When we work with designers on projects we have conversations about "production strategy." Sometimes letterpress is a good fit for the design intent, sometimes not. And often times we combine other production methods to achieve the effect being sought after. Black business cards present a range of production challenges. Flooding a white paper with black ink doesn't produce fine detail in small type sizes. Here are two projects featuring different ways to print on black paper by combining letterpress with other processes. Jamie Wickard Card - Designed by our friends at Westwerk Design
This card was produced on black paper stock: Tonal Black letterpress ink and a gloss black FOIL (side 1) and Silver Letterpress (side 2)
Antitdote X Card - Designed by our friends at Antidote X
This card was produced on cream paper stock custom duplexed to black paper stock. (Black letterpress on the cream side and white ENGRAVING on the black side) Then it was finished with custom die cutting.
To achieve fine white type on a black background Engraving is the most premium (and most costly) printing method. By duplexing a black stock rather than printing black ink and reversing out the white we've achieved something letterpress and offset printing would not have done well - notice the fine 3 point serif type! White foil and screen printing can print on black, but not with detail like that. Letterpress printing does not do well printing opaque white on dark colored paper and achieving bright opacity either. Like offset printing, opaque white can be laid down with several passes and achieve a mottled looking white - not a bright white. As a rule for general production: only metallic inks have good opacity on dark stocks.
Of course this all combining of production methods comes at a cost. Which comes to a final point - KNOW YOUR CLIENT BUDGET. Our best production advice is to know what your client wants to spend before finalizing your design. If you have an extravagant design with multiple production steps and your client has only a $300 dollar budget, you've just wasted design time on something they can not afford to produce. But if you plan production along side design, you can present your client an option that doesn't need rounds of compromise. That is what "production strategy" is all about.