Can We Letterpress on Handmade Papers? Yes!

Posted by ashley mcneill on

A lovely calligrapher in Waco hired us to print her wedding invitations and reply cards, and she was to provide the paper. The paper arrived before I ordered the printing plate, and good thing, too because the reply cards needed to be resized a wee bit. The paper, you see, was handmade and gorgeous but also has uneven, deckled edges which made them a little smaller than standard sizes.

First printing proof of letterpress calligraphy wedding reply card by shelby nickel designs and inviting letterpress boutique.

First printing proof showing layout. After approved, inking was a darker navy.

With that taken care of, I then needed to do some research on best practices for hand-feeding the paper to the press. With no consistent edges, my standard set up method would not work at all!

Someone from Briar Press (a wonderful resource for letterpress printers) had this issue a few years ago and a commenter suggested using a screen-printing sticky material. Magic*. It worked beautifully.

Here's video of the (very) slow process. You can see me look at each piece for the optimal position of the print, since there is clearly no "this side up" on handmade pieces!

It's not the most exciting video, but you can see how much care went into each card!

All I can say, is bring on more deckled edges. This project was not only educational, but also a joy to print!

Close up of letterpress calligraphy wedding invitation by shelby nickel designs and inviting letterpress boutique.

Finished invitation featuring the bride's calligraphy.

Project Notes

Design by Shelby Nickel Design
Papers from Fabulous Fancy Pants Papers - Reply and Invitation
Ink is PMS 655

Do you have invitations or a project you need printed? Contact us to discuss it!

*Actual Paper Feeding Method Used:
Tracing the "ideal" shape of the invitation on the tympan paper (waxy paper that the cards sit against) is the first step. Then you take a strip of material (I used chipboard), apply the sticky goo to that, and tape the sticky strip across the lower edge of the traced shape. Cards are gently applied to that and are removed once printed, with no damage to the cards. Magic!

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