Tag Archive for 'letterpress printing'

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Q&A – Contemporary Letterpress Printing

Studio On Fire principal Ben Levitz answered some questions on contemporary letterpress printing last week for “letterpress week” over at Oh Hello Friend. Here is the Q&A exchange:
Just what is letterpress?
Letterpress is a method of relief printing. It is the process of inking a type high reversed image and then transferring that ink to a substrate, making a print of the positive image. While previous generations relied on moveable wood and metal type, most modern letterpress is achieved with a plastic material called photopolymer. Photopolymer has bridged the gap between the computer and letterpress printing presses. A digital file with correct specifications can be moved to water wash polymer plates and printed on letterpress in place of handset materials.
So why Letterpress? How does letterpress stand unique as a printing method?
Letterpress used to be the primary method of all printing. Nowadays designers have so many printing options – digital printing, offset printing, screen printing – letterpress as a printing method is such a small part of todays printing industry. However, we’ll give you three good reasons letterpress is alive and well.
#1. Tactile Design – Like to feel what you see? That sculptural impression is a primary reason for using letterpress printing. This heavy impression is how letterpress has reinvented itself over the past couple decades. Things like text, line work and patterns offer an impression into soft paper material. As a designer, if you get the artwork right and pair it correctly with a material, the resulting impression is unmistakably letterpress. It is an effect unmatched by any other printing method.
#2. Unique Materials – Just try running a toothy 600gsm cotton stock through a digital printer. Maybe some thick blotter paper for coasters? A thick duplexed stock business card stock perhaps? Even thin onion skin stock or napkins? Yes, letterpress will print it all. Lots of special stocks that just won’t run through modern offset and digital presses. Letterpress offers material versatility that is unmatched by any modern presses. Just don’t ask for slick coated stocks, they don’t like to take an impression.
#3. Upscale Presentation- The materials we print on for letterpress generally cost more than going to any local quick print shop. And the time consuming nature of letterpress printing process means it is not mass produced. It has that artisan quality which sets it apart. The cost of each color makes projects printed with letterpress have a certain simplicity. Generally letterpress projects are only a couple colors. There are no slick gradients or drop shadows. We hear all the time that anything looks better letterpress. We’d say this is because letterpress makes people simplify the design.
What is your heart and passion behind letterpress?
Speaking as both a designer and letterpress printer for the past decade, I’d say letterpress is still gaining momentum as a production method. When people get a letterpress printed business card handed to them and turn it over in their hand, they feel it, look at it closer and consider it . It literally buys extra seconds in their hands. It is this notable pause that exemplifies letterpress printing as a breath of fresh air. As our society increase our digital communications and the time we spend in front of glowing screens, letterpress printing becomes an even more unique counterpoint. It is something we both see AND feel. We are tactile beings and letterpresses tangibleness makes us connect.
My passion behind letterpress printing and starting Studio On Fire goes back to studying original masters like William Morris, W.A. Dwiggins and Fredrick Goudy. These fellows truly understood and merged both design and production. A critique of todays design reality is that fewer and fewer designers understand the production method for which they are designing. As designers we have so many options, we’ve become generalists. At Studio On Fire design and letterpress are dating again. We are committed to making letterpress printing one of the most premium and relevant production methods for contemporary design. Understanding our niche letterpress market and offering production advice to the designers that come to us how we work. Merging design intent with letterpress printing keeps our work exciting.
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Biography – Ben Levitz, Studio On Fire
Company founder Benjamin Levitz received his BFA in Communication Design from the College of Visual Arts. He spent nearly a decade in the creative industry working with design leaders at Kilter, Larsen/California, and Thorburn design agencies. His creative expertise has focused on design as a branding tool for a large and varied list of national companies with work consistently appears in award shows and publications of AIGA, Communication Arts, Graphis, Print magazine and Type Directors Annual. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Visual Arts teaching advanced typography course work.
Ben’s tactile design sensibility led to the founding of Studio On Fire. The studio began in 1999 with a vision of uniquely combining design and production skills in modern letterpress work. Ben left the agency world in 2006 to run the studio full time. The Minneapolis studio currently produces it’s own design and letterpress projects in addition to printing custom work from for an impressive list of agencies and design firms across the United States.
See and read more at the company website studio on fire.

