Elegante press

What is letterpress printing and how can it be used to create high-quality business cards?

What is Letterpress Printing?

Letterpress printing is a type of printing that uses printing plates to create a deep impression in paper. This method is often used for creating business cards, wedding invitations, and other stationery items because it creates a unique texture and look on the printed material.

The process begins with the creation of a custom printing plate. The design is etched into a metal or plastic (photopolymer) plate and then mounted onto a press. When ink is applied to the plate, it is pushed down into the paper, resulting in an image that has a impressed texture when printed onto paper.

Letterpress printing produces a sharp and clear impression which can easily be seen on thicker papers such as cardstock or uncoated stock. This type of printing allows for precise control over small details such as alignment and color registration, making it ideal for creating professional-looking business cards and stationery products.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, letterpress printing also offers environmental benefits since there are no hazardous chemical processes involved in this type of printing. Furthermore, letterpress prints can last for decades if cared for properly.

History of Letterpress Printing

Letterpress printing is a type of relief printing that dates back to the 15th century and has been used for centuries to create books, business cards, and other printed materials. The process involves creating a raised letters or images by using movable type which is then inked and pressed onto paper. This method was used extensively until the 19th century when lithography and offset printing became more popular.

Vintage letterpress print shop
Vintage letterpress print shop.

Despite its declining popularity over the years, letterpress printing has experienced a revival in recent years due to its attractive aesthetic qualities. Many businesses and individuals have begun using letterpress printing for their stationery items because it offers a unique texture and look that can’t be replicated with digital methods. 

Letterpress printing has become very popular among modern designers as well as traditional printers, who appreciate its craftsmanship and unique results. It continues to be an essential tool for creating high-quality business cards and stationery products that stand out from the crowd.

The Pros and Cons of Using Letterpress Printing for Business Cards

Using letterpress for your business cards will result in a unique and eye-catching product that reflects the quality of your company and its products or services. The deep impressions created by letterpress printing give your cards an elegant and professional look.

The cost of letterpress printing is often higher than other types of printing, but it’s well worth it when you consider the long-lasting benefits it provides. With letterpress printed business cards, you can be sure that clients and potential customers will be impressed by their quality and sophistication.


  • Nice sharp ink coverage for small and bold objects.
  • Impression. Pressed objects into the paper (debossed) looks and feels really fantastic.
  • Premium materials. When utilizing letterpress, it is common to use papers made from pure cotton or premium matte papers. These materials produce a clear and sharp print with a unique texture.
  • The hand-made quality of letterpress creates a sense of professional craftsmanship.


  • Each color prints separately. Due to the multi-step process and custom plates, letterpress can be expensive.
  • On dark papers, we can print only metallic (silver, gold), black inks and various foils. We unable print with inks on dark papers because paper shows through letterpress ink.

Order Business Cards Sample Pack Here!

Materials Used in Letterpress Printing

Letterpress printing offers an exceptional level of detail, texture, and depth that can’t be achieved with digital methods. In order for the letterpress printed product to look its best, the right materials must be used.

The most common material used in letterpress printing is cotton paper stock. Cotton paper provides a unique tactile experience and has longevity since it doesn’t yellow over time like other types of paper. Cotton papers holds impression better. Impression level depends on the paper thickness. On thick papers impression will look and feel more noticeable. We have written more detailed information about  cardstock weight and thickness. Other materials such as wood veneer, leather, and specialty papers can also be used depending on the desired effect. 

Equipment Needed for Letterpress Printing

Letterpress printing is an intricate process that requires specialised equipment to create a high-quality product. To produce the desired impression on paper, metal or photopolymer plates must be used. Production of printing plates can be outsourced or made in house with special equipment. In these days letterpress printers mostly uses photopolymer plates, which are produced in-house. Production of photopolymer plates is more eco friendly as they are produced by using water, when metal plates should be etched with aggressive acid chemicals. 

In addition to the letterpress equipment itself, you will also need a press capable of applying the right amount of pressure needed to make an impression in the paper stock. There are few different kinds of letterpress presses:  

  • Platen press – image carrier lies flat and a platen carrying the substrate lowers and applies pressure to transfer the image.
  • Flatbed press – the substrate is carried on a rotating cylinder and the flat plate either sits beneath the cylinder or stands vertically.
  • Rotary press – the plate is curved around a cylinder and the substrate is passed between the plate cylinder and an impression cylinder
  • Belt press – there are two sets of plates, each carried on a separate belt, and the substrate is fed through the press twice to be printed on one side by one set of plates and then again to be printed on the other side by the second set of plates (this press is used predominantly to print books).
Heidelberg windmill letterpress press
Heidelberg Windmill Platen presses

All those press types can be produced in various sizes and constructions. For example a tabletop press is suitable for most small jobs while a larger floor model may be better suited to larger projects such as print runs involving hundreds of units.

