Letterpress Printing vs. Hot Foil Stamping | Strawberry Sorbet
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Letterpress vs. Hot Foil

what's the difference?

 Letterpress Printing vs. Hot Foil Stamping

While we use the same beautiful old machines for both processes, the results between foil and letterpress are hugely different.

While we love the feel of a deep letterpress impression into a heavily textured board, I have to confess to being a bit of a magpie, and so completely adore anything shiny!

Letterpress inks aren’t able to achieve a shiny finish, nor are we able to print a light ink colour onto a dark coloured board with this process. This is where wonderful foil comes into its own. We can take a gloss gold foil, and print this with amazing, solid results onto a black-as-night board. If we were to do this with letterpress inks, the result would be a salty, almost transparent, subtle covering, that wouldn’t wow your guests.

Ultimately, which process is most suitable for you will depend on the finished result you are aiming for.

Letterpress Printing

Letterpress printing involves offering a raised, inked surface, (or plate, as it’s called in the trade) up to a lovely sumptuous paper stock. Pressure is then applied, and when it’s whipped away, a gorgeous deep impression of the plate has been made into the paper, giving a lovely tactile, three-dimensional result. This can be felt when you run your fingers over the top of the printed area.

To allow us flexibility in the designs we create, we combine the traditional letterpress printing process, with modern design techniques. This means we create your design digitally, and set a polymer plate – back in the day, printers would have been confined to setting traditional metal type in a limited range of fonts and sizes. Advances in technology mean we have complete flexibility to create truly amazing designs! Once the polymer plates have been set, we put our beautiful vintage presses to work, printing your design.

Heavy vs. light impression

A noticeable impression into the paper is a unique attribute to the letterpress process. The very nature of this method of printing means that a heavy (or deep) impression is usually desired by the customer, allowing the design to be seen and felt on the paper.
A heavier impression however, is not the effect favoured by (most) talented printers. They favour a ‘kiss’ impression, where the print can be barely noticed when running your fingers over it. Both methods have their pros and cons, but everyone has their own preference. I personally love the look and feel of a heavier impression, while Andrew much prefers a kiss impression. As a general studio rule and depending on the design, we print with a heavier impression, resulting in a lovely tactile finish. If you would prefer your print with much less impression, that’s no problem at all, just let us know.

Letterpress printing in multiple colours

This is no problem, but a little more work goes in to making this happen than hitting print and a multicoloured wonder appearing in a flash. With letterpress, each colour featured in a design requires its own plate to be made, as well as each colour needing its own turn on the press. The results can be magnificent, but it is a time-consuming process, with the press needing to be cleaned and reset, and each layer of ink allowed to dry on the paper before the next colour can be printed.

Foil Stamping

Foil stamping itself is actually very similar to the letterpress process…just without the ink! A plate is still made containing the finished design, (although this is usually etched from copper or magnesium, instead of polymer, and is known as a ‘die’) Rather than ink being run on the rollers, foil is essentially ‘stuck’ to the paper. The die is heated and a ribbon of foil threaded through – the heat fuses the gorgeous shiny goodness to the paper.

It’s worth bearing in mind that we are not able to achieve as deep an impression into the paper with foil stamping, as we are able to when we letterpress print. When you run your fingers over the print, the impression will be much less prominent.

When we foil stamp, we also have to use a less textured, more compressed board compared to the paper we letterpress onto. This compressed board is available in over 40 different shades, so it’s a perfect way to completely personalise your stationery to your day.