Many customers are not aware of the differences in printing types available for wedding invitations, and the fact that each type can influence the price as well as the look of the invitations. There are five basic printing types: flat print/offset printing/digital printing, silk screening, thermography, letterpress and engraving.
Flat print is what everyone is most familiar with, because it is most common for everyday printing. As with all print styles, you have advantages and disadvantages. Cost is a number one reason that customers choose flat print. Every choice you make regarding invitations can add cost. If you add ribbon, if you add a layer of another color paper, if you add glitter or rhinestones, each one adds cost. So flat print, mostly done with an ink jet or laser printer, can help with saving money. You can flat print with multicolored inks and create many detailed graphics without adding cost for multiple press runs or raised print. Flat print does not allow you to use dark colored paper, but it does allow you to create some very beautiful designs at a fraction of the cost of other print styles. With the age of digital printing, the cost and quality have increased significantly, and now many companies have thermography and flat print at the same pricing structure. Your design detail will determine if this print style will work for you.
Silk screening is very much like flat print, but is used for different reasons. Flat print cannot be done on dark colored cardstock for the same reason as thermographic inks, they are transparent and disappear into the paper. However, you can silk screen on dark paper and while it has the feel of flat print, it is a beautiful result, allowing you to put white ink on black paper, or gold or silver ink on eggplant paper. The process is done with a high pressure machine that actually shoots ink on the paper repeatedly and therefore laying the ink on the paper. It is a more cost effective way to use dark papers and not have to letterpress or engrave.
Thermography is the most cost effective form of printing, and the most popular. Thermography was done to mimic engraving and provides the customer with the feel of raised ink on the paper, and a very beautiful form of print. Besides the texture of the printing and the great pricing, the form of printing offers your customers a product that looks much more expensive than it is. Thermography also has a plate made with wording and design, but it is a disposable plate, not a keepsake like you get with letterpress and engraving. There is a powder that is placed on top of the paper, then a heating process is done to raise the ink and adhere it to the paper. The disadvantages of thermography are that you can’t use it on dark colored paper, and you cannot use designs that are to elaborate. In order to use more than one ink color in thermography, as with letterpress and engraving, you will have to do multiple press runs, which increases your cost. You also cannot lay designs on each other in the same manner as the other print types, you would have to flat print a background, and then you can process thermography on top of that in order to achieve that look.
Letterpress, like engraving, is done with a plate and made to encompass your words and artwork. The plate is used to press down into the cardstock from the top of the paper. The ink is pressed in leaving the indention on the top side of the paper. Letterpress and Engraving are both used for more elaborate designs that require multiple ink colors and text or designs that need to cross each other or touch each other. Letterpress is ideally done on high content cotton paper, some as thick as 220lb. Letterpress can also be done on a hand press, but is very costly and much more labor intensive.
Engraving is one of the older print types and can be understood in as the exact opposite of letterpress. While letterpress and engraving are very close in pricing, both are almost always double the cost of thermography or flat print, sometimes more. Engraving is where the ink and paper become one. An engraving plate is developed with your wording, motifs or art and then the engraving plate is pressed into the paper from the backside, pushing the print and ink upward developing a raised feeling on the front side, and leaving an impression on the backside.
Olivia Nicholas is a writer for Storkie.