If you're considering letterpress for your wedding invitations, here are 10 things you need to know about the traditional printing method.
1. What is letterpress printing?
Invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century, the technique uses a printing press (a machine) and movable types to print. A type is a metal (usually lead) or a wooden block with a raised and reversed letter (or image) carved on it. A series of such types arranged together forms sentences. These are then placed on a frame, inked, and pressed into paper to produce a positive, right-reading print of the letters or images.
2. It will cost more.
While there are letterpress-printed wedding cards here, the quantity produced is small, and usually restricted to boutique printers. One of the crucial differences between using letterpress, and modern digital or offset printing is the cost.
Letterpress, a hand-on and laborious technique, costs more. And if a card design involves two or more colours, the price goes up another notch.
While designs are often customised with prices ranging between $3 and $15, some printers such as Paper Tiger Press and Ri Stationers stock collections of ready designs. The latter is priced similar. The difference? There's often a separate design fee tagged to customed designs.
3. Letterpress printing is largely handwork.
Since the printing machine is not hooked up to a computer, types and image plates are usually set by hand.
4. Expect slight variations
There will be slight differences in the inking impression, position, and desntiy of colour since the process is handworked.
5. Each colour is printed separately
So a design with two or more colours takes a longer time to print, unlike digital or offset printing which uses a four-colour process.
6. The beauty of letterpress is meant to be subtle
So there's no need to have a play of colours. What works best is a simple design, one colour, and the right choice of font.
7. Some designs may have to be modified...
If the stroke for the lettering or design is too fine (or thin) around the edges. Fine strokes won't ink well and you lose definition as a result.
8. Seek experts' advice on paper choice
A paper's hardness or softness affects the depth of the impression. So while you may like a particular type of paper, it may not be suitable for letterpress printing.
9. Ask to see previous designs the printer has done.
There may be a design element you can incorporate into your own card, saving some costs, since the plate for that element is already available.
10. Check the printer's ink stocks.
The type of ink a printer uses can also affect the price of your card. For instance, if he uses pantone inks - whose colours are more stable and less likely to change during printing - the cost of your card may go up.
This article was first published in Her World Brides March - May 2012.