The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

While I’m away on vacation I’m running a series of guest posts on the various printing processes, from digital printing to engraving.  I’ve asked some designers and printers to share their expertise and lots of photos to fill you in on what you need to know about different stationery printing methods.  Today we have Peter Hopkins from Crane & Co. talking about one of my very favorite specialty printing methods – printing with foils!  Take it away Peter!

What is Foil Stamping?

Foil stamping is a specialty printing process that uses heat, pressure, metal dies and foil film.  The foil comes in rolls in a wide assortment of colors, finishes, and optical effects.

Crane Stationery Foil Materials 500x281 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

The Printing Process

Foil stamping is somewhat similar to letterpress and engraving, in that the color is applied to paper with pressure.  As a result, the foil process leaves a slightly raised impression on the paper.

Crane Stationery Factory Foil Stamp Printing Process2 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

Crane Stationery Factory Foil Stamp Printing Process4 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping Crane Stationery Factory Foil Stamp Printing Process3 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

Crane Stationery Factory Foil Stamp Printing Process The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

{photos from my tour of Crane & Co. last September}

Once the design is finalized, metal dies are created in the appropriate shape for each color foil to be applied, and for embossing if a three-dimensional effect is desired – most commonly known as blind embossing.

Crane Stationery Foil Stamping Gold Foil Die Cut 500x343 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

Crane Stationery Foil Stamping Blind Embossing Die Cut 500x442 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

Crane Stationery Foil Stamping Blind Embossing Die Cut Finished Card 500x320 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

The dies are heated and then stamped with enough pressure to seal a thin layer of foil to the paper.

Tips and Advice

As with any printing process, there are pros and cons.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re considering foil for your wedding invitations or personal stationery.

Pros

Foil is an opaque medium. Unlike thermography, lithography and letterpress, foil stamping does not use any ink.  As a result, the foil color does not change based on the color of paper on which you are printing.  This makes metallic or lighter color foil great for darker or colored papers.  Foil can be used for a variety of finishes, including metallic, matte, glossy, pearlescent and patterns such as marbling.  There are also semi-transparent tint foils, if you do want to allow the paper color to show through.

Crane Stationery Foil Stamping Ribbon Die Red Foil 300x429 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping Crane Stationery Foil Stamping Red Stamped Foil 300x429 The Printing Process: Foil Stamping

Metallic foils have a shiny, lustrous finish. With thermography, lithography and letterpress, metallics can fall flat and don’t have much in the way of shimmer.

Cons

Because foil is applied by heat, it should not be applied near text or designs already applied by thermography.  The heat will melt the thermographic resins.

Thanks Peter!  To see more of the foiling process, check out the awesome video below that Peter took at the Crane & Co. production facility!

Photo Credits: Peter Hopkins for Crane & Co., except where noted

The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

While I’m away on vacation I’m running a series of guest posts on the various printing processes, from digital printing to engraving.  I’ve asked some designers and printers to share their expertise and lots of photos to fill you in on what you need to know about different stationery printing methods.  This afternoon, we have Jen from Starshaped Press to talk about antique letterpress printing!

Hi everyone!  Jen here from Starshaped Press, and I’m here to talk about letterpress printing specifically using antique metal and wood type.

Starshaped Press Letterpress Printing Antique Type 500x404 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

What is Antique Type Letterpress?

Letterpress printing was the standard method of printing for approximately 500 years prior to offset printing taking the reins in the twentieth century.  Letterpress printing is the ‘relief’ printing of text and images using a press with movable type or plates, in which a reversed, raised surface is inked and then pressed into a sheet of paper.  Invented by Johannes Gutenberg, it replaced handwritten calligraphy and was the popular form of printed text from the mid-15th century until the 19th century.

Until very recently, much of this letterpress printing was accomplished using both metal and wood type, literally individual letters arranged to form words.  The type could be reused over and over as long as it was cared for and well-maintained.  While metal type was ideal for commercial printing involving small type (like newspapers), wood type was the best option for larger projects, i.e. posters, broadsides and playbills, due to its lightweight nature.  Type often reflected the trends of the day, from Victorian to Art Nouveau to clean, contemporary stylings of post war design.

