Why Choose Letterpress? A Comprehensive Guide to Ordering Letterpress Business Card Printing

Letterpress printing is a type of traditional relief printing that dates back to the 15th century. It involves using raised type or plates to create a physical impression on paper with a press and ink. The process is known for its deep impression and tactile feel, making it a popular choice for printing high-end business cards and stationery.

However, with the invention of offset printing and digital printing in the 20th century, letterpress printing fell out of widespread use.

This article will cover why you might want to choose letterpress business cards over other types of business cards, and what to consider when ordering letterpress business card printing for your company.

Letterpress Business Cards VS Digital and Offset Printed Business Cards

At Vermillion Silk we offer both letterpress business cards and offset printed business cards. Most business cards you see and receive today are produced on a digital or offset press rather than using letterpress.

The reason for this is primarily because of the speed and price at which they can be produced.

The quality of a business card will vary greatly depending on the type of print process used. Generally digital printing is the lowest quality, offset printing is higher quality, and letterpress is the highest quality (though there are reasons and types you might choose offset vs letterpress).

See our list of pros and cons so that you can decide if letterpress business cards are right for you.

Offset Printing for Business Cards Pros and Cons


  • Colors - Allows full color printing.

  • Speed - Fast to produce.

  • Print Quality - Highest quality full color printing available.

  • Price - Affordable. More affordable in large quantities than any other print method. (On average around 25 cents per card when ordered in a small batch and with luxury print options, but can be as low as 10 cents per card)

  • Flexible Print Options - Works with a variety of print and finishing options.


  • Quantities - Requires a higher minimum order, usually at least 500 cards

Digital Printing for Business Cards Pros and Cons


  • Colors - Allows full color printing.

  • Speed - Fast to produce.

  • Variable Data - Allows for the possibility of design variations in a single print run. (IE: customizing a certain word on the design or having multiple variations of a design without having to order multiple sets of cards.)

  • Price - Relatively affordable. Can be more affordable than offset printed cards, if comparing the total order cost, but only because it is possible to order smaller quantities. The price per card is not necessarily better, and can often be worse, especially if you use business cards with customers often.

  • Quantities - Possible to order small amounts of cards (as low as 25 in some cases).

  • Flexible Print Options - Works with a variety of print and finishing options.


  • Lowest quality. Looking closely, text and images will not be nearly as clear or crisp on a digital printed business card when compared with offset printing or letterpress business cards.

Letterpress Printing for Business Cards Pros and Cons


  • Paper Choices - Can use the thickest and softest cotton paper stocks.

  • Highest Quality - Allows for the highest quality handmade look and feel.

  • Detailed Impressions - The depth and detail in letterpress impressions create a card that stands out.

  • Flexible Print Options - Works with a variety of print and finishing options.

  • Quantities - Possible to order in small amounts (typically a minimum of 100 cards).

  • Eco-friendly - Letterpress often uses sustainable, 100% cotton papers. Due to how the production process works, there is often much less waste with letterpress printing when compared to other print methods.


  • Pricing - Highest priced of the three. While it is possible to produce a smaller minimum order of only 100 cards, the letterpress printing process is more costly due not only to the process itself, but also because it typically uses the highest end papers. Expect a minimum of $1 per card and up to $5 per card if ordering a small amount.

  • Speed - Slower to produce. Expect a longer turnaround time of a couple of weeks. You won't find someone offering next day printing for letterpress business cards.

  • Limited Color Choices - As each ink color has to be separately pressed onto the card, the price is based on how many colors you need to use.

  • Harder to Design for - On letterpress business cards it isn't possible to simply add a photo or complex gradient in your design as each color has to be pressed onto the card individually. Think of it as making a custom stamp for each color, and then having to manually press that stamp onto your card.

While the cons of letterpress business cards make them less accessible and less common, they are still represent some of the best feeling and best looking business cards available. If you work with a company like Vermillion Silk, who can guide you or your designer through the process, the end result will be some of the most stunning business cards in the world.

History of Relief Printing

From ancient civilizations to modern design, relief printing has played a pivotal role in the world of print. At the heart of this art form lies an intricate process that has evolved over centuries, resulting in an array of eye-catching and luxurious prints, including the ever-popular letterpress. In this article, we'll delve into the rich history of relief printing, explore its various techniques, and discuss how it continues to captivate designers and customers alike in the present day.

