Other Letraset Products: The Letraset Type Lettering System

This is one of five articles on Letraset products which are not Action Transfers, but which should be of interest nevertheless.

You can get from each article to any of the others by following these links; they are all worth a look.

It is also part of the article "What are Transfers?" which has further interesting things to say on this subject, & which has links to plenty more pages, both relevant & tangential. It is definitely recommended as additional reading.

The Letraset Type Lettering System

Letraset revolutionised the World of typography with their Instant Lettering, which (like Instant Pictures & Action Transfers afterwards) were dry rub-down transfers. But Instant Lettering wasn't perfected until 1961.

The original idea was thought up by Dai Davies, & implemented by Fred Mackenzie, & at its creation in 1956 it wasn't in the form of dry transfers at all, but an ingenious variation on the traditional waterslide transfers which had been around since the 1860s at the latest.

Davies & Mackenzie were working for James Shand at the time of its development, & you could really only obtain 'Letraset' if you happened to know the right people.

Then Letraset was formed as a company in May 1959, & consequently for their first two years their main product was this wet stuff.

And here it is, for you to have a look at. Pure history.



Letraset is printed on a two-layer sheet. The top layer of thin gummed tissue carries the letters. To strip off letters, cut a score line through the top tissue under each line of type and insert tip of cutting tool to raise edge. This is done by running blade along under score line as shown. Cut both sides of tissue required and from loose edge peel off…

…place letter face down on moistened silk on back of frame. Thoroughly wet tissue and let soak for 1 minute. Now slide away tissue…

…letter remains on screen. Now turn over frame — letter can be seen to align on artwork. Press down on letter through silk and lift away frame. Adjust letter if necessary with blunt point — blot off.


In the above photo you can see the Letraset Carrier Frame required by the Type Lettering System (or, as it calls it on the frame, the "Letraset Type Transfer System"), underneath which is a MagiX Stick™ stylus from the other end of Letraset's adventure in transfers — 1985.

And now for some of the sheets:

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The sheets were 15" by 10". Let us know if you would like to see more of them, or read more about the early years at Letraset!

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Letraset is printed on a laminated sheet, the base sheet holding a strip-off layer of gummed tissue upon which the letter is printed.

It is suggested that in order to save time during the actual operation the Letraset sheets should be "pre-scored" as described below.

Make a score line underneath letters across sheet and raise top tissue. Insert blade and run along as shown (Fig. 1).

Place carrier at head of sheet and commence operations by cutting at each side of the required letter.

Strip off letter and place face down on the dampened screen in a single action by inserting knife in the 'pre-score' and pulling off (Fig. 2).

With a brush thoroughly wet back of tissue (Fig. 2) and allow to soak for about one minute, when the tissue will be ready to slide off letters.

Transfer each letter in turn by sliding off backing tissue (Fig. 3), then place in correct position on the art work and press letter into place (Fig. 4).

Subsequent letters are aligned by sighting through the screen. When the work is completed it should be blotted off.

Any adjustments to position of letters should be made with a wet brush prior to blotting off (Fig. 5).

Any gum sediment may be removed from copy by means of dampened blotting paper.

In cases where water will seriously affect artwork blot through the silk from opposite side of letter.

We advise that sheets should be pre-scored in both directions before use to facilitate setting-up, and to overcome any tendency to curl under unfavourable atmospheric conditions.




If you were directed to this page from "How to Apply Vintage 1959 Letraset Waterslide Lettering", here's the link back to that page. And if you were not directed here from there, you might like to look at it anyway, since it is relevant & interesting!

• How to Apply Vintage 1959 Letraset Waterslide Lettering →

Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives