Invitations accompany all of life’s most important occasions, both business and personal, and are a necessity in today’s busy society. While standard bought invitations are sufficient for some events, printing custom invitations makes a significant difference and shows the time and effort put into the occasion. There are times, like weddings, anniversaries, and graduations, when invitations help to mark a turning point in someone’s life, and the invitations set the tone for this event. This guide will give you everything you need to know about the different types of invitation paper, printing processes and special effects, and help you create an invitation design that is personal and communicates the message you want to send. For an overview of the online printing process, take a look at our online printing service guide. Once you have a good grasp of how to create the invitation you want, see our list of recommended custom printing services to get started.
- Invitation Design
- Invitation Design – Tips
- Invitation Printing – Paper
- Invitation Printing – Methods
- Invitation Printing – Special Additions
- Invitation Ideas
Invitations are the first impression your guests will get of what kind of event you are having and what it will be like. Even something simple like birthday invitations can convey a lot about the event and expectations for the guests. Formal, fancy birthday invitations are very different from colorful, casual invitations, and they give the guests an idea of what would be appropriate to bring as a gift, what to wear, and what to plan for in terms of time. Invitations set the mood for the whole event.
Invitation design, though complicated because of all the options, is actually a pretty simple process. It just takes a little preparatory planning. You’ll need all the dates, contact information, addresses and phone numbers ready so you can give your invitation printing service the correct information, and you’ll need to know what kind of theme you will be using. If you are printing bridal shower invitations, will it be just for the girls, or will family and other people be coming along? The colors and designs you choose should reflect the expected atmosphere of the party. If you need baby shower invitations, do you know if the mother wants a blue or pink-themed party, or does she prefer gender neutral? Make sure you are aware of the guest of honor’s preferences. Once you are sure about the theme and ideal event atmosphere, and you have the guest list and information ready, it’s time to start looking at invitation design.
There are two types of invitations: flat and folded. Flat invitations are composed of a single sheet of paper, whereas folded invitations must be opened or unfolded to read the information. Both types of invitations can be very formal or very casual depending on your invitation design. If you are clear on the type of invitation design you want, you can often choose to look at only flat or only folded designs, but it’s a good idea to look at everything unless you feel strongly about one style or another.
There are several ways you can go about designing and printing invitations. All online invitation printing services will have a huge library of invitation templates that you can browse through until you find the perfect one. These are usually arranged by theme or event, motif (floral, animals, nature, etc), style (business invitations, children’s invitations), price range, or brand, depending on whether the printers feature outside products or only their own. Invitation design has become very specialized, so you can even find party invitations that match your unique event, whether it is a murder mystery dinner party, girls’ night out, beach party, or child’s ice cream social. This is a great way of finding something that is specifically for your occasion, within your budget, and that conveys the appropriate sentiment.
You can also create custom invitations by working with a designer, either an independent freelancer or someone at your printing service. They can work with your concept and information to design custom invitations that are specific to your event. This is a really nice way to create unique baby shower or wedding invitations, and the designer can incorporate a special photo, poem, image or any specialized requests right into the design. If you have a unique invitation theme or concept, a designer can make it a reality.
The invitation wording sets the mood for the whole event. The paper and invitation design say a lot, but nothing says more than the words you choose to announce the occasion and invite the guests. It conveys what type of event it will be, whether formal, fun, or casual, which also lets guests know what to wear and expect. Choose your invitation wording carefully and take some time to evaluate a few different wording examples. Run the wording past a couple people and try out a few different arrangements.
Keep It Simple
The primary purpose of an invitation is to request the presence of the recipients at an event. Therefore, the most important information is what the occasion is, who it is for, where it is, and what time it will be held. The style of the invitation design should convey the expected atmosphere of the event, so attire expectations don’t have to be included, but can, and how to get to the location should be included if it’s not a well known place. It’s not a letter, so don’t fill it with lots of text.
Make It Personal
Many custom invitations are for events that mark important milestones in someone’s life: a birth, wedding, birthday, graduation, anniversary, etc. Because they are so personal, invitations should reflect the host or guest of honor. Include something that makes the invitation unique, like the host’s senior quote on graduation invitations, a photo of the couple in their youth for anniversary invitations, or motifs and accents that reflect the interests of the person. Add the same personal touch to business invitations; attention to detail will go a long way for that annual party or corporate dinner.
