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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

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Letterpress: A Tactile Alternative to Offset Printing for Business Envelope and Stationery Printing

The next time you’re looking for a business envelope printing company, or a vendor that can custom print business stationery, consider letterpress as an alternative to traditional offset printing.

Letterpress is not as commonplace these days as offset printing, digital printing, or large-format inkjet work. But it reflects the very quality that makes a printed piece more evocative than an Internet advertising campaign or even an interactive periodical. It is tactile. You want to pick it up and touch it.

Unlike offset printing, which relies on the incompatibility of ink and water to transfer a printed image from a flat plate to a press blanket and then to a printing sheet, letterpress is a “strike-on” process. That is, a raised, inked press plate strikes the paper and leaves a printed image. (This is actually the same kind of press used for diecutting work.)

Letterpress is superior for text and illustration. For instance, an invitation, card, or tag printed on a thick, textured stock, with lots of peaks and valleys in the paper, can be a very effective medium for promoting the opening of a new building. Imagine text on the top of the invitation and then the event date and place information, all superimposed over a line drawing of the building in another color. A classic, sophisticated graphic approach.

The card can be as thick as one of the old “coasters” used for drinks. When you close your eyes and run your finger over the surface of the printed card, you can feel all the indented lines of the building illustration, and the indentations of the type. The printing plate actually digs into the surface of the paper and crushes it. The result is reminiscent of “hot metal type” on a hand-operated printing press.

If you choose letterpress for your next invitation, card, or clothing tag, consider the following:

  • Very few printers do this kind of work. Ask around. A paper merchant might be a good person to approach for a referral.
  • A full-bleed solid color would be more appropriate for offset printing than for letterpress. To achieve a consistent flat layer of ink, the press would need to hit the paper very hard. It would crush the stock, and you would lose the contrast between the textured paper and the recessed type.
  • Letterpresses print flat colors, not tints. So if you produce the art file for an invitation in InDesign using dark green type and a screen of the same color for a light green background element, this file could not be printed on a letterpress. You would need to design your art file using one color for the dark green and then a separate, lighter green for the background.
  • This process can be more expensive than offset printing.

Letterhead stationery printing and card printing (whether business cards, invitations, or even clothing tags) via letterpress can provide a unique, more classic look than offset printing.

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