What is letterpress?

Letterpress is relief printing. The act of pressing a plate, block or type into paper to create a visual.
used under the wikipedia commons GNU free documentation license
This type of impression is called a deboss. More often than not, the type, blocks and/or plates are inked prior to pressing. 

What's the difference between type, blocks and plates? 
Letterpress type or moveable type, is commonly made out of metal or wood. This type is laid out backwards and locked into a frame [called a chase] to create the design. Then the chase is set into the press bed before printing.

picture of metal type and chase taken at Enkidu Press
Printing blocks are images that are either cast in metal or carved from wood or linoleum and adhered to a block to make the image ‘type height’ [as high as the surrounding type so that it may reach the ink rollers].


photos here and above taken at Enkidu Press.

Plates or photopolymer plates are relatively thin sheets of plastic or metal coated with a light sensitive polymer. When this polymer is exposed to UV radiation [sunlight, tanning bed light etc] it hardens. Plates can be fashioned into customized designs by placing a high resolution film over the plate and exposing it to UV light. Then the plate is washed and the unexposed polymer washes away and the exposed hardened polymer remains creating a raised image. Which after being affixed to a base to make the plate ‘type height’ can be inked and used for printing in the press.

photos here and above taken at Enkidu Press.

More questions? Check out our FAQ page here.