Letterpress printing on iPad

Letterpress printing on iPad

July 8th, 2011 // 3:23 pm @

I came across a new iPad app called letterMpress – the one sentence description: it is a Letterpress on your iPad.

State of the art for 500 years

A Letterpress printing is a an early form of mass printing developed in the 1400Æs by Johannes Gutenberg. A Letterpress uses raised letters that are arranged in a frame and inked using a roller to apply ink to the lettersÆ surfaces. Paper is then pressed on to the raised letters, which transfers the letters on to the page, making it possible to print books and other printed materials in large numbers in a relatively short period of time.

LetterMPress sample

LetterMPress sample

The Letterpress made books and other printed materials more affordable for the general population, giving rise to the broad availability of books, newspapers, flyers, various printed materials. The Letterpress was in wide-spread use for 500 years, until the late 20th century, where it was replaced with more efficient and flexible printing methods including offset printing.

Letterpress printing revived in form of art

The LetterMPress iPad app revives the Letterpress printing press and design process by simulating a letterpress. The app includes a number of fonts, graphics, and paper styles. You can change ink colors, change the size of text, and arrange letters in any way you like. The app also includes details like locks to fix letters in place, æfurnitureÆ (wood blocks that provide spacing), and other elements that are commonly used in letterpress printing.

Little documentation is actually a great feature

The appÆs help documentation is limited, yet that turns out to be a great feature since it forced me to experiment with the appÆs capabilities. Lettering can be resized and moved however you like (letters have minimum and maximum sizes), and you donÆt necessarily have to lock everything in place before you print – I was glad to discover this because it made experimentation much easier. As with the real letterpress, you can print in only one colour yet you can print multiple times on a single page to achieve effects similar to those on the appÆs web site.

Paper styles rage in color and texture, including a transparent paper that shows up white in the app. The transparent paper is great for using the resulting PNG for logos and other objects where having a transparent background is useful.

Minor issues, easy work-arounds

The app has a few minor bugs, which can get really annoying at times. For example, when placing and rotating æfurnitureÆ, the app can drop the furniture on your letters, pushing them out of the way. Rotating the furniture can be a challenge, yet is easily resolved by zooming in to the press to make everything bigger and easier to manipulate. Selections can be picky: I could be working with a letter or any other thing, and suddenly it becomes unresponsive – I cannot move it around or do anything with it. The simple fix is to just tap elsewhere on the screen and try again. ItÆs an annoying bug but the work around is easy enough.

I have created a couple of prints so far, and am using one for a logo for one of my sites. I like the potential this app offers – I imagine that theyÆll make new fonts, paper styles and other things available for purchase in the app.

Although IÆm pretty good with PhotoShop, I really like LetterMPress for its creative aspects and that it forces me to focus on layout instead of playing around with other features. Great work, and I look forward to updates to resolve some of the bugs and add new capabilities.


  • LetterMPress is available through the iPad app store and is currently priced at $5.99.
  • Previews and other samples are available at LetterMPress.com

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