Foil Stamping, The Good, The Bad, & The Shiny

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There are few things more satisfying than watching a piece of foil stamped stationary catch the light and running your hand over the impression its left. One of those things is successfully running said stationary through the press and having it come out perfect. This is, by no stretch of the imagination, an easy thing to accomplish. In fact this process has been frustrating printers since Ernest Oeser filed for the first hot stamping patent in 1892, and it’s fair to say some time before that. It is also fair to say that the process hasn’t changed too much since then either.

The hot foil stamping process itself is relatively simple, foil is pressed onto paper using a heated magnesium block. Pretty straight forward, but like most things the devil is in the details and in this case he is constantly playing tricks on the printer. In a perfect world the press can be set up, turned on and left to consistently pump out eye catching works of art. However in this perfect world foil stamping does not exist. In order to get that perfect stamp there are an extraordinary number of factors that all need to line up. The humidity of the air, the depth of impression, the amount of time the plate is in contact with the foil, and the temperature of the plate all play crucial roles in getting the final product to turn out right. Did I mention that these all change foil to foil and paper to paper? 

In Order to get a better feel for the foil stamping process I sat down with The Laughing Owl’s foil Guru, Eric while he ran a job through one of the Owl’s antique Heidelberg Windmill presses. The main thing I found out from this is that no two foil jobs are the same. There aren’t so much rules of thumb, but set up methods instead. Each job must be dialed in just right and carefully watched over, sometimes needing to be recalibrated throughout the job. He filled me in on some things that he watches out for and that can effect the stamp. Some of which are: If the design is patchy and the coverage isn’t full, chances are the plate temperature is off. If the impression depth is not even, makeready may be needed to even things out. If the alignment is off, well that could be anything from the plate expanding due to heat or the paper not feeding correctly. Sometimes the motion from the paper being auto fed into the press can knock things out of alignment which means that particular job may need to have each piece hand fed. There are a seemingly endless list of things that can effect foil stamping so much so that Eric said, “It almost makes you superstitious”.

All potential and imminent obstacles aside, finishing a well done foil job is a very rewarding thing. It is a skill that takes a very long time and a lot of trial and error to be any good at. Even longer to claim to master. All time and effort well spent because crafting any stationary  that is as visually pleasing as a well done foil project is a rare thing. Luckily this is something Eric and The Laughing Owl team are extremely good at and do often. The Laughing Owl may ship beautiful foil stamped works all over the world and those works are shared and treasured by many, but the satisfaction of putting the finishing touches on an ornate foil invitation is what the Owl’s hoot about and is all their own.

Don't Get Hung Up On Hang Tags, Go Letterpress


Hang tags are one of those things that can say a lot without actually saying much. Sometimes they are the only thing that connects a product to where it was bought. Especially for any type of boutique store where products are usually unique and might not have a brand clearly labeled. In this situation a hang tag becomes a business card. A simple run of the mill, white tag with a price sticker on it is straight to the point but also says “not much effort went into this". When a product is labeled with a quality tag it can show that time and care went into designing not only the tag itself, but the product as well.

Utilizing letterpress hang tags is a great way to step up your packaging game without going over the top. Imagine you are at the store and you are looking for a bottle of bourbon to take to a get-together with old friends. There are usually a few to choose from, but you are looking for a conversation starter. You could go for a standard, or you could show up with the single barrel with a bottled date stamped on an impressive letterpress tag that is tied to the bottle. If you’re trying to make an impression, the choice is clear.

Letterpress is all about creating a high quality product while using subtle designs. It can speak volumes without being too much. It relays your message in the classiest way possible. What better way to present your product to its potential buyer than with a letterpress hang tag?

Stand Out With A Letterpress Coaster Mailer

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    Are you looking for a good way to reach out to your customers without being ignored? Tired of sending out another plane Jane holiday card? Do you have a big announcement to share with your friends and family? Well The Laughing Owl Press has the perfect way to do all of those with our Coaster Mailers! The L.O.P’s Coaster Mailers have all the function of a letter or post card with a twist, they have pop-out letterpress coasters built in. This is a great way to turn a piece of mail into something useful that will be remembered.


Save The Date


    Coasters make great save-the-date announcements, but sometimes it can be a challenge to get all the necessary information to fit. The coaster mailer solves this problem. All the small details can be printed on the area around the coaster and the important info can go on the coaster to be popped out and saved. What better way to keep your big news in the front of your family and friend’s minds than putting it on something that will end up being set out on a table or desk to be seen and used over one over again!


Marketing Tool


    Let’s say that your are looking to increase the number of people that show up for happy hour at your bar or restaurant. Sure you can post specials on facebook, but what are the chances the average person scrolling thorough their feed will remember it? In today’s fast paced society something as simple as getting mail that isn’t a bill can really stand out, let alone getting mail that has something useful in it! Coaster mailers are a great way to do this, you can let potential customers know about your establishment and  give them a token that can be redeemed in person. The coaster can double as a coupon for “$1 off a draft,” or “Half off any appetizer” if they bring the coaster with them. Even if the recipient of the mailer isn’t interested, chances are they will give the mailer to someone that would be. Who would throw away something as good as money?


