Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing. Using a specialized printing press, the process allows many copies to be produced by repeated direct impression of an inked, raised surface against sheets paper. The printer arranges and locks movable type one letter at a time into the "bed" or "chase" of the press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer the ink from the type, which creates an impression on the paper.
Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century to the 19th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century. Letterpress printing remained the primary means of printing and distributing information until the 20th century, when offset printing was developed, which largely supplanted its role in printing books and newspapers. More recently, letterpress printing has seen a revival in an artisanal form.
As you may have guessed, letterpress printing is a laborious, highly manual form of printing on machinery that was invented centuries ago. In an increasingly digital age where printing on paper is more of a novelty than a necessity, letterpress printing has become a more artisanal form of decoration as it requires much more craft and skill to accomplish and perfect. As you are required to physically press block print against sheets of heavy paper, each print leaves indentations adding dimension and tactility to each impression. A piece of letterpress printed paper bags for you to not only appreciate it visually but also feel the texture of the impression by running your fingers over it as if it was a form of braille. Letterpress provides an unmistakable character to each print that no other modern printing style can offer.
At Print Renegades, our letterpress machine is a model called “The Steward”. Manufactured in 1921, it is a self-inking tabletop letterpress printer. A site to behold unto itself, the machine looks like something that should belong in a museum but we have it here just waiting for someone to put it to good use.
If you have a special project or design in mind and want to see if we can make it both visual and tactile with letterpress printing, feel free to give us a call, shoot us an email or come by in person to discuss. We’re locally-owned and operated right here in LA and we’re excited to see how we can help you with your printing needs!