Woodgrain & Crest Letterpress Wedding

When we posted the Save The Date card by designer Nick Brue a couple months back, we were super excited to see what he had in mind for the design of the actual wedding invitation. Finally, here is his design that just recently left the pressroom:

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This invitation set is housed within a mini custom die cut pocket folder which neatly organizes the various cards. The folder is printed with a tonal custom woodgrain pattern using a clear varnish ink on letterpress with heavy impression. A belly band is fitted to the exterior of the folder with a Continue reading ‘Woodgrain & Crest Letterpress Wedding’

Coaster Stock Business Card

We designed this identity with mountaineering in mind. Saying “10 Zing Consulting – Helps you reach the top” would have been really lame.  So we wrapped that message into the design with the shape. Show it, don’t say it.

We went lo-fi with the production and used a 55pt coaster board with 2 color letterpress. Then the pieces were steel rule die cut. Coaster board works OK for letterpress printing, but isn’t the best if you are looking for a deep impression. The material core is soft and the surface will tend to crack if you drive the plate to deep. It also sucks up the ink and requires heavy ink lay down.

In addition to our design work, our letterpress room prints projects for designers and agencies all over the country. Contact us for an estimate on your project.

Coldfusion Programming Meets Letterpress

When our letterpress printing client at Electric Fusion handed out one of his new business cards, almost a year later he saw a project come in because someone remembered his card and held onto it. Here’s a note just in from our client:

“I hope all is well.  I wanted to share a story about a new client and project I just landed. My client told me that part of the reason they remembered me (in addition to my sparkling personality) was the business card.  So, thanks — I dig having a memorable card!”

At a time when virtually every industry is struggling, letterpress is bringing business in the door. The tactile quality of letterpress is about creating something memorable that literally buys a few extra seconds in the hands of a recipient. Appealing to both sight and touch senses helps create that memory.  We thought it was sweet that someone doing web application programming wanted letterpress business cards. What could be more opposite than letterpress? But we know it works, and not just for creatives. As creative professionals, we all have our little bin labeled “cool business card samples” don’t we? It’s important to remember that the “cool business card” reaches beyond us as creatives and has some very practical business realities. So, why haven’t you contacted us to letterpress print your project yet?

2 Friends Special – Letterpress Business Cards

Since we get a lot of requests from students, soon-to-be graduates and folks just wanting to give a sweet gift, we decided to run a special price on Business Cards so everyone can experience personalized, letterpress goodness. And, since we generally print Business Cards 2-up on a press sheet, we can run cards for 2 people as easily as for 1.

Continue reading ’2 Friends Special – Letterpress Business Cards’

Eight Hour Day – Solid Gold

One of the most positive design vibes in the Twin Cities comes from Eight Hour Day. This duo produces design with a bold and illustrative style. They just had a nice post over on Grain Edit too.

This invite they sent our studio for printing was a large A10 size card. We letterpress printed gold ink on cotton stock and even did a tone on tone gold envelope. Metallic ink on uncoated stock does not create a mirror-like sheen like foil stamping. It needs a heavy ink coverage to come out as shiny as possible. Many times we recommend a double bump on metallic inks to build up the sheen and opacity. A double coating of ink lets us hold on to the tiny detail and keep the prints crisp.

Kelly English Business Cards

Kelly English is a Minneapolis designer who worked with us on our Charmed and Sweetheart Seamstress Deskline stationery. Those paper goods are for sale on our Studio Site. We were excited to print her own card design. Her approach to the standard business card takes good advantage of a press sheet. We print them all the same time and trim them down.

A note about halftones – Letterpress can print screens of a color like offset, but the line screen is heavier. Think about it as a black and white newspaper image. We can comfortable hold on to about 80dpi on the typical uncoated papers. You can see the halftone detail in these cards creates an amazing texture. And with the overprinting magenta and yellow duotone – those girls are HOT.

Darden Studio

Our friends at Mucca and Darden Studio sent this project our way. Darden typefaces are beautiful in utility with details that aren’t overworked. They are masters at creating a unique typographic voice. And letterpress printing just makes type that much sweeter.