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Q:Do you feel retail letterpress machines or other “faux letterpress” techniques come close to products made from traditional letterpress?

I've been thinking about purchasing a tabletop letterpress — the Adana 8 × 5 — but I keep seeing "faux letterpress" like this or "letterpress lite," which is basically foil stamping machines wherein the foils are matte and so mimic the look of letterpress ink.

Ask the Experts #8


Submitted By

Deanna Quilalang


Expert Replies






If you want to start with something new, you have to start in small scale but with the real technology. Can "faux letterpress" let you manage pressure, for instance? I dont' think so, but I don't know "faux letterpress", honestly. Without pressure you are far from letterpress, you only have letters. Letterpress was (and is) about fine tuning the pressure to let ink just "kiss" the paper. Today letterpress uses higher pressure to have really visible impressions. But pressure is always a fundamental aspect. So, I would go with Adana, or another actual letterpress.

Hotstamping — another popular at-home method — lets you control heat level, pressure, and dwell time. That should be able to mimic the process. I think in a way they are related processes, but the big difference is foil vs. ink. I know, all the letterpress purists must be shaking their heads in dismay, 'No way are they related!'. Just sayin'. I never really thought about using hotstamp to mimic letterpress though. The end result is just different. I've noticed letterpress can do very fine lines and small type, while hotstamping tends to struggle with this.

The Adana press is a nice press. I agree with Maurizio: buy a real press. There are things you will be able to do in the Adana, both in make-ready, registration, and printing that you will not be able to do with the Faux letterpress or that thing you can get from Paper Source. Be careful though there are pitfalls to the smaller hand presses, too. Especially with the box car base: it will limit the size of work you can do, and also the box car bases are known for smashing gauge pins when trying to print final size sheets on a small press like the Adana. We usually print on an oversize sheet and trim out to final size.

I am not a big fan of faux anything. In fact I still cringe when I see Photoshop effects called "letterpress." I agree that you would be better off investing and learning on a small real letterpress like a Chandler and Price. There are an abundance of 10" × 15" or 8" × 12" out there that can be had fairly cheaply. You can get rollers for them and they are not too difficult to move and to learn to run.


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Armin Vit

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June 28, 2012


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