Thanks so much Kelly for allowing me to guest blog on letterpress printing! I’m Becky from Sugar Plum Invitations and we are so happy to have done printing for Kelly Oshiro Events.
Letterpress printing is a classic form of direct printing that dates back to 1400’s and the Gutenberg press. It’s very labor intensive, but the end product is unmatched in texture, crispness of the typography, look and feel! Here’s a little behind the scenes look at this vintage art.
Since these presses are for the most part no longer manufactured, finding one can be tough, especially since they are a bit rarer on the west coast. Our presses are about 50 and 90 years old, we also have a small tabletop version that is over 100 years old!
All our ink is hand mixed, and we prefer heavyweight 100% rag cotton paper.
Once the press is oiled, and prepped we ink the plate at the top. You can only run one color at a time, so therefore most letterpress printed work is either 1 or 2 colors.
Once the ink is nicely disbursed we attach the custom plate (we use photopolymer, it is a raised type). The rollers ink the plate and then the plate is pressed into the paper allowing the depression and transfer of ink (thus “direct printing”). Each piece of paper is hand fed, and there are countless ways to mess up. (Let me tell you, we’ve done them all.)
For each color ink you use, you have to clean the whole press and re-set it up to print the next color. It really is a labor of love, but there is something kind of magical when it all comes together and works!
For more information on printing check out Briar Press or Letterpress Print Society. It’s so exciting to see this art form seeing a revival.
A few tips for brides: Because of the cost of a custom plate, setting up and running the press, higher quantity or single color projects will be less expensive. If you are a designer, often printers will give you a discount if you are supplying all the artwork. Our print calendar fills up, so it’s always a good idea to plan ahead for your invitations. You can letterpress print on envelopes, coasters, postcards, menus, place cards, napkins etc. If you are concerned about ink colors matching, ask your printer for an ink sample or have them order a specific Pantone numbered ink. Always ask to see samples of their work.
As Martha Stewart says on her website, “While large printing plants have almost all converted to offset print and computerized typesetting, small print shops using letterpress printing can still be found and can be the source of exquisite stationery.” Well put. Thanks so much for allowing me to share Kelly!