Wedding stationery: the low-down on printing techniques

As much as stationery design is all about the pretty stuff (creating illustrations, selecting a colour palette, writing calligraphy, choosing a preferred typeface, etc.), there is a technical aspect at the end of the process in the printing method you are opting for. Flat print, digital foil, hot foil, letterpress, the options are vast and have an impact on both the style of your wedding invitations and your budget.

So today, I’m going to break some printer’s jargon down so you can make an informed decision and figure out what works best for you and your paper needs.

Flat/digital print

Flat printing, also called digital printing, is exactly what it sounds like: a print that is flat. The image is printed digitally using ink or toner and is level with the surface of the paper. Your paper goods will have no texture – other than that of the paper chosen- and will be flat to the touch. It might not sound like an exceptional method of printing but don’t be fooled into thinking you could do it at home. I don’t even venture into in-house digital printing! It takes a lot of skills to achieve the highest standard of impression for your invitations. Not only skills but an understanding of paper weight, ink colour variations as well as a performant commercial digital printer.


There are two main reasons you may choose flat print as your printing method: its versatility and its affordability. Now, the fact that it is gentle to your wallet does in no way mean that you’ll end up with a low-end product. The affordability of flat printing is entirely due to the fact that there are less processes involved than with other printing methods. As for its flexibility, it translates into an endless choice of colours whether muted or vibrant, a vast array of paper options and the possibility of intricate and complex designs.



Hot foil print

Also called hot foil stamping or traditional foil stamping, this printing technique adds all the shine and texture you need to your wedding stationery. Sounds fancy? Well, it is and so is the price tag. But let me tell you why this method is not as budget-friendly as others and what finish you can expect.

Hot foil printing is considered a fine print method and involves many processes. Two aspects that stand out are: a custom plate (or die) of your design is created and no ink is used but a ribbon of foil. A printing press is used to apply pressure on the heated die. As it comes in contact with the foil, the die presses into the paper and transfers the foil onto it, creating a slightly debossed texture and a luxurious finish.

Traditional foil stamping allows you to foil almost any design, even the finer details. Metallic foil, which comes in a variety of shades from gold, to copper, gold rose, etc., is probably the most popular. But you can opt for holographic, neon or even matt colours. I, for one, am very partial to tone-on-tone for the subtlest yet striking effect. You can also use hot foil combined to flat print to add another dimension to your stationery goods.

So yes, hot foil stamping is more expensive due to its labour-intensive process and the fact that the plates are custom created for you. But the results are breath-taking and you should definitely consider it if you have the budget for it. You could also opt for hot foil for just one piece of your stationery and not the whole suite in order to keep your costs down. I offer mix and match printing options so you can achieve the look you are after (see my Design & Pricing Guide).


Digital foil print

You really want some sparkles for you wedding invitations but do not have the budget for hot foil? Then I would suggest digital foil for a cheaper price point. Digital foil printing doesn’t require the use of a custom plate and is printed directly from a PDF file. With no set-up costs, it allows a lower price tag per invite, especially for small orders.

With this printing technique, ribbons of foil and heat are also used but there is no plate to press down onto the paper. Instead, the foil gently adheres to any part that was printed in solid black ink (the black being the colour that gets hot enough for the foil to stick to it). The result is a beautiful flat print product without texture, smooth to the touch, as it generally requires lamination, and with a mirror finish.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind with digital foil. First, although you can combine it with normal digital print, it won’t give you the best results as the foil can become slightly discoloured by the second layer of ink printing (I would advise against it really). Second, the range of colours is limited to metallic and holographic foils so isn’t as vast as for hot foil. But if you want shiny wedding invitations without spending too much, then digital foiling is your best option.


Letterpress

Now, just to be clear and avoid any disappointment after you’ve finished reading this bit, I am not offering letterpress printing at the moment. I say at the moment because I would definitely be open to it, should a couple book me and insist on letterpress printing - I’m a paper lover, remember?

Letterpress is the oldest printing technique. Just like foil stamping, it involves pressure applied to a custom plate into paper, but the two methods differ in that letterpress uses ink and not foil. The end product is stunning and sophisticated and while you run your fingers over the paper, you can feel the texture and deep indentation of the design. This high-end quality stationery (and the many manual processes involved in its making) comes at a cost, especially if your design has more than one colour. So make sure you budget for it if you’re heart is set on this printing technique.



I hope you now feel a bit more clued up about printing processes and that this will help you in imagining and bringing to life your wedding stationery. Remember that you do not have to commit to one type of printing method for your whole suite but can mix and match to make some pieces stand out. If you have any question, do get in touch. I’ll be happy to discuss more about your specifics and how we can create unique paper goods that tell your story.