Here at Media Street we like to keep on top of what’s happening in the graphic design world and like everyone else, we can’t help but notice that there is a huge trend for retro wooden letterpress and screenprinted style design.
When I was at art college we had a room full of metal type and we would recreate blocks of text with headlines, how people would have done it previously, before it all became too easy (on computers). That was time consuming enough and I admire the people who used to do this for a living, as it was an art form in itself, but when you look at wooden type, you can really see why it’s become so popular again, as just to create the wooden letters out of a simple block of wood is truly remarkable, compared to the skill involved in todays typesetting.
Having said that, there are still a few techniques involved to emulate the vintage relief printed effect convincingly. I like to use Adobe Illustrator and overlay distressed vector images. First of all I will take a photo of some sort of texture, maybe just of some plain plywood, then I will bring it into Photoshop, make it greyscale and adjust the contrast. I then import it into Illustrator, live trace it and expand it when I’m happy with the result. Once this has been done it can be layed over type and reversed with the pathfinder tool to give the text a worn/distressed effect, or even a wood grain can be applied.
Screenprinting is another artform which is being recreated digitally nowadays, it takes the fun out of making a mess with inks and experimenting with exposure times, but it is definitely a lot quicker and you have a lot more control over the end result. The easiest way I find to achieve this effect on the computer is to again make your images greyscale in Photoshop, but then experiment with saving them as bitmaps. Then I import them into InDesign and apply colour there, and I also find that applying a bit of opacity and effects like multiply can make the end results look more realistic.