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The ultimate guide to Letterpress & Foil Printing

By March 30, 2022April 19th, 2023News

Letterpress and hot foil printing have an extensive history and represent some of the earliest methods of creating printed works. Before the age of mass printing it was these tools and techniques that brought text to life and provided ways to share ideas. Today, both letterpress and foil printing are experiencing a rise in popularity once again, partly due to the historic feel from this fascinating heritage but also the unique design aesthetics that are the result.

The letterpress came first…

Letterpress printing can be dated back to the 15th century, when books and reading materials were being printed on big metal machines. Those machines used a metal plate that was engraved with the material to be printed and which was then inked on the raised surface and stamped onto paper. With the application of pressure the ink was stamped onto the paper in a unique three-dimensional way.

…and then foil printing

Foil printing uses much the same process as the letterpress, except with the application of foil. Instead of ink being transferred in the design on the metal plate this appears in foil instead, creating a beautiful metallic finish.

And what about digital foil printing?

Although this sounds like it might be a similar process that achieves similar results that’s actually not the case. Digital printing is a type of ‘flat’ printing that is very different to both letterpress and foil printing. Although digital printing can be used to achieve a metallic effect this won’t be three dimensional.

If you’re going to opt for foil printing there are lots of options

You can choose from so much more than just standard gold, silver and bronze today when it comes to foil colours. Rose gold, champagne, white and a range of metallic shades, from green to red and blue, are all available.

Letterpress vs foil printing

If you’re trying to make a choice between letterpress and foil printing then there are some situations where one is going to be the better choice.

  • Choose letterpress if you’re looking for the deepest possible indentation. A letterpress printed design will be one that you can actually feel when you run your fingers over the paper.
  • If your design requires a dark background and light coloured lettering, foil printing is ideal. Because the foil is opaque it can be applied to even the darkest backgrounds, such as black paper or card.
  • Letterpress tends to be the cheapest option. If you’re keen to produce a design on a budget and you’re not looking for the most eye-catching aesthetic then letterpress printing will probably be the best choice.
  • But sometimes there’s nothing that compares to the foil. The shiny, metallic finish is luxurious, distinctive and will ensure that whatever you’re printing really stands out.

Whatever you’re looking to create, letterpress printing and foil printing are great options for distinctive designs that are completely unique. The choice between the two will depend on the finish you’re looking for, aesthetically and texturally. Get in touch with a member of the team today to see how we can help you achieve your hot foiling dreams.