FOR THE LOVE OF PAPER
Paper weight is measured in pounds. Text weight paper ranges from 20#-80# (think printer paper), and cover (or cardstock) starts at 60#. The higher the number, the heavier the paper. The heavier the paper, the thicker it is, and as you might guess - the thicker paper, the more luxurious it feels. A pretty standard baseline for wedding invitations is 110#. When you see 220#, it’s usually 2 sheets of 110# paper glued together (called duplexing) to create a much thicker/heavier paper.
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With the use of custom plates and ink, your design is pressed into paper. Soft, thick paper works best for this print method so you can really feel and see the impression of your design. You can only press one color at a time, so if your design has more than one color, you will need a custom plate for each layer of the design that needs to be printed in a different color. Pressing without ink (called a “blind impression”) also counts as a color too.
Letterpress ink is not opaque so printing a light color ink on dark paper will not yield the proper results. Metallic gold letterpress ink is also not truly metallic like foil stamping, but is more flat like an antique gold. Both of these options can still be very beautiful but it won’t give you the results as you could achieve with foil stamping.
Similar to letterpress printing, foil stamping uses custom plates created with your design and foil sheets (instead of ink). The foil is pressed into the paper with a lot of force and heat (also why it’s sometimes referred to as hot foil stamping), leaving a beautiful impression that you can also see and feel.
Foil stamping is the only way to achieve a truly metallic gold, but there are also a variety of different foil colors to choose from. There’s even matte foil! Also, because foil is opaque, you’d be able to stamp a light color foil on dark colored paper.
ENGRAVING / THERMOGRAPHY
Both methods create a raised result on paper, but in a different way.
Engraving uses custom plates and ink, which are pressed together with the paper in-between to create the raised look. White ink and fine lines are great for engraving.
Thermography uses heat and a special powder to create the raised effect, and is therefore a more budget friendly option.
DIGITAL / FLAT PRINTING
This versatile print method creates a print that is flat to the touch, which is also why this print method is the most budget friendly. There are no custom plates, mixing of ink, or manual feeding (of paper to the printer) involved. You can flat print on a variety of papers varying in texture and material. Also, the range and depth of colors you can print is much greater, making it perfect for printing designs with watercolor elements.
WHITE INK PRINTING
White ink printing is flat to the touch and is best on smooth, dark paper. However, the ink is not 100% opaque, but this is only obvious with heavy or large areas of printed white ink.
MIXING PRINT METHODS
Mixing print methods is do-able in most cases. For example, invitations can be foiled into paper that has been digitally printed with a watercolor floral design.
When using handmade paper or paper with deckled edges in general, I recommend sticking to one kind of print method because of the difficulty in consistently aligning the designs when printing due to the non-straight edges.