Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Letterpress invitations make a statement

Letterpress for those of you who don't know is actually one of the oldest types of printmaking. Back in the day people would hand scrape lettering on metal or wood blocks, ink the blocks, and press them into paper under pressure in a "press" hence- letterpress. The image yields a highly textured bold print technique that has been seeing a resurgence in popularity for the past 10 years or so. Letterpress is for the most part still a cottage craft run by smaller local print shops. The process has changed so that now high grade plastic press sheets are often molded by machine instead of the hand scraping, and it makes the process significantly more time efficient, and over the years it has come down in price some. Letterpress however remains the most expensive in general of the paper invitation types.
In addition to the labor intensive and highly custom nature of making the plates, the paper remains hand pressed, each by hand (generally) and in addition, letterpress is produced on a higher grade thicker paper stock which is also more costly.
The results however are spectacular. While I often comment that the additional cost will not yield the wow result for everyone, if you are picky about paper invitations, letterpress should definitely fit into your consideration.
Note however that the nature of letterpress is such that highly detailed multi-tonal prints are not available, feasible, or appropriate for the letterpress process, much like screen printing, minimal color changes make the pressing process much more economical. In fact most invitations are a single or two tone process, as each color requires the creation of a separate plate.

I want to draw your attention to a few local (SF Bay Area) presses that are producing excellent commercial and custom products at reasonable prices:

1. Hello Lucky! www.hellolucky.com

2. Milkfed Press www.milkfedpress.com

3. Sky of Blue Design www.skyofbluedesign.com

Good luck!

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