Letterpress Basics: 580 years in the making

Letterpress is making a comeback in the digital age thanks to a general renewed interest in the handmade, and to the digital re-invention of the medium with computer-generated plates. A letterpress is able to make a more precise and distinct print that offset or flexo presses can struggle with.

The basic process

Letterpress begins, as the name would suggest, by gathering your types together with number, upper and lowercase letters, special characters, ligatures, punctuation, and spaces in a particular point size and style. Oftentimes typefaces can be decades (or even hundreds of years!) old, and may be missing characters through time. Typically, these are made of wood or lead, but some are experimenting with new materials, like 3D printed lettersets.

This is where leading comes in. Setting the type on composing sticks one character at a time, and a piece of lead (hence “leading”) is set between lines. Once everything is set, it gets locked onto the chase (metal frame) to be placed into your press.

Wooden blocks are often placed in the spaces between the frame and the type to lock it in, and quoins (metal-toothed wedges) apply pressure and tension to lock everything together.

Ink rollers typically coat the type with ink as the press runs, while paper is fed into the press and a clamping motion allows the ink to print on to the paper

Types of letter-presses

Platen Press

A platen letterpress is made up of 2 flat surfaces, the bed and the platen. On a platen press, the ink is distributed onto a metal disk (platen), and rollers grab ink from the disk to ink the type. The type is set onto a chase and inserted into a press, while a treadle powers the press and spins the large flywheel. Platen presses are typically used for short run prints, like invitations or stationary. Platen presses that are larger are used for die-cutting, embossing, and foil applications.

Flatbed Press

The type is locked on the bed of the press. Ink is applied to rollers that spin in place, and the paper to be printed on is placed at the top of the press and held in place by grippers. The printer then moves the rollers and piece of paper across the press, over the type. The rollers then crank back to the top of the press and are ready for the next sheet. These presses can do one or two color impressions.

Rotary Press

Rotary presses are used for their ability to produce high volume runs. Not typically used in the standard Letterpress Shop as they are used in commercial and specialty printing with sheet-fed and web-fed designs. The plate is a cylinder and paper is run through at a higher speed. The operator can adjust the print heads and come up with color matches faster without having to change anything within the press, with less setup and less waste than a flexo press.

Sheet-fed rotary presses, the plate is mounted onto a cylinder where a roller applies ink to the plate. The paper then passes between the plate sulinder and an impression cylinder, producing the printed impression onto the paper.

Web-fed presses are used in printing applications like newspapers, labels, or wallpaper and are the highest speed and most accurate process. The printing process is the same, but the substrate is a continuous web unwound from a roll.

4 Basic Printing Processes to Know

Globally, the United States is the largest print market. These are the 4 most common processes and press types used, and for which industries, so that you have a better idea as to which press you may be looking for in your business.


This is the most widely used printing process, so it makes sense if you’ve seen plenty of them on WireBids!

Offset printing is a technique where the inked image is transferred from a plate, to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. The modern “web” process feeds a large reel of paper through a large press machine in several parts, typically for several meters, which then prints continuously as the paper is fed through.

Offset printing is ideal for something that requires a large volume of work.

Originated: 1875

Suitable for: paper, cardboard, plastic, and other flat materials.

Industries: books, newspaper, stationary, packaging

Digital Printing

This is possibly the widest scope of printing with a wide range of materials. The surface does not have to be flat, so Digital Printing processes are the fastest growing, continually offering new possibilities.

Inkjet and laser printing are the most common, where a pigment or toner is deposited onto the media. The pigment or toner creates a thin layer on the surface, but does not permeate or substrate like a traditional ink may. This is why machines may feature a UV curing or heat processes, to further adhere the ink to the media.

Large format and high-volume laser or inkjet printing allow for something on-demand, fast turnaround, and variable data printing. This means that with digital printing, the need to replace printing plates is eliminated, creating lower labor cost.

Originated: 1967 (inkjet), 1969 (laser)

Suitable for: paper, photo paper, fabric, canvas, glass, metal, marble, etc.

Industries: desktop publishing, mailing, fine art, on-demand printing, advertising, and sleeking


Flexography (often just called “Flexo”) is essentially a modern version of a letterpress, and can be used for printing on almost any type of substrate. Most widely, this is used for printing on non-porous surfaces required for food packaging.

A flexible (typically rubber) plate is used, extending the range that can be printed on.

Flexo can use a wider range of inks, from oil based to water based, and generally have a low viscosity. This allows for faster drying time, and faster production with speeds up to 2,000 feet per minute.

Originated: 1890

Suitable for: plastic, foil, acetate, paper, cardboard, cellophane, metal, etc.

Industries: packaging, labels, converting companies

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a technique where a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, except in areas blocked by a stencil. A blade or squeegee pulls the ink over the mesh, and a reverse stroke causes the screen to touch the media along a line of contact. A single color is printed at a time, so several screens are required to make a multi-colored image.

Screen printing methods have been used for centuries, but was industrialized in the 1900s as photo-imaged stencils were created, popularizing the method for printing. For this, it has become more versatile than traditional printing techniques and allow for more manual control than digital printing. The surface printed on does not have to be printed under pressure, and does not have to be flat.

Originated: 1911

Suitable for: plastic, ceramic, wood, paper, glass, metal, and textile

Industries: packaging, textile, medical, electronics, posters and displays

4 Top Packaging Trends for 2019

Last month, Mintel released their Global Packaging Trends 2019 report. WireBids has gathered the highlights for you.

Mintel is the world’s leading market intelligence agency and releases an annual report with “comprehensive consumer research, in-depth packaging analysis, and industry and brand examples that support the future impact of the trends.”

