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What in the heck are all those different types of printing?


Photo courtesy of Stationery Works

In continuing our mini series of posts about ordering wedding invitations, we thought it might be helpful to address one of the topics that comes up most frequently, and that is: what in the heck are all of these different types of printing?


We know it can be confusing and overwhelming! And we’ll also preface this by saying that there truly is no better way to grasp the different printing types than to come into the studio and actually touch and see the examples in person. Each method has a distinctly different feel that is best understood under your fingertips! But, with that being said, we’ll do our best here to try and explain the differences between each.


Engraving. Back before there were computers and digital printing presses, the classic, “granddaddy” method of printing wedding invitations was engraving. In this process, the printer creates a metal plate called a “die,” which is engraved with your invitation text and design. The plate is then inked and pressed onto the paper, resulting in a beautiful, detailed, raised ink…you can feel it under your fingers and see the impression on the back of the paper. Engraving is done by specialized printers like Crane and tends to be the most expensive type of printing. One nice bonus is that you will also receive the engraved copper plate, which is a lovely and special memento of your wedding.


Thermography. If you love the more formal, raised lettering of engraving, but can’t quite wrap your head around the price, then the option of thermography may be just for you. With this printing method, a resin powder is added to ink, which is then heated and dried onto the paper to create raised lettering. In addition to being less expensive than engraving, it’s also a faster process. The ink may have a bit of a shinier appearance than with engraving and may lack some of the definition of engraving, but it’s a lovely and popular choice for today’s invitations.


Letterpress. In this process, the text and designs of your invitation are set in reverse into a polymer letterpress plate, which is then inked and pressed into the surface of the paper. This results in an opposite effect of the raised lettering of engraving or thermography; instead, the ink is imprinted into the paper, leaving a deep impression and a warm, handcrafted feel. Letterpress is one of the oldest printing methods and has experienced a resurgence in popularity over the past several years. It’s especially popular for creating “rustically elegant” invitations that are so popular with Vermont weddings.


One detail to note here is that with engraving, thermography, and letterpress printing, a separate press run must be done for each separate color of your invitation. This can quickly and significantly add to the cost of your invitation.


Embossing (also called Blind Embossing). This process uses a technique similar to engraving, where raised lettering is created by pressing text into a copper plate. However, unlike the other printing methods, there is no ink used in the process. The result is lettering and images that are the same color as the paper, but stand out on the page for a subtle, sophisticated effect. Embossing would usually be reserved for details like monograms or other design elements, as opposed to large amounts of text, as the lack of color could render smaller text difficult to read.


Foil Stamping. This is a printing process by which metallic colors are applied to the paper using heat and pressure, causing the foil to be permanently adhered to the paper. Foil stamping is an excellent way to bring an element of sparkle and shine onto your invitation. It can be used for accents or even for the entirety of your text. Traditionally, gold has been the most common choice for foil stamping, but many other colors including silver, rose gold, copper, red, green and black have also become popular.


Digital (Flat) Printing. Most people are familiar with the notion of digital printing as what you do on your home or office printer every week; however, this is taken to a new level with professional, high-tech printers. In this process, ink is sprayed onto the page rather than being imprinted, resulting in “flat” images and lettering that can’t be felt by running your hand over the page. While this results in a one-dimensional appearance, the benefit is that you have the unlimited opportunity to use as many rich colors and shades as you like, at no additional cost for extra print runs. Digital is a fast, affordable printing method and is well-loved by brides looking for beautiful, more modern invitations at a reasonable price.


There are several considerations that will help you in choosing your preferred printing method, but the two that will most likely be the deciding factors will be your personal preference in terms of the style and “feel” of your wedding and invitation, and your budget. It’s important to take a look at samples in person, as the same exact ink from the same company will look completely different when printed in each of the various methods. A reputable stationer will be able to show you samples of all of the options from their various companies.


Gorgeous designs are available in any type of printing, and it’s our job to help you narrow the selection and make the choice that’s right for you. We welcome the opportunity to do so and invite you to schedule an appointment to visit our studio and check out the myriad of options!