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Sweet Beginnings: Invitation Printing

Sweet Beginnings

A pretty envelope arrives and you can tell immediately that it is special. Not spam mail or the latest cable TV advertisement. This is a unique and undoubtedly beautiful package. Upon opening the envelope, you are greeted with a bright and festive, yet romantic envelope liner and then, the invitation to the most joyous of occasions- a wedding!!

Your invitations are the first impression of your wedding that your guest receive. They set the tone for the experience they will have. For the story you will tell them. I am a paper and design lover myself, so I am elated to have Danielle from Iron Leaf Press guest posting for us today. There are so many beautiful options when it comes to invitation design and techniques. Danielle will help explain some of them and answer some of the most common printing and stationery questions.

Before we get started, there are two things that you must know about Danielle. She is the kindest person you will ever meet and she is so incredibly passionate about printing. Like, crazy awesome, talks about it all the time (in THE best way) and can answer super fun trivia for you, way.


What are the different printing and design methods available? Pros/cons of each? 

Digital printing has become a very popular method of printing the in past few years. Digital printing works in a very similar manner to most household printers, utilizing CMYK ink cartridges to create a spectrum of colors. You can do full color printing (photos, many colors, etc.).
Digital printing also allows for variable printing, meaning that you can print different things across the same printed piece. The best example of variable printing in the wedding world would be printing guest names and addresses on envelopes. Data is taken from a spreadsheet and is used to print each specific name/address on each envelope.

Offset printing has been a big part of the printing industry for the past 50 years (if not longer). Offset differs from digital in that each ink color on the printed piece comes from a ink can of that specific color. If you wanted to print navy blue on your invites, the printer would use navy blue ink to create that piece. Offset printing is not used terribly often for wedding invitations, as it is more economical to do smaller runs with digital printing. Offset printing is more often used with very large quantities or those instances where you need a specific color that is not achievable with digital printing (i.e. metallics, neons, etc.).

Letterpress is a type of printing that has been around since the 1500’s. Printed pieces are created with a relief printing method, meaning that the layout that is being printed is a raised surface. Ink rolls over the raised surface and is then imprinted into the paper. Up until the advent of lithography and offset printing, letterpress was a standard in the printing industry.
In the past, most letterpress printed work would be created with wood or metal type. While wood and metal type are still used in some applications today, new technology has allowed printers to take their designs from the computer to the letterpress process. Metal or polymer (a hard plastic) plates can be created from digital files. Much of the work we do in the studio is done in this manner. Much like offset and screenprinting, letterpress printing uses one ink color at a time. A two color wedding invitation will go through our press twice to achieve both colors. We can also do speciality ink colors, including metallic, neon, and white inks. (Danielle will be back with a future post on Letterpress, as it is very common and popular for invitations)

Foil stamping is a very popular printing method for wedding invitations. The process is very similar to letterpress printing, but instead of inks, foils are used. Plates are created in the same manner as letterpress printing and then are put in a foiling press. These type of presses use heat and pressure to make the foil release on to the paper.
Typically foil stamping is used when you want to have a shiny surface or very solid coverage. Most often we use metallic foils in our wedding invites, but there are also solid colored foils, as well as holographic foils. Unlike ink, foils are opaque, so they are great to use on dark papers. Metallic golds are the most popular color we use in the studio. For those wanting a solid white design on a dark paper, we always recommend white foil, as white ink is not as opaque as white foil.

Embossing is a similar printing process to letterpress and foil stamping. While letterpress and foil stamping both leave a “debossed” look, embossing actually creates a raised, embossed area. Embossing plates have a “male” and “female” die. The paper is sandwiched between the two dies and when closed together with pressure, the paper molds itself into the die, leaving a raised design in the paper.

Engraving is another specialty printing process. Much like letterpress and foil stamping, the engraving process involves getting plates made from your design.  Instead of the design being raised, it is recessed into the plate. Ink covers the plate and collects in the recessed areas. The plate is blotted to remove excess ink and is then impressed into the paper. The ink that had collected in the recessed areas of the plates is then transferred onto the paper. The ink sits on top of the paper, leaving a raised surface. The printed piece is then heat treated to set the ink.
Engraving is typically used for more formal or special pieces as the costs and process lend itself to those types of occasions. Engraving is a fabulous method for fine details and typefaces. The detail that engraving can produce is unparalleled with other printing methods. Designs using white ink are also great for engraving. The ink sits on top of the paper, making the white ink opaque on darker colors.

Thermography is often used as a more economical method to get a similar look to engraving. Designs are printed and while the ink is still wet, a special powder is applied to the ink. The excess powder is shaken off and the printed area is treated with heat. The powder melts under the heat and produces a raised surface. While it will not hold detail as well as engraving, the effect is similar.

Well, lovelies, you sure have a lot to ponder, right? Next week, we will hear a little bit more from Danielle on the stationery timeline and things to think about when deciding if you’d like custom designed paper for your wedding. Until then, comment below what you think is your best print fit!

xoxo, Jenn

  1. Danielle says:

    Oh Jenn, you are too sweet. So fun to share a bit about all things wedding and paper!

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