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What is letterpress?

Letterpress is a type of relief printing that involves pressing a design directly on to a piece of paper.


Traditionally, individual letters, called type, are lined up and gently printed on the surface of the paper (called a “kiss”). This is how newspapers and books were conventionally printed. It was considered bad form to have any sort of impression.

Now that digital printing is the norm, letterpress printing with an impression (called a “bite”) has increased in popularity. There’s just something about the experience of holding a textured piece of paper with a beautiful design pressed in.

Letterpress does have its limitations. Each design is turned in to a photopolymer plate. The plate is then mounted to the press, where rollers cover it in ink. The plate then meets the paper and creates the impression.

Only one color can be printed at a time. For a second color, or even a blind impression (where no ink is used), the press must be cleaned, the plate will need to be replaced, and the paper placement must be lined up perfectly. This process results in a longer timeline than digital printing, but don’t most good things take time?

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