Printing Styles: Letterpress

I have always had a love for the old. My grandfather use to own about 6 different Letterpress machines (aka Heidelbergs) and I wished so many times I could have watched him and his shop work these wonderful machines. They no longer produce Letterpress machines and to keep them running takes a real mechanic and a real artist. Letterpress has become a lost art but it creates the most unique and special pieces that can be kept for a lifetime. Instead of just another piece of paper letterpress takes paper to a real object you want to hold on to. It has a special quality to it than can only really be experienced. But it takes a specific bride and groom for this style.

For my own wedding suite my husband and I (both being graphic designer) wanted letterpress and could not wait to have our invites. Having a rustic wedding at a barn on the Leelanau Penninsula this felt like the perfect fit to our style as well. This is the suite you are seeing above. It was a blast to create and work with our letterpress company. It turned out even cooler than we ever imagined and so many people complimented the uniqueness and did not want to send back their RSVP card simply because they wanted to keep them.

But there are some things to weigh to determine if this style is for you and your big day just like any printing style. So here we go...

Positives: 1. It's one of a kind. Each piece is pressed individually making each piece different than the next (now this can also be a negative if you are a perfectionist) but in my mind this is very special for your guests to experience and to receive. I love slight flaws and things like that when it comes to creating because of the character and individualism that is created.

2. They are substantial. Not something you would necessarily think of but the papers they use for letterpress are thicker than normal. A normal invitation is printed on a paper weight of #80 - #100 cover paper, but when we start talking good letterpress we are looking at #110 - #120 or more. Now that doesn't sound like a big deal but this paper is hard. The paper we used was made out of cottons so the fiberious paper created a unique texture as well. This is not something you can do with digital.

3. Working in Pantones. I personally love working with Pantones as a designer. This is the best way for me to work with your planner and you as well. When you hand me your linen swatches I am able to match very closely before I even send off to a printer. It guarantees the closest possibly match and that the only variance in color will be the amount of ink not the range in green blue or purple blue.

4. The history. Just to give you a little idea of how long letterpress has been around. Gutenberg was the first to create and use this machine in 1440. I love knowing things like that!

Negatives:

1. Cost. If you have a tight budget this can be hard to make a priority. But if you are deadset the costs are based on number of ink colors, labor, and paper stock. So if you go with 1 ink color across the board (which sounds boring but I did that with our suite above) you can save some on cleanup and labor. It can also be cool as 1 piece in your suite. Also the heavier papers can cost a few extra cents at the post office on both RSVP and invite.

2. Color Limitation. If you are someone who loves tons of color and want a very intricate design this may not work for you. Most of the time color stops at 4 different pantones, which is a lot in letterpress but it can be limiting if that is not what you were thinking.

3. Design limitations. If you want tons of gradients, large areas of solid ink, or lines thinner than .25 inches letterpress will not be very cost effective or complimentary of your design.

4. Finding a printer. Since this is a lost art and they are no longer producing letterpress machines anymore (and they weigh more than elephants) it is hard to find printers in your area. A lot of times you will have to work out of state to find the best price and the kind of printer you are looking for in personality and style.

At Hitch we love the style of letterpress but realize this does not work for everyone but we know that if you are thinking about it is worth looking into cause your photographer will love shooting the grooves in the paper and your planner will enjoy how closely matched the inks are to the linens.

Here are some other great examples of letterpress printing as well.

Happy Friday everyone!!