Just Hit Print… Letterpress
Letterpress printing is the relief printing of text and image using a press with “high bed” printing press and movable type. The image on the press is a reverse raised surface, which is inked and then pressed into a sheet of paper. The image produced on the paper is a “positive” right reading page. Letterpress can also refer to the direct impression of inked printmaking blocks (block printing).
Letterpress printing from raised metal type was the primary means of mass communication for over 500 years. Since the advent of phototypography and offset printing, letterpress printing is no longer an economically significant segment of the printing market. But letterpress continues to live on for specialized printing applications.
Rise of the Craft Printer
In the past 20 years letterpress printing has been experiencing a comeback. The current renaissance of letterpress printing has created a crop of hobby press shops that are driven by a love of the craft.
Advantages of Letterpress
- Fine letterpress work is crisper than offset printing. It leaves an impression in the paper, giving visual definition to the type and artwork.
- Letterpress gives you a wider range of paper, including handmade, organic, and tree free.
- Letterpress has a more tactile “feel” then offset printing.
- Embossing, die cutting and foiling are done with letterpress printing press.
Disadvantages of Letterpress
- Most letterpress equipment only prints on color at a time.
- The inking system on the equipment is less precise then offset printing.
- While letterpress does register, it does not have the capabilities of modern offset printing.
- Trapping and key lines do not work well in letterpress printing
Examples of Letterpress Printing
- Hibiscus Card by Letterpress Light*
- Aspen Leaves Gift Tags by Dingbat Press
- Newborn Baby Card by Sweetbeets
- Scarlet Blossoming Flower Coasters by Ruby Press
- Eyelet Lace by Pistachio Press
- Thank You Notecards by Missive
Hope you enjoyed this little snippet about letterpress, next up intaglio.
*Heather of LetterPress Light would to disclose that she doesn’t do ‘regular’ letterpress printing. She overlays un-inked printing plates over designs that are first printed on a printer onto letterpress paper. This gives both the texture of letterpress and the color range of flat printing.