I love letterpress. Like, LOVE it and I’m not afraid to admit it. I love everything about it – the tactile nature of the print, the beautiful impressions it makes into thick, fluffy cotton paper and even the centuries-old technique that is employed. It all leaves me with butterflies in my stomach and totally weak in the knees. So naturally, when earlier this year I had the opportunity of learning a bit more about the letterpress process at The Distillery with their lovely team, I was ecstatic. I had such an amazing time learning about and watching the whole printing process and hanging out with their vintage Heidelberg presses, Wolfgang, Heidi, Klaus and Bertha. Being such a letterpress and pretty paper fanatic, I’m super excited to have Courtney from The Distillery here today to give us an insight into what goes on at The Distillery and take us back to our letterpress roots.
So, why letterpress? How does letterpress stand unique as a printing method?
Letterpress is a unique form of printing mainly because it was seen as a redundant once offset and digital printers hit the seen. Only through the help of retired print makers are we able to revive such a beautiful art form. Letterpress is mainly printed on 100% cotton stocks, which hold the impression of the print really beautifully. This impression cannot be achieved with the new offset and digital printers without going through a further embossing process. In such a digital age it is nice to receive something that you would have decades ago, but in a new revitalized way from the younger printers of today.
Tell us a little bit about the letterpress process.
Firstly we require a design. Letterpress designs are usually made up of lesser colours than standard digital or offset printing, where the type and small design elements are the main design focus. Once the artwork if finalized we then send the PDF file to have film made. The film is a black and white negative of each colour of the design. This film is then exposed onto light sensitive photopolymer plates. The design from the negative that gets exposed hardens the photopolymer plate which is the surface that what we then print with. An adhesive backing is then attached to the plates, which allows us to adhesive the plate onto our printing base. Paper is cut down to the correct size for the job and the inks are mixed by hand to achieve the required pantone colour. The machine is set up to print, rollers full of ink, plate aligned on the base. In one revolution the Heidelberg windmill picks up the paper whilst the rollers are inking up the plate, the paper is then placed into the machine where in a clamshell like action the press closes, this is when the paper gets printed and de-bossed at the same time. As the paper is being picked back up to be taken out of the machine the next revolution begins and the plate is being inked up for the next print. Once all of the prints are left to dry we can then cut down the prints in the guillotine to the finished size.
What do you recommend for your couples when planning their wedding stationery with The Distillery?
We would recommend that you book a consult to come into our studio and speak with one of our consultants as soon as you can. Letterpress printing is more time consuming than digital printing, therefore we recommend starting the process as soon as possible. This way you have time to work on your designs, finalise what pieces you would like and have them printed in plenty of time from your RSVP date.
How much time should couples allocate for their stationery when working with The Distillery?
Each couples wedding is different, depending on if you are having a destination wedding, inviting people from outer state or over seas your time frame will vary. If you are supplying us with the design we would recommend that you have your design, quotes, colour and paper choices finalized 1 month before you would like to mail out your stationery. If you are having The Distillery custom design your stationery then we would recommend 2-3 months before you would like to mail your stationery out to guests.
Letterpress can be pricey so what is your number one tip for couples wishing to keep costs down without sacrificing the end results?
Our top 3 recommendations would be:
- Try to fit within one of our packages – our packages are designed based upon how many pieces we can print up together on one sheet of paper, therefore saving you on our set up costs for additional pieces that we have to print separately.
- Use overprinting to cut down on how many colours you are printing. By printing one colour over top of another in letterpress you can create a third colour, it is really beautiful and cost effective.
- You can go with one of our lovely template designs if you are unable to design it yourself. It is $190 as apposed to our $390 custom design. The template design cost allows our designer to customize all the pieces with your wording, colour choices and stock preference.
Where did the names Wolfgang, Heidi, Klaus and Bertha come from?
Our letterpress machines are original Heidelberg windmills made in Germany, so we decided to give them traditional German names.
Are there any particular wedding stationery etiquette that couples should be aware of?
The main question that we get asked is who is inviting the guests to the wedding, is it the brides parents, grooms parents, both or just the couple. To be honest there is no real correct answer these days with the way that wedding traditions have evolved. What you should really consider who is paying for the wedding, how formal the occasion is and have a chat to the people involved before going to print.
What’s a typical day like at The Distillery?
Fairly busy! 6pm comes around really fast. As a consultant we spend the whole day replying to enquiries, having consultations with people about their upcoming weddings or projects, answering the phones and helping out people who walk into our Darlinghurst studio. Whilst we are doing this our designers are busy designing and processing edits, pre-press is editing and processing files to be sent to make film and plates and our production team is cutting down paper, mixing inks and printing.
Images by The Distillery.
Hop over to their website and browse the week away or pop into their hip studio in Darlinghurst and you’ll be wanting to speak to the team there about your wedding invitations! When it comes to gorgeous typography, bold designs and perfect colour combos, the team at The Distillery have definitely nailed it with custom invitation after custom invitation. To top it off, many of their popular designs are also available for purchase as a template which brings pretty invitations to your hands before you can even say ‘I love letterpress!’.