Printing Techniques, Part II

We've already covered the basics of digital printing and thermography. Now it's time to learn about the highest quality printing techniques, engraving and letterpress! Many of the wedding invitations we design and print are done using these techniques, because they produce such beautiful prints. So let's get started...

Engraving

Engraving uses a metal plate with a recessed image. Ink is applied to the plate, and it is pressed onto the paper with an enormous amount of pressure, leaving the printed areas raised. Here's a close-up of the finished product:

Close-up of engraved text. Photo Cred: Laura Graham. Invitation by Roxy Lou.

Close-up of engraved text. Photo Cred: Laura Graham. Invitation by Roxy Lou.

The Look: Crisp and clean printing with a raised surface. It is much more formal than digital/flat printing, and allows for finer detail than thermography. Engraving works well for designs with thin strokes or delicate designs.

The Feel: You can physically feel the raised lettering on the front. The back side will have a slight imprint from the printing process. The paper is usually a stiff, smooth card stock.

The Ink Choices: You pay per color, so it's best for designs with just one or two ink colors. Typically metallic inks don't cost any extra. Gold and silver are true to color and have an authentic metallic finish.

The Turnaround Time: Roughly 10-14 days from proof approval. Keep in mind that each piece is printed individually, which is why the turnaround time is longer than with digital printing.

The Customer: Engraving would be a great choice for a bride wanting very formal or traditional wedding invitations. It has been the most sought after printing method for generations.

The Budget: As one of the more extravagant and labor intensive forms of printing, engraving is also the most expensive.

Letterpress

Letterpress is essentially the opposite process from engraving. It uses a raised metal surface rolled with ink in order to make an imprinted design. Here's a beautiful example.

Photo Cred: Laura Graham

Photo Cred: Laura Graham

The Look: Letterpress invitations have a high quality finish and look professional and clean, with printed text and designs recessed into the paper.  It doesn't work well for designs with extremely fine detail or thin lines. You can play with both positive and negative space in your design, and you can also combine letterpress with digital/flat printing, like the photo below:

The image of the country club is printed digitally, with the text in letterpress. Photo Cred: Laura Graham.

The image of the country club is printed digitally, with the text in letterpress. Photo Cred: Laura Graham.

The Feel: Tactile, with a clean imprint. It leaves a debossing impression, the depth of which depends on the amount of pressure used and the printing surface. The paper is usually thick, but has a soft almost cotton-like feel.

The Ink Choices: It is priced per color. You can use standard colors, or even pick any Pantone color, but remember that each one adds to the price!

Foil Stamping: Similar to letterpress in the printing process, but instead of ink it uses a sheet of foil applied by heat. It's typically done for metallics like gold or silver, but can be used for matte colors as well. Foils are usually more expensive, but the metallics are true to color with an authentic shine. Here's what it looks like...

Gold foil stamping on black background. Photo Cred: Laura Graham.

Gold foil stamping on black background. Photo Cred: Laura Graham.

Blind Debossing: Uses the letterpress printing process, but without any ink. Essentially the metal plate creates a indented design with no color variation. Take a look at the gorgeous textured effect it has on these invitations!

Blind debossing on white paper. Photo Cred: Laura Graham.

Blind debossing on white paper. Photo Cred: Laura Graham.

The Turnaround Time: Typically 10-14 days from proof approval.

The Customer: For a bride who values tradition but likes a little creative flair, letterpress is a great choice! It is versatile and gives you endless options, especially considering what you can do with foil stamping, blind debossing, and flat printing.

The Budget: Letterpress is also quite labor intensive, so it's not cheap. But for the professional and finished look you're getting, it is worth it!