The Printing Process

The process of letterpress printing is virtually unchanged; type and cuts (ornamental or image plates) are arranged and locked in place into a ‘chase’ (a metal frame that is inserted into the press), and can be used on any press that will take materials that are ‘type high’ (this standard measurement is .918″).

abbeyderek1a 500x307 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

All type is relatively similar in that it is the same height and has markings that help the user determine what typeface it is and what foundry produced it.  Since letterpress is a relief printing process, the type is in reverse – hence the phrase “Mind your p’s and q’s.”

grant2a 500x396 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

Thanks to the development of standards, type comes in common sizes ranging from 6 to 72 point in metal (give or take).  Wood type is measured by ‘line’, or pica, and comes in a large variety of sizes.

grant1a 500x403 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

There are many interesting set up pieces (known as leads, slugs and quads) that help letterpress printers achieve really fantastic tricks, such as combining different point sizes of type together, setting type on curves and angles, and printing in multiple colors without altering the set up.

abbeyderek2a 500x355 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

Many small and intricate border and ornamental pieces are veritable designer candy; some are so detailed and miniscule that they cannot be replicated in a magnesium or polymer plate.  This is also true of many 19th century typefaces that are shaded, outlined or have lots of ornaments characters.

Letterpress printing with antique type has many distinct characteristics that may or may not be appealing to everyone.  It is not designed to produce a heavy impression in paper, as the type is soft and would be ruined.  In fact, the concept of a deep letterpress  impression is a very recent development.

grant1 500x415 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

grant2 500x469 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

It also does not produce perfectly crisp and even results, given that the type comes from a variety of backgrounds (some may be 100 years old, and some may be brand new from one of the few extant type foundries).  However, there are many wonderful qualities to hand set type, including an element of surprise that happens after the forme is locked up and the first print emerges from the press.

abbeyderek1 300x493 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

abbeyderek3 500x349 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

abbeyderek2 500x324 The Printing Process: Letterpress Printing with Antique Type

Some letters are charmingly awkward in a way that digital type is not, and many wood letters have an incredible texture to them.  There are elements to working with metal and wood type that can be frustrating for the printer, as well as exhilarating, as one learns how previous craftsmen worked around the quirks of type.

Tips and Advice

When deciding on letterpress printing, if a deep impression is the one thing that you really want, working with an antiquated printer is not the direction to explore.  But if you’re seeking a vintage-inspired design that incorporates original Victorian, Art Deco, or other forms of antique type, then an old timey press is perfect for you!  Antique type is also perfect for couples seeking to model their wedding invitations after vintage show or concert posters, since the medium is particularly suited to text-focused designs.  It is also the most eco-friendly option for letterpress printing, as the type can be used and reused for centuries if it is maintained, eliminating the need to create new materials for every job.

Besides Starshaped Press, where we do all of our printing with handset metal and wood type, here are a few shops we admire for their commitment to antiquated type setting:

Hatch Show Print

Yee Haw Industries

Hammerpress

Thanks Jen!  You can check out more from Starshaped Press right here!

Photo Credits: Starshaped Press

Notes on our images:
Grant’s Baby Announcement was printed in two colors on a platen press. The smaller type is all metal, while the name was set in wood. The close up shows the fun texture the wood type created (there’s also a close up of the type itself).  The pale green texture in the background was achieved by printing the back side of a large piece of wood type, combined with ornamental linotype slugs (patterned lines that were cast on a linotype machine).

Abbey and Derek’s Wedding Invitation features a perforated reply card and folds to fit in a #10 envelope.  It is printed in two colors on kraft cover weight stock and combines both wood type and metal type. Because of the amount and variety of size of the type included, it was printed on a Vandercook proof press.  To justify the type, it has to be letterspaced extensively, as shown in the close ups.

*Starshaped Press is a spon­sor of Oh So Beau­ti­ful Paper; for more on my edi­to­r­ial poli­cies please click here.

The Printing Process: Digital Printing

In addition to awesome guest posts over the next two weeks, I’ll be running a series of special posts on the various printing processes while I’m away.  I’ve asked some designers and printers to share their expertise and lots of photos to fill you in on what you need to know about different printing methods, along with a few tips and advice if you’re considering a particular printing method for your wedding invitations or other personal stationery projects.  Today we start the series off with a guest post about the most familiar printing method – digital printing – from Ellie at Mint and Hello Tenfold!

Hello, OSBP!  I’m Ellie from Mint and Hello Tenfold.  I’m excited to be guest blogging today to help clear up the sometimes confusing world of printing methods, starting with digital printing!

hello tenfold digitally printed modern wedding invitation The Printing Process: Digital Printing

What is Digital Printing?

