Dear Donna: What are the different printing methods for Wedding Invitations?

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Dear Donna:

I want to pick the perfect invitation for my wedding but I don't know the difference between offset, thermography, letterpress or engraved. Can you please explain the differences in the methods using for printing wedding invitations? TIA!

Soon to be Mrs. B


Dear Soon to be Mrs. B.:

Oh this is a great question! There are a few different methods of printing your wedding invitation that we'd love to explain to you. In general,here are the parameters for the printing methods:

Inexpensive to Expensive

Flat vs. Raised vs. Indented

Smooth vs. Textured

Matte vs. Shiny

Let's go through each method one by one:

 

(Left): A great example of digital printing using a photograph.(Right):The invitation was printed using a flat offset printing. 

(Left): A great example of digital printing using a photograph.(Right):The invitation was printed using a flat offset printing. 

DIGITAL PRINTING:

Digital is a great method if you want something inexpensive, flat printing and/or want to use a photograph for your invitations. It's also a quick method so if you're a procrastinator, this is a good method to consider!

Summary on Digital Printing: Inexpensive | Flat | Matte} Quick

OFFSET PRINTING: 

Have you been dreaming of using a metallic ink for your wedding invitation? White ink on black paper? Or are you a stickler for the color to be a perfect Pantone Color? Then Offset is for you!

You can also do raised Offset printing, also known as thermography
It does take a little more time for this method because there is ink, rollers and drying time. It also is a little more expensive than digital printing. 

Summary on Offset Printing: Inexpensive + | Flat | Matte | Not so quick

Summary  on Thermography Printing: Relatively Inexpensive | Raised | Shiny | Not so quick

This is an example of Thermography. Note how "shiny" and "bubbly" the ink looks up close. 

This is an example of Thermography. Note how "shiny" and "bubbly" the ink looks up close. 

Here is an example of letterpress. You can see the letterpress indents on the pattern as well. The only difference is the pattern didn't use ink. That process is called embossing. 

Here is an example of letterpress. You can see the letterpress indents on the pattern as well. The only difference is the pattern didn't use ink. That process is called embossing. 

LETTERPRESS PRINTING

Letterpress is one of the oldest methods of printing and your type or image is depressed or indented into the paper. Using thick cotton (soft) paper yields a better indent or depression than a thin and crisp paper. 

"Back in the day" letterpress plates were made in metal. These days there are companies that create letterpress plates out of Polymer. That means they are less expensive to make or cast than metal. But, letterpress is a pricey option. First of all, it just takes time! Many parts of letterpress printing are done by hand and as a result, the labor involved is quite lengthy. But with the right paper and plates and letterpress artist, you can have some really beautiful invitations. You can also do white or metallic inks with Letterpress. 

Summary on Letterpress Printing: Expensive | Indented | Matte | Takes time!

This is a great example of engraved printing. Notice how sharp the gold ink is. It almost looks like embroidery

This is a great example of engraved printing. Notice how sharp the gold ink is. It almost looks like embroidery

Engraved Printing

This is the grand-daddy of all the printing methods. The text and images are raised above the surface of the paper and give you the most crisp resolution of all the methods. US Currency  is printed using this process. Plates are made for engraving out of metal and similar to letterpress, there is a lot of skill involved AND time in this method. Don't use this method if you want to do a photograph or if you want to use screens. They won't look right using this method. 

Summary on Engraved Printing: EXPENSIVE | Raised | Matte | takes a LOT of time

We hope this little tutorial helped de-mystify the diferent methods of printing for you! Have a great weekend!

: : engraved : : thermography : : letterpress : : offset/digital : :