Veronica Halim

A Guide to Printing Techniques

Gold foil on handmade paper with wax seal

After finalising a design, you naturally need to decide: How will you print the final artwork? Generally, the printing techniques depend on the design and quantity of the pieces. Letterpress printing or digital printing with a simple foil finish are wise options for smaller print runs. If you’re planning to print over 1,000 pieces, offset printing is a better choice as it gets cheaper the more you print. In this post, I’ll be sharing the main differences between digital, offset and letterpress printing.

Digital Printing
Digital printing is very similar to your laser or inkjet home printer, but on a much larger scale and with higher quality. You can print only the amount you need with a faster turnaround time than other printing techniques. Digital printing gives you more flexibility when you need to customise your design, such as printing different names or addresses. It’s also good for projects with hand-drawn illustrations.

Offset Printing or Lithography
Offset printing gives you accurate colours as well as a wider variety of papers and custom finishing options to choose from compared to digital printing. However, it’s a slow and costly process due to setting up the plate and premixing the inks before a print run. If you’d like to know more about offset printing, take a look at this insightful post from Oh So Beautiful Paper.

Letterpress Printing
Projects printed using letterpress often become keepsakes because of its beautiful tactile quality. Although you can get a “letterpress effect” with a deboss finish in offset printing, real letterpress creates a deeper impression in the paper. Much like offset printing, letterpress involves preparing a plate beforehand. The plate then creates an impression in the paper while applying the ink in a one-step process. It’s common to use one or two colours in letterpress printing, but any more than that tends to get very expensive. The whole printing process takes anywhere from two weeks to two months, depending on the quantity. Head here for a closer look at the intricate process of letterpress printing.

Tips: Talking with your designer about the budget you have in mind will give them a better idea of which printing technique is best for your project!

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