Inside the Printer's Studio: All About Letterpress

This month we're starting a new series covering all the ins and outs of designing and printing stationery in our shop. While discussing all the wedding invitations we've done this year, we realized that most of our clients had similar questions about design, wording and printing, in general. We realized it would be a fun project to dive deep into each aspect of the process, so that is exactly what we've decided to do!

We're hoping to provide an extended glossary of sorts, for all things letterpress. Each post will cover a different aspect of the process of designing and printing letterpress, mostly in reference to wedding invitations. This week, we're going to answer some basic questions that we often get when first speaking with a client. Let's get started!

What is letterpress?
Letterpress printing is relief printing where type and image are literally "pressed" into paper. Although movable type can be dated back to 1040 in China, Johannes Gutenberg invented the first actual printing press in 1440. In all that time, some things have changed, but it remains a 100% manual process. Each piece of paper is fed and printed by hand on one of our vintage Golding Jobber presses. While some printers continue to set wood and metal type, we rely on plastic plates made from photopolymer. By using polymer plates, we're able to print our artwork from digital files, giving us more freedom in our designs.

sesame-letterpress-polymer-plates

Why should I choose letterpress printing for my wedding invitations?
Your invitations are the first glimpse your guests will have of your wedding, so it's nice give a good impression (pun totally intended). With letterpress you can run your fingers over the type and feel the indentation in the paper. There is no mistaking a letterpress-printed item for something mass-produced. Your guests will love the luxurious paper, the imprint of letters and images and the weight and feel of the invitation in their hands. These invitations will tell your guests that this is a wedding not to be missed.

Why should I work with a stationer?
We have years of expertise working with clients to create beautiful, custom designs. We're very proud of the experience and skills we've earned from all of our hard work. Designing and printing is what we love to do, so we work hard on each and every project that passes through our shop.  We have become adept in listening to clients' ideas and preferences and translating those visions to the stationery design.  We know what works well and how long it will take to print a suite so we can make sure to meet deadlines and stick to a budget.  Planning a wedding can be a lot of work and by hiring a professional stationer, couples can rest assured that the invitations will be perfect and they can move on to focus on another part of the planning process. 

What makes letterpress invitations more expensive than digital printing?
Letterpress is a manual process, so there is a lot of time invested in each piece. We mix many of the colors by hand and each color is printed separately, which means that there are multiple set-ups for each job. We use the highest quality materials available to give you the highest quality work. The paper we use is from a local company, Reich Paper, and is specifically made for letterpress printing. All this hard work, does make letterpress a but more expensive, but we think it's worth it.

What are the limitations?
The main limitations for letterpress printing are the number of colors and certain design elements. Remember that each color is printed as a separate layer, so the more colors you have, the more expensive the job becomes. Large, solid areas are not great for letterpress printing, as they are hard to keep consistently solid. Often, those areas print a little "salty", meaning the color of the paper may show through. If a vintage, handmade look is what you're going for, then that might be perfect for you. Size is also a big limitation. We recommend 5 x 7" for an invitation, although we can go a bit larger.

Another request we often get is to print a light colored ink on dark paper. Most letterpress inks are translucent, so they don't completely cover the paper. We recommend doing the exact opposite and printing dark ink on a light paper. Rich, black ink on crisp white paper is a printer's dream!

Striped1.jpg

I am a designer.  Can I send you my design to letterpress print?
Definitely. We can print directly from your artwork files (Illustrator) or, if you have just an element you'd like to include, like a hand drawn image, we can help translate this to letterpress and design around that.  For details on submitting a file for us to letterpress print, please view the Print Your Design page on our website.

I'm on a budget, but I love the look and feel of letterpress? What are some ways I can cut costs?
Keep the number of colors to a minimum. We do a lot of one color invitations, and they are classic and just as beautiful as multi-color jobs. There are lots of creative ways to cut costs also, like using a cute gift tag as an RSVP or combining several bits of information into one card. Although it is traditional, you can forgo the use of an inner and an outer envelope. Finishing services, add greatly to the cost, so if you love the look a painted edge, consider doing that for the invitation card only. Whatever your budget, we'll work with you to create a beautiful set of invitations.

Alright, I'm interested! How does the process work?
The first step is to take a look at our website. Pick out some templates, fonts and colors and let us know what inspires you. To give you an estimate, we'll need to know roughly what quantity you need and what pieces you'd like to have printed. Once you've decided to work with us, there is a 30% deposit and then the real work begins! We'll send your designs as digital proofs and make any edits you'd like before we have plates made, cut your paper and start printing.

How many colors can you print and how do I choose?
We recommend using 1 or 2 colors on your wedding invitations. We print one color at a time, so the more colors you use, the more time consuming, and therefore expensive.

We have a range of colors on our website that you can choose from. Keep in mind that colors can appear dramatically different on screen.
We can always send a sample of a printed color, so you can have a better idea. If you are interested in a color that isn't listed on our site, then you can send a physical swatch for us to match. Even better, if you have access to a Pantone book (it must be Pantone Uncoated), let us know color code.

I'm very interested and would love a closer look at your work. Can I come in for an appointment?
Sure! We are available for appointments from 10 am - 5 pm, Monday through Thursday. Set up a time and we'll happily go over all the details with you in person. If you live internationally, fear not! We have extensive experience working with clients overseas, so although you can't pop in for a visit, we would love to work with you.