We all know that letterpress printing is a timeless, beautiful and complicated process. It can also be understandably pricey! However, I personally believe that it is well worth the investment for high quality wedding stationery. That's why I thought it was about time that I got a letterpress professional on here to explain how it all works, and why it is so awesome. Claire of Hyde & Seek Letterpress has kindly answered some of my questions, which I'm sharing with you all today. The accompanying photos were taken by Laura Barnes Photo.
Describe your first experience with letterpress wedding stationery.
First, I would like to share my first experience with letterpress. In college I took a printmaking classes and my teacher wanted to show us the press and how it worked. I thought it was so awesome that that night I went to the print shop and set type for my new business cards. I had no idea what I was doing but I just knew I loved it. Lets just say that they were the worst thing that I have ever printed, but it is a great reminder of where I started.
The first time I printed a wedding invitation was fun and was actually my own wedding invitation. It was not only my own wedding invitation, but the first time a lot of people saw my letterpress work. Big pressure! I printed four different pieces; the invitation, RSVP, a map card and the return address on the envelopes. For me, wedding invitations have to be perfect. The color on the RSVP has to match any piece out of the stack. It is all about quality control. With letterpress, you have to watch the ink and after printing a lot of paper you have to add more ink and then get the color back to exactly where it was. I learned a lot about how much the design matters for letterpress. (Letterpress loves the thin line, not large blocks of color. And when you have a really thin line with a large solid, it might have to be printed separately.)
What is letterpress, exactly, and what sets it apart from other printing styles?
Letterpress is when letters and images on a raised surface and then they are pressed into the paper. This requires a special letterpress machine, most of which are antiques. Each piece is often hand placed on the press.
You can feel the difference between letterpress and digital printing. You can also see the difference. Letterpress has a 3D effect. You can see the indention in the paper. You can feel where each letter was printed. Letterpress is also printed on a high quality paper. We usually use a 100% cotton paper.
With digital printing you don't feel the letters it is flat on the page. Thermograph is another type of printing where the ink is raised on the paper. Both of these can be great options but there is just something about letterpress, the touch of the paper the indent of the letters the craftsmanship put into it.
Why does a letterpress wedding invitation typically cost significantly more than a digitally printed invitation?
Letterpress cost more for several reasons. One, is the time involved. Two, is set up. Three, is printing because each paper is hand fed into the press. Four, is clean up. And if there is a second color you do the entire process all over again. Also it is the quality of the products we use. We use a 100% cotton paper and we use photopolymer plates so that we can use digital designs Letterpress is an art and one that not many people do. The antique presses aren't something you can order from a catalog but have to be hunted down.
The process for printing goes kind of like this. You have to mix the ink, then place it on the press. Then you have to set up your plate that you are printing from just right so that it is aliened perfectly to the paper. Then you have to look at the amount of impression that the plate it making in the paper and get it to just the perfect amount. Sometimes you have to adjust one word or image to make it look just right. You have to count out your paper. You can't just hit print 200 and it knows just how may to print. After that you are ready to print!
We have a Chandler and Price Platen press. It is foot powered and weighs 1500 lb. We hand place every card in just the right spot on the press. Once the press is going we have to pull out the printed ones and immediately place a new blank one to be printed.
If you have ever looked at getting letterpress items, you might see that the price jumps with the more colors you want. This is because once the first color is printed you have to completely hand clean the press which means wiping all the ink off of the rollers and on the large ink plate, which can take some time. Then do all the steps all over again. This means you just printed 200 invitations in one color and now you have to print the second color on the invitation. Each of those 200 invitation have to be hand fed through the press again.
What suggestions do you have for ways to cut costs on your letterpress wedding stationery?
Letterpress is going to be pricier. Think of it as is an art and you are paying an artist to create you invitations. It is special and each card has been taken care of to insure that it looks the best. It's all about craftsmanship.
- One would be only do one color! Right away that can cut cost!
- We have had some brides who will only get their invitation in letterpress and they get the RSVP or reception cards digitally printed. Some have put an RSVP email on the bottom of the invitation.
- We have even had one invitation where the design part was digitally printed, and then we letterpress printed the wording for it.
- Don't wait until the last minute! Letterpress is time consuming. Expect that it could take up to 3 to 4 weeks to get it to you and if it has to be rushed it will cost you more.
How can brides discern good, quality letterpress work from the rest?
I would say if you can, go meet the printer and see samples! Check for even inking (that it is not lighter in one area and darker in the other), alignment on the paper, and that there is an even impression on the invitation. Each printer has a different style. Find the one you like. Some will always have a very deep impression some are not as deep. What do you like?
What tips and advice can you offer brides who are currently shopping for quality wedding save the date cards or invitations?
Find a printer that you really like their work. Ask them to send you samples if they can. Have a good understanding of what you want. If you are unsure we can always help you out. We cannot always just give you a price over the phone. Each job is so different and therefore pricing varies. If you already have a design it is helpful for the printer to see it, so that they can get a good idea of the project. It you are having the printer design it then just have a good idea of the design you are looking for.
About Hyde & Seek Letterpress
My name is Claire Hyde Keyser, I started Hyde & Seek Letterpress in December of 2010 and when we got our first press, Chandler and Price 10x15 New Style press from 1921 that weighs 1500 lbs. I fell in love with letterpress in college and then interned at Atlanta Printmakers Studio where I was able to take a letterpress class. After that I knew this is what I wanted to do. It is just a wonderful world that merged design, printmaking and craftsmanship. Every project and job is a whole new puzzle to solve. No job is ever the same.
Since starting we have added 2 more presses to the family; a Heidelberg Windmill 10x15 from 1953 that weighs 3000 lbs and a Sigwalt #10 which prints about 3.75in x 2.5in and weighs 14 lbs.
Hyde & Seek can also help you with any graphic design needs, including logo work, you might have. It does not have to be letterpress work. On top of all that we are also an antique dealer. As one of my friends said, "You are really living it up in the 19th century." I love everything I do and would love to help you whether it be letterpress, a design, or finding a cool antique!