Monday, January 30, 2012

What is letterpress?

Before I reveal our save-the-dates, I wanted to post about the inspiration behind them.

I LOVE paper, so the wedding has been a great excuse for me to look at pretty stationery all the time and splurge on fancy paper I wouldn't typically buy for myself. I've always loved letterpress and decided early on that I must have it for the wedding.

Letterpress printing is a printing technique in which ink is rolled over an individually cast die and then pressed into the paper. Letterpress was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1400s and is the oldest form of printing in existence.
Back in the day, the letterpress printing process started by using wood or metal type. The printer would arrange the blocks to spell out the desired message. Remember the scene in Newsies where they do this?
Oh So Beautiful Paper
Today, the printing process begins by creating the design on a computer. Instead of wood or metal plates, printers now make photo polymer plates with raised text and design elements. A separate plate must be produced for every color that will be printed.

The actual printing process remains relatively unchanged. First, the printer locks the plate into the letterpress machine. The ink is mixed by hand and then applied to a roller.
Oh So Beautiful Paper
Once the ink has been applied to the machine, printing begins. The printer feeds the paper through the machine, the ink is rolled onto the polymer plate, and then the plate is pressed into the paper. The thicker the paper, the deeper the impression. This process must be repeated for each separate color once the ink dries.

I love letterpress because of its tactile qualities. You can run your finger over the writing and feel where the ink has been pressed into the paper. Modern letterpress printing works best on thick paper made from natural fibers because you can feel the deep impression, like reverse Braille.
Bella Figura
If you really want to focus on the impression, you can even choose to forgo adding ink to the rollers and produce what's called a blind impression.
Poppytalk Handmade
Letterpress was the preferred method of printing from its invention in the 1400s through the late 19th century, when it was replaced by offset printing. However, the technique has experienced a bit of a revival in the past two decades. I'm glad that it's back because it's going to be a gorgeous addition to our wedding!

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