▾ What is letterpress printing?

Letterpress is a centuries-old method of printing using hand-fed presses to create tactile relief prints. Originally, each character or design element was set by hand, one at a time, however the process has been modified allowing us to work with photopolymer plates created from digital files. This is the primary method we use for printing in our shop.

Solid spot colors are mixed and applied to the plates which are pressed into the paper either debossing or gently kissing the surface of the paper leaving a tactile result not achievable by cheaper methods like digital or offset. Each piece is fully hand-crafted as we cut paper, mix custom inks, print color by color and score/cut/fold to finished perfection.

▾ What other services do you offer?

We use the best quality materials and deliver handmade goods with great attention to detail and a high standard of excellence. In addition to letterpress printing, we offer the following in-house services:

  • bindery & finishing
  • duplexing
  • design & illustration
  • branding
  • package design
  • die cutting

▾ What type of projects do you do?

We love creating letterpress invitations for weddings and social events, paper goods and cards for business, cards and letterhead for correspondence, hang tags and labeling for retail, and branded client packages for creative professionals. Have something else in mind? We’re great problem solvers and will do what it takes to bring your project to life.


▾ Letterpress Process

  1. REQUEST CUSTOM ESTIMATE. Once you complete the custom estimate form, we send you an a project estimate for you to review and approve.
  2. PROJECT CONSULTATION. If you need guidance on production and materials, file prep, or your project requires custom design work, we discuss in detail any questions and project needs you may have.
  3. SUBMIT ARTWORK WITH 50% DOWN PAYMENT. Once you approve the estimate, we send you an invoice to make a 50% down payment. After submitting your artwork, we provide a PDF proof for you to review and approve.
  4. PRODUCTION BEGINS. Our standard turn time is 10-15 business days. Project turn times begin once you approve our supplied PDF proof AND make a 50% down payment.
  5. FINAL DELIVERY. Full payment is due when you pick up your order or before your order ships.

▾ Custom Design Process

  1. DESIGN CONSULTATION. We talk about your project in detail to determine your specific needs and overall scope. This can be by scheduled phone call, by email, or an in-shop meeting. We also discuss the pieces you want printed and the budget of your project.
  2. ESTIMATE APPROVAL. Based on our conversations, we send you a project estimate and a letter of agreement (design contract). You must approve this document to proceed. Once we receive your signed letter of agreement with a 50% down payment, we can go to work.
  3. DESIGN BEGINS. We show you 2-3 design options, you choose a direction, and we make necessary revisions based on your feedback. The entire design process with revisions takes 2-4 weeks. In this process, we can provide guidence about how your choices in design will affect production costs so you can stay within your budget.
  4. PRODUCTION & FINAL DELIVERY. Print production begins when you have signed off on final artwork. Standard turn time is 10-15 days. If your project does not require letterpress printing, we will prepare and deliver final design files. Full payment is due on delivery.

Turn Times

▾ What is the turnaround time for letterpress printing?

Our standard turn around time is 10-15 business days. Turn times begin when you sign off on our supplied PDF proof AND pay a 50% deposit on your project. Project turn times are estimated. There may be rare cases where it takes longer than anticipated for materials to arrive from our vendors, or there may be unexpected maintenance required on our century-old presses that can cause minor project delays. We will make every effort to complete your project within the estimated timeline outlined at the beginning of the project and will communicate throughout the project to keep you updated on progress. For exceedingly important deadlines (like a special event or product launch) it is advisable to begin your project early enough to accommodate unforeseen delays.

▾ What is the timing for a custom design?

This varies depending on the complexity of the design and the response time between our correspondences. It can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months.


▾ How do you price letterpress projects?

Pricing is based on how many items you order and which pieces you'll need. Letterpress printing has many fixed costs and initial setup. As such, pricing starts at a relatively set rate and goes up from there. Likewise, the cost per piece goes down the more you order, since these fixed costs are distributed over more pieces. Please contact us for pricing.

▾ What's the minimum for a custom letterpress order?

The minimum order for letterpress is 50 pieces, and it's always more cost effective to order more. Initial setup charges and shop fees prevent us from printing fewer than this.


▾ What are your payment terms?

A 50% deposit is due to begin a project. Full payment is due upon completion of the work in our shop, before time of shipment. Shipping and taxes are not included in estimates.You are responsible for any shipping charges which will either be added to your final invoice or will appear in a separate shipping invoice. We will use the most affordable shipping option with tracking and insurance unless you request expedited shipping beforehand.

▾ What are my payment options?

