Hello! Plus, Jane and Jeremy

Hi there OSBP!  Nole asked me to write some guest posts and I jumped at the chance.  If you don’t know me, I’m Ellie and I write a blog called Mint, design wedding invitations and other paper goods for my shop Hello Tenfold, take on occasional freelance graphic design projects… and travel, eat good food, and look at art as much as possible.  My friend Whitney Deal photographed an invitation I designed for Bella Figura, above.

And here’s a little inspiration for today!  Jane and Jeremy collected and photographed these bakery bags.  Bakery bags!  Who knew.

“Hello! Plus, Jane & Jeremy” is a guest post written by Ellie Snow of Mint and Hello Tenfold.

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.


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″).


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.”


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.


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.


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.



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.




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


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.

Tabletop Made

During my last visit with ReForm School in Los Angeles I had the pleasure of discovering Tabletop Made.  I’m a complete sucker for lovely and unique new cards lines, so I was delighted to find more designs in their Etsy shop.  Tabletop Made is based in scenic Santa Barbara, CA and is operated by Karis Van Noord and Sarah Wilkinson.

Miss You

Blank cards

I like you

Kraft on white

Thank You

Much gratitude to Nole for giving me the opportunity to share some of my paper loves with you, dear readers.  I hope she and her mister are enjoying every moment of their vacation.

Photo Credit: Tabletop Made

“Tabletop Made” is a guest post by Carina Murray of Crow & Canary

Laser Cutting with Candyspotting

Candyspotting is a laser cutting studio based in Portland, Oregon and founded by Sarah Holbrook in 2009.  Though Sarah cuts many different mediums, she tends to focus her efforts on paper.  The laser’s ability to both cut and etch allows for some stunning results and it never ceases to amaze me how detailed the final product can turn out.  The fine art foray into laser cutting paper is a fairly new trend.  Historically, laser cutters have been used for more industrial applications.  It’s very exciting to see more artists and designers using this medium – I love discovering new stationery lines that are working with cut paper.

Sarah was kind enough to cut the Oh So Beautiful Paper logo (featuring calligraphy by Bryn from Paperfinger) as a demonstration of the laser’s intricacy.  Since Candyspotting specializes in cutting paper, Sarah is an expert at calculating the laser’s settings for the cleanest cut and the least amount of residual burning.  The end results are simply breathtaking.

OSBP laser cut

OSBP laser cut 4

This piece took over five minutes to cut.  If you are interested in reading more about the technical side of the process, be sure to visit Candyspotting’s blog.

Rhode Montijo

Rhode Montijo’s papel picado style Skeletown card will soon be for sale at the very first Latino Comics Expo in San Francisco next month.

Saelee Oh

Saelee Oh’s limited edition cut (this piece is sold out) “All Together Now”. The equally stunning “Infinite Path” is currently available in Saelee’s shop.

Béatrice Coron

Béatrice Coron creates the majority of her paper cuts by hand, but has recently begun offering a small selection of laser cut pieces. “BZCT” is available in a numbered edition of 500.

Squirrel Loves Nut

Squirrel Loves Nut is my own small line of cards. As a rep for so many talented designers, I’m inspired on a daily basis – it’s been a treat to have my very own creative outlet.

Wedding Invitation

This wedding invitation, designed by Candyspotting, combines laser cutting and etching.

Business Card

Catchy business card design, by Brian Behrens.


Laser cut paper scraps are particularly cute.

Thank You cards

Test cuts for a Thank You card designed by Candyspotting.

Many thanks to Sarah for allowing me to invade her studio.

“Laser Cutting with Candyspotting” is a guest post by Carina Murray of Crow & Canary.

The Printing Process: Engraving

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’re joined by Chelsea and Jamie from Sugar Paper, telling us all about the elegant printing process known as engraving!

Hi OSBP!  We’re Chelsea and Jamie from Sugar Paper in Los Angeles, California!  At Sugar Paper our first love is (and will always be) letterpress printing.  That said, lately we’ve been intrigued by engraving.  Anyone who has ever printed on a letterpress knows that printing using white ink is a challenge.  If you work and work you can get a subtle image, but there is nothing like engraving for a crisp white image on brightly colored paper.


Luckily, a world renowned engraver is right in our backyard.  The oldest engraver in the United States, SF Cooper, is just down the road from us.  They recently allowed Jamie and I the opportunity to learn the process, and we’ll show you how it’s done in the images below.  We had fun!  It was like our own personal Sesame Street field trip.  We both loved those Sesame Street segments when we were kids…

What is Engraving?

Like letterpress, the process of engraving imposes ink onto paper under intense pressure, creating images with a unique look and feel unavailable through flat printing.  Unlike letterpress, however, type and graphics are raised on each piece of paper.  To achieve this result, metal plates are etched with a recessed image.  Metal plates are then hand-aligned on the press.  Once aligned, the plate is coated with ink and then blotted using kraft paper to clean the plate, leaving only the image with ink remaining.  The paper is then hand-fed and each piece is applied under two tons of pressure, creating an embossed image with startling clarity, color purity and depth.

The Printing Process

Like with any labor-intensive printing process, you really have to see the process in action.  The images below will help walk you through the engraving process step by step.


The plate is etched with the image and aligned in the press.


White ink is added to the press.



Blotter paper is added to the press to blot the plate between each impression.  The entire plate is inked and then blotted with kraft paper to leave only the etched image white.


The pressman feeds each piece of paper and then lines them on a heated conveyer belt to dry.


Caution – Hot!  The cards pass through the oven on a conveyer belt.  It’s like a conveyer belt toaster oven…

Each card passes through the oven to dry.


The finished cards.


Each set is counted…


and packaged…



Tadaa!  The final product is now in stores.  Nestled in with some of our other fall favorites from Oblation, Rifle Paper Company and Thomas Paul.

Tips and Advice

The beauty of engraving is best reserved for formal pieces, as the price and the printing style lends itself to more formal occasions.

When having collateral printed these are our tips:

1. Keep in mind that engraving requires longer turn-around times than most printing styles.  Engravers are generally old-school printers.  This means, they honor traditional printing and paper ordering policies that can delay an order.  If you’re in a hurry, this is not the printing method for you.  If you have 3 to 4 weeks (or more), you’re golden.

2.  Engraving is best used with fine typefaces.  The engraving technique captures fine details in a way unparalleled by other printing methods.  Shaded type or thin typefaces look terrific when engraved.

3. Engraving is a terrific option for white ink on colored paper.  Engraving prints white ink beautifully.  The ink sits on top of the paper and creates a bright white color.

4. Two-sided pieces should be avoided when choosing engraving as your printing method.  The process of engraving uses water that creates “bruising” on the backside of each piece of paper.  The “bruising” would conflict with a two-sided design making the design look muddled.  A note: The “bruising” is what creates a distinction between true engraving and thermography the less expensive version of raised printing.

Thank you so much ladies!  For more of the fabulous paper wares from Sugar Paper, click here!

Photo Credits: Sugar Paper