Letterpress printing will work on just about every paper, including handmade, with some reservations. The best papers to use to accentuate the impression in paper are papers that have both bulk (thickness) and a natural texture. Papers that do not work well are typically commercial papers that have pre-designed textures embossed or debossed into the paper, such as a “linen” texture—these textures are applied at the mill using high pressure and calendering rollers, which both compress the bulk (thickness) of the paper and give the paper a slick hand.
A letterpress plate is a 3-dimensional object used, in conjunction with ink, to transmit an image (type, line drawing, artwork, etc.) onto something else… usually paper. Most importantly, letterpress plates have a “relief,” or raised, surface.
Traditionally, copy was printed via hand-set, and then later, machine-set type… both of which aren’t “plates,” but we include them here for simplicity’s sake. Today, we have more options available: plates can be manufactured in metals (magnesium and copper, primarily) and polymer. We can also print from wood and linoleum carvings, though these may require modification—please inquire.
We’ve run the gamut, from handset type (which isn’t a “plate,” but it makes sense to include here) to wood- and metal-mounted magnesium and copper to metal- and film-backed polymer plates. Polymer plates offer the most versatility with contemporary digital design and typography, and the majority of our work is printed off some form of polymer plate. Every job is unique, though, so we’ll help guide you to the best plate material for your project.
No, unless you have both an incredible project and a hefty budget. Our selection of hand-set type is limited and very old, so a hand-set job would be both time consuming and expensive. Plus, the typographic manipulation possible with hand-set type is much more limited than with digital composition. Digital composition gives customers a much wider field of type to choose from.