notes on letterpress printing
let’s talk about solid areas of color
Solid areas of color can be difficult to control and will not print the same way they look in your digital proofs. Ink variations are especially common in these larger, flat areas of color causing some pieces to have a darker ink density, and others to have a lighter density. In these areas, the ink may appear speckled or what we in the letterpress world call ‘salty.’ The shape will still be visible but your paper may show through in some areas depending on your ink color and paper. As a general guide, large areas of darker colors typically have the most salty appearance, and lighter colors tend to have less.
Ink is mixed, added, and controlled throughout the printing process by hand and I always keep an eye on variations to maintain as much consistency as possible.
deep versus kiss impressions
Deep (aka bite) impressions tend to be the style that we all swoon over (who can blame us?) but letterpress printing has not always been known for this. There is a fine line between deep and too deep, which we call over punching. Over punching results in warped paper and/or unwanted extrusions on the backside of the paper and can harm type.
Kiss impressions are favored traditionally and occur when just enough pressure is applied to transfer the ink and make sure it’s visible without any indentations.
So, which style is better? Honestly, it’s a combination of personal preference and a few technical variables. Here at lovelybones paperie, I favor deep pillowy impressions wherever I can get them but those few technical variables are somewhat major. Paper stock, single vs. double-sided printing, design specs, etc., can all effect the impression choice. Single-sided designs on double-thick stock can handle the deepest impressions, whereas lighter paper or duplex designs tend to require an impression closer to the ‘kiss’ side of the spectrum.
can you only print on paper?
The short answer is no. The better answer is no, but letterpress definitely works the best on paper. I’ve printed on leather booklets, t-shirts, and tote bags and am always down to try and make something work for you! If you have an idea, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll be happy to provide an honest opinion on letterpress and other print methods for whatever you’re working on.
I use the Pantone Color Guide for every single project, both on press and digitally. Despite using the formulas as indicated by Pantone, replicating colors as EXACT matches between these two mediums is virtually impossible and your hand-pressed paper goods may have a slightly different hue than the one that was in your digital proof. This sort of thing is beyond my control but I do my best to get things as close as possible.