In addition to awesome guest posts over the next two weeks, I’ll be running a series of special posts on the various printing processes while I’m away. I’ve asked some designers and printers to share their expertise and lots of photos to fill you in on what you need to know about different printing methods, along with a few tips and advice if you’re considering a particular printing method for your wedding invitations or other personal stationery projects. Today we start the series off with a guest post about the most familiar printing method – digital printing – from Ellie at Mint and Hello Tenfold!
Hello, OSBP! I’m Ellie from Mint and Hello Tenfold. I’m excited to be guest blogging today to help clear up the sometimes confusing world of printing methods, starting with digital printing!
What is Digital Printing?
Although I design letterpress and screen printed invitations, I also do a lot of digitally printed invitations and “day-of” wedding stationery, like ceremony programs, menus, escort cards, and more. I’m sure you have a good idea of what digital printing is; most of us have home or office printers, and the digital printing I use on invitations is similar, but with a fancier and bigger printer.
Unlike offset or letterpress where printing plates are involved, digitally printed invitations are printed directly from a digital file on a computer. Digital printers transfer four colors of ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to paper simultaneously, producing a full-color print after only one pass through the printer – meaning that each invitation takes less time to print and is less expensive to produce than other printing methods. Unlike letterpress, which leaves a relief impression, and engraving, which produces raised text, digital printing produces a flat image without any texture.
Digital printing is the most commonly used printing method because it’s fast and inexpensive. Since printing plates aren’t required, it’s a cost effective way to print a low number of pieces (like 50 invitations, for example), and you aren’t limited to the number of colors you can use in one piece. That means it’s a great way to reproduce scanned imagery (think collages, hand drawn illustrations, or paintings).
The Printing Process
There are two common digital printer types: laser and inkjet. Laser printers use laser beams, electrical particles, heat, and a plastic particle called toner to create an image, whereas inkjet printers spray ink from cartridges directly onto the paper.
Typically, laser printers handle type and graphics better than inkjets, and inkjets are better for printing photographs. If you’re purchasing a home printer, inkjets are less expensive up front but the ink cartridges can make them more expensive in the long term.
Speaking of home printers, there is a big variety in the quality of printers, as you’ve no doubt noticed! The printer you have at home probably isn’t as good as the on-demand printing company down the street, and that printing company may not have as high quality machines as a larger, professional printing company.
Tips and Advice
Fortunately, getting proofs of digitally printed work is inexpensive or even free, so if you’re going the DIY route it pays to try different companies to find one that works. You’ll also want to make sure the company you work with can print on the exact paper you choose, and will pay attention to details like perfectly centered invitation borders if they’re doing the cutting and folding for you.
I often suggest digital printing to brides who don’t have the budget for something like letterpress, but still want modern, well-designed and/or completely custom invitations. However, digital printing does have limits: papers must be able to withstand heat and to go through a curved or straight path in the printer, which means you are limited in paper weight and thickness.
Also, the lighter paper weight can give