If you decide to leave the invitation creation to the professionals, there are many different options to consider with just as many different price points. We’ve created a quick reference list to break down basic invitation- printing techniques.

Digital Printing – $

The simplest and cheapest form of custom invitations. It’s termed ‘digital’ as there is no physical plate being used to produce the image- rather, all images used are saved computer files.  This print is smooth to touch, fast, and inexpensive. The process is about choosing a design either online or in the store, customizing the text, fonts and layout as well as the card style and paper types and having them printed.

The biggest advantage with this is that the designs are only limited by your imagination as basically anything can be printed. In leading printing houses, the images will be printed using enormous presses, resulting in the same professional quality as flat printing. At budget printers or copier companies, however, will use toner instead of ink on a machine that essentially functions like a photocopier.

Engraving – $$$$$

This method of printing has the most traditional method of printing. Here, the design is cut into a copper plate, which is then coated with ink, and then wiped clean so that the ink remains only in the deeper grooves of the copper plate. Paper is then placed into the plate, with this stamping method simultaneously shaping the paper as well as coloring it from where the ink remains.

The result is raised lettering and images on the front, and subsequent indentations on the back. Generally speaking, any color card stock may be used. The only provision is that it is quite thick. The time and workmanship that go into creating this printing are considerable, and mean that this is one of the more expensive forms of printing.

Embossing – $$$$

Similar to engraving, embossing involves the paper being passed through two personalized metal sheets to achieve raised lettering and motifs. Color can be applied to the invitations, or it can remain ‘blind’, where no color is used at all. To acheive the most visually effective results, thick, smooth card stock should be used.

EmbossedCard

Flat Printing/ Lithography/ Offset Printing – $$

Despite the many and seemingly complicated names given to this process, this is one of the simpler printing methods used in modern printing. This works very similarly to your at-home printer; generally, the printer will use four colors, abbreviated to ‘CMYK’ (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to flat- print any and all colors of the rainbow by layering the four colors in a specific combination.

Flat_PrintCard

Additionally, you can use ‘spot colors’, where the specific desired color is mixed rather than achieved by layering other colors, which results in an extremely clean, crisp look. In both these processes, the image is transferred from an inked plate to a rubber blanket, over which the paper is pressed. This suits a wide variety of paper stocks. Varnishes and metallic finishes can additionally be utilized to add a bit of depth to the print.

Thermographic Printing – $$$$

This refers to two types of printing, both of which are called ‘thermographic’ printing as they both rely on heat for the finished print:

1. The paper has been coated with a material that changes color once it is heated up. No ‘stamping’ or ‘painting process that we associate with printing (think typewriters or even modern printers) is used- heat is simply applied in the shape of letters and images.

2. A post print process where heat is used to in raise the ink above the paper, giving it a sort of reverse-engraved effect.

ThermographicCard

Foil Stamping – $$$$$

Like an engraving, a unique design is cut into a copper plate. The paper is pressed intro the cut and pressure is applied (known as ’embossing’). Metal dyes are then applied to the copper plate, the paper is pressed into the cut again, and foil (as opposed to ink) is stamped into the paper using high amounts of pressure.

FoilStampCard

This results in a thick, lustrous finish. The best results are achieved with smooth paper, to ensure a shiny, even effect. The color paper used does not effect the look of the metallic foil, as the foil is an opaque piece of material, rather than any type of dye which is absorbed by the paper.

Laser Engraving – $$$$

As the name suggests, lasers are used to engrave on the surface of your about-to-be invitation. We suggest using a thicker medium than card stock, as a) the laser does penetrate fairly deeply (and would make laser engraved invitations made from paper liable to tear easily), and b) will appear clearer to read.

LaserEngraved

Laser Cutting – $$$$

Here, lasers are used to cut intricate designs into card stock. This results in stunning, polished, and fairly fragile invitations. Perfect for any outer layers of your wedding invitation, such as pages that fold out to reveal the text. This should not be used to cut out the actual text, however, as it can render the important details of the event unreadable (unless a solid piece of card stock is placed behind the cut piece)!

LaserEngraved

Applying laser cutting to sturdier materials such as wood or perspex can enable your guests to detach the image from the page and use it- such as cutting out a life size picture of an engagement ring! Brilliant for bringing a bit of whimsy and fun to your invitation.

Letterpress – $$$$

The oldest printing process that has recently come into vogue again.  This is done on a Gutenberg style press where your design is laid out in a mold then pressed against your choice of paper (usually quite thick) for a deep engraved look (though originally, letters making a physical impression on the paper was considered to be a mark of poor workmanship).

LetterPress

The letters can either be printed in color or ‘blind’, where no ink is used at all. This is a beautiful option but does require a lot of hands-on work and together with the initial set-up fee can become costly.

Screen printing/ Silkscreen – $$$

In this process, ink is pushed through a mesh screen and onto an ink blocking stencil, which is laid over your card stock. The ink appears  on the paper where the stencil is absent, creating whatever images you desire. For invitations using multiple colors, this process is repeated. This method isn’t often applied to intricate invitation, but usually used for large, bold pieces, such as promotional signs.

ScreenPrint

It results in a solid, opaque color with even coverage. The colored parts of the invitations may be a little raised, depending on the thickness of the ink and the porosity of the paper/ material used. You can use this method for just about any surface, so this is a great one to use if you don’t plan on using conventional invitations! Generally speaking, the more colors you use, the more labor intensive and materials used, so expect to pay extra.

So best thing to do from here is chat with a Professional Stationery Designer. Some will have shops where you can go in for a design consultation and others will be online based.

A bit of online research will go a long way and as usual we would love to hear what you have found and what you think will work best for your wedding.

Post your findings on our Facebook Page or email us to keep us in the loop!