Although I design letterpress and screen printed invitations, I also do a lot of digitally printed invitations and “day-of” wedding stationery, like ceremony programs, menus, escort cards, and more.  I’m sure you have a good idea of what digital printing is; most of us have home or office printers, and the digital printing I use on invitations is similar, but with a fancier and bigger printer.

hellotenfold programs The Printing Process: Digital Printing

Unlike offset or letterpress where printing plates are involved, digitally printed invitations are printed directly from a digital file on a computer.  Digital printers transfer four colors of ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to paper simultaneously, producing a full-color print after only one pass through the printer – meaning that each invitation takes less time to print and is less expensive to produce than other printing methods.  Unlike letterpress, which leaves a relief impression, and engraving, which produces raised text, digital printing produces a flat image without any texture.

hello tenfold wedding brunch invitation The Printing Process: Digital Printing

Digital printing is the most commonly used printing method because it’s fast and inexpensive.  Since printing plates aren’t required, it’s a cost effective way to print a low number of pieces (like 50 invitations, for example), and you aren’t limited to the number of colors you can use in one piece.  That means it’s a great way to reproduce scanned imagery (think collages, hand drawn illustrations, or paintings).

hello tenfold yellow floral wedding invitation vintage stamps The Printing Process: Digital Printing

The Printing Process

There are two common digital printer types: laser and inkjet.  Laser printers use laser beams, electrical particles, heat, and a plastic particle called toner to create an image, whereas inkjet printers spray ink from cartridges directly onto the paper.

hello tenfold floral wedding invitation rsvp The Printing Process: Digital Printing

Typically, laser printers handle type and graphics better than inkjets, and inkjets are better for printing photographs. If you’re purchasing a home printer, inkjets are less expensive up front but the ink cartridges can make them more expensive in the long term.

hello tenfold vellum wedding invitations The Printing Process: Digital Printing

Speaking of home printers, there is a big variety in the quality of printers, as you’ve no doubt noticed!  The printer you have at home probably isn’t as good as the on-demand printing company down the street, and that printing company may not have as high quality machines as a larger, professional printing company.

hello tenfold navy wedding reception table number The Printing Process: Digital Printing

Tips and Advice

Fortunately, getting proofs of digitally printed work is inexpensive or even free, so if you’re going the DIY route it pays to try different companies to find one that works.  You’ll also want to make sure the company you work with can print on the exact paper you choose, and will pay attention to details like perfectly centered invitation borders if they’re doing the cutting and folding for you.

hello tenfold hindu wedding escort cards The Printing Process: Digital Printing

I often suggest digital printing to brides who don’t have the budget for something like letterpress, but still want modern, well-designed and/or completely custom invitations.  However, digital printing does have limits: papers must be able to withstand heat and to go through a curved or straight path in the printer, which means you are limited in paper weight and thickness.

hello tenfold digital printed wedding invitation rsvp The Printing Process: Digital Printing

Also, the lighter paper weight can give a more casual feel than other printing methods, like engraving or letterpress.  But saving money on the printing process can mean extra room in the budget for things like belly bands, envelope liners, and envelope printing (which are also great ways to up the formality of your invitation).  And if you’re reproducing handmade images, it’s often the best (or only!) route to take.

Thanks Ellie!  You can check out more of Ellie’s fabulous invitations and day-of wedding stationery over on Hello Tenfold!

Photo Credits: Nina’s invitation photo by naturally nina, all others by Ellie Snow for Hello Tenfold

*Hello Tenfold is a spon­sor of Oh So Beau­ti­ful Paper; for more on my edi­to­r­ial poli­cies please click here.

{happy weekend!}

Happy happy Friday everyone!  I’m getting a teensy bit dizzy as I write this, because in a couple of days I will leave for a two-week vacation with my husband in Italy!  As you may remember, my husband has been working in Iraq for the last three months – and we’re meeting up for a nice little break in the middle of his deployment.  It’s the first real vacation for either of us in nearly three years and I simply can. not. wait.  So!  For the next two weeks I have a couple of awesome guest bloggers filling in while I’m away, along with some special guest posts giving you an inside look into the printing process.  Please be sure to show all of the fabulous guest bloggers some love while I’m away!  But in the meantime…

Love Mylar Balloon Installation {happy weekend!}

…a few links for your weekend!

This week on Oh So Beautiful Paper:

That’s all for me this week!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  xoxo

Photo Credit: Jenny Van Sommers via Feature Shoot via Joy

{happy weekend!}

Yeesh… this week went by in a complete flash, at least for me.  Which is good as I try to get through the remaining months until my husband comes home (in late summer, sigh), but also kind of scary when I think about the fact that the National Stationery Show is just over a month away.  Time is going by so fast!  I have a couple of fun things coming up soon that I can’t wait to tell you all about, but you’ll have to wait until next week for details.  But in the meantime…

small flower bouquet 500x335 {happy weekend!}

Photo Credit: L’antipodeuse

…a few links for your weekend:

This week on Oh So Beautiful Paper:

That’s it for me this week!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday! xoxo