Both flat and folded invitations can come with die-cutting (paper cut into specific or custom shapes with special tools called dies) that really make them stand out. Sometime invitations themselves are die-cut, cut into a non-standard shape, like a wedding bell for wedding announcements or a rattle or stork for baby shower invitations. Even if you just use rounded edges or a unique border around the invitation, die-cutting is a really great way to make an invitation personal as well as memorable.
Follow Proper Etiquette
Even though it may seem old fashioned, it’s necessary to follow proper invitation etiquette. Send out your invitations 3-4 weeks before the event, and if it’s near a holiday, aim for 4-6 weeks so you make sure your guests haven’t already committed to another event. And of course, make sure your grammar is correct, and that you use your guests’ proper names and titles on the envelopes. If you really don’t know how to address someone’s invitation, check an etiquette guide, and if all else fails, just ask them. They’ll most likely prefer being asked to being improperly addressed.
Invitation paper is classified by type and its weight in pounds or thickness in points. A strong, thick, heavy paper is used in printing invitations because it prevents the ink from bleeding through, looks much nicer, and will last for a long time.
Cover stock is the most common, and usually will be offered in 13, 14, or 15pt. Invitation printing companies will usually provide you with a few options. Even such heavy weight paper feels delicate and fine to the touch, and the heavier it is, the better and more elegant it actually feels.
Vellum (Bristol) stock is sheer, smooth, translucent paper that adds considerable elegance and refinement to invitations. It’s most commonly used in wedding invitations, engagement announcements, christening invitations, and other formal invitations. It comes in a wide variety of weights depending on how much you want to be able to see through it. If you have an image on card or cover stock as a background and will print your text on the vellum, you might want heavier paper, but if you are printing on the card or cover stock and are adding vellum for a romantic or polished effect, lighter weight vellum is recommended. It comes in weights of 16 pounds to 80 pounds, and is available in every color and pattern you could want, as well as with pearl finish and a range of other effects.
Paper comes in two types. Uncoated paper is just like normal paper, with no reflective quality. Coated paper is shiny and reflects light like the pages of a magazine, and it comes in glossy (shiny) and matte (subtle or dull shine). For small scale and private events, like showers, weddings, birthdays, and rehearsal dinners, uncoated paper is commonly used. If you are creating invitations for events like fundraisers, galas, or business parties, coated paper is often used.
Laid paper has a thinly ribbed appearance, originally resulting from the paper-making process. It is often used in invitations because it was the traditional standard in fine paper before more modern papers (like the following one) were developed.
Wove paper (not woven) has a uniform, smooth appearance like printer paper. Most common papers today are wove paper, but high-quality wove paper makes an excellent impression. It’s a great idea for save the date cards because it feels refined but still leaves you room to pick a more specialized paper for your final wedding invitation.
Linen paper is pressed to have a very fine linen-like texture. It is often used in high-quality stationary or letterhead as well as invites. It has a very nice, luxurious, even handmade feel to it, and it’s best used for elegant, formal invitations.
Parchment paper has a rough finish that looks more handmade and old, often used in earthy colors. It’s perfect for events that have a history. For instance, graduation invitations could reflect the long, distinguished tradition of educational institutions, or baptism invitations, which reflect the antiquity and reverence of religion. It’s also good for themed party invitations, like a child’s pirate-themed birthday party.
Pearlized paper has a slightly metallic sheen to it that can be truly beautiful. Wedding invitations and especially christening invitations often use pearlized cream or ivory paper to give it a polished, elegant, almost ethereal look. It comes in all colors and sometimes includes a pattern as well.
Because invitation printers will offer not only different weights, but also different textures, designer papers, and sheens, the best way to figure out what you really want is to request a sample package of all their different invitation papers, or narrow it down to a few options and ask your printer which they think would be best for your purposes.
Invitation printing can be completed using a variety of different methods, which are described below.
Embossing describes a printing method in which a raised or depressed image is created by using a heated press. It’s very common for borders, motifs, images or details to be embossed, and it is a very elegant way to print invitations. The embossed image doesn’t have to have ink on it, though it can. It’s common with graduation announcements for the school or university’s emblem to be embossed on the front. Embossing can be expensive, depending on how much of the invitation design will be embossed and how much will be printed using other methods, but it leaves a lasting impression on the recipient.
Engraving refers not to engraving the paper with the image, but to engraving the printing plate with the design and text of the invitation design. The finest invitations were traditionally hand engraved onto a printing plate. Today, many printers use computer engraved plates, but some invitation printing services still offer hand engraving. Once engraved, the plate is covered with ink and wiped clean so that the ink remains only in the engraved grooves. The paper is pressed so firmly against the plate that the paper rises into these grooves, absorbs the ink, and is left with a raised, inked text.