Direct Bank Transfer: Your project invoice will have a "Pay Now" option. This utilizes a safe and secure Direct Bank Transfer that is easy to set up and incurs no additional fees.

Personal/Business Check: Make payable to Vice Versa Print Shop. Additonal time may be added to the project schedule for your check to process.

Credit Card or PayPal (by request): Let us know if you prefer to pay by credit card or PayPal. Both options are easy, safe, and secure. A 3.2% handling fee will be added when paying with credit card/Paypal.

▾ Are there other cost considerations?

Sales Tax: Washington State customers are subject to sales tax. Out of state customers are exempt from sales tax.

Shipping Costs: Orders are available for pickup in the greater area of Bellingham, WA. Plan for shipping costs as part of your project if pick up is not possible.

Printing considerations

▾ Should I expect varienace in color and ink opacity?

The short answer is yes. We are using century-old presses that have seen a lot in their lifetimes. The manual process of printing with these old hand-fed presses create a natural variance across a print run which most in the letterpress community would agree adds life and character to each piece. Though we strive to make our presses perform as good as they ever have making sure we deliver a high level of consistency in every project, keep in mind that each print will have subtle differences.

▾ How do large solid areas print with letterpress?

If your design requires a sizable area of ink coverage, there are a few things to keep in mind. Letterpress inks are not opaque. We use old presses that were intended to print type, so when your design calls for large solid areas or floods of color, know that there will be characteristics inherent to the letterpress process. Large solid areas will not have 100% saturation and may have a mottled or “salty” effect as the paper shows through a bit.

▾ Can you print light ink on dark paper?

Printing on colored paper, especially darker papers, will affect the appearance of the translucent letterpress inks. This is caused by a combination of paper show through and translucent inks. When in doubt, ask to see examples of what to expect. White letterpress ink is not 100% opaque and will have a bluish appearance when printing on black or other darker papers. For this reason, metallic inks (like silver), which are mostly opaque, will have a much better appearance on black paper and will be our recommendation every time.

▾ Can you print metallic Inks?

Yes we can. Metallic letterpress inks will have a matte appearance and should not be confused with the shinny, reflective appearance of hot foil.

Tips For Designers

Letterpress printing is entirely unique in this era of digital technology. Once designs are finalized, the process is entirely analog. Because of this, some limitations exist. Large fields of color will never be 100% saturated. Fine knockout text can yield inconsistent results. Lines thinner than .35 can fall out.

In order for a file to be press-ready, it must be in a vector-based format (like Adobe Illustrator, PDF, or EPS) or bitmap TIFF format. 

Vector-based PDF or Illustrator files (ideal):

  • Be sure that the artwork is entirely black and white (no grays) unless you want a halftone screen.

  • Convert fonts to outlines.

  • If you're printing in more than one color, separate the colors into groups or layers.

  • Include at least 1/16" of bleed where applicable.

  • Save your files in CMYK mode.

Bitmap TIFF files:

  • Be sure that the artwork is entirely black and white (no grays) unless you want a halftone screen.

  • Keep the image resolution high (ideally 900dpi or more).

  • If you're printing in more than one color, each color should have its own file.

  • Include at least 1/16" of bleed where applicable.

  • To cut down on file size, it's a good idea to use LZW compression.

Design Considerations: 

  • Letterpress works best with line art and text. Large blocks of color are possible, but keep in mind that ink coverage may not be 100% even and saturated (it will have a more rustic/handmade look). Also, the heavy impression can tend to warp the paper if we don't use an extra-thick stock. Sometimes we might suggest that we print large blocks in a separate pass; however, this will add to the cost.

  • Minimum thickness of stray lines should be at least 0.35 pt. Lines that are directly adjacent to other art can be thinner. Pay special attention to fine text where the ligatures and serifs can become quite fine. Knockout text in solid colors amplifies the problem. Does your artwork require finer lines? We can go as thin as .25 upon request, but since we must use a different plate than our standard choice, please specify when sending your artwork.

  • Minimum dot diameter should be 1.25pt. Just like stray lines, dots that are too small can fall out under pressure. We can go as small as 1pt upon but since we must use a different plate than our standard choice, please specify when sending your artwork.

  • Light ink on dark paper isn't ideal with letterpress, although metallic inks can work in some cases.

  • All paper is cut to order so we're not limited to any standard card sizes. However, if your piece needs to fit in an envelope, we suggest sizing the card 1/4" smaller than the envelope. 

If you have any questions about file formats, your design, or anything else, just let us know. And feel free to send your design files. We'll be happy to give feedback and suggestions.