There’s more than one way to print an invitation… and wading through the pros and cons, applications and costs of each can be a little overwhelming. So in the name of simplifying your life at least a little bit, here’s a quick and easy guide to some of the printing methods I use most frequently…
Digital - This is the quickest and least expensive of the printing methods. Setup fees are minimal so it is ideal for small quantities. It allows for printing of an unlimited number of colors, though they may not be an exactly-perfect match every time.
Offset - Offset printing produces a sharp, crisp result and can be used with even the thickest of papers. With offset, the number of colors makes a difference in the price, as each color gets its own plate in the printing process. The upside of this is that colors are custom-mixed and can be matched exactly. Are you looking to match the exact color of your bridesmaid dresses or your envelopes? Have you been dreaming of a specific shade of blue? This may be the print method for you.
Letterpress - An ages-old technique using turn-of-the century machines operated by hand produces beautiful results that you can see and feel. Letterpress printing involves making a metal or polymer plate out of a design, inking the plate and physically pressing it into a thick, cottony paper... Leaving an indent that you can feel on the page. Because a separate plate and press-run are needed for each color in the design, the number of colors is a big factor in the cost of letterpress invitations. And because they are so labor-intensive, they also tend to be more cost-intensive... But the artisan look and luxurious feel is well worth it!
Engraving - Engraving is a classic, time-honored printing process, especially for wedding invitations and formal stationery. It works in a similar fashion as letterpress in terms of making a plate for each color... But in engraving, the image is actually etched into the plate, which is then inked. So when each sheet is fed into a press to be engraved (under two tons of pressure), a crisp image stands out from the paper rather than being pressed in. Engraving captures incredibly small details in a way that other printing processes don’t, which makes it a great choice for elegant, fine detail work. It also looks fantastic with white ink on colored paper.
Thermography - In thermography, a special powder is added to the ink during printing. When heat is applied to the piece, the ink dries raised, giving it a 3-D look and feel. This creates the effect of engraving, but at a lower cost. The drawbacks to this method are that it doesn't create an indent on the back of the paper - so if that's what you're going for, engraving is the way to go. Also, the ink can at times appear slightly dimpled.
Foil stamping - This process is like letterpress or engraving, only it uses a metallic foil instead of ink to create a really unique, eye-catching pop of metal.
Embossing/ Debossing - Similar to foil stamping, engraving, and letterpress, embossing creates a raised impression into the paper, and debossing creates an indent into the paper.
Varnish / UV Spot - To make something really "pop" off a design, you can add a varnish to that element. This is a clear, glossy (or matte) coating that you can both see and feel.
Screen Printing / Silk Screening – Screen printing is another ages-old printing technique… this one involves creating a stencil of an image on a screen, and then pushing the ink through that stencil. It creates a very distinctive look that works well in specific instances. You may be limited when it comes to super-fine details and large color blocks, but one of the unique applications of screen printing is that you can print anything that is flat. Fabric? Definitely. Chipboard? Absolutely. Metal? Wood? Yes and yes. See where I’m going here? Some decidedly one-of-a-kind things can come out of screen-printing.
There you have it… I hope this helps shed some light on some of the most frequently used printing processes. Want to discuss printing options for your invitations or project? Contact me to get started!