Printing Techniques to "Raise Up" your Direct Mail Marketing
Whilst always being intrigued and eager to discover the latest innovations within the print and direct mail industry, I am equally drawn to the traditional skills and machinery. For some of these crafts it is as though time has stood still; and I am fascinated by the many techniques that can be applied to printed materials that give them a look of luxury, and superior quality.
Some of these processes are less likely to be seen within industrial scale print and direct mail. They may even be referred to as "bespoke" or "artisan", sometimes "retro", or "vintage". Today, these terms are overused for many products, which has diluted their true meaning.
There is no longer the same demand for the wonderful process of embossing or foil blocking. Sadly some companies that specialised in these techniques no longer exist. Many people may have been put off by the costs. Although it may not be within the budget to encompass such techniques for large volume print-runs, it might well be the special touch of opulence that gives your invitations or brochures that enhanced physical experience for your intended direct mail recipients.
Artispoke Printing Techniques
Embossing is the art of creating another physical dimension to paper by raising the chosen design above the rest of the surface using pressured metal dies - an impression that results in a stunning textured, tactile effect.
Creating an Elegant First "Impression"
Debossing is a similar technique but in reverse. Instead, the image is indented into the paper. Often more cost-effective than embossing, but equally as impressive.
Foil is pushed into the paper via heat activated glue and pressure. Gold and silver are the most popular and traditional choices, but now there are a vast array of colours and elegant effects available; even white on dark paper. Similar to debossing, but with the added luxury of colour.
Back in the day, engraving (or copperplate printing) was a very costly process as a new plate had to be made for every piece of artwork to produce a raised paper surface. The process and machinery have evolved into thermography, where a thermographic powder is applied to the wet print, passing through a heat tunnel, resulting in a high quality, raised image upon the paper.
This is the process of using a die (shaped blades set into a backing block) to cut identical shapes into the paper or board - such as the shape of your logo - resulting in a highly effective finish. Die-cutting is ideal for brochure covers, or direct mail envelopes.
For that distinctive, luxurious feel, more often seen on invitations, the process of gilt, or coloured edging produces an elegant result.
These techniques, along with laminate or varnish for added protection, will not only add emphasis to key aspects of your marketing message, but will also create an added sense of prestige to your printed materials, such as brochures or invitations. This will ensure that they are noticed, and will increase the chances of them being kept by your recipients.
Letterpress is more suited for those luxury items such as wedding invitations on cotton paper or board, or even business cards. It produces a unique handmade look and is definitely worth a mention as it is the oldest of all printing processes; invented by the Chinese in AD175. Originally, each page had to be laboriously carved into wood, or cut into stone, leaving the raised image, which was inked to receive the paper.
In the fifteenth century, with the invention of movable type, metal letters were set in reverse into a frame and inked, and the paper fed through a press, giving the printed text a relief effect. I think it's lovely that there are still people skilled in this age old technique. I was thrilled to learn that there is currently a resurgence of letterpress, as it produces a depth and irregularity that is lacking in offset, or digital print.
If, like me, you appreciate the stunning effects of these techniques, it's up to us to ensure that these traditional methods are preserved.
Whilst we should embrace all the new, ever-evolving printing techniques, such as interactive, and multi-sensory print, I feel that we should not forget the craftsmen in the print and paper industries that are continuing to do what they have always done so well.