Letterpress Light & “Compression Plate Process”

Hi All,
Has anyone heard about Letterpress Light or their compression plate process?

I’m a hobby printer and I agreed to print wedding invites for one of my friends. She asked me if I can do the “compression plate process”, which she saw in the Knot magazine. She said it is 50% deeper than “regular” letterpess (whatever that means). I had no idea what she was talking about & I had to look up the process. The only thing I found was the Letterpress Light site, which apparently is the only company who does this printing.

Apparently it is superior to letterpress as their website states: “Why settle for regular letterpress when there’s Letterpress Light?”. They are able to print an unlimited number of colors for the same price, so I’m guessing this is not actual letterpress???

Does Letterpress Light post here or does anyone know anything about this new process?

Disclaimer: I know there are printers deadset against deep impression, and only believe in the kiss… I know, I grew up with one :) With that being said, I would like to discuss the processes of deep impression, and the new compression plate process, since this seems to be the current fad.

Thanks in advance!

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This isn’t letterpress, despite what she’s calling it. It’s most likely inkjet or some other color print process – maybe even offset – followed up by a debossing of certain elements. That colors are unlimited points to a single-run, full color print process. The real giveaway is the backside of the invitation, with the huge emboss. That’s the result you get from a traditional debossing. Her invites look far from superior to letterpress, IMHO.

Even offset printing would require more plates to do full-color, or additional color, printing… so I’m guessing this person is using inkjet.

“Compression plate” sounds like a way of saying die and counter-die, in order to trick people into thinking that this is a different process. Note that the portfolio page lists the examples as “embossed” not “Letterpress Lighted” or whatever made-up word he/she would use.

Sketchy marketing…

I saw her products a while ago and was completely unimpressed. I hate the fact that she even refers to letterpress with it, but I’ll get over it!
She is definitely using a 4 color process, whether inkjet, laser or digital, I can’t tell. If you look closely at the images she uses in her portfolio, you’ll see that the embossing doesn’t follow the image exactly. I remember one image specifically where a stem and leaf intersect, which should have a sharp inverted corner. Instead the embossing is rounded. It looks awful. She’s definitely embossing the pages as well (upside down from the traditional method so the back is raised) because she gets super crisp image on on both sides of the paper.
Very sketchy and very deliberately vague in terms of the name, which I believe she trademarked?

I’m fairly sure nothing is trademarked, anyone can throw a (tm) after their name to add “credibility” without anyone bothering to check…

I’ve seen samples too. Its not letterpress. Simply embossed Inkjet.

They are all shelf stock designs. Having your name and specific info on the pieces is 200.00 more. Junk.

Thanks for all the info guys, I just couldn’t figure out what sort of process she could ever use that would allow multiple colors in one run. After looking at her products, I have to agree, they are junk. Although I do like the deep impression on the front, I don’t care for the embossment on the back. I think it cheapens the entire look and they look more like a DIY invite, or like they were made with some at home craft kit.

Douglas your right, the designs are totally shelf stock, I believe some of the borders are straight from adobe without any editing, and they even say their copyrighted “original” designs. How can you copyright adobe brushes & symbols and pass them off as your own???

You all are right, the “process” is very vague, I also don’t believe its even trademarked. I explained the process to my friend and she was disappointed and thought this was totally misleading. Once she actually looked at their invites up close, she didn’t like the backs of the paper, or the colors. As she said, the colors don’t look as elegant or translucent as “real” letterpress. I also wonder how the inkjet colors would stand up over time… They are not cheap either, more than $12.00 for an invite and response card + extra for envelopes…

Really I think this is totally misleading and is completely false advertising. They deliberately named the company Letterpress Light, even though there is no letterpress used. They compare it to being superior to “regular” letterpress, like it’s some advanced letterpress system. To me, this is like a knockoff Louis Vuitton handbag, it is a faux process. I would NEVER start a business and name it “Calligraphy light”, and print out calligraphy text from my home printer passing it off as actual calligraphy. Even if appeared like actual calligraphy, it’s not. IF it is some new process, then name it a new name, but don’t try to pass it off as something its not.

It gets worse every day. Not even considering this nonsense. The “marketeers” who otherwise have little knowledge of letterpress but are intent on entering the fray and want the best pricing rather than the best quality are far more of a pain in the ass. I send them where they want to go. Makes my life so much easier.