Letterpress printing works a bit like a stamp. Instead of a rubber stamp, it uses an inked printing plate with raised, reverse text and images. This inked plate is pressed onto your invitation paper with pressure, and leaves a slightly embossed impression. It is a more traditional method of invitation printing and looks very nice, especially on softer papers like cotton, where the embossed effect is very evident.
Thermal printing uses heat to print (hence the name), and is officially referred to as thermal transfer printing. Heat is used to quickly melt and immediately cool resin or wax onto the invitation paper, resulting in fine, often shiny, raised text. It can be done in almost any color or font.
Offset printing is another option for invitation printing. Offset printing presses use printing plates to transfer the design to the final paper, with the help of a rubber sheet or mat. (The plates never touch the final paper, hence the name offset). Offset is a high quality method that many invitation printers provide.
Digital printing is a simple, inexpensive way to print beautiful invitations. It works by spraying ink directly onto the paper and layering the ink to get the right final color. It’s easy, cost-effective, and a great way to print small orders of invitations or announcements.
Foiling is a process in which gold, silver, or colored foil is fused to the paper, producing an effect of gold or silver leaf (or colored, if you choose colored foil). It is usually used to accent images, like the university alma mater on graduation announcements or the border and bells on a wedding invitation. It is an exquisite effect, usually quite expensive, and looks beautiful.
Pocket Folders and Envelopments
Pocket folders and envelopments are special envelopes designed to display flat invitations in a beautiful and impressive manner, and they can also include special pockets to hold response cards and envelopes. If you need a pocket folder that holds a response card, one of the side flaps will have an extra pocket for this. You can fold them up, seal them, and send them out using the corresponding envelopes, so your invitations arrive in high-style and are displayed beautifully when opened up. You can even include confetti inside for a fun effect.
Wraps, Belly Bands, Envelope Liners
Many invitation printing companies will offer designer papers (fancy, usually patterned papers) that can be used to wrap the outside of the invitation, as a ring of paper called a “belly band” that goes around the middle of the invitation to hold it closed, or as envelope liners. This is a nice touch and can bring the total invitation design together, especially if you choose a designer paper that has many of the colors you’ve used throughout the design. If you use envelopments or pocket folders, the belly band can hold it all together nicely in place of an inner seal. The invitation itself, if it is a folding invitation, can be wrapped in the designer paper you choose. It’s a nice idea to use the same designer paper in all three areas to tie invitation envelopes and the invitation itself together in a really personal and unique way.
Rayon or Satin Ribbons
When you are using vellum paper over card stock, or are using envelopments, the best way to attach them is with either a rayon or satin ribbon. If you are using vellum, the transparent paper will show glue as well as the background paper, so it’s advisable to use a ribbon to improve the appearance. It’s not just for formal invitations either. For a child’s birthday party invitation, adding a real ribbon to an image of a present looks much more fun than a printed, two-dimensional bow. Satin ribbon is softer and heavier, as well as a bit more expensive, but rayon ribbon is just as shiny and also looks nice. Due to the small cost difference, it generally looks nicer to use satin ribbon in formal invitations.
Spot coating refers to a process in which individual words, images, or motifs are covered with a shiny coating to make them stand out. It brings attention to a meaningful image or graphic that you want to stand out from the rest of the invitation.
For formal events, consider having a professional calligrapher address your invites. This gives a very high-quality, handcrafted look to your invitations that stands out immediately from the standard scribbled or printed address.
The range of ideas for creative invitations is really only limited by your own imagination. If you can come up with it, it can almost certainly be done. The best invitation designs include something that makes them truly personal and unique. Baby shower invitations could include a copy of the ultrasound or a picture of the mom-to-be. Most photo programs include an effect where you can change the image from a photo to a “painting” or sketch, if you want something softer. Wedding and engagement invitations always look great with a picture of the couple or a line from a song they both love. Pick a background pattern for your birth announcements that matches the border or wallpaper of the nursery, or attach a tiny tassel to graduation announcements. These little touches make all the difference between plain, forgettable invitations and memorable keepsakes.
Birthday party invitations for children often include images of the things they love, like horses or trains, for example, but you can really make it come to life by adding texture to these images. Use yarn for the horse’s mane or add mini metal buttons to the trains. Why glue things together when you can use ribbon to tie them? You can also include confetti in the envelope with the invites, adding a fun effect for your guests. Three dimensions are always better than two, so use your imagination and make it unique!