Choosing Your Invitation Paper: Textures, Weights, Colors, and More!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on October 30, 2013, but it’s been updated with awesome new tips and helpful links!
You’ve spent weeks searching for the perfect invitation design. (Maybe months. Hopefully not years!) After figuring out the look, the fonts, the colors, and what you want your invites to say, you’re ready to order, right? You’ve forgot one super-important detail… the paper!
Whether you’re ordering printed invitations or doing them at home, the right paper can make or break a great invitation design, so don't overlook the importance of your surface when creating and printing your stationery. There are a lot of invitation paper options available with modern printing techniques, so you’ve got your work cut out for you.
So many invitation paper options, so little aspirin.
At least, that’s what I call it at CharmCat. You’ll see it called standard white or opaque sometimes, too. It’s pretty much how it sounds: a neutral white smooth surface. Nothing fancy, but a great economical choice.
White, cream, ivory. What’s the difference?
Pale whites get mixed up a lot, but there’s actually a real difference between them. White is neutral and bright, like the color of your printer paper. Cream has a slight yellowish tint to it; it’s very subtle and just adds a hint of warmth. Cream is what most people mean when they say Ivory. True Ivory is much yellower, more like the color of butter.
The roughness or smoothness of paper is referred to as “tooth.” The more tooth, the more rough the surface is. Handmade papers usually have a lot of tooth. Felt is a mid-level of tooth. It’s got some roughness to it but you only notice it up close. It’s the same texture that most drawing and mixed media papers have, making it the perfect choice for watercolor or artsy invitations.
Metallic paper goes by a few names, including pearl and shimmer, depending on who named it. There are some differences in metallic papers but they all have one thing in common: reflective flecks in the paper.
Pearl papers are ideal when you want to add some classy sparkle to your invites. They shimmer through the ink and catch the light. I love seeing pearl paper with my snowflake and champagne designs!
Yep, recycled paper costs a hair more than regular paper. Why’s that? It actually takes a lot of refinement and extra work to beat the paper pulp back into a smooth sheet.
Recycled paper will have a duller color than new paper with some flecks of color here and there.
Kraft paper is what most people think of as rustic or eco-friendly. While it’s certainly rustic with it’s light brown color and visible fibers, it’s not always eco-friendly. Most kraft papers (including mine) are not recycled, so be sure to check before you buy!
If you really want to be eco-friendly, cotton paper is a better choice anyway. There’s no tree in it at all, just cotton fibers. That makes the paper extra soft and a pleasure to touch. It has a very fine tooth (somewhere between the smooth and the felt). It’s pricey but oh-so-luxurious.
What’s in a weight?
One of the most common measures of paper is its basis weight, which is measured in lbs. The paper in your printer is somewhere between 20 and 28 lbs. Basic card stock is 65 lbs. But for invitations, pick a heavier weight for more impact, durability, and style. The best weight is at least 90 lbs. If you’re printing at home, your printer may not be able to print on heaver stock. (It’s a better bet if your printer prints feeds in the back and prints out the front, since the pages don’t get flipped or rolled.)
How do they get the weight of a sheet of paper? It’s how much a ream weighs (that’s 500 sheets of full-size paper). The weight of a paper is related to how thick it is, but exactly how thick depends on the type of paper.
To make things more complicated, there’s two kinds of weights: text and cover stock. Even if they’re the same weight, text paper is thinner than cover weight paper!
If your stationery needs include postcards, you'll need to choose the right stock to comply with postal regulations. The postal service measures their thicknesses in inches, 0.007 to be exact. (That’s called the caliper, FYI.) If you’re like me, that number is meaningless…. but you’re pretty safe if you stick with 100lb cover.
More crazy paper fun!
Double thick paper
One way to jazz up your invites is to go with double thick (or even triple thick!) cards. Double thick cards are just that… double the weight, double the awesome.
If you're going to go with plain white invitation paper, make sure it's a deliberate choice, and not one of convenience. Papers are available in every color you can think of (and some you can't). Of course, if you're printing at home, you can probably rule out the darker half of the spectrum (since you can't print white without special equipment). But that doesn't mean you can't defy expectations by printing on ivory, light blue, pink, silver, yellow, teal, or any other pale color.
Feel the difference
We’ve already been over smooth and felt tooth, but there’s a lot more out there if you’re looking for a specialty invitation paper.
Eggshell, deckle edge, linen, vellum, specialty textures abound. What's more, you can get paper that feels like plastic, looks like silk, or is textured like woodgrain. Don't confine yourself to smooth stock if you don't want to.