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Adventures in Letterpress

Post 09 May 2012 By In letterpress
Vintage Letterpress in the studio Vintage Letterpress in the studio Ten and Sixpence

Recently, we welcomed to the studio, a lovely vintage letterpress machine to hand print letterpress stationery, one at a time. This new addition now accompanies a lonely assortment of type I have had since my art college days - a happy union at last! I will chronicle my adventures into letterpress on our blog, but for now, a little background reading...

Letterpress is one of the earliest forms of printing and involves the laborious process of setting by hand, rows of moveable reversed letters (or type), that are set within a frame before ink is applied and the letters are then pressed into paper, revealing the printed words.

Nowadays, this process has been modernised to printing as we know it today. Paper that has been letterpress printed has a very tactile feel - you can run your hands across the printed matter and feel the indentation the type has made when being pressed gently into the paper. There has been a revival in recent years of independent studios opting to offer this artisan form of printing and at Ten and Sixpence, we're delighted to be a part of it. 

Today, technology has allowed advancements that make letterpress printing even more exciting. Whilst rows of moveable type can still be used, the process of printing from magnesium or photopolymer plates allows much greater freedom in what can be printed. We can take an original drawing in pencil or pen and ink, and scan this to create a digital file. At this stage, modern fonts can be introduced into the design before the file is sent to be etched onto a metal plate. This means we are no longer limited to the number and style of metal typefaces stored in the studio and can instead create completely customised artwork for each and every job as it is required. 

The actual printing method is exactly the same, the plate is inked up (with a separate plate required for each layer of colour) before being pressed into the paper, each card is then printed by hand, one at a time, just like in the old days!

Our first few letterpress items are slowly making their way off the press and into the shop, look out for more!

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1 comment

  •   Aziz
    Aziz 12 September 2012

    These are beautiful photographs of an interesting and at one time state of the art process itself. There is nothing to match the tactile nature of the way the press leaves the ink on the page. Glad to see you make the effort to create something exceptional.

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