A Look at the Resurgence of Letterpress — Australia and Elsewhere
Letterpress is the oldest form of printing in recorded human history. It is a printing technique wherein a raised surface is coated with ink and pressed onto a paper. As a result, the images or letters on the type get imprinted on the paper. Throughout history, letterpress has always been associated with men of letters — right from Johann Gutenberg to Benjamin Franklin.
When it comes to letterpress, Australia is one of the countries where you can still find plenty of professionals who specialize in this unique art of printing. There are a number of presses in the country that have kept the art of letterpress printing alive for so many years. An equally large number of suppliers who provide these presses with paper, ink, and plates can also be found in the country.
The Beginning of Letterpress
The process of letterpress printing has evolved considerably over the years. At first, it used to be quite an elaborate, laborious process. The letters had to be cast from lead and placed on a device known as composing stick. To create the necessary gap between each letter and each line, tiny strips of lead were also placed alongside the letters. The space between the letters and the lines could be increased or decreased by adding and removing the lead strips.
Once the type was assembled, it was placed on a chase and fit into the letterpress precisely. After applying ink on the type, a sheet of paper was pressed against it. Earlier, the sheet of paper had to be fed and removed manually. Slowly, the process got automated. Still, letterpress printing, in those days, was a time-consuming task to say the least.
If you are curious to know about the current state of letterpress, Australia and many other countries have completely modernized the process, while still retaining a certain degree of the age-old charm and aesthetics which made the printing technique so popular in the first place.
Modern Day Letterpress Printing
Today, the process of letterpress printing has been modernized and refined to a great extent. It has made the whole process less time consuming and far less cumbersome. In the early days, traditional letterpresses used wooden and metal movable types and blocks. Modern letterpresses, on the other hand, use photopolymer plates.
One of the main reasons why photopolymer plates are used in modern letterpresses is that they can reproduce even the most intricate of artwork in high detail. They are also pretty sturdy and can withstand the enormous amount of force applied by a letterpress machine. Lastly, they are also a lot easier to replace, in case they get damaged, than metal or wooden blocks.
The method of printing has also changed quite a bit these days. Most presses use a separate plate for each color while printing artwork. The type of paper used plays a key role in the quality of the print work. Thicker sheets are generally considered a good choice if you want a deep impression on both sides.
There are other factors that play a role in the quality of the printed material as well. They include the amount of pressure applied by the machine and the amount of ink used, among others. Basically, it is a trial and error type of process wherein you make small adjustments every time you print a sheet of paper until you get the desired results.
Advantages of Letterpress Printing
If you were to look for the reasons behind the popularity of letterpress, Australia and elsewhere, you can find many.
· Letterpress is a fairly simple process. You set up a raised surface with letters or images, coat it with ink, and press it against a sheet of paper. While the process is time consuming, the actually principle behind the process is extremely simple. I
· Once you invest in a letterpress machine, you can mass print on your own without any additional help from anyone.
· Letterpress printing creates sharp, bold images that are aesthetically pleasing. Such a sense of craftsmanship and quality is often missing from other types of printing.
· While traditional printers struggle to print on thick, handmade papers, letterpresses can print on pretty much any type of paper.
With this being the case, it is not a surprise that a fairly common search term like ‘letterpress Australia’ returns close to 5,00,000 results on Google. The printing technique, old as it might be, still remains in vogue not just in the land Down Under, but in many parts of the world as well.