Hello all-
If there is confusion about the Letterpress Light products, please know that our direct contact information is very visible on our website under “Contact”. So, really no need to speculate and potentially spread misinformation on forums, I am happy to answer emails & phone calls!
You certainly may like the product or not, but we do have many satisfied customers & highly-rated customer service:
I also run a separate physical store featuring wedding invitations where we offer both letterpress & Letterpress Light, and I have seen that it is really a question of preference for the layperson as to what he/she likes better. About 50% of our couples purchase letterpress invitations & the other 50% opt for Letterpress Light, after seeing both side-by-side. Despite the fact that a traditional letterpress printer doesn’t love a deep impression, for your normal bride-on-the-street who knows nothing of letterpress, it’s the texture & impression in the paper that seems to draw her attention and make it seem special & unique. I know that’s something everyone knows already, as the big letterpress vendors have pictures specifically lit to show off the impression in the paper, and I’m sure many of you do the same! So, we highlight what people like about our product, which is the deep impression.

Just to clear up some things on your questions:
—Letterpress Light is embossing/debossing overlaid on flat printing.
—All designs pictured on the site are original designs and protected by copyright as for any originally-created design, nothing from Adobe except fonts used for text.
—Letterpress Light is a registered trademark with the US Patent & Trademark Office. I am not sure if people are confusing trademarks with patents, as trademarks are simply for registering and protecting brand identities, and as far as I know don’t add any special credibility to anything.
—Our embossing & debossing is done by hand, each piece pressed one at a time, with only our own hand-eye coordination for registration. As a result, it is much more labor-intensive and slow to produce than letterpress and is priced accordingly. So between the handcrafted aspect and care we take with each piece, & the quality of the paper (Crane’s Lettra), I would respectfully disagree with the characterization of our pieces as “junk”.
—Since we are the only ones who do this style of production and we are not a high-volume operation, I am not sure why it would be considered a “fad”!

As you know, letterpress has restrictions when it comes to design, so is not appropriate for all designers & situations. We do many custom prints for other graphic designers, who find it useful to have more flexibility in terms of design type & colors. For example, our very popular Cherry Blossom card would not be appropriate for letterpress in its current gradient-heavy state, but the embellishment added by our embossing is something very appealing to our customers when they hold it in their hands:

I understand that new things can get people worked up and I totally get that a group of letterpress printers wouldn’t like it! But, I would appreciate it if uninformed statements weren’t made, most particularly that we don’t produce original artwork, which is an untrue put-down of our designers & the ones we work with! You should know that we are real people, trying to do something new and working hard in a very small business. It sounds like people mostly don’t like the name, which is fine – but, anyone such as yourselves who knows anything about letterpress can immediately see from the photos that our items are not letterpress, and anyone who doesn’t know or care about letterpress is just looking for something pretty and different that they like, which is often the case with our products. We do want people who are looking for letterpress to find us as well, as Letterpress Light shares the same desirable characteristic of texture & impression with letterpress, and there isn’t a good way to have people search on some new term that doesn’t exist. Once people do find us, they can decide if they like it or not.

SarahR I would guess you haven’t seen our pieces in person, but if you get in touch I will be happy to send you and/or your friend some samples!

Also happy to communicate with anyone who contacts me directly through this site or the contact information on our website, but I don’t plan on posting more to this line in the forum.

Heather Noss

Nothing wrong with selling inkjet or digital prints with embossing.

It is the act of calling it Letterpress Light in order to attract customers, presumably due to the recent popularity of letterpress (the “fad” in question), that is misleading and what people are reacting to.

By looking only at your website it appears to me that the language used aims to have readers think this is a letterpress process with some special means of getting a sharper impression. Also, that this technique is only available through you… which is obviously not the case given that the embossing of materials printed on either inkjet, laser, offset or even letterpress, by using dies and counterdies, is being done by thousands of other shops.

Sure, no one is stopping you from branding your business, but the initial post here should be enough evidence that your marketing is misleading as to the nature of your process… even if that was not your intent.


It has been my experience that people are drawn to the honesty of letterpress- the way the impression is a direct result of the process through which the print is made.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

It sounds like Heather already does letterpress printing… “I also run a separate physical store featuring wedding invitations where we offer both letterpress & Letterpress Light”

To me this is all just sour grapes or something. She’s creating something in a way that she wants, and she obviously has satisfied customers that like it. Letterpress printers do blind debossing, and that is what she’s doing in addition to other things. She happens to be doing it on a sheet that already has ink on it.

Live and let live.

