How Does the Letterpress Work?

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What is Letterpress?

  • Letterpress printing is a form of relief printing invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century. The process involves the creation a special plate (usually from wood or metal) with text on it. Although popular from its creation until the 19th century, the method is no longer used for mass-production printing. However, some craft and trade people still operate the presses for short-run productions (e.g. wedding invitations, business cards and stationary).

How does Letterpress Work?

  • Letterpress works by coating a metal or wood plate with ink. The plate is created through the process of etching and engraving. Originally done by hand, the process is now handled by machines that use lasers to cut the plates. After the plate is created, ink is added to the sections of the plate to be printed. The blank areas do not print and act as spacing for the letters.

  • After the ink is added to the plate, a sheet of paper is placed on top. The letterpress machine then uses a rolling wheel to move back-and-forth across the surface of the paper, leaving an impression. After the sheet is pressed and the desired print is achieved, the paper is either hung or laid out to dry.

References

  • Photo Credit Aisle One; http://www.aisleone.net
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