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Letterpress 101: FAQ, FYI, etc.

Letterpress printing reigned from the mid-15th century until the invention of offset printing in the 20th century. Today, the revival of letterpress is winning the hearts and hands of many as a fine-craft printing method. Here are some important notes to consider as you plan for your next letterpress project.

DESIGN

Letterpress is best suited for line art.
Large blocks of color are difficult to print without salting. The larger the area of ink coverage, the less of an impression.

All line widths, including type, should be no less than .5 points.
Hairline rules will not hold up to the smashing of the press. When a rule or thin type is reversed out of a solid color, the thickness should be no less than .75 points.

Mind your counters.
While 6pt type can be sexy, small counters tend to fill in when letterpressed. Ask us for pointers on giving small type some extra breathing room.
 


PAPER

Toothier papers tend to have more salting.
Large blocks of color are difficult to print without salting and this can be exaggerated on toothier papers. But tactile papers go along well with letterpress for a full-on luxurious and tactile impression.

Choose paper that supports the level of impression you want.
People often choose letterpress for the tactile impression. If you want a double-sided print, you'll need to use a heavier paper. While we can print both sides of a light weight sheet, if we impress deeply on both sides, you'll see bruising showing through to the reverse. 

TERMS

IMPRESSION or BITE  The tactile, debossed quality of letterpress today resulting from force applied when pressing the plate to the paper.

SALTING  The inconsistent dispersal of ink on paper across large blocks of color when letterpress printed. Salting tends to look textured, faded, or rustic, especially on toothy papers.

KISS  To press with minimal force by only lightly touching the plate to the paper.

BRUISING  A very deep impression can be visible on the reverse side of the paper. This can be unsightly or distort printing on that side, making type especially difficult to read.