a.k.a. Dimensional printing

Letterpress offers a nostalgic, retro look and feel to a printed piece.

Letterpress is created by pressing inked metal type, or an etched printing plate, into the paper. Since Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type in the year 1439, letterpress had been the dominant commercial printing method until the 1960's when offset print technology developed. Letterpress is now seeing a re-emergence as a niche printing method and as an art form.

In the old days when most printing was produced by letterpress, a quality job was judged by how little the impression was visible in the paper. Today letterpress is chosen by designers to display the old style craftsmanship involved in traditional printing. The expectation now is for a look and feel that clearly differentiates letterpress from flat printing.

While in its heyday letterpress was produced with hand set metal type, wood type, or machine cast lead type, today most letterpress is produced using etched printing plates. We can now use all the modern tools of design without the limitations of metal type, then output the job to a film negative used to create an etched printing plate.

All letterpress printing presses are one-color presses, but multiple colors may be produced using multiple printing plates and multiple press passes. Talk to your printer about registration and trapping issues in the design phase.

If your design contains heavy solid areas of ink coverage, letterpress printing will not duplicate the same level of coverage as offset printing would. If the expectation is for a solid ink coverage over a large area, it would be advised to use offset printing. Contact us to review your design if the print method is in question.

The impression used in letterpress printing will create a slight debossed effect visible on the backside of the sheet. If you are designing a piece that will be printed on the back of the letterpressed area, you may want to discuss this with the printer before proceeding.

Paper Considerations

Because you will want to see the impression in the paper, choosing a heavy weight but soft sheet will give best results. Crane & Co. produces the Lettra line of paper developed expressly for letterpress. Another good choice is Reich Paper's Savoy line. Avoid using a coated sheet because of potential ink offsetting problems.