What is letterpress stationery?

When you first delve into the world of wedding stationery, there’s a whole new vocabulary to get to grips with! One of the biggies is letterpress stationery, so we’ve asked Julia Wolfe of Wolf & Ink to tell us a bit about it…

1) So Julia, what exactly is letterpress stationery?

Letterpress is a centuries-old tradition and consists of a relief plate of type pressing down on each individual sheet of paper.  The possibilities for the use of textured  and thick papers is greater with letterpress and the process creates a stunning debossed texture.

2) How does the technique work, and why is it more expensive than printed stationery? 

As described above, you need a reverse positive plate in order to print with letterpress. Once this is in the press you then need to align it and ensure you have the correct inking and pressure. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours and that is just to get the first print! From there, each piece of paper is hand fed and each impression makes a print. Only one colour is printed at a time so every colour means a new plate and print run!

It might be fair to say letterpress has more in common with pottery than digital printing. The machines themselves are antiques and all adjustments are done by twisting cogs and screws. It is more expensive not only because of the time it takes to print, but also because of the additional set-up cost from getting bespoke plates made to hand-mixing ink colours.

3) Why would you recommend letterpress stationery to brides looking for something special for their big day?

Letterpress offers a wide range of opportunities for beautiful textured and quality prints. Our invitations are printed on 640gsm cotton card stock (over double the thickness of any card that can go through a digital printer!) There are also so many possibilities for debossing and embossing text.

Letterpress stationery

4) Does letterpress stationery have to mean traditional design? 

Absolutely not! There are two ways to print by letterpress; typesetting and platemaking. Typesetting is the traditional method where you use individual wooden or metal letters and put them together to form words. This does have limitations in terms of using graphics and new font styles and would lead to a more traditional design.

However, much of modern letterpress work is created with bespoke plates. This way, any design can be created on the computer and then used to manufacture positive plates, which offers complete design flexibility.

5) What’s your favourite design from your new collection and why?

That’s a tricky one! I would probably have to go with the emblem design or the retro stamp. I love the monograms and emblems we create for our couples – it is the beginning of their life as a new family so I love that we are creating a new, monogram that they can use for the whole of their lives together.

6) How does the process of coming up with the designs work? 

We at Wolf & Ink love all things wedding so we are always keeping our eyes out for new trends that we want to create for – we also know letterpress inside and out so both things provided inspiration for our new collection.

For example, with the ’embossed invitation’ we wanted to really showcase the beautiful embossed quality of letterpress with a contemporary but classic design. Once we have the idea we create a few versions and go from there!

If you want to learn more about letterpress stationery, take a look at the Wolf & Ink blog.

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