I have never heard of letterpress light, it sounds a little crazy to me, its either letterpress or its not, i suppose you can have heavy letterpress also. Megahurt, i’m not bad mouthing this but maybe you could explain it to me cause i really don’t have a clue what this is. Dick G.

…I said Bud Light…

emthree, same thing, if you are going to drink beer drink the real bud, Dick G.

Well said Kimaboe. The use of letterpress in the name and the misleading explanation does seem like a ploy to attract customers.

I think the biggest issue here is the fact that the site and name of the company seems to intentionally mislead people into assuming it is in fact letterpress, and the explanation of the process just confuses it more. It’s not just that we are getting worked up over “something new”. The fact is from the name to the explanation of the process, it is all misleading. You didn’t state anywhere what this actually is. Is it letterpress? Is it offset? What inks are used? No information on any thing, other than direct comparisons to letterpress. The company is named “Letterpress” Light, without any actual letterpress. This was not clear to my friend, or me.

“Located in Washington, DC, Letterpress Light® is the only source of unique hand-pressed wedding invitations and stationery created one at a time using the Compression Plate Process™. This exclusive technique creates a 50% deeper press than is possible with regular letterpress printing. We are ready to deliver the ultimate in paper texture, available only here in our artisan print studio. Why settle for regular letterpress when there’s Letterpress Light?”

These statements are NOT clear on the what this actually is. Embossing or Debossing is not mentioned anywhere, which you stated is your actual process. All I see here is a direct comparison to letterpress and press, only this new & exclusive trademarked “compression plate process” is so great it gives a 50% deeper impression than “regular letterpress”. This statement totally gives the impression that your system is the newest and best letterpress process, even though its actually embossment.

If you were not attempting present this as letterpress, why wouldn’t you clearly state your products and process for what they are? Why name your company letterpress? If it’s not letterpress why compare it to “regular” letterpress, wouldn’t you say that your system of embossment gives a 50% deeper impression than letterpress? Why state “regular”, like you’re differentiating your letterpress process from the old regular letterpress?

If you stated the actual process on the your site in the first place this entire thread wouldn’t even have started, I would have known there is no new letterpress compression system. I would think you would be proud of the process you have developed, and not intend to mislead or compare this to letterpress, but then again there is the name of the company… If people like your products, then let it stand on its own, with its own name.

I would not start a business of printing calligraphy and call it Calligraphy Light, and tell my customers it is better than calligraphy, even if they happen to like my product more, but I guess that’s just me.

BTW Heather, aside from the misleading “letterpress”, I do apologize for offending your designers. I will state imho, the flowers do look like stock vector images you can add an asterix to and call it your own. So much of graphic design is borrowed anyway, but that is a thread all of it’s own. I will delete that comment if you would like, artwork is subjective and it is not my intent to hurt anyone. My intent was to figure out what this process was and when it was brought to light that it was not letterpress, as your site and name is misleading, I was taken aback. But I do apologize for the design comments.

Megahurt, if she’s also printing letterpress why does she put it down?

“Why settle for regular letterpress when there’s Letterpress Light?”

Doesn’t quite make sense to me, if she’s also selling letterpress. But I guess that’s what you do when you “letterpress light”…

I realize letterpressers do blind embossment, but do they ONLY do blind embossment with an embossing stamp and call their company Letterpress Heavy? I’m a designer, I say create create create! But don’t mislead. It may look like a duck from far away, but it doesn’t act like a duck…

I suppose this may be sour grapes. I have been around letterpress my entire life. When I see someone presenting faux letterpress as “real” letterpress, it does ruffle my feathers a bit, it’s just like why??? Why not name it your own? Why not call it what it is? Why so sketchy? My friend thought it was letterpress, and why shouldn’t she? Its letterpress light! I bet that’s how how Coach feels when they see “Goach” bags… Just sayin…

Get over yourself Sarah.

Someone adapting new technology to further develop our craft, does NOT take away from your own self worth.

Use all the words you want, but it’s obvious from the tone of your posts that you feel threatened.

Instead of being frightened of change - embrace it.

Or are you one of those who don’t call polymer plates letterpress either?

As a letterpress printer, and a pretty new-to-the-game printer at that, I can say I am in no way threatened or offended but what this chick is doing.

She found a way to make products that people like, and more power to her. I’m doing “REAL” letterpress and I’m certain she has more paying clients than I do.

I just looked over the website and process in question, and I don’t have any problem with it. While it is not “Letterpress” in the traditional sense….. niether is the process used by the vast majority of the folks who post here.

