Kathryn Murray Calligraphy


Understanding Printing: Letterpress


If you are in the market for wedding invitations you have probably heard the word "Letterpress" being tossed around. Simply put, this printing process used a metal or polymer plate to "press" ink in to the paper and the result is a highly tactile card. This is the most popular type of printing used for invitations, and conveys a sense of luxury and hand crafted beauty. 

letterpress invitation by Kathrynmurray.com

Letterpress was the most common type of printing used for centuries, starting as far back as the 15th century with that most famous of printers, Johannes Gutenberg and his famous "Gutenberg Bible." If you are a fan of period movies or television you have probably seen letterpress printing in the form of old time newspaper men and their hand setting of type. Each letter made of wood or lead, carefully laid out to print everything from newspapers, to wanted posters, to books.

In modern times, letterpress has been replaced with faster means of printing for the mass production of things like fliers and advertising. But Letterpress has not been forgotten and has had a renaissance in the last ten years or so. Artisans all over the country have embraced this old fashioned technique and elevated it to an art form.

Things you should know about choosing Letterpress:

- It is popular because it is beautiful. This is a wonderful way to set the tone of your event from the moment your guests receive their invitation.

- Because the ink is "pressed" in to the paper, the lettering will feel indented or "debossed." Depending on the thickness of the paper, you may see the impression on the back side of the card.

- Each piece is printed by hand and may have slight variation, giving a more artisan look.

- In general, thick card stock is used for this type of printing. The most popular is a thick cotton stock called "Lettra," made by Cranes Paper. My favorite is the paper shown above called Canaletto.

- Letterpress is more expensive than flat printing, due to the fact that it is hand printed, one piece at a time.

- Letterpress can take from 2 to 4 weeks to be completed, once the final design has been submitted.

- Like all things, some printers are better than others. Some are able to achieve finer details and better ink coverage. I would not recommend Letterpress for doing solid blocks of color, gradients or watercolor looks. Think of it (loosely) like you would a rubber stamp. 

- Also will not work for photographic looks.

- Each color you add to the design means a second time on the press, so the more colors, the more expensive.

- Works best as color inks on white or cream papers.

letterpress invitation by kathrynmurray.com

For more information on creating a custom Lettepress suite, contact me here.