As is the case with many great discoveries, Letterpress printing as it is practiced today (with impression,) is the result of accident. Traditionally, anything more than the kiss of type to paper was considered an error that required adjustment. While other forms of printing became faster and more convenient, Heidelberg presses became more or less obsolete. These presses may not have been built to keep up with digital, but they are the perfect tool to print with impression, which has given them an even more elevated status than when they were new.
Modern Letterpress adds a dimension to printing that is unique. Print can be experienced by touch as well as just sight. With that in mind, it is tempting to push the impression to its absolute limit, but a smart printer knows that it’s far better to choose the appropriate amount of “push” for job. Impression for Impression’s sake is an amateur mistake.
Taking a nuanced approach to impression requires addressing a few things.
First, the designer must take a few steps to make the piece look great when printed. Make sure that the letter spacing and leading is exaggerated. This helps with legibility when the words arepressed into the sheet and prevents the lines of type from looking like solid valleys between the leadingAlso, consider the design as a whole. Does any artwork back up to the artwork onthefront? If so, the impression from one side will negate the impression on the other in the places where the artwork backs up.
Secondly, the printer must evaluate the design and decide how to pack the tympan of the press to get the best-looking impression. Packing with soft paper will give the printed artwork a deep impression with soft shoulders, while packing with hard film will give a more refined impression with harder shoulders. These are generalizations of course, and all depend on variables in the job as a whole and the paper on which it’s being printed. Many jobs require complex packing arrangements that bring out the best in the different elements of the design.
Our Heidelberg presses are the best in the biz, and with great power comes great responsibility. We approach each letterpress piece we print with care and we’ll always choose the smartest way to make it look it’s best.