Letterpress vs Foil
Letterpress and foil stamping are unique, labor-intensive printing processes.
Our team spent years specializing in these processes for a quality print that's seen and felt. Although these processes are similar, there are key differences which can get confusing.
Think of letterpress plates like a stamp- designs are mirrored and raised onto a plate. We place the plate onto our letterpress and start printing. First, inked rollers roll onto the plate, only inking the raised design. Then the plate is pressed into paper, leaving behind a debossed image.
Letterpress allows for only one color to print at a time. Each plate coincides with a different color. So, a one-color design equals one plate while a two-color design requires two plates.
There may be subtleties in inking or impressions, making letterpress unique!
Letterpress is one of the oldest methods of relief printing, so the machines are often old and heavy. But they're built to last! We found that by using the old technology and combining it with modern techniques- the process is quicker, safer, and more unique.
Our studio offers Pantone Matching and specialty metallic inks.
All inks are transparent to some degree, so true color paring depends on paper color.
For example, think of a standard elementary school marker.
On a piece of white paper, a yellow marker would appear yellow. But, on a blue piece of paper, the yellow is much more muted. A general rule of thumb is to stick with darker inks onto light-colored paper. For lighter colors on darker material, we might look into foil stamping (below) to achieve this result. Foils are more opaque and able to cover the darkness of the paper.
Check out our Letterpress Pinterest Board on for samples on the process.
Foil stamping is similar in process to letterpress with a few differences that stand out to us!
We use copper plates in-house for all foil jobs. Copper is an excellent material that can retain heat well over the press run, and also hard enough to be able to hold small details that might get lost with softer materials like magnesium.
No ink is involved with Foil Stamping. Instead, we use thin ribbons of foil. As the hot stamping die comes in contact with the foil, it presses into the paper and transfers the foil from the ribbon onto the paper.
Copper foil stamping plates are often more expensive than traditional letterpress plates, and therefore usually demands a higher price for these processes over letterpress. While metallic inks exist for letterpress, we've found that most people prefer metallic foil over metallic letterpress inks.
Foil is opaque so the color will print as shown no matter the paper color. Foils come in a variety of shades, metallics, and even as a scratch-off and holographic. You can create a dramatic effect with a light foil on darker papers or step up your packaging game.
Check out our Pinterest Board on Foil for samples on the process.
How to Choose
If your design is a light color on dark paper, choose foil. Foil is opaque and will appear dynamic rather than letterpress, which would be a muted color.
If you want a metallic, shiny effect choose foil. Letterpress metallics are not shiny. For example, think of a metallic glitter pen on paper. When drawn, the pen is true to color but not polished. A foil will print the sheen of metallics (though there are plenty of options for matte metallics too).
For a cheaper price point, choose letterpress. Foil stamping has a higher materials cost for the process.
For a more profound impression, choose letterpress. A letterpress utilizes more pressure, allowing for a deep deboss. The force used also allows for a 'blind press'- where the press debosses a design without ink.
Projects aren't exclusive to only one process. We often mix the two! It is possible to run something on the letterpress and the foil press for both types of production.
If you'd like to get started on a project with us, send us a message through our website and we can help you figure out what might work for you!
If you’d like to get started on a project with us, send us a message though our website and we can help you figure out what might work for you!