Finally, it’s important not to overlook other essential supplies such as ink, inking rollers, paper stock and cleaning materials which are all crucial components in achieving a professional result when performing letterpress printing tasks. With the right set up and materials you’ll find yourself on your way to creating unique and eye-catching business cards that make a great first impression with potential customers or clients.

Types of Inks and Paper Used for Letterpress Printing

In letterpress printing, the type of ink and paper will have a big impact on the overall quality of the end product. While many inks can be used for this type of printing, those with a slower drying time are best suited as they allow more time to adjust and reposition plates. Common types of inks suitable for letterpress printing include oil-based and rubber-based inks.

When choosing paper stock for your project, it’s important to select one that is thick enough to withstand the pressure exerted by the press but also light enough so that it won’t buckle or warp once printed. Cotton-based papers or thicker uncoated cardstocks are often ideal for business cards as they provide both durability and a high-quality look and feel. Finally, if you’re looking to give your cards an extra special touch you could opt for colored or textured paper stocks which can add an additional level of visual interest to your design.

Process of Creating a Letterpress Business Card

Creating a letterpress business cards is a unique and intricate process. The first step is to create a business card design or artwork that will be printed onto the card. This can be done either digitally or manually, depending on the design desired.

Once the design has been finalized, it must be prepared for printing. This involves transferring the design onto a metal or photopolymer plate which is then mounted onto a printing press. Ink is then applied to the plate before it’s pressed onto the paper stock used for the card.

The final step in creating a letterpress business card is to deboss or emboss the finished product using a specialized die and printing press. This process creates an indented deep impression of your design into the paper, giving your cards an eye-catching, luxurious finish that won’t soon be forgotten by those who receive them.

Setting up the Design and Typeface

Creating a successful letterpress business card design requires careful consideration of both the typeface and overall layout. When selecting a typeface, it’s important to ensure that it complements the artwork or design you’re printing. The type should be easy to read and attractive in order to convey your message effectively.

It’s also important to consider the size of the type when setting up your design. Generally, bigger typefaces work better for letterpress cards than small ones, we strongly recommend to keep size of the type above 6-7 pt. Additionally, make sure that there is sufficient space between lines and characters so that all of the text remains legible once printed.

Finally, consider how you want your card to look overall when designing and setting up your typeface. Do you prefer bold text or something more subtle? Will you be using multiple fonts on one card? All these factors will influence how well your card is received by those who receive it.

Preparing the Press and Plates

Metal letterpress plate-mounted in press
Metal letterpress plate-mounted in the press.

Once the design is set and ready to go, it’s time to prepare the press and plates for the letterpress printing process. First, a polymer or metal plate is created from the artwork or design that has been printed. This plate will be used to create an impression on the paper. Next, the paper must be placed into position on the press in order for it to receive an impression from the plate. Finally, pressure is applied with rollers as ink is transferred from the plate to paper. Once complete, a deep impression will have been made onto your business cards creating a high-quality product that stands out above other methods of printing.

Running the Press and Clean Up

Checking letterpress registration
Checking letterpress printing quality and alignment.

Running the press is a simple process. The paper and plate are placed into the press, then pressure is applied as the ink is transferred from the plate onto the paper. The pressure must be adjusted to ensure that a deep impression is made onto the business cards. Once complete, it’s time to inspect each card to make sure they look perfect before they are cut and packaged. After all cards have been inspected, it’s time to clean up. This involves removing the plates and paper from the press, cleaning off any excess ink or debris, and wiping down any surfaces that were in contact with ink or other materials during printing. Cleaning up after letterpress printing ensures that your equipment will remain in good condition for future prints as well as producing high-quality results every time.

Cleaning up letterpress press
Press should be cleaned up after each printed color.

How we can help

We design and print business cards. If you are not a designer, don’t worry – we will create a business card design for you, free of charge. Just drop us a message and we’d be happy consult you and discuss about your project details.

Examples of Quality Business Cards Created with Letterpress Printing

colorful letterpress business card 3
5 colors logo printed in letterpress
Business card for a jewelry designer 1
Business cards for jewellery designer.
Brown letterpress business card with single gilded edge online
Brown business cards with gilded edges
vintage letterpress business card
Vintage design letterpress business card
Mallorca Inspired Letterpress Business Card 10
Business cards with traditional Spanish tile ornament
Stunning Business Card with Portrait 1
Business card with portrait and painted edges.


In conclusion, letterpress printing is an art form that produces high-quality business cards with a distinct look and feel. With its deep impression and subtle ink accents, letterpress printing creates unforgettable first impressions, making it the perfect choice for companies looking to stand out from the competition. Whether it’s embossed logos or elegant typography, businesses have endless options when it comes to customizing their business cards using letterpress printing – sure to leave a lasting impression on potential clients.

We print to impress!

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