7 Types of Printing: Which One’s Right for You and Your Invites?

Category: Personalizing Your Stationery | Published on: January 19, 2016

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on September 4, 2015, but it’s been updated with awesome new tips and helpful links!

When you're designing your wedding invitations, it's important to remember that the type of ink and printing style you use can be an effective part of the artistry of your invites. Here are the six most common types of printing you'll run into when browsing your stationery options.
7 Types of Printing for Wedding Invitations

Seven Types of Invitation Printing and How Much They Cost

1. Digital (also known as Flat)

Digital printing is currently the most common, most cost-effective, and simplest printing method available. It's pretty similar to the laser printer you have at work, except that most industrial digital printers would take up your entire desk. Digital printers use a combination of inks and toners to lay down smooth, rich color on a variety of papers.Watercolor invitation digitally printed on white stock.

A digital printer is fast, smooth, and economical, which is why digital printing is the most common way to produce invitations. Cards can cost as little as $1.00 per piece when ordering in bulk. Plus you can upgrade with a wide variety of special papers that come digital-ink friendly.

2. Letterpress


Letterpress printing calls back to the first printing presses: it uses metal plates to press the ink onto the paper. The process leaves an impression behind, giving anything printed with letterpress an awesome texture. Plus, letterpress printing requires thick, pliable paper which adds a tactile element to the invite. Cotton paper is the most primary choice among letterpress printers. It's is softer that wood pulp papers ("typical" paper) and as a result feels almost ...friendlier.

Each metal plate is designed for only one ink at a time, which means, the cards essentially have to be printed once for each color. Of course, because each card requires a new custom metal plate, and because each card has to be fed into the letterpress machine, cards printed this way can run upwards of $2 extra per color. Many couples and designers find the cost to be worth it for the character it adds, but usually limit the colors to one or two.

You can combine flat printing and letterpress to create something with more variety that still fits into your budget.

3. Foil

Foil is a great way to add some pizazz to any stationery. Usually available in a few different colors, foil adds class and brightens up the design. It catches the light in a way ink doesn't.

Close up of foil stamped invitation

Foil is usually applied the same way as letterpress, using a metal plate to press the foil into the paper with an adhesive agent, so the up-charge is usually about the same, running around $2 extra per piece.

Bonus: Combine printing types to save on cost. If you really want foil or letterpress, get one color done and do the rest in digital printing. This way you can have your foil and eat it, too.

4. Spot Color (Offset printing)

Spot color prints flat like digital printing, but the similarities end there. Digital printing has four primary colors: magenta, cyan, yellow, and black. This gives digital printing a pretty good color range, but there are some colors it just can't reproduce. Colors that are extremely vibrant, neon, or ultra-rich are way out of it's gamut. This is where spot color printing shines.

Back of the Invitation | A Vivid, Playful Watercolor Invitation | www.charmcat.net
This bright royal blue could only be created using spot color. It's not possible to digitally print!

Because spot color starts with 12 primary colors, it can create pretty much any color you can imagine. Don't go color crazy, though. Like letterpress, each color requires a new plate, and another run through the printer. Unless you're ordering quantities in the thousands, expect to add about $1.50 to your cost per piece.

5. Engraving

Before the days of digital presses, wedding invitations were printed using engraving. With this type of printing, your printer creates a metal plate which is then inked and pressed onto the paper. The ink is heavy and is slightly raised. You'll typically see tissue with this type of invitation to keep the ink from smearing.

Not many companies offer engraving any more, and the setup is very pricey. There's a steep discount for higher quantities, but you could be looking at as much as $20.00 an invitation if you're keeping your numbers small.

6. Thermography

Thermography is a modern mix between engraving and spot color. Thermography uses heat to essentially "melt" ink and glue onto the paper, similar to craft embossing. The finished product is shiny, like plastic. The colors are usually limited to the 12 primary spot colors, but if you want the raised texture with color, thermography is your best bet.

Thermography isn't as expensive as engraving, but again, you'll be paying for each color you want printed. Expect an extra $1.50 per piece per color.

7. Laser Cut

Close up of laser cut design in wood texture paper

If you really want to make an impression, you can get your invitations laser cut. This technique uses no ink, but instead cuts away paper to create the design and the words. Intricate laser cutting looks like lace and makes a big first impression!

For laser cutting, the price depends on how long each piece takes to cut. So the more intricate the design, the more it'll cost. It could be anywhere from one dollar extra to ten dollars extra.

This is the hardest of the types of printing to estimate the cost.

Print Time

Digital printing is the fastest method. As a customer, you can usually get an immediate quote and have your order printed on-demand.

The other methods are usually treated as custom. You'll need a draft of your design ready to send for a quote. Printing can take weeks, too, so if you want a premium printing method be sure to plan ahead!

Question: If you didn't have to worry about money, what would be your preferred print method?
— Ashleigh

See other posts about: budget, digital printing, emboss, engraving, flat printing, foil, foil stamping, letterpress, printing, priorities, spot color, thermography

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