Nothing gets me more excited when I walk into a stationery store than Letterpress... The texture and dimension of hand-milled Italian papers, rich bold colors, the crisp imagery and gorgeous typography literally give me heart palps! I often turn to it for inspiration in my stamped card designs and even have a Pinterest board dedicated to Letterpress items that catch my eye:
(click on the pics to enbiggan)
Despite how long Letterpress has been around, there are still many crafters who aren't familiar with it, so here's a brief description:
Letterpress is a form of printing, via a press, that dates back to the mid 1400's--it is the oldest form of printing known and was invented by Johann Gutenberg. In the most basic sense, "type" was often carved from wood or made from metal, and was inked and pressed against paper; the pressure of the mechanism used would "deboss" the letters into the paper while simultaneously printing them. Hence the name "Letterpress", which it is still called to this day. Letterpress is now produced with plates made from not only metal and wood, but also magnesium, photo-engraved copper, linoleum blocks, zinc and photopolymer.
Today, Letterpress is enjoying a great resurgence in popularity among printers, some of whom still use what is referred to as "moveable" type and vintage presses. Visit any fine stationery store and you will find that the most luxurious of wedding invitations, greeting cards, birth announcements and the like have been produced in Letterpress.
As much as I love Letterpress, the concept of being able to do it myself was something that truly never entered my mind--even if I could have found, and afforded to purchase, a vintage press, I certainly had no space to house it! (Yes, there are presses considerably smaller than the one in the pic at the top of this post, but I still don't have a space I could actually store even a "small" Letterpress machine. *chuckle*)
But, a few short years ago, Lifestyle Crafts introduced a system for home crafters like myself that would enable us to simulate the look, texture and qualities of Letterpress we adore so much with their L Letterpress System (which I will refer to as the "L" system from here on out.) Not only is it compact, it is a faaar more affordable alternative for those of us who would like to try it, but would otherwise have no other means as well as those who find the cost of authentic custom Letterpress too cost prohibitive.
Because I already own a Big Shot, I only needed the Starter Kit, which comes with the platform, a small brayer, an ink block, some foam guides, a sampling of plates, sheet adhesive for said plates, black ink and Letterpress paper (yes, you really do need use Letterpress Paper, because standard card stock will not deboss or receive the ink in the same manner).
As I worked with the L System in my home studio (OK, it's really more like a walk-in closet, but I feel more creatively inclined when I refer to it as a "studio", *wink*) I quickly realized that Letterpress in itself, no matter what machine you happen to be using, is far more art than science--that there are nuances and subtleties to achieving the gorgeous prints that I have so often admired.
In case you were wondering, clear stamps will not work for Letterpress because they are too soft and will not deboss into the paper surface.
Blind debossing (uninked Letterpressing) is undeniably sophisticated, classy and beautiful but you can also have a lot of fun with color!
Because the Starter Kit came with a limited set of plates, and only black ink (I like black, but not enough to do "everything" in black, LOL!), I was very glad I ordered more Letterpress Ink colors to play with, and had several different sets of the Printing Plates on hand, and an additional pack of 8.5 x 11" Letterpress Paper.
Note: To be perfectly honest, if I'd only worked with the Plates that come in the Starter Kit, I don't know that I would have persisted in learning to use the system; for whatever reason, those plates are of a lesser quality than the Plate Sets sold separately, and I had a difficult time achieving good results with them.
When I finished my session, I was *extremely* glad I got some of the Cleaning Cloths ! (the cleaning agent in regular baby wipes cannot cut thru the ink and remove it sufficiently--ask me how I know... ) Printer's ink is vastly different than regular stamping/pigment ink and, as with the type of paper you use, it will indeed make a difference in the final results of your projects.
You will be glad to know that Ellen Hutson LLC includes a complimentary pack of Cleaning Cloths with all Starter Kit Orders!*
I prepped the ink by rolling out a pea-sized squirt onto the ink block. Don't panic--It looks rather neon on the block but once it's pressed (into the paper), it's an absolutely beautiful shade of warm yellow!
I then prepped the plate by securing the adhesive that comes with every set of Printing Plates (as well as the Starter Kit) to the back and mounting it into position on the inside of the platform lid/grid and then brayered ink onto the Plate.
I closed the platform lid down onto the Letterpress paper I'd already put into position on the platform base, using the foam guides to keep it aligned. While these guides CAN be removed, they are not "easy" to remove, so instead of positioning them in the center of the base, I decided to create an "L" in one corner. These guides help in paper placement so that when you are making multiples, you will be able to press the image or text into the same position easily every time.
With some trial and error (a.k.a. experimentation), research, and practice, I was eventually able to achieve the above results, and hopefully, you can see how the debossing enhances the printing of the Image Plate.
After figuring out a good work-flow, and working out the kinks that come with learning a new skill, I got my groove on, and decided to spend an afternoon making some Letterpress "card candy"--small pieces or panels that could be mounted to cards, used as tags, etc.
OK, seriously, would that not make a super cool, super CUTE gift for a budding card maker???!!! Put some pop dots or glue dots on the back, put them on an acetate carrier sheet and seal them inside a cellophane envelope and BAM!!! Seriously, I very nearly purchased a (not inexpensive) package of ready-made Letterpressed pieces just like these in a store once, but now I can make them myself!!! WOOT!!!
It is definitely not a "one-off" process; if you want to make a single, quick and easy card, this not the method for that. BUT, if you are interested in mass producing holiday greetings, wedding invitations, birth announcements, note card sets and other stationery type items with the stunning look and feel of Letterpress, you CAN do it yourself with this system!
If you'd like to learn more, be sure you are on the Ellen Hutson newsletter list, and stay tuned, as we are planning a Letterpress Workshop that will include a plethora of tips and techniques to help you avoid some of the mishaps, have fun, and get the most out of your L Letterpress System!
Thanks for stopping by In Touch today!
SUPPLIES & MATERIALS:
OTHER: Letterpress Cleaning Cloths*