Alternative to Boring Greeting Cards


    Coaster mailers are great alternatives to a traditional thank-you or holiday card. Instead of sending out the same old card that might get set on a shelf for a week or two, why not send something that can double as a card and be useful? It’s always nice to get a “thank you,” or a “happy holidays,” but its even better have something that’s fun to pop out! It’s getting a package that is packed with bubble wrap, you still get the package, but you also get to pop all the bubble wrap! Let me tell you it is the same feeling popping out a coaster from the mailer. The best part is, once the coaster is popped out, the fun isn’t over. You still have the greeting, and you also have help preventing water rings on your coffee table. Win, win.


L.O.P coaster Mailers are great for announcements and save the dates, they are a great marketing tool, and a fun alternative to the traditional greeting card. All in all it’s pretty hard to go wrong by sending out a high quality, letterpress coaster mailer. Let us help you stand out, because the only place to get them is from The Laughing Owl Press.


The Beauty of Chipboard Coasters

     A good drink coaster can be one of the most useful tools in a bartender’s arsenal. It’s the difference between pouring a drink and presenting one. It serves a purpose and is a piece of art. A coaster will still be there long after the drink is finished, and can be taken home to be used again or to remember catching up with an old friend over a beer or two. All of these and more are pushed to the next level when opting for a letterpress coaster, especially a chipboard letterpress coaster. 

Here’s Why:


    It’s always a great feeling when someone puts a drink if front of you, but it’s an even better feeling when you see the drink being poured or mixed. This is where the excitement builds! In this moment it’s the little things that matter most. Watching mint being muddled for a mojito, or letting a Guinness rest before it’s served. During this period of bar limbo the only thing you have is the longing for that first sip. That is until a coaster is placed in front of you. Once you get your coaster there is no doubt in what is about to happen. That simple, yet tasteful piece of stock is your claim, and nobody else’s. Then your beverage is placed on your coaster, this is the moment you have been waiting for!

    The coaster may be a small step, but an important one. Its the difference between your crush telling you their phone number to put in your phone and them writing it down along with a short note and having your hands touch when they give it to you… all the difference. 

Functional Art

    A coaster has 2 main jobs; to keep your drink in place without getting the bar wet, and to be visually engaging. Chipboard coasters do both of these especially well. Chipboard is a sturdy paper/cardboard hybrid made from recycled materials. This has many advantages, one of which is since chipboard is made from recycled paper it not only makes it about 40% cheaper than using traditional coaster stock, it makes it more sturdy. It can get wet and not crumble and fall apart after a few drinks. Also who doesn’t like saving a tree?!

    Another advantage to using chipboard is it’s rugged, earthy look that can be dressed up or down. It can be the focus or the canvas. You can use a simple logo in a single color and because of chip board’s grainy texture it will be more visually appealing and make you want to actually use it. Or it can be taken in the other direction, especially when a metallic foil is pressed onto it. The natural matte look of chipboard, wether it be a natural or ebony color, is an excellent contrast to a reflective eye catching design. Chipboard also has a knack for making foil pop and really stand out. Not only does the material compliment color, the physical impression left on them is very soothing to get your hands on it and feel the the recessed print from the press. That, and they just look different from the average coaster! 

A Take-Home Reminder

    Perhaps the most important benefit of a good coaster is that they can be taken home! If a patron enjoys their visit to your establishment, they will most likely remember it and maybe even tell a friend about it. Now, if said patron can take a small token home with them they are guaranteed to remember their visit. Coasters are perfect for this because when they get home chances are the coaster will end up on a home bar or coffee table. This means they can be on display and seen often as well as be left out for company to see and ask about! It is hard to find another method of brand marketing with the level of use and lasting impression you get for the money that a great letterpress coaster will produce. When it comes to chipboard coasters, you definitely get the most bang for your buck!

The Beauty

    All in all there are plenty of reasons chipboard coasters are the way to go. They are functional, eco-friendly, and they look great! The true beauty here though, is the impression they make. Sure, a great drink is what you will be focused on, but the coaster is what will make you remember it. It is the visual representation and memory of your beverage experience. It’s the ticket stub from the time you saw your favorite band, a small token that can spark conversation long after its initial use. This is the lasting beauty of a chip board letterpress coaster. 

shop talk: A lesson in ink

Sometimes letterpress printing can be like riding a bike while drinking a cup of coffee, while balancing an egg on your head, while writing a letter. There are a lot of things going on, and a lot of things that always need constant attention.

One of those places is inking.

Proper inking is the cornerstone of quality letterpress printing. Too much ink and your print becomes fuzzy and undefined, too little ink and your color will begin to lighten and provide uneven coverage on large solids. For perfect letterpress printing you need to find the "Goldilocks" amount of ink for each project, and work to maintain that level over the entire project. 

In letterpress printing inking is controlled by two factors - the physical amount of ink you put on the press and the height of the ink rollers as they pass over the printing plate. Proper height of ink rollers can be set with the aid of a roller height gage (often referred to as a "lollipop"), and can be checked under magnification (especially on jobs with finer details) with a loop. What may work for one job, may not work for the next, so it is important to make ink adjustment a priority on every job. The last thing to look out for when it comes to ink is color consistency (apart from mixing the color...that is a lesson for another time). Depending on what color was used last on the press, among a variety of other things, the color of the ink may change during a print run, so always keep your color guide close at hand.

make it a routine

Get a routine down. Checking the inking as you are printing should become second nature and automatic through the entirety of a press run. Three places to always check inking, every time...are on the image or design, in the negative space, and on the back of the paper. Write it down, make it into a song, just don't forget!