Tips on Working with a Letterpress Printer

Letterpress printing is such a beautiful way to finish off your wedding invitations, but working with a printer the first time can be confusing! Kseniya from Thomas-Printers Invitations has some great advice about working with letterpress printers.

No event really starts until the invitations are sent out. And even though I’m biased, as a letterpress printer, I think paper invitations — especially letterpress-printed ones — are absolutely the best way to welcome your guests to celebrate with you. So, let’s say that you’ve decided that your wedding invitations must be letterpress-printed. Excellent — the printers of America thank you! How do you go about working with a printer who can make your all your papery dreams come true?

Letterpress printers are easy to find, these days (Ladies of Letterpress has more that 1000 members alone!), so that part will be easy. The whole process will be easy, actually, if you follow these helpful hints.

  1. First off, there are many kinds of letterpress printers: which kind do you need? There are those who mostly print others’ work, those who print and sell their own designs and do some custom printing, and those who do no custom printing at all. Thomas-Printers, my company, mainly prints other folk’s designs from digital files. If you or a designer has prepared a file for you,you’ll need to find a printer who is accustomed to printing custom work. Find a printer whose work you like, and ask them if they take custom orders and how long their turnaround is.
  2. Once you’ve found a group of potential printers, it’s time to request quotes. The more specific you can be about the quantity, size, and number of ink colors per-piece, the more precise the quote will be. All printers have their own costs associated with production (rent, salaries, costs of materials, and so on), so you can expect some variation in price. Likewise, there are no fixed prices for letterpress printing, but if someone hasn’t been printing for very long and their quote comes in quite low or extremely high, that could be a sign of inexperience.
  3. A brief message about pricing: letterpress is expensive, no doubt about it, but it’s a hand-made product that takes time, skill, and precision. Things that may not appear on the estimate but nevertheless cost the printer time and money are phone consultations, speedy and friendly customer service, organizing other people (die-makers, paper vendors, etc) so that your job has everything it needs when the printer is ready to start production. Additional ink colors, pressruns (if your design has large areas of solid color, and thinner delicate areas, and both in the same color, you may need an additional run), or last-minute changes may add to the final cost.
  4. Every printer has his or her own preferred file type, but usually, if supplying your own art, it will need to be a file created in a vector-based program (Adobe Illustrator or InDesign). Asking your printer about the file types and specs and sending a print-ready file will save time and money!
  5. Only very rarely does the client send paper to us for printing. It’s much easier for me to buy the paper in the larger sheets we need, trim them down to a press-sheet, print them, and then givethem their final trim. It’s great if you know the paper you’d like your invitations printed on, but don’t hesitate to ask your printer for suggestions.
  6. Do allow extra time for production in case your printer needs extra time—she’ll love you for it! And whatever you do,
  7. Don’t leave printing for the last minute.
  8. A final thought: as much as I am in favor of doing things yourself, I have to plead that you don’t DIY your own letterpress wedding invitations, unless you have the help of a skilled professional. We “fix” several jobs every year where the bride or bridegroom had the best intentions of printing their own wedding suite, only to find that the results are less than great.While anyone can learn to print, an important job like this is best left to a pro who can get them printed and done in a speedy manner.
  9. A final final thought: don’t be afraid to ask questions of your printer. We love our customers,and love talking to them and teaching them about the letterpress-printing process.

Kseniya Thomas is the owner of Thomas-Printers and Thomas-Printers Invitations in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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