Wedding invitation printing 101

As you delve into the world of selecting invitations for your wedding, you will undoubtably come across some terms or expressions that you are unfamiliar with. Among the countless decisions you will need to make regarding your stationery package, one of them is how you will choose to have them printed. There are many printing techniques that exist, however we have pinpointed three methods we have found to be the best options for printing wedding invitations: letterpress, thermography and digital. Along with the color and style, the printing technique you choose will contribute to the overall feeling you are creating for your event. To give you a better understanding, here is a simplified breakdown of the three printing methods:

Letterpress

The most classic of the three printing types, letterpress is beautiful, elegant and traditional. Using this method, type and art plates are rolled with matte ink and then impressed into the paper. When you run your hand over the surface of the paper, you will feel the design indented below the surface. This type of printing requires a heavier paper stock to withstand the pressure of the printing process and to allow for that indentation.

There are a few restrictions that go along with letterpress printing. The plates used to print are not suited for superfine type, lines and artwork, which can slightly limit your design options. Only one color is able to be printed at a time, which means that your costs will rise with the addition of each ink color. In my opinion, this isn’t really a drawback. The elegant simplicity that letterpress invitations evoke are a result of a clean design with a simple color palette, so sticking to 1-2 colors is probably your best bet anyway.

This printing process is not as readily available and requires a lot of skill which makes it the most expensive of the three printing options. It is recommended for brides with a large (or unlimited) budgets and intended for events that are super formal. Letterpress is most cost effective when printed in larger quantities. The larger your guest list, the better value you will be getting by choosing this method.

Detail of a letterpress invitation, where you are able to see that the design has been imprinted. Photo by Glenn Fleishman.

Thermography

This type of printing is another popular choice among brides who are looking for a formal and classic solution for their wedding invitations. In thermography printing, ink is combined with a resin-like powder and then heated, as it adheres to the paper. The end result is a raised ink design, where you are able to see a little bit of a shine and feel the texture on the surface of the page.

Like letterpress, each ink color needs to be applied separately, so sticking to 1-2 colors is recommended, both from a design and a cost standpoint. The thermography process requires less manual labor which makes it more affordable than letterpress— although you can expect to pay more than you would for digital printing. This is also recommended for larger guest lists as it will be even more expensive to print in smaller quantities. Thermography remains among one of the best choices for a formal event, without breaking the bank.

An example of a thermography invitation where you can see the shine of the raised ink.

Digital

Also known as “flat printing”, this option offers you the most versatility at the lowest price. In digital printing, the native files are sent right to the digital printer and ink is deposited flat onto the surface of the paper. Being the most technological and up-to-date, digital printing results are crisp, precise and will ensure no loss in quality.

Your design options are virtually limitless because there are no restrictions as to what can be printed. Not only are your color options unlimited, but digitally printed ink will be the most saturated and vibrant of all the printing methods— and can be printed on a variety of paper options. You can print your invitations in small to large amounts with less variance in cost.

The best part about digital printing, is that it allows flexibility in your budget to enhance your invitations by presenting them in pocket folders, matting them to a fine paper stock or adding embellishments— which can give the rich, luxurious feeling that letterpress and thermography offer, at a fraction of the cost. You can also use the money you are saving to complete your invitation suite by adding ceremony programs, place cards, menu cards, etc. which will carry your design and style throughout your entire wedding day.

Example of a digitally printed wedding invitation.

I hope that this will bring you some clarity as you make your decision as to which method will be best for your wedding invitations. Keep in mind that no matter which you choose, the design and style will be uniquely yours. Wedding stationery is your medium for showcasing your love story— the content is what is most important.

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