One of the most common questions I am asked by bridal couples is to explain the different printing techniques that are possible and what affect that will have on their finished stationery – as well as on the price of their stationery suite! Many different printing techniques are available and can make a dramatic difference to your design. Techniques such as letterpress or raised print will give a lovely tactile finish to your invitations and will certainly add a touch of luxury. Metal foiling will also add shine and a touch of drama to any stationery suite! So which printing method should you choose and what is the difference in cost? We have outlined some of the common printing methods below to help unravel the mystery of stationery printing.
Digital printing is the most flexible and cost-effective of all the printing methods
Probably the most common choice of printing, digital printing is the most flexible and cost-effective of all the printing methods. This method uses a digital file to reproduce a full colour image. The card is not required to go through the printing press four times as it is when printed lithographically, but only once. This makes it an ideal method for short print runs or when cards need to be persoanlised with guest names as each card can be printed separately. This would not be cost-efficient with the other printing methods. This method is used for printing invitations with guest names, personalised place name cards, table plans and any other personalised cards. The disadvantage is that certain types of card cannot be used to pass through the printer eg very heavy board.
Lithoprint is used by commercial printers to print full colour brochures and many other print products. For this printing method a plate is made first and the card must be printed four times using different coloured inks – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – to produce a full colour print. This method is more suitable for larger print runs and does make it more expensive as the card must be passed through the printer 4 times. It also means that personalisation of individual cards is not cost effective. The quality can be better than digital if you are using large areas of colour on your invitations. This is a more expensive method of print than digital unless you require thousands of cards.
Lithoprint can be better quality that digital but is more expensive for short print runs
This is a traditional printing method that has grown hugely in popularity in recent years, particularly for wedding invitations and stationery. For this method a plate with the image standing proud of the surface is inked and then impressed onto the paper. This gives a card a slight debossing effect (indenting) where the ink is laid. Designing for letterpress today begins on a computer, and as such, new fonts, embellished ornaments, graphics, patterns, and complicated multi-colur designs can be produced with relative ease. The printing part is still by hand, one at a time. This method of printing is labour intensive and has high initial printer setup costs which means it is more suitable for larger print runs. It also means that personalisation of individual cards is not cost effective. The cost is usually much higher than digital printing.
Letterpress gives a lovely indented, tactile finish to your stationery
Engraving, also known as die-stamping or copperplate printing, dates back to the 15th century. This is the process by which text or an image is first etched by machine or hand onto a copper or steel die. This die is then used to stamp the sheet, pushing the surface of the paper or card up, creating a raised image. Intense pressure is applied simultaneously with the application of ink, creating a raised image or text in the chosen ink colour. The result is a very impressive but can be a very expensive printing method.
This historical printing process was the first method used to create a raised image, and now has largely been replaced by thermography which is a more cost effective method of producing the raised print effect.
This is also known as ‘raised print’ as is produces a raised surface to print. Powder is sprinkled onto the ink when still wet. Heat is then applied which fuses the ink and powder to create the relief effect. Tios is much more cost effective than engraving and to the untrained eye produces the same effect as engraving. Traditional designs such as our Classic and Park Avenue designs use this printing technique to add a depth of elegance and luxury to the card.
Thermography or ‘raised print’ lifts the text from the page and is a cheaper option to engraving
Hot foil printing is very similar to letterpress printing. Rather than ink, heat is used to transfer colour pigment (usually gold or silver foil) onto the paper or card. This is perfect for adding shiny foiled designs to your invitation and gives a really luxurious look to the card.
Hot foiling produces a very dramatic ‘foil’ look
Silver, gold or other metallic foil can be applied to the edge of card to make it more attractive. The thicker the card the better the effect. Bevelling (angled cut to edge of card) can also be used to show gilding to best effect. This technique is shown to great effect on our Gilded and Insignia designs.
Gilt edging produces a luxurious sheen to the edge of your cards – shown here with hot foil initials for even more luxury
An area, usually square or rectangular that is embossed into the card. The thicker the card the better the effect. A good example of this is with our Bond St designs which are all heavyweight boards.
Plate Sinking gives a raised border effect to heavy board
An impression stamped forcefully onto card creating a relief effect. No ink is used in this process. This produces a lovely tactile feel to the card and is a very subtle and understated way to add luxury to your card.