Friday, June 20, 2008

Letterpress, Engraving, Flat Offset Print, Thermography -- What’s the Difference?

Many of my clients ask me two questions: What is the difference in printing methods on stationery? And which method is best for hand calligraphy invitations? These are excellent questions. The Calligraphy Lady® studio offers all methods: letterpress, engraving, flat offset, and thermography printing on high quality, premium, heavy weight stationery. First, let me explain the different printing methods on stationery.

Letterpress is printing text with movable type. The raised surface of the type is inked and then pressed against the cotton stationery to obtain an image in reverse. This is often done with a fiberglass plate that is made from my original calligraphy artwork. Letterpress paper is generally thick, and you can see the impression of the letters in the stationery. It is an attractive look, especially for wedding invitations, casual invitations and birth announcements. It is more expensive than flat printing because it involves the work of another artist who makes the letterpress plate from my calligraphy for the stationery.

Flat or Offset printing is simply that -- my calligraphy is printed onto each piece of stationery. The hand lettering is not raised and the ink stays truly black in hue, unless color ink is preferred. When you run your fingers over the stationery, you do not feel raised lettering. In addition, it is the most popular printing method that is requested of my studio. Perhaps this is because flat offset printing makes each invitation piece appear as if it were handwritten by me.

Engraved printing means cutting grooves into the stationery with a printing plate. The engraving plate for printing is made by an engraving artist from my calligraphy artwork. Historically, engraving was an important method in artistic printing, for commercial printings and illustrations for books and magazines. When you turn a piece of stationery over and look at its backside, you can tell if it has been engraved. You can see the reverse impression made by the engraving plate. Traditionally, wedding invitations were engraved until less expensive methods became available and have since also become quite popular. Wonder why there are paper tissues with invitations? A paper tissue over an invitation was used to protect the engraving.

Thermography printing is the most popular printing method in commercial font wedding invitations and announcements because it is cost effective. Thermography produces raised printing. A special powder is added to the ink printed on the stationery. The process occurs when the printed piece is heated and the powder and ink mixture dries to form a raised effect on the paper. Thus, thermography print has a raised, glossy appearance. When you run your fingers over the print, you can feel the raised letters. It is generally the same cost as flat offset print.

When you purchase a media kit from our studio to begin your invitation process with us, we include samples of different stationery and printing methods so that you can become familiar with your various options. And I am always delighted when clients and their guests fall “in love” with the stationery pieces we create for them!

If you are looking for an article on various printing methods, please feel free to use this one. However, please give us credit as follows. Thanks!