1. Connected Packaging

Interactive elements are nothing new to packaging. QR codes and RFID scanners have been used to drive engagement and sales before.

But Connecting with the consumer directly continues to be a trend that can’t be overlooked. Snapcodes, Bluetooth, and Augmented Reality are saturating the market to establish new marketing opportunities.

This means that for the brand, they have the opportunity to connect in an online space, learning more about their consumers and allowing them to more closely measure campaign performance.

As a printer, understanding new strategies that brands and clients are looking for gives the chance to expand business and meet a higher demand.

2. Sustainability Awareness

With consumers already thinking that recyclable packaging is standard, brands have an opportunity to ride consumer awareness of recycling issues by being part of the solution and committing to using recycled material in new packaging

Sustainability has been on the mind of every industry. Consumers are going to be more likely to trust and use (meaning purchase) products that are packaged with recycled content.

3. Next Gen Packaging

E -Commerce is anticipated to grow to over $3.8 TRILLION by 2021. Which means, consumer demand is booming with the packaging industry. Keep up by utilizing the best and newest innovations and technology. Reinvent the box keeping up with packaging trends through sustainability, efficiency, and printing methods.

4. Paper-Driven, Plastic-Free

Did you think that Mintel’s report was already focused enough on sustainability yet? Nope. There’s more.

Brands should act now, either to ensure a place in emerging plastic-free zones by switching to acceptable pack materials, or by engaging with the debate, clearly explaining the benefits of plastic packaging to their product and addressing plastic pollution concerns with appropriate end-of-life pack solutions.

Eliminating single-use plastics is a major concern for any company. In the UK, 47% of adults stated that single-use plastics alone were the largest environmental issue today! Plastic-free shopping is on the rise, for instance there’s the entire state of California banning plastic shopping bags, Whole Foods running paper only, even McDonalds is working to reduce their plastic straw use.

What do you think? Are you in the packaging business and looking to make a change?

You can read the full Mintel Packaging Trends report here.

What To Do When Your Auction Ends

As a seller, when your lot closes, there are a few steps that you are responsible for taking.

First things first, you probably want to know how much your lot closed at. You can view all invoices at your Sales Dashboard.

To access, simply select “Sales” in the My WireBids drop down selection.

Here is a full chronological listing of all existing sales and invoices that you have made as a Seller.

The invoice dashboard will show you your customer’s full contact information, as well as their winning bids and full balance due. The invoice you see here has been automatically sent to your buyer.

WireBids recommends not waiting for your Buyer to contact you! Reach out to your Buyers as soon as possible to arrange Shipping and Payment.

Contact your Buyer via phone or email listed. If you do not hear from them right away, give them 24 hours before following up, or contact sales@wirebids.com if you have concerns or reservations about the sale.

If you are charging shipping fees, you can add or edit the fee and send an updated invoice to your buyer at any time.

Here, you can also mark the item as having shipped and include any notes or tracking numbers, which will be visible to the Buyer after selecting “Save Changes”.

If you charge any crating or palletizing fees, you can use the “Edit Packaging” option as a place to add any packaging charges, separate from shipping.

What if my buyer backs out of a lot?

No one likes to cancel a sale. But, the invoice dashboard at least makes it easy to organize your sales and allows for cancellations for both your and the buyer’s records. If you have a buyer that backs out of one of the lots they purchased, removing that lot is made easy by simply selecting “Edit Lots”, and “Removing”.

Contact WireBids to let us know! We can also reach out to a Backup Bidder on the lot to see if they are still interested in the item.

Having trouble collecting?

If you are having trouble collecting payment or contacting your buyer, reach out to WireBids and we can attempt to contact the buyer on your behalf to resolve the dispute. WireBids takes nonpayments seriously, and multiple nonpayments may result in the user’s account being flagged, and possibly place their account status under review.

I got paid! Now what?

Sellers can, and are encouraged, to log any payments directly into the system by selecting “Add Payment”. This avoids confusion with your buyers and establishes better relationships with a higher level of trust because it lets buyers know that their money is being taken care of. You can log partial or full payments, as well as notes on the payments for your records.

Any time a change is recorded in the invoice dashboard, an updated invoice is sent to the user and recorded in the left hand column with a timestamp, so you always know when the buyer received an update. If you do not hear back from your buyer, or they request a new invoice, you can resend an updated invoice through the “Actions” column drop down function. An updated invoice will be sent to the Buyer with the time sent recorded in the left-hand column.

Once you have received all payments, notify WireBids so that we can send you a completed invoice.

If we do not hear from you, you will be invoiced for the Buyer’s Premium on all lots listed.

3 Benefits of Getting Verified

First things first…

What is “Verified“?

  • A Verified WireBids user has completed an additional process to demonstrate the truth of their identity with WireBids. A user can do this through the Buyer Dashboard by providing the following information:
    • A credit/debit card on file
    • A valid government issued ID.
  • Once WireBids has received this information, we will Verify the account.*


The 3 Benefits of Getting Verified:

  1. Wondering why you can’t get in to bid on some auctions or lots? The seller may have blocked bidding to Verified users only. Getting Verified means that you may be permitted into exclusive auctions for which you qualify.
  2. Getting Verified may indicate that you are a more trustworthy user. Other users may be more likely to consider you as a buyer or seller because they know you are a real person.
  3. Avoid disputes or getting your account flagged by having your information on file. Crazy work schedule? Unreliable phone connection? If you are having trouble organizing payment with your seller, putting a card on file may help resolve the issue by avoiding a dispute before it even happens.

* User verification does not imply that WireBids endorses or guarantees the user’s activity. It only means that the user has taken extra steps to provide identifying information to WireBids which may be shared with a seller in case of default.