What Exactly is Traditional Letterpress Printing?

Letterpress is a traditional printing technology invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. It became available for commercial printing in 1445 and continued to dominate the printing industry until the turn of the 20th century. In the mid 1900s, offset printing was introduced and became the favoured choice, effectively obscuring letterpress printing. In recent years though, traditional letterpress printing has found a new wave of interest from those interested in a more bespoke, custom inspired feel.


The Process

Letterpress printing involves creating an image through a process called relief printing. A raised metal type, also known as a plate, is used to compose or bring together the desired image. This is done prior to inking the plate or metal type and applying pressure on it to transfer the image onto a substrate.

The process is quite similar to blind debossing, the only difference being that the “blind” doesn’t involve the use of ink. In blind debossing, one presses the design into the paper fibres to expose the paper. Letterpress, on the other hand, uses polymer plates, while debossing plates could be either polymer or metal.

Stages of Letterpress Printing

Letterpress printing involves four stages. These are:

  • composition
  • imposition
  • lock-in
  • and printing.

    Composition involves creating a negative image to be printed by selecting and arranging the metal type. This is done prior to bringing together (imposing) multiple pages or a single page and then locking them to form a single solid image to be attached to the press. Ink is then applied to the image carrier or plate and pressure is exerted to transfer the image to the substrate.

    Why Has Letterpress Printing Become So Popular?

    These days, if you want a unique print, you must look beyond offset and digital printing. The sheer elegance of letterpress printing has encouraged people seeking that extra edge in their wedding invitation cards, and other special events, to go for this old world technology.
    The tactile quality of letterpress printing gives the final product a subtle three-dimensional feel that is hard to ignore. 
    Images printed using letterpress are sharp and crystal clear. While the process can be intensive and requires keen attention to detail, the end product is more than worth the effort especially with modern developments like photopolymer plates that have solved the problem of uneven inking.


    Why Use Letterpress to Print Your Invites?

    Besides offering a feeling of luxury, especially when combined with cotton paper, a letterpress printed invitation card is both classic and timeless. This technique is ideal for wedding invites, bridal showers, baby showers, or any special event that you want to mark with distinction. It’s also become popular for business cards in recent years.


    The Re-emergence of Letterpress Printing

    The emergence of print-on-demand technologies, heralded by desktop publishing, transformed anyone with a computer and a digital printer into a printing expert. This ease of printing relegated letterpress printing to the annals of history, but not for long. It also came with a unique set of challenges.
    Uniqueness was lost as printed documents started to look extremely similar. And they had to since they were a product of mass-produced technology that depended on the same software and applications.
    Today, letterpress printing has reemerged to lay claim to the best printing technology for anyone seeking to make a statement. For instance, invitation cards printed using the letterpress technology may be more expensive than the usual offset and laser-printed ones, but they also make a statement that’s hard to ignore.


    Cards that Leave a Lasting Impression

    Yes, letterpress printing is a painstaking process that takes more time than the run-off-the-mill cards you see around; but, it brings a classy, vintage quality to your invitation cards. Whether you need invitation cards for weddings, bridal, and baby showers, having your invite printed using this technology speaks volumes about you, your brand, and the event itself. It’s the kind of keepsake your guests will treasure for years to come; and with it a reminder of the length you went to, just to make them feel valued.

    When you choose letterpress to invite guests to your special event, you are choosing to make an impression that will be etched in their minds for a long time. The indented, heavy letters can look and feel more elegant since one can print on a variety of materials. A special letterpress invitation keeps your guests excited and looking forward to the event. You can be sure almost every invited guest will grace your event.

    We’ve come a long way since 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press. Although this great invention was interrupted in the 20th century by offset and digital printing, it has reemerged to lay claim to the most unique printing of our time. It’s a  blast from the past that has resisted modern technology to remain relevant. It’s a meticulous technology that, while more expensive, makes your invite to a wedding, baby shower, birth announcement, or bridal shower that much more memorable.