Traditionally, and in the dictionary, “Letterpress” is the printing with movable type. Most folks here use digitally produced PP plates which are a form of relief printing, but not traditional letterpress. BUT… who cares? There is room in the world for all processes, no matter their developers choose to call it.

Getting back to “Letterpress Light”, I don’t see anything more wrong with the name than I do with the term “Digital Letterpress” which is also a bit of a euphamism.

Here’s my take on the whole subject: All that really matters is the quality of the finished piece, not what the process is called or how it’s produced. If the “Letterpress Light” process creates printed goods that fit a particular market niche, and customers like it….. then what difference does it make that it’s creator has borrowed a traditional sounding name?

We here at Briar Press have done the same thing by calling our PP plate printing “Letterpress”, and nobody seems to be upset by it. If WE can stretch the useage of the word “Letterpress” for our own purposes, what right do we have to get angry at someone else who is doing the same thing?

I say “live and let live”……. and possibly learn some new ways to look at printed images.

and SarahR…. did you come here just to stir up this arguement? I notice that you only joined two days ago, have only posted in this one topic…. and seem to be directing it toward negativism.

No such thing as letterpressers

Tangerine, if you read my post you would see I have no problem with the actual process. It is not process that’s in question here, it the fact that her marketing is misleading. My friend was offended after finding out this was not actual letterpress, and I don’t blame her. There are some people that want actual letterpress, and I feel this takes advantage of them by not saying what it is. I would feel the same if there was a company called “Engraving Light” that used an inkjet printer to print. The fact is the site is misleading and it’s the deceptive portions I questioned. No where on the site does it mention what the process is, and it completely alludes to it being letterpress. I guess I am different, I don’t feel that it is right to advertise something for what it’s not.

Winking cat:
It’s not just that she’s borrowed a traditional sounding name, it’s that the entire explanation of her ‘trademarked’ process alludes to it being letterpress. No one has yet to mention why is the process so shady? Why is the “real” process not mentioned anywhere, no embossing, debossing, etc…?

“False advertising or deceptive advertising is the use of false or misleading statements in advertising.”

I came here to clarify this new letterpress printing process of Letterpress Light. It was clarified, and it is not letterpress printing. I feel it is a tactic to lure and/or deceive people and I don’t think its right. I’m not the only person that feels this way. As for the actual printing process, to each their own. Obviously there are some people that appreciate her prints.
Alas, I think I’ve spent too long on this anyway. I’ve said my peace and I am done. We all have a right to an opinion, whether it’s agreeing or disagreeing. I am sorry the first time I’ve posted was in a negative light and my intent was not to offend. I usually use this board for the classifieds.

Look at the photos on the outside of food packaging.

Now open the package and tell me if the food reaaally looks like that.

Maybe your time would be well spent filling up food websites complaining about it. After all it’s “false advertising” which is obviously the end of the world.

OK, here is my “light” side of this. What we all do when we print by letterpress is really (relief printing) vs planography(offset) or intaglio(engraving) serigraph (silkscreen) printing. Not many people may know the original names of these reproduction processes. This Letterpress Light ??? What I really do not like is the word debossed. It would mean to remove the embossed image so that does not make any sense in my understanding of printing terminology. Perhaps she should call it mock letterpress or facade letterpress because it is not letterpress.

I assume Letterpress Light is printed digital in some way as it would account for the ease of using color. The deep impression is made with a polymer plate, my guess - so in that sense is is Letterpress, as it is printed (deboss is printing) from a relief form. Maybe that is why it’s called light.

In Printmaking we have people who print an digital image and than deboss the sheet for the plate impression, maybe not technical accurate, but if LP Light works as a Business, than why not.?

LP as a Trade looked at the first offset printers as Fakers too.

Colophon, I apologize if I’m mistaken, but it seems as though you do not understand the term “debossed”. It does not mean “to remove the embossed image”. What most letterpress printers do to some extent is in fact debossing. When our type or plate pushes into the paper a bit, that is debossing.

What this woman is doing IS essentially letterpress as far as the debossing goes. What’s different is that she’s doing it on a sheet that’s already been printed on by another method.

This is an interesting discussion about terms and their meaning, as well as what clients today expect and want… Sorry for the rant, I get carried away sometimes, haha

Now, it is my understanding that the word “debossing” for printing an impression into the paper using a relief process is a fairly recent invention… and technically, debossing could mean removing the effect imparted on paper using embossing, but I see no problem with its usage as describing an embossed effect that is lower than the primary printed surface, acheived using a die and counterdie.

