-printed invitations. At the same time, presses were being discarded by commercial print shops, and became affordable and available to artisans throughout the country. Popular presses are, in particular, Vandercook cylinder proof presses and Chandler & Price platen presses. In the UK there is particular affection for the Arab press, built by Josiah Wade in Halifax.
Affordable photopolymer platemakers and milled aluminum bases have allowed letterpress printers to produce type and images derived from digital fonts and scans. Photopolymer plates have encouraged the rise of “digital letterpress” in the 21st Century.
Technical tips for success with Letterpress:
- Ink Colour: Files are created using spot colors, not CMYK or RGB. A spot colour is specified for each colour to be used. Typically one or two colors are used.
- Paper Colour: Dark ink on a light paper gives the best image. Inks are translucent and the paper colour will show through. For light colors on dark paper, foil stamping or engraving should be used instead of Letterpress. To build up the colour density of a specific colour, Letterpress pieces can be run through the press two times using the same colour.
- Screens: Grayscale images can be used if made with a coarse screen (85 line or less). A second colour should be used instead of screening a colour in most cases.
- Thickness: Art must be above ¼ point and with no hairlines.
- Fonts: Type must be five points or larger for best results. For reversed type the point size should be 12 point or larger, smaller type can fill in. An outline stroke is often applied to allow for ink gain.
- Solids: Letterpress solids will print differently from conventionally printed lithographic solids. While Letterpress does lay down a thick film of ink, the process tends to show the texture of the sheet. Also, solid areas do not give the appearance of depth that fine type and thin lines do. Solid areas can also cause the paper to ripple, especially on thinner sheets.
- Registration: Letterpress does register well, however, it does not have the capabilities of modern offset printing. Trapping and key lines do not work well in letterpress printing. A blank area should be incorporated between colors. Black and very dark colours may be overprinted over lighter colours.
- Depth: The type depth is dependent on the paper. Typically Letterpress papers are thick and soft to allow the type to create a deep impression. When fold-over items are created, the printer will typically back off on the pressure to avoid embossing the backside of the piece.
- Image and File Prep: Letterpress excels at line copy and type, so vector images work well. Crop marks should be shown as a register colour. Images need to bleed (extend past the trim line).
- Die cut, Emboss and Scores: These effects work well with most Letterpress paper. Images to be embossed or die cut should be called out in a different colour layer (typically magenta). Scores should be indicated with a cyan line. Any intricate shapes or patterns should be reviewed with the printer. For thick cover stocks many printers use a kiss cut rather than a score.
- Envelopes: It is best to print on the flap of a ready-made envelope. Other areas of the ready-made envelopes can be printed but bruising may occur on the other side of the envelope.