Shower Invitations Part One: Design & Platemaking

Many people are seem so perplexed as to how this whole letterpress thing works, so I thought that with this next project I'm working on, I'd do a series of posts on each of the steps taken to make letterpress prints. In this instance, I'll be using shower invitations I've designed and I'm going to print for my sister-in-law's bridal shower.

The first part is all on the computer. Most of what I've done is custom work for things like weddings, showers and baby announcements. It's very important to get a good sense of what kind of style the client likes (as well as what they don't like). In this case, my sister-in-law has no choice, because I'm one of the people throwing the shower for her. HA! I have a feeling she'll like these. Sometimes I create my own artwork, and sometimes I buy art in vector format. Unlike clip art, buying artwork as vector art makes it possible for me to easily make changes to the art to suit the client's needs. I liked this little cake because it looks Swedish, and my in-laws are Swedish. I was able to then separate the cake and put the text in between. You can see here that this will be a two-color job:

Once the design is all set, I send the file off to get plates made. In letterpress, if you design something on the computer, one of the options you have is to get photopolymer plates made of your design. Without going into too much detail, it's a thick piece of plastic that has your raised design in reverse so that all you have to do is adhere it to a metal base which brings everything to the correct height for printing. However, since you can only print one color at a time with letterpress, you need to separate your colors before making your plates (ie two plates for two colors, etc.). So if you look at my design above, I need to separate all the blue from the red. When I print, I'll lay down the plate with the cake first and print that, then clean off all the ink from the rollers and lay down my second plate that has the text and print that in red. This is why it is a lot more expensive to have invitations printed with two colors instead of one. Laying down that second plate can be tricky because of registration. When I print wedding invitations, I always print crop marks (as you can see below) because not only does it tell me where to cut, it helps me with registration on the second color.

Below you will see what my file looks like when I'm ready to send it off to get the plates made. You'll see that I've ganged up some other images that I will cut out and use for the outer envelope and the back of the invite.

It should also be noted that it is possible to make your plates exactly how you will be printing them (without separating) and physically cut the plates with scissors. I opted not to do that in this case since the text and the layers of the cake were so tight. I didn't feel like I would have enough room to cut in between, so I thought I'd play it safe and separate the plates.

Below is a close up of those cute little birdies.....

Got questions? Leave a comment and I'd be happy to answer!