What is a Letterpress?

Letterpress printing is how printing was done before offset printing came about. These presses use cuts or dies to actually make the direct impression on the paper or substrate. Most letterpresses are not used to print ink anymore.

Nowadays, they are used more for embossing, foil stamping, diecutting or scoring. The die will be mounted on a platen and there may be use of a counter die or not depending on what process is being done. Some of the name presses are Kluge and Heidelberg Windmill.

Printing ink on these machines is not near as fast or of high quality. The ink because it is transferred due to impact or pressure will spread or not give as level of a surface as offset will do. Screens are especially difficult with mostly line art or text being printed.

These machines run at a speed of 1500-2500 impressions per hour compared to 5000-15,000 per hour on modern offset presses. In summary while letterpresses are still useful in printing they are mostly used for finishing processes like foil stamping, embossing or diecutting. While much of the printing industry is now scientific this is the one area where a craftsmen can still be some what of an artist.

Written by Buzz Tatom

Related Article (Wikipedia): Letterpress
Embossing vs Debossing
Diecutting in Printing
Kisscutting in Printing