Letterpress printing

 

What is letterpress?

Letterpress printing is a form of relief printing, creating words and imagery using traditional printing techniques and equipment. From its invention  in the mid-15th century by Johannes Gutenberg , letterpress printing remained in wide use for books, newspapers and other uses until the second half of the 20th century. The process has since seen a revival in the artisanal world,  with the introduction of Photopolymer Plates, broadening the way in which it is used today.

All of my work is created by impression printing, also known as debossing. This more modern form of letterpress is carried out using photopolymer plates, which allow for almost any kind of text and imagery to be printed, without the limitations of traditional typesetting. Polymer plates can be easily pressed into paper, gently sculpting the surface to create that all important, tactile finish.

Each technique involves composing a design using movable wood/lead type (traditional typesetting) or polymer plates into a metal chase. This becomes what is known as a form which is then locked into the bed of a press, inked with rollers and pressed against paper to transfer the ink from the type or image.

All of my work is printed by hand on an antique Arab Crown Folio 10x15" platen press, c.1897, lovingly restored by my Father in 2012. 

 


materials

 

Paper

All of the papers I use are sustainably sourced and include FSC certified, 100% recycled and luxurious 100% cotton stocks. Below is a list of several papers I commonly use in the studio, which may act as a good starting point. If you have an alternative stock in mind please get in touch and I'll be happy to discuss this with you.

Colorplan (FSC-Certified) -  Renowned for it's wide range of colours, embossings and weights, this high quality stock is produced in the UK and lends itself perfectly to business stationery. Popular weights for letterpress printing include 350gsm and 540gsm and 700gsm. 

Gmund Cotton (100% Cotton) - Another beautiful soft cotton stock perfectly suited to impression printing, available in a range of gentle, neutral colours. Popular weights include 450gsm and 600gsm.

Cairn Board (100% Recycled) - Suitable for both wedding and business stationery, this range of 100% recycled papers is characterised by neutral shades and a distinctive, textured rustic quality. Popular weights include 440gsm and 600gsm.

Saunders Waterford (100% Cotton) - The perfect match for wedding stationery. This superbly soft cotton stock is made in the UK and makes for a beautifully tactile impression. Available in 2 colours (High White and White) and the option of a smooth or textured finish.  Popular weights include 300gsm, 425gsm and 638gsm.

Ink

I work with both rubber and oil based inks in the studio. All colours are mixed by hand according to the Uncoated Pantone Matching System (UPMS). If you are having your artwork printed in colour, please send a physical swatch sample or a UPMS colour code (eg. 'Pantone 204U') and I will match it for you. 

Letterpress inks are slightly transparent and are absorbed into paper. Metallic inks will therefore appear duller and more rustic looking, as supposed to the shiny bright finish achieved by Hot Foiling. This also applies when printing larger areas of block colour, as the ink coverage will tend to appear more textured and uneven.

 


The print process

 

Design

Before starting any print job, the first step is to cover the design and print options. I often work with designers and creative thinkers who already have a design prepared. For those starting with a blank canvas, I also offer a full custom design service. In each case, I will talk you through the available print and paper options until reaching a final design that you're happy to proceed with. I will then send a plate ready proof in PDF format for your approval before going to print.

Artwork guidelines can be found here.

Plates

All of my printed work is created using photopolymer plates, made from a polymer plastic. Once approved, the digital design is printed onto film as a negative image before being exposed to UV light. This is then washed down leaving behind the design in relief. This hard raised surface is then inked and pressed, sculpting the paper to leave a beautifully deep tactile impression. For every separate colour within a design, another plate and print run is required. After use, all polymer plates can be melted down to be used again.

Printing

Prior to any print job, all inks are mixed by hand using the Uncoated Pantone Matching System (UPMS) or a physical swatch sample. The paper is then cut to size and the plate is registered ready for printing. The ink is applied to the press by hand, then spread evenly by running the rollers over the inking plate several times. A test proof is then pulled. Any adjustments to impression, ink distribution or registration are made at this point before continuing with the full run. Larger print runs will require re-inking throughout the print run, meaning ink coverage may therefore vary slightly.

When the printing is complete, all items are individually checked before being packed and wrapped, ready for shipping.

Lead Times

Lead times will vary depending on the size and complexity of the job, and will be subject to my current work load. I would usually require around 2-4 weeks for print only jobs and 5-7 weeks for custom design jobs. If you require your items by a specific date please let me know and I will do my very best to fit you in.

 


FINISHING

 

Edge Painting

I offer Edge Painting  for both business and wedding stationery. Please be aware that this service is limited to selected paint colours, as opposed to letterpress inks which can be mixed to order. Please enquire for further details.

Embossing & Hot Foiling

Regretfully, I do not currently offer either of these services.

 

 

 

For all enquiries please email info@knappstudio.co.uk  or fill out the enquiry form on my contact page.