Letterpress Wedding Stationery

An Interview with Underwood Letterpress

Let's be real: is there anything more dreamy than letterpress wedding stationery? We happen to think not. Whether we're talking invitations, menus, place cards, or programs, letterpress has the ability take your wedding suite over the aesthetic edge. (Hear that? That's the sound of your stationery splashing into a pool of straight stunning.) Today, then, we wanted tap the expertise of one of our favorite stationery savants, Cara Underwood of California based Underwood Letterpress, to chat all-things—you guessed it—letterpress. Read on for some serious insider's info on this dreamy stationery option...and stick around to the end for an extra treat (hello, discount code!).

Is designing for letterpress different than designing digitally printed stationery?

Cara: Yes, definitely! Designing for letterpress is much more about the quality of the paper and materials involved. With letterpresses invitations, we really focus on text layout, color, and paper quality. We like to bring in punches of color and pattern in some of the finishing pieces such as an envelope liner. When designing digitally, there is much more you can do with color, pattern, and imagery—but you can’t get the same quality you can get with letterpress.

We want to know all about your production process, but tell us all about your letterpress first!

Cara: We have a no.4 Vandercook proof press in our studio that was manufactured in 1951. We named her Rose after her previous owners who were excellent printers and took immaculate care of the press. We letterpress print everything in our studio on Rose. She’s such a great press and part of our family!

letterpress stationery
Photo courtesy of Rachel May Photography

Ok, what goes into actually producing letterpress stationery?

Cara: So much! It all starts with a lovely design. The design is then transferred to a film negative which is used to manufacture a hard physical plate made out of a plastic material. The plate is then put on to our cylinder press. We spend lots of time getting its position just right so that everything is straight and accurate. We then hand-mix our ink and put it on the press. Once the ink and plate are in position, we hand-feed high-quality cotton paper through the press. We do lots of small fixes, like adjusting the impression, the color, and the position. Once we know we have a perfect print, we’ll run an entire batch of stationary. The process is actually pretty time intensive and we take a lot of care in making sure we are completely in love with the print!

Why do you love letterpress?

Cara: Letterpress feels like it's a part of who I am—I couldn’t live without it! I love the combination of design and industriousness. I spend my days jumping around from my laptop designing, to working on my feet, printing, cutting, pasting, getting dirty, and running around. I love that I get to work in a professional environment while still getting to make messes for a living! 

Is there any limit to what you can dream up for letterpress?

Cara: Yes. Of course there are always constraints. The machines we work on are very old and finicky, and sometimes we're at the mercy of vintage machinery. That said, I have found that there are so many different ways to accomplish a certain look and feel of a particular design. I have a knack for being creative and resourceful when it comes to figuring out how to produce something. My favorite client is the one who comes to me with a crazy idea that seems impossible at first but with some creativity and ingenuity, we work with them to figure out how to turn their vision into a reality. 

letterpress stationery
Photo courtesy of Docuvitae

What type of couple is a custom letterpress invitation suite a great option for?

Cara: Letterpress invitations are a great option for a couple who really loves paper. Wedding invitations set the tone for your event and it’s the first thing your guests experience. I am an advocate for investing in invites that feel really special and intimate. Letterpress invitations do come with a higher price point so the couple needs to really be passionate about their investment. There’s really nothing like holding a super thick piece of cotton paper with beautiful text and a deep letterpress impression! 

If a couple can’t afford a full custom suite, what are a few details that are worth the investment?

Cara: We often combine letterpress pieces with digital pieces, which is a great option for budget-sensitive couples. You can letterpress print your main invitation and then combine it with some flat printed pieces, which can look beautiful and special while not breaking the bank.

Anything special you'd like to offer our readers?

Cara: Yes! In addition to our custom wedding invitations, we also have a greeting card line that is carried at gift shops throughout the country. We’d love to pass on a 10% discount for your readers to shop our online store. Simply visit this link and use the code AISLEPLANNER10 when checking out!


(Psst...want more savvy stationery planning tips from Underwood Letterpress? Check out this piece on using vintage stamps on your wedding invitation envelopes!)

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