Wedding Invitation Printing Options
Your invitation can be printed in more ways than you thought possible. Nowadays, different techniques can be incorporated into the printing of your invitation. Beware, some of these techniques can cost much more than others. It all depends on how you want your invitation to look and what your budget will allow.
Here are descriptions of some popular printing techniques:
This process dates back to the seventeenth century and is the oldest form of printing. It begins by etching the design and/or text into a copper plate from a negative. The paper is placed on the press face down above the inked plate. It is then printed by pressure coming down on the back of the sheet while the front of the sheet meets with the plate. This "sandwich" effect creates the raised lettering on the front and bruising on the back of the printed paper, which are both classic features of engraving. Typically you will receive the actual copper plate used for printing as a keepsake. Black ink is usually the best color for this style. Recommendations: This type of printing is quite a bit more expensive than thermography, so engraving is usually done for ultra-formal wedding invites, formal parties in general, or when there are few budgetary constraints. Engraving is also suitable for events with a large guest list since it becomes more cost effective in larger quantities. You will also have to allow for longer printing times, up to 4 weeks with some of brands.
If you want the look of engraved printing but you can't afford it, then this method is a less costly alternative that comes close to the real thing. The process involves heat that joins ink and a resin-like powder together. The fusion of the materials results in the appearance of raised letters. If an invitation looks engraved but the paper behind the printing is smooth, you have thermographed printing. This printing process is fast-becoming the most popular choice for invitations. Recommendations: Thermography is one of the most popular printing method today. It is great for formal looking wedding invitations, colored inks, and if you can't wait 4 - 5 weeks to receive your invitations.
Foil stamping begins by etching the design and/or text into a copper plate from a film negative. The foil (not always shiny in color, as the name "foil" implies), which is a special mylar backed material, is applied to paper where the heated copper plate is stamped onto the foil, making it adhere to the surface. This leaves the imprint of the letter pressed into the paper. It has been made popular again by the revival of letterpress printing, since it produces a very similar look and feel. However, unlike letterpress, you are able to use the wide range of typestyle and motif choices available in the market today. Recommendations: This is used most commonly for formal wedding invitations with paper that has a heavy texture and grooves. This type of printing is expensive, and comparable in price to engraving.
This type of printing utilizes a movable type machine. The inked raised type is stamped onto the paper. The various typestyles on the market today are not available with this printing process, since the characters are pre-set and determined based on the machine itself (think of it like a typewriter). See "Foil Stamping" definition above for similar look and feel, yet more flexibility in typeface. It's not easy to find printers that will provide this type of printing but if you find one that will, the effect will look best on handmade paper. Recommendations: This process is used most commonly for invitations that have unusual textured paper and is much more expensive than most other types of printing. It has been made popular again by Martha Stewart.
This type of printing is probably what you're probably most familiar with where an inked impression is made to a plate or a rubber cylinder and transferred to paper. Ink colors are mixed in cans from Pantone or RGB colors for exact matches. The printing appears as a flat image. Recommendations: This type of printing is most commonly used for textured papers or paper that can't be produced via thermography, engraving or digital. It is probably the easiest printing method and one of the least expensive printing options.
With advancements in technology over the past 10 years, the digital and offset printing worlds have finally collided. Huge offset presses by Heidelberg (one of the most renowned and prestigious offset manufacturers) are being replaced by high resolution, high quality Xerox digital printers by printing manufacturers all over the world. These prints produce remarkable results based on digitally-rendered files. The native digital file is sent directly to the digital printer, losing no image quality. Colors can cover the entire rainbow spectrum, and are as bold, vibrant and as comparable to color offset printing. The printing appears as a flat image.
Recommendations: This type of printing is most commonly used for smooth or lightly textured papers. It is the most economical way of printing (next to printing yourself on your own inkjet or laser printer) and a perfect solution for those wanting professional print quality at reasonable prices.
No ink is involved with this method. Metal plates that are etched with letters are stamped into paper so what is left behind is the imprint of the letter. You'll be able to see this printing type on the borders of many invitations, addresses, and monograms. Recommendations: Embossing is best when used to accent an invitation, such as with borders, monograms, motifs, and the return address on the envelope flap. Embossing is an added cost, but well worth the visual 3-Dimensional effect it creates. You will only want to order embossing if you have 3-4 weeks to wait for your invitations to be printed.
For a fancy handwritten appearance calligraphy is always a beautiful option. Special pens and special ink along with someone who is skilled in the art of calligraphy can perform this task usually done for addressing. For a matching invitation, a print style can be used or, a calligraphic original can be made into a plate for engraving or as a model for offset printing.
Recommendations: Calligraphy is an option for invitations for a small wedding, unless you have an endless budget. More commonly, people have their guests' addresses done in calligraphy on their inner and outer envelopes. The return address is usually printed on the envelope flap. If you are having a calligrapher address your envelopes, we recommend ordering your envelopes to be sent in advance, so when your invitations arrive your envelopes will already be addressed and ready to be stuffed.
This method can be used for addressing and printing invitations. Many typestyles are available today that look just like calligraphy writing, but may be printed so that your entire ensemble, including addressed envelopes, will match in a calligraphic typestyle.
Recommendations: If you are a stickler for perfection, looking for a uniform typestyle, or would like calligraphy without the high price, this is a splendid option. You can have your envelopes addressed in the same typestyle as your invitation wording; everything will match perfectly and it will cost less than having them hand done by a calligrapher.
Black ink is used for formal events. However, for a more casual and fun invitation, many ink colors can be used to match your event color scheme. Most printers will include an additional charge for invitations printed in an ink color other than black. Read our wedding invitation options and accessories article for more information.