Still, I personally don’t use the word “debossing” for letterpress work, not only to avoid confusion between embossing and letterpress, but as it is my opinion that “impression” or “bite” are much more correct terms to describe the effect achieved by pushing a plate, or non-foundry type, into the paper. But, that’s just me.

I don’t think anyone really gets confused. I assume that most clients know how deep impression from letterpress looks like, so if they ask for “debossing with letterpress”, I know what they mean. Still, in advertising or describing letterpress, I prefer keeping the terms separate.

I see that some argue that printing with photopolymer is a different process as well, and if that can be called letterpress there is nothing wrong with calling embossing letterpress. Personally, I don’t really see how they arrive at that conclusion. Etched cuts were used to transfer imagery for a long time before PP came along and I don’t see anyone claiming that using such cuts was not “proper letterpress”. Both are relief plates onto which an image was transferred, and in my mind a PP plate is a cut… even if it is made with a slightly different chemical reaction.

The idea that printing deep impression, PP or not, is not a display of good or proper technique is down to tradition, and I personally have no problems with that idea. It is however the effect sought by a large portion of the current market due to its tactile separation from other, cheaper processes, and I think there is nothing wrong with answering to that demand. Most of us, myself included, would not be here if this was not the case.

Still, the process of embossing is separated from letterpress. Technically in that it uses two dies in order to shape the paper. More generally in that its raised or lowered result is not a “side-effect” of the process, as impression is with letterpress, it is the end goal. The fact that the presses designed for movable type also allow for this separate process, as well as diecutting and creasing, does not make one into the other… does it?

To make a simplified analogy: you could print movable type, cuts or photopolymer on an etching press, as many have done successfully on this forum, but you wouldn’t call it an etching. So why would you do embossing on a letterpress and call it letterpress? At least I wouldn’t.

Letterpress Light is inkjet with embossing, it is not letterpress in any form, besides the fact that the printing press used in its manufacture may or may not originally be intended for movable type or cuts, we don’t know enough to say that one way or the other.

Why does it matter? Well, there are differences between inkjet and letterpress that are very real in terms of quality and longevity.

From what I’ve seen, “archival” inkjet ink is guaranteed for around 100 years. Keep in mind that such a guarantee only holds good on the manufacturers paper, which is intended for its use and treated in a way to preserve its pigments longer than other stock. And it also states that the print is to be stored at a certain temperature and out of direct light.

As a contrast, the heavier layer of pigment put down by a relief process such as letterpress, has ensured that documents and books printed using these techniques have lasted for centuries and probably have a few more left in them. Many of these documents have survived bad framing, acidic conditions and other perils without fading, even if the paper looks worse for wear. If you invest in letterpress invitations, you can probably assume that your memories will last for a generation or two…


The big difference I’ve garnered here is that they are doing the embossing by hand and not by press. I guess this allows them to call it something other than embossing, ie compression plate?

I can tell you the reason why is that inkjet has no registration system so there is no way to get the print to consistently line up to the except to do each one by eye. From a press mans POV, I’d rather run offset with registration then emboss with letterpress than dead wit the tediousness of this process.

But as Martha says, it the variation of each piece that makes it special, and if Martha says it…….

When all is said and done, I have to agree with Lammy here. Laser or inkjet are not reliable in terms of registration. Why not just print something letterpress? Not sure I noted a price difference in just crunching plates over digital printing. Hopefully the mis-registered pieces are discarded and not sent to the client.

The concept that this is some kind of progressive invention is nonsense, especially in regard to the hype.


I’ve been in the printing game for over four decades. My basic understanding is that embossing (done with two dies) creates a RAISED image and that debossing (also done with two dies) creates a DEPRESSED image.

When letterpress images are punched into the paper with more than traditional pressure, those images are depressed into the paper, but this is NOT technically debossing.

Don’t know much (if anything) about the registration reliability of inkjet printing, but I can’t imagine that they are applying their “letterpress light” (I do shudder over that moniker) by hand to their inkjetted images.


Webster has no listing for the word “deboss”

The term deboss has been a standard word in the printing industry for decades. Most frequently used when doing foil stamping, etc.

I simply Goggled the word “deboss” and the very first thing on the list that popped up was a brilliantly simply explanation that can be found at blog.thefolderstore.com/2008/09/23/embossed-vs-debossed/