Letterpress Illustrations

Designers always ask us about setting up line weights for illustrations for letterpress. The line weight refers to the thickness of any line in your artwork. In letterpress we measure the line weight in points.

Letterpress business card

In order to assist with setting up line weights correctly, it helps if the illustrator or designer has a basic understanding of how the letterpress process works. At its simplest, the letterpress process converts your digital artwork into a three dimensional printing plate. The areas that are printed are higher than the areas that are not printed. The higher printed areas come into contact with ink and are pressed (under great pressure) into the paper creating a printed impression.


Now imagine this. If you have a combination of really thin lines (eg. 0.1 point) and heavier line work (eg. 1 point), the pressure required to achieve the desired impression on the thicker line may damage the fine lines on the plate. This can result in a fuzzy lines or even displaced and broken lines. The same principle applies to typefaces too.


Letterpress line weight

As an illustrator you might then naturally assume that the answer is to simply change all the line weights so that your minimum line weight in your design is above 0.5 points to allow for a greater impression. Well not necessarily. Whilst we have created this handy media supply guide the solution to achieving the best possible letterpress illustrations is to consult with us. No two illustrations are the same and there is never one simple solution especially when type and various line weights are involved. We start by exploring the brief with you. We need to know what it is you want to create. What is the product? How will it be used? Who will interact with it? What is its purpose? Ideally we would like to see your design before starting your job so we can make recommendations as to the best line weights for that particular design. The business card design below is a great example of what can be achieved when an illustrator works with us before starting the job.


Letterpress business card illustration

Karen Liew's letterpress business card was printed on Ball and Doggett's Colorplan Pristine White 350gsm. Colorplan is highly resistant to being impressed so we altered a number of elements in the design and process. Firstly we chose a printing plate with a high shore hardness so it can take more pressure. We asked Karen to change her minimum line weight to 0.4 points and chose a slightly heavier font weight within the same font family. The overall visual result are line weights and font work that are proportional and balanced to one another. The lines and fonts are crisp and sharp.


Karen Liew Illustrator


Great white shark illustration

We are here to help so get in touch and get the ball rolling on your next project.



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