How to Design Letterpress Business Cards

Letterpress printing is a popular pick among print and graphic designers when it comes to luxury business cards and postcards.

When designing for custom letterpress printing, there are a few key differences that designers should take into account in comparison to digital or offset printing.

This article will cover how you can create an effective design that will take the advantages of limitations of letterpress into account.

Design for Modern Letterpress and Custom Letterpress Plates

Modern letterpress machines are more precise and efficient than their historical counterparts, and custom letterpress plates can now be created using popular design software. Originally, letterpress business cards would have to printed using the movable metal type with metal letter plates arranged together to spell out the words in the design. This meant you couldn't pick your own font or create custom design flourishes.

Today it is possible to use any fonts or design elements you prefer, because instead of having to create a metal or wood plate of your design to make the letterpress printed impression, we can use photopolymer plates which are a special polymer that hardens when exposed to a strong light. This allows us to quickly create a custom plate for your design, of any digital artwork you create, without the cost, time, and storage hassle of having individual letters made of wood and metal for every font.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of letterpress up until today, take a look at our article: Why Choose Letterpress Business Cards and the History of Letterpress.

So if you can use any graphic design software to create your own business cards for letterpress nowadays, is there anything else to worry about?

While modern techniques allow flexibility in letterpress design, there are still some important considerations to make when designing letterpress cards.

Letterpress Paper Stocks

Letterpress business card printing will use thick, soft cotton paper stocks that are often textured in comparison to typical coated art paper found with most business cards.

As a designer, you'll want to consider the paper choice as part of your design process, because how textured it is or isn't may affect how details in your design contrast against it. In addition to that, you might also consider the color or shade of the paper.


Design Considerations for the Letterpress Printing Process

When designing business cards for letterpress printing, there are several key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Number of Colors: Letterpress printing is a one-color-at-a-time process, so the number of colors used in your design will affect the cost and complexity of the printing process. Keep in mind that the fewer colors used, the more affordable the printing process will be.

  • Using Gradients: Gradients can be difficult to reproduce with letterpress printing due to the nature of the process. If you're determined to use gradients in your design, it's essential to work closely with your printer to ensure that they can be accurately reproduced (it could often be best to print the gradient on an offset or digital press first, and then do the rest of the design using letterpress. Though, it is important to recognize this extra step can increase price and turnaround time). See the bullet "blind letterpress" below for more ideas.

  • Fonts: When choosing fonts for your letterpress business cards, keep in mind that the impression of letters in letterpress printing can make some fonts more legible than others. The size and choice of font is more important when it comes to producing a card with letterpress.

  • Background Color: With letterpress business cards it is common to not fill the background of the card with a solid color, but instead use the natural color of the card stock. We offer a variety of bright white, off-white, brown, grey, and black papers that can be used with your letterpress artwork.

  • Using Blind Letterpress: Blind letterpress is a printing technique where an impression is made on paper without using ink. This results in a deep impression on the paper, and because there's no ink involved, the design relies entirely on the play of light and shadow on the paper's surface for visibility.

    This technique is more affordable than adding an additional ink color and often used for adding decorative elements or patterns to a print piece where the focus is on the texture rather than color. At Vermillion Silk, our print specialists can help you choose the right paper to hold the impression of blind letterpress well.

  • Using Spot/Pantone Colors: As you are choosing each individual ink by the color with letterpress business cards, many designers will use pantone or spot colors on their letterpress business card designs. This allows you to achieve colors that aren't possible in normal print processes. For example, you could choose a bright neon pink, florescent lime, or a metallic silver color that traditional 4-color CMYK offset printing is not able to produce.

  • Paper Texture: As mentioned above, paper choice is important when it comes to letterpress business cards. We offer a collection of the finest papers in the world, designed specifically for letterpress cards. Letterpress designs must be printed on uncoated card stock, so keep in mind this means it is not technically possible to have a silk or suede coated letterpress business card. Due to the texture of the card and print process, it is also not possible to add spot UV gloss to a letterpress card. (For achieving a similar effect, you can use foils or blind letterpress for certain design elements, as described above.)

  • Vector Format: When preparing the print file for your business card, all text in your design should be converted to curves or shapes, and your card designs should be created in vector format.

  • Proofing: As a screen cannot perfectly represent how the impressions of a letterpress business card design will look, it can be helpful to review a digital proof and any feedback from your printer before production. Vermillion Silk provides complimentary digital proofs and design review for every print order so you can rest assured that we'll help to produce the design you envision!

In addition to the above, remember on letterpress business cards it is also possible to use foil stamping as well as edge foil and painted edges.

Work with Our Print Specialists When You Order Letterpress Business Card Printing

Vermillion Silk is the best choice for your letterpress print needs. We've been in business over a decade, offer the finest papers available in the world, and help to guide our customers to creating the perfect business card design for their brand.

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