The most traditional of printing techniques, letterpress began as a form of communication for the masses.
For many centuries it was the only means of printing books, broadsides, manuals and newspapers but it was largely replaced in the last hundred years by offset and then digital printing. By the late 1950’s the advances in printing technology caused letterpress to all but disappear. Mainstream production needed quicker turnaround times that led to developing more efficient ways to get the job done.
But this centuries old printing process is now seeing a revival….
Letterpress has a unique look and feel. It is a very labour intensive printing process that can create a distinctive, deep, ‘de-bossed’ impression by pressing an inked surface onto soft cotton paper. Traditionally, perfect letterpress printing would have been made using as little pressure as possible to create a totally flat impression. Nowadays a debossing effect is in high demand, and this delightful, elegant style has become very popular with wedding stationery. Originally moveable lead or wooden type and etched metal plates were used. But now, it is more common for designs to be computer generated and made into plastic polymer printing plates; making the possibilities endless.
“De-boss” means to indent into a surface, and that’s what letterpress stationary feels like.
So much more tactile and luxurious than a digital print.
All images and artwork copyright of Emma Lee Cheng