Letterpress printing is relief printing of text and image using a press with a "type-high bed" printing press and movable type, in which a reversed, raised surface is inked and then pressed into a sheet of paper to obtain a positive right-reading image. It was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century until the 19th century and remained in wide use for books and other usesuntil the second half of the 20th century. In addition to the direct impression of inked movable type onto paper or another receptive surface, letterpress is also the direct impression of inked printmaking blocks such as photo-etched zinc "cuts" (plates), linoleum blocks, wood engravings, etc., using such a press.
In the 21st century, commercial letterpress has been revived by the use of 'water-wash' photopolymer plates that are adhered to a near-type-high base to produce a relief printing surface typically from digitally-rendered art and typography.Letterpress printing is the oldest form of press printing in the world. Letterpress has become an atypical method of printing, having been replaced in large part by faster and cheaper printing methods such as offset and flexographic printing. It is still available in many specialty printing shops and is used for a variety of purposes including cards, letterheads and embossing. The letterpress process uses relief printing plates. On relief plates, the image is a raised surface. Historically, these plates were cast out of metal, but have been largely replaced with photopolymer material plates due to lower expense and reduction of chemical byproducts. There are three methods of letterpress printing: rotary, platen and flatbed.