Printing Methods

Your invitation suite language and overall design will give your guests an idea of your wedding style and how formal or informal the event will be, and so will printing methods. Different printing methods will dictate the paper type and sometimes put constraints on colors, which is why I like to discuss this in my initial consultations before beginning the design process.  What you choose for your printing will also have an impact on your budget, so be sure to think about this when talking numbers for your big day. Outlined below in general order from most expensive to least expensive are various printing methods for you to consider!


APPEARANCE:  Lettering and graphics are raised on the front of the paper with indentations on the back.

PROCESS: The paper is pressed (with a LOT of pressure!) against an inked metal plate etched with a recessed image of your invitation design.

PAPER + INK TIPS: Engraving works best with thicker paper so the reverse indentation is pronounced. Engraving uses thick ink, so printing lighter color designs on darker backgrounds looks crisp and beautiful, which isn't the case with every printing method. Multiple ink colors will incur more cost since each color has to be pressed separately using its own individual plate. Two-sided pieces should not use this printing method.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: Engraving is the most formal printing methods, which is reflected in the hefty price tag. The turn-around time can be quite long, sometimes 4-5 weeks.

foil stamping

APPEARANCE:  A special kind of foil film transfers the invitation design onto the paper under heat and pressure, leaving a shiny appearance.

PROCESS: A heated copper plate is used to push the foil into the paper. This leaves an impression on the paper, similar to letterpress.

PAPER + INK TIPS: Foil stamping does not use ink, and is opaque on your printed pieces. Because of this, the foil does not change color based on the color of your paper. For this reason, metallic or light colored foil is great for using with dark paper. Foil film comes in a variety of finishes including metallic, glossy, matte, and pearlescent. 


APPEARANCE: Thermography produces the same raised look as engraving, but the letters are usually shinier.

PROCESS:. Ink and resin powder are fused together to create a raised look for your design without the indentation on the back that engraving creates.

PAPER + INK TIPS: There are more color constraints with this printing method. You'll need to have a design with a light colored background and dark text, and you cannot have large images or graphics that have a lot of filled in areas.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: You cannot print two-sided pieces with this printing method. You should avoid designs with very thin strokes, however, your calligrapher should check with the printer to make sure all line weights in your design are sufficient if you want to use this method. 


APPEARANCE: Lettering and graphics are pressed into the front of your pieces, forming an indentation,

PROCESS:. Letterpress began with hand-set wood and metal type, but now more commonly uses polymer plates for custom designs that are created from digital design files. A separate plate is created for each color, and each of these plates are hand-set and pressed into the paper using various letterpress machines (cylinder presses, tabletop presses, etc.).

PAPER + INK TIPS: Letterpress requires thick, soft papers like cotton fiber. Your design should have a dark colored design on a lighter background, since the letterpress ink is thin and if you use white ink on a dark background, the ink will come out looking dull and see through. Similar to engraving, multiple ink colors will incur more cost since each color has to be letterpressed separately using its own individual plate.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: This printing method is very popular right now, and can be used for formal events as well as more casual events while remaining appropriate.  


APPEARANCE: Letters and designs printed with offset printing method are flat. It is similar to digital printing, but higher quality and slightly more expensive as a result. 

PROCESS:. Ink is transferred from an etched plate to a rubber stamp-like instrument, then back to the paper.

PAPER + INK TIPS: There are many paper options for offset printing, and pricing is usually based on Black ink versus Full color, so you can have as many colors as you want in your design without incurring additional cost. 

YOU SHOULD KNOW: The turn-around time is longer than digital printing, since a custom plate is required. The higher the volume for printing, the lower the unit cost and since offset printing requires a more expensive set up time, this might not be the best method for smaller projects. 


screen printing

APPEARANCE: Screen printed paper is generally flat, with some texture from the ink used. On fabrics, the texture is even more pronounced.

PROCESS:. Screen printing involves creating a stencil of your design on a screen of porous mesh.  A roller or squeegee is used to pull ink over the stencil, forcing the ink through the mesh onto the paper below.  Screen printing ink sits on top of the surface of paper, which results in incredibly rich, vibrant color.

PAPER + INK TIPS: Screen printing can be used on any flat surface, so you can print your invitations with this method not only on paper, but also on fabric, leather, metal, or wood! You can print white ink on dark backgrounds, or use metallic screen printing inks for a less expensive alternative to foil stamping. Set up costs for screen burning can be expensive, so this might not be the best option for very small orders.

digital printing

APPEARANCE: Digital printing, just like offset printing, produces letters and designs that are flat. 

PROCESS:. Pieces are printed directly from a digital file. Digital printers transfer four colors of ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to paper simultaneously. This produces a full-color print with only one pass. That is why digital printing is the least expensive and fastest option. 

PAPER + INK TIPS: Similar to offset printing, pricing is based on Black ink versus Full color, so you can have as many colors as you want in your design. Paper used for this method must be able to go through a curved or straight path in the printer, which means you are limited in paper weight and thickness.

Remember that you aren't limited to one printing method! You can combine digital printing with letterpress or foil stamped accents. Or you can letterpress your items and then do hand watercolor afterwards. No matter what you are envisioning for your special day paper goods, it can be achieved using these basic methods and embellished if desired!

Like I mentioned above, if your calligrapher is providing printing services, make sure to discuss what method you're interested in up front so they can give you information on investment and possible design limitations. Please don't hesitate to ask me any questions you might have regarding printing methods, and I will be happy to help!