Letterpress Business Cards

Business Cards – Letterpress

Though the term ‘business card’ may imply a singular professional purpose, there are other valuable contexts in which it might be used. For example, when making new acquaintances, this little card can underline one’s personality, and create a lasting impression if it stands out in some way.

Letterpress Printing

Letterpress Printing

Today, there are numerous sources for business cards, both online and offline. Most of them are rather inexpensive, but at the same time they often lack a special character. In case you need thousands of cards, then a custom designed card printed on a 16pt card stock or linen provides good value. However, if you want to emphasize your company’s affinity to quality or luxury, then you might want to think about  having your business card printed in Letterpress or Intaglio.  With its three-dimensional texture and vivid colors, paired with a luxurious cotton paper, it simply looks debonair.

Today, I will focus solely on Letterpress printing, while I will examine the steel engraved Intaglio process more closely in another article in about two weeks from now.


Ever since Johannes Gutenberg invented letterpress printing, the basics of printing in that manner have not really changed. First, individual letters and motifs, usually made out of lead, are set together and framed. This form is then put into a press and ink is added. Using one sheet of paper at a time, the design is then printed. It is only possible to print one color at a time. In the case of  a text with three colors, three frames have to be set up and every sheet has to be printed upon separately.

For simple and classic business cards, this kind of printing is perfectly adequate. If you are interested in a more elaborate design on the other, there is a more modern approach to letterpress printing. At Kent Aldrich‘s Nomadic Press in St. Paul, MN, this method begins with a computer design. Once this process is finished, the PDF-file is printed on a certain film, which is then converted into a 3D photo-polymer printing foil.  You can choose practically any color you want—even 24kt gold is possible. Each color requires a separate printing foil.  Every foil is then precisely adjusted in a steel frame, and this so called ‘form‘ is then put into the printing press. The machines used at the Nomadic Press are from Chandler & Price, and some of them are more than 100 years old! The print quality is nevertheless superb.

Letterpress Business Card

Letterpress Business Card

The color is applied to the press, and usually a very thick, heavy 100% cotton paper is used for Letterpress printing. Only that way can you see and feel the true beauty of the deeply embossed font on your business card. Everybody who sees such a business card immediately recognizes that this must be something special.

After the printing process is over, the cards have to be cut. Either you choose a classic 2″ x 3.5″ design with sharp corners or rounded edges or you go with a custom die cut.

With regard to price, these hand-crafted masterpieces cannot beat the mass-produced low budget cards. However, you get an individual and delicately crafted piece of art. 100 business cards in a simple design can be purchased for less than $100, while the cost of paper is sometimes higher than cost of labor. If you want a more elaborate design with multiple colors, you will have to pay a little more. Once a printing foil has been made, it can easily be reused, and hence the cost for the following prints is reduced.

In the following video, you can see Kent Aldrich, owner of the Nomadic Press, explain how letterpress printing is actually done. After 21 years in business, Kent is still very excited about printing and delivers top notch work. His clients from all over the the US, and even from foreign countries appreciate his perfectionism. Even the French Palace of Versailles has relied on his services.

Nomadic Press – Kent Aldrich
878 Stryker Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55107 – USA
Tel: +1-651-291-1454