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Save or splurge! Letterpress invites

August 16, 2011

We’d like to take some time this morning to revisit our ‘Save or Splurge‘ column by giving you all a few tips on letterpress printing. While it’s such a beautiful technique, it can sometimes be disheartening to find out the cost behind its beauty. We’ve asked an expert in this area, Suann of Simplesong Design, to weigh in on how she helps guide her clients through the process of creating an invite that’s unique and cost-effective.

letterpress printing techniques

General letterpress info: what it is, the charm of it, etc.
Letterpress is the oldest method of printing and all “modern-day” letterpress printing is still printed on antique presses. Letterpress printing is an art as much as it is a technique; and it’s certainly a labor of love. It’s an extremely manual process from mixing the ink by hand to setting up the press, one color at a time, to individually fed paper. But the end result is something so lovely that you can not only see but feel!

If clients have a lower budget but want letterpress, what options do you give them? How can they get the most bang for their buck? What are alternate techniques you offer in conjunction or instead of letterpress?
Because of its involved process, letterpress can be expensive and is priced by the number of colors in your design. The easiest way to keep costs down is to keep the number of colors down. And in our opinion, letterpress is best with 1 to 2 colors—let the printing speak for itself. Some other easy but cost-effective ways to add impact is to print on colored paper. But one thing to know is that letterpress ink is translucent by nature. So, printing a light color on a dark paper stock is usually not possible. You could also use a colored envelope for the RSVP card, use fun custom or vintage postage, or create an envelope liner.

Or, incorporate creative, personal touches into the design. Here we added a fabric pouch to hold the 1-color invitation. We’ve also mimicked a classified ad for this save the date and used painter’s tape to affix it to another piece of paper. Simple but memorable touches.

letterpress printing ideas

Things worth splurging on:
If you’re going to the extent of letterpress printing, splurge on paper that lends itself to letterpress printing. Letterpress printing almost always looks lovely but it’s even lovelier when printed on extra thick 100% cotton or bamboo paper. It makes that much more of an statement when your guests receive their invitation. A couple of good places to research and/or buy letterpress paper is LetterpressPaper.com and Keldon Paper.

Not related to letterpress printing, but part of the overall package. Splurge on calligraphy. Add that final touch and have your addresses calligraphed. Work with your calligrapher to select a style and ink that complements your invitation. And if you’re going to work with a calligrapher, be sure to order extra envelopes! Most calligraphers require 15% to 20% extra envelopes for “just in case”

letterpress printing techniques

What are things your clients can do on their own to help save them cost? Can you list some resources/tips that you give your clients?
Instead of having your address letterpress printed or calligraphed, get a rubber stamp made. There are lots of custom stamp options available on Etsy including, Meant to BeNote Trunk, and LetterGirl. Line your envelopes using a nice matte wrapping paper. We love the patterns from SmockInk and Wit, and Avie Designs to name a few.

If you’re supplying your own envelopes, a few good envelopes resources include: Paper PresentationPaper SourceHeinrich Envelope, and Paper-Papers.com.

stamp envelope

Thanks for all of your helpful advice, Suann!

{photo credits: kate headley photography, I Can Totally Market That, Simplesong, Alyson Brown, frolic}

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