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Shannon & Daniel: Blind Impressions

There’s something special about every job, and one of our favorite details on this one was the elegant blind impression. A blind impression is when we don’t use any ink on the plate and simply press it in to the paper. Coupled with the sophisticated simplicity of the lovely black lettering, the blind impression is a beautiful addition to this stunning suite. Congratulations, Shannon and Daniel!

Hailey & Mike: Crimson & Grey

Unusual color schemes are always fun to print, and the vibrant crimson and subtle dove grey really make the contrasting type faces on this invitation pop! We love the way Hailey and Mike’s names are the clear focal point of the design. Design by James Rabdau of the Summit Group, printed on 110# Crane Lettra Pearl with Pantone 199U (red) and Pantone Cool Grey #4 . Congratulations, Hailey and Mike!

Letterpress U: The Bite that Saved Letterpress


This is what letterpress was supposed to look like; a soft kiss of the ink on the page

This is the first post in a new series called Letterpress University. The series will cover basics on the history of letterpress, how it works, how to design for it, and how we work with our clients and designers. All from our own, rather unique perspective of course… Posts will show up about once a week (or whenever we have the time).

Once upon a time, there was a sleeping princess and a prince and a kiss that saved her and everyone lived happily ever after. But letterpress printing couldn’t be saved by anything as gentle as a kiss. Letterpress required a bite.

People will tell you that letterpress printing is the kind of printing that’s been around since Gutenberg printed his bible. And they’re right. Letterpress was how we humans started mass producing knowledge, and it was a doozy of an invention. It meant all those old monks who spent a lifetime getting just one copy of the Bible or St. Augustine’s Confessions all copied out and illuminated beautifully by hand could now spend that time doing other things, like say gardening and beekeeping, or caring for the sick and needy. But even more importantly, it meant that knowledge could spread and be shared like never before. Just downstairs in our personal library at Rowley Press, we have more books than a king could have acquired in a lifetime before good old letterpress came along. It’s a grand thing and as a devoted bibliophile, I’m extremely grateful for Gutenberg and all that refined the process after him.

Kerri & Steven | Letterpress Wedding Invitations

Here’s how letterpress looks now–a nice, deep bite.

There is, however, a small difference you might notice in a book that was letterpressed 150 years ago or so and that letterpressed wedding announcement you keep adorning your fridge. All you have to do is run your finger across the page and you’ll feel that difference. It’s the difference between a bite and a kiss. The letterpress we all know and love today digs in to specialty paper and creates a tactile work of art that is valued for the deep bite it makes in the paper. A bite that would have made the good men (not many women printers back in the day, I’m afraid) that printed the first editions of Austen and Dickens and Goethe shudder. To them, an impression in the paper was just shoddy craftsmanship–crash printing they called it. The perfectly calibrated machine should be set so the finely inked type would touch the paper with just the lightest “kiss”, leaving the image but no impression behind. (Don’t worry, we’ll do a nice long, cozy post sometime on how this printing process actually manages to kiss and bite paper).

Fast forward to today. What changed? Why do we value and strive for a result that was the enemy of the good printer for hundreds of years? Well, it turns out there are other forms of printing that can “kiss” a piece of paper, or wood or rubber or metal or whatever else takes your fancy, a good deal more gently, efficiently, and clearly than letterpress printing can. Offset, lithography, laser, etc. Starting around the 19th C, letterpress machines were used less and less. By the end of the 20th C, they were all but obsolete. Fortunately for us, in the 1980s, people who liked the feel and craftsmanship of a hand run press started a revival. But they needed something special to set letterpressed work apart, to make it worth the time and effort (and cost) that printing by hand demanded. And thus was the beauty of the bite born.

Now, that’s not the whole story of the revival of letterpress. Lots of fun things helped it along, technologies and design programs and a mention in Martha Stewart Living in the early 90s (how can you not be famous after press like that?). But those are stories for another post, and they would have been meaningless if letterpress couldn’t give you a special product that no one else was. So be grateful for the bite my friends. And remember, sometimes a bite is better than a kiss.

Little One Turns One!

We love printing hand lettering, especially when it’s done by the amazing Ashley Coslett (check out her other work at her Esty Shop, Ash and Boot). These invitations to her little one’s first birthday party are a work of art, and what could be a better memento for a child than that? We kept it simple with a single color so the lettering could be the focus.

Oh, and the party over at Ashley’s restaurant, The Awful Waffle, was a smashing success and wildly delicious, as everything they make always is!

Kerri and Steven: extra-thick paper for an elegant look

One of our favorite things about this job was the details – not only was it impeccably designed, there were lots of fun details like the pictoral representations of the food available at the reception. The decision to opt for 220# Crane Lettra (rather than the standard 110#) made for beautiful impressions into the paper. We also loved the pairing of gold ink with the antique pink envelope and think that the wedding suite made for a wonderfully classy addition to our portfolio! Congrats Kerri and Steven! Read The Rest

Ty & Nicki : A Sundance Wedding

In place of doing long blogposts every once in a blue moon, we’ve opted for the idea of doing many short, portfolio-esque posts (don’t worry, we’ll still throw a few detailed ones in). We wanted to share these beautiful wedding invites with you – designed by the bride herself! Some people have all the talent. Not only did we love printing these, we loved the final touches that the bride and groom chose for them! Happy New Year! Read The Rest

The Captain’s Wedding Invitations

How are we so lucky to work with so many talented clients? Once again, these beautiful wedding invitations were designed by the client and they did an amazing job. They wanted them printed on a brown chipboard to go with the old-world feel of the design. The results—as you can see—were marvelous. Chipboard is a much denser paper than the Crane Lettra that is our standard, so the impression was not as deep as usual, although we added as much packing as we could whilst being careful to preserve the fidelity of the photopolymer plate. These invites are often favorites of people who come in looking for wedding invitations because of the unique paper, character-filled typeface (really, no pun intended), and strong imagery. Read The Rest

34 Typographic Sins Letterpress Poster

Thou shalt not fail to kern display type. Limited-edition signed letterpress posters expounding the 34 most horrific Typographic Sins known to humankind. Perhaps you need to go see a typographic priest. By Jim Godfrey.

When I printed this poster, traffic to my site more than doubled. I know that typography is a controversial subject, but who knew it would drive traffic like it did? The poster made it to the FPO: For Print Only website where it was exposed to the full scrutiny of a bunch of typographic nerds. The ensuing conversation was quite opinionated, as would be expected. Anytime someone comes out with a definitive stance on a much debated topic discussed by people who take the topic very seriously, you had better hunker down and prepare for the barrage of flack coming from every side. That’s the fun of it, and if anyone can stand his own with these typographic geeks, I would say that Jim Godfrey surely can. Read The Rest

Letterpress Loves Giclée

One of the limitations of letterpress is that you can only print one color at a time. This means that for each new color, the press must be cleaned, another plate made, the plate for the additional color registered, and all of the sheets of paper hand-pressed all over again. This process must be repeated for each new color. So, for a 3-color wedding invitation with 300 pieces, you actually end up hand-pressing 900 times plus all the additional makeready. This is why you rarely find an invitation with more than 3-colors. Giclée printing is the beautiful answer to this problem. Read The Rest

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