The time has come and wedding invites are on the agenda. Congratulations! Knowing what you want in your invitations can be a fickle thing, especially when it comes to those extras you dismiss so easily. However there comes a time when considering one of those extras can distinguish your invitations far above the rest, and letterpress is one of these options.
So what is letterpress and why is it a hot commodity? We thought you’d never ask.
What is letterpress?
Have you ever come across a menu or card and noticed a delicious silky shadow around the letters that when touched, the impression in the paper can be felt? Then you, dear reader, have experienced one of the oldest methods of printing!
For those who haven’t, it’s the imprinting of an image or letter pressed down just enough that they leave impressions in the paper without breaking through.
Now, some of you might be thinking you’ve experienced letterpress when looking through the card section of your newsagent. You come across a card with a raised picture of a flower or animal that you can also feel and touch. This however is not letterpress, but a card that has been embossed.
Before the confusion sets in, there are two major differences between the two:
#1 – Letterpress is pressed inwards on the card and away from you; embossed is pressed outward and towards you.
#2 – The indentation of letterpress can be any colour desired, embossed is limited to the colour already on the paper.
A little bit of letterpress history
We owe all the letterpress praise we have to Johann Gutenberg. This clever man created the first letterpress machine in the 15th century, in order to bring books and literature to the common people – what a nice guy!
Back in those days, letterpress was an intense labour of love, with Gutenberg and his team only able to print 6 pages per day on the machine. To put that into perspective for you, his greatest achievement was the printing of the Bible in two volumes (around 1300 pages!). Which, by the way, took over two and half years to print with a team of 20.
Well it must have been worth it since not only was Gutenberg one hell of a dedicated printer, but he paved the way for the innovation of printing which we treasure today. Where would the world today be without printing? We shudder to think.
How does letterpress work?
The process of letterpress has changed from the traditional way – the kind we will explain. Traditional letterpress requires the letters or image to be painted by hand, modern letterpress machines have rollers that are covered in ink that will do it for you.
Yet one thing remains in common: letterpress is a manual exercise. It is a process controlled by a person, and the invitations are done one at a time.
Steps To Letterpress: The Traditional Way:
- You have your letters or images blocks. These will be made out of wood or metal and will all be in the reverse (when they press on the paper, the imprint will be the right way round).
- The blocks are gathered and placed face up and in reverse in the letterpress machine.
- The blocks are secured tight, and painted with coloured ink, as per design instruction.
- The card or paper is placed over and the press is lowered down and secured with the proper pressure.
- Press is lifted, card/paper removed and voila!
What’s so good about letterpress?
Where do we even begin? There is a lot of letterpress love around on the internet, and when you actually have one in your hand all you can think is:
Letterpress is something that projects quality. It’d be very rare to find letterpress of a bad quality, because the paper needs to be of a high standard to allow it into the process.
So much care and attention go into making one single invitation. The entire process is intricate and what you get out of it is a stunning piece of art.
It can still be fun.
Fancy calligraphy and images is not a requirement of letterpress. You can do almost anything for your invitation as long as any lines that you have are not too thin. But your printer will let you know if your design is needs to be changed.
It adds character.
Letterpress don’t only add an extra dimension to your invitation, it gives them personality. It brings normal text and images to life.
The first thing you want to do when you see a letterpress invitation is trace the letters or image, feeling every bump and crevice. Your guests get to know every inch of your invitation on a different level than what they can read.
It’s literally sensational.
Not only is your guest experiencing excitement at your prospective wedding, but they’re getting more than what they expected with an intriguing invitation. The shadowed letters and images are a new sensation they may not have experienced before.
So, there you have it. All you need to know about letterpress, and a little bit more.
It is true, that if you choose the letterpress way, it comes at a cost to your wallet (somebody is going to be literally stamping each invitation by hand, after all). Add a splash of colour and the cost will be a little higher. In all honesty, for those with a very strict budget it may not be the best option. But for those who are willing to pay that little bit extra, there is no doubt you get what you pay for.
Letterpress gets people talking. It provides excitement, intrigue and an added degree of sophistication to your invites – not to mention they always earn a great place on the fridge.
Thanks to our illustrious pixel architect Amelia Stevens.
For more, check out our take on the five best letterpress wedding invitations of 2015.