The Letterpress Printing Process: Sean & Emily

Hello friends!  I recently had an out-of-town bride ask for photos of the printing process, and I was glad to oblige. So I grabbed my camera and took a photo of each step of the process.

This is a rather detailed look at how we produce our client projects. Feel free to comment with your questions. I'd love to answer them!

1) Design the invitation suite digitally in Adobe Illustrator. (The design process has several more steps, but we'll save that for another day.)

2) Prepare the finished design as a pdf to send out for photopolymer printing plates to be made at Boxcar Press. This is also when we order the paper, envelopes, etc. that the client has chosen.

3) When the plates arrive, carefully cut them apart into the appropriate sections.

4) Rev up the paper cutter (just kidding, it's manual) and cut down the parent sized sheets to the sizes required. This lovely gray paper is Magnani Pescia, an insanely beautiful 100% cotton paper made in Italy.

5) Mix ink to the client's chosen Pantone colors. (We send out Pantone chips, paper samples and envelope samples to the client for final choices before placing orders.)

Hello Josephine!

6) Ink up the press.

My drawer of printing tools and supplies.

7) Grab the tape! (This cool trick is something I learned from the great Chandler O'Leary.) Measure the design and place the plate in the appropriate position with tape. Place the sheet of paper with the plate taped to it on the guide pins (the little doo-dads that hold the paper in place), and carefully close the press on the printing plate.

The plate will be in approximately the right place! Cool, huh?

8 ) Make the first print.

9) Measure the margins of the piece, and move the guide pins incrementally until the design is straight, centered, and looks correct.

10) Print the first color of the run!

11) Stack those babies! We use a rubber based ink that soaks into the paper, making the pieces able to be stacked right away. This repurposed library cart is my favorite thing.

12) Clean the press.

13) Repeat steps 6-12 for the rest of the colors & pieces!

Measurements & notes

Back to the tape trick

First color on the RSVP card

Stack of "make ready" - the paper used to get the measurements, inking, color, etc. correct before printing the run

The finished invitation suite! Ta da!