Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Letterpress Card Tradition Continues

There’s something special about a letterpress holiday card! Over the years my husband and I have printed many of them. In the earliest years of our marriage, we didn’t have a printing press — but once we got one, letterpress Xmas cards became the norm for us. Hand-printed letterpress Xmas cards take a lot of work, but they’re worth it. It’s so satisfying to create a personalized greeting and exercise your creativity at the same time!

Each year we come up with a different holiday card idea. Below are a few examples. A few others are shown in earlier posts on this blog, including “My Favorite Typefaces” (June) and “How I Design a Printed Piece” (October).

We started simply. Our 1985 holiday card was printed from a single cut, then decorated with colored pencils. We kept the inside blank so we could write personal notes to family and friends.

Our card from 1991 used two color Della Robbia initials and Caslon to define “enjoy”. The inside was printed in Caslon Italic. This card needed the green “ENJOY” on the front to be in just the right place. We had to feed the C&P carefully to make sure the paper was straight, and thankfully only messed up a few.

A little later we got some uncial types, and happily incorporated them into the Xmas card below. “Season’s Greetings” on the front of the card was done in Goudy Text with red Missal initials and a holly border. The inside message was printed with Solemnis and Libra, our newly acquired uncials. We also had some fun with the Goudy paragraph markers (little leaves) throughout.

In the quest for something different, we printed a “Deck the Halls” card using some older typefaces. The front of the card featured Crawford Medium and Old English, interspersed with two color holly border (notice the little red berries). Three colors on the front meant three times through the press. Inside we used Ray Shaded (an old 19th century typeface) to print “Fa-la-la”, plus Libra to sign our names.

Looking for new ideas, we printed some of our many little Xmas cuts in the shape of a tree. It was harder than it looked because some of the cuts were old and worn, especially the girl in the sunbonnet just below the red Santa Claus. We tried for red berries with the green holly again, this time as part of the tree base on the front. The type inside the card is Crayonette, a recasting of an old 19th century face. We found the Xmas tree cut in an antique store in Delavan, Wisconsin. It looked old judging by the candles on the tree.

One of our more unusual holiday cards involved a very bad pun. “Muletide Greetings” was printed in Old English on the outside, with Freehand added on the interior. We used that hard-to-print multicolor wreath we’d inherited from my father, and thankfully we had a couple of cuts of mules. This card got more comments from family and friends than most, and we certainly had a great time creating it. See how much fun printing your own holiday cards can be!


  1. I love the font of the first card (1985), especially the N in New Year. Very different. I'm sure that was interesting putting together. Loved all of them! How fun! And knowing your way with puns, I'm surprised there aren't more! :-)

  2. Actually there were more puns, including a cow surrounded by the holly border with the inscription "Holly Cow". Of course I couldn't show all of our Xmas cards, but those were the highlights of our pun period.