So, my best friend just got married and he asked me to do their invites. He himself is an exceptionally talented artist and designer, so he designed the invites, but printed them. No, that doesn’t mean I hit the printer icon and waited for a machine to spit them out. If you aren’t familiar with letterpress printing, here is a fabulous short documentary film called Upside Down, Left to Right.
When I say I printed the invitations, first I had to get paper–not just any paper, paper that will take an impression. The paper comes in broadsides (extra large sheets), so I have to cut it down to size. Then I made negatives of the swirly design and the text which I printed onto transparency sheets, which I used to develop a photopolymer in a UV exposure unit. It’s a lot like developing photos in a dark room, but instead of making a 2D image, the polymer (plastic) hardens only where the light touches it. Then I gently wash away the still soft, unexposed polymer and bake the plate to harden what’s left.
When the plate is ready, I tape it with very strong tape to a block in the base of the press (a Vandercook proofing press). I printed the swirly design first because I was printing that blind (no ink). Then I mixed the ink for the text–in this case, navy blue. Navy blue is a tough color to make because there’s a fine line between blue blue and black. Too much or too little of anything and it’s all wrong.
The invites were coupled were navy blue envelopes addressed in a gold paint pen, and that liberty bell postage stamp went serendipitously well.
If you have any questions about the letterpress process, leave me a comment below!