Relief printing is a method in which a raised surface is inked, and then transferred onto paper or another material, creating a reverse image. The origins of relief printing can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, where engraved seals were used to create impressions on clay. This technique was further developed in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), with the invention of woodblock printing, which involved carving an image or text into a wooden block, inking the raised surface, and pressing it onto paper.

As woodblock printing spread westward, it was adopted by European artists in the early 15th century. By the mid-15th century, Johannes Gutenberg revolutionized the print industry with the invention of the printing press, the process known as letterpress printing. With letterpress, movable metal type is arranged, inked, and pressed onto paper, resulting in crisp, clear text and images. The rise of letterpress printing contributed to the proliferation of books, newspapers, and knowledge during the Renaissance and beyond.

The Techniques and Processes of Relief Printing

There are several types of relief printing, the most prominent being woodblock, wood engraving, linocut, and letterpress. Each technique involves the creation of a raised surface that is inked and transferred onto paper.

Woodblock printing utilizes a block of wood, with the desired image or text carved into it. The raised areas are inked, leaving the recessed areas clear. This process has been known to produce beautiful, intricate prints, particularly in Japanese ukiyo-e art.

Wood engraving is similar to woodblock printing, but uses a denser wood and finer tools, resulting in more detailed images. Linocut, on the other hand, employs a linoleum block instead of wood, making it easier to carve and produce prints with smoother lines and surfaces.

Letterpress printing, as previously mentioned, uses movable metal type to create text and images. The type is arranged, inked, and pressed onto paper, resulting in crisp, clear prints. Modern letterpress printing often involves the use of photopolymer plates, which can be easily customized with digital designs.

How Letterpress is Used Today

Though digital printing is now the mainstay, relief printing continues to hold a special place in the hearts of artists, designers, and print enthusiasts. Letterpress business card printing, in particular, has experienced a resurgence in popularity, thanks to its distinctive charm and tactile appeal.

Modern letterpress printing is used for a variety of applications, including invitations, stationery, and, of course, luxurious business cards. Combining the best of traditional craftsmanship with modern design sensibilities, letterpress printing offers a unique, high-quality look and feel that is simply not possible to replicate with digital techniques.

Modern Letterpress and Custom Letterpress Plates

Today, letterpress printing is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to advances in technology. Modern letterpress machines are more precise and efficient than their historical counterparts, because now instead of metal or wood blocks for type, it is possible to create custom polymer letterpress plates for a business card designed with any popular graphic design software. This allows for a wider range of design options and a more efficient printing process.

If you want to learn more about how modern letterpress works, and how to design letterpress business cards for yourself, we made a guide for that as well: How to Design Letterpress Business Cards

Choosing Letterpress for the Paper Stocks

Many choose letterpress business cards not only for the look and tacticle feel of the letterpress impression, but also because of the specialty paper stock that will be used for letterpress printing.

At Vermillion Silk we carry a selection of the most luxurious papers in the world, designed specifically for letterpress business cards.

Letterpress business cards are often printed on very thick, soft paper stock, ranging from 32pt - 45pt in thickness. By comparison, your typical thick and high-end business card usually 16pt, and a standard credit card is usually 30pt.

There are many reasons why we use the paper stocks we do when it comes to letterpress business cards. Here is the quick rundown:

  • The paper chosen must be thick enough to make a deep impression into, and soft enough for the impression to stand out.

  • Customers choose letterpress business cards for the look and feel, and high-end papers help that. Often, letterpress paper will be 100% cotton, which not only feels great under your hand, but is also eco-friendly.

We also wrote in depth about deciding how thick your business card should be: How Thick Should My Business Card Be

Where to Order Letterpress Business Card Printing

Relief printing has a rich history, and today, custom letterpress business cards stand as a testament to the enduring appeal of this art form, offering a luxurious and tactile print option for our customers.

When choosing a printer to order letterpress business cards with, you want one that offers a wide range of options, the right papers to get the most out of the letterpress effect, and has experience in the industry to be able to offer you the right guidance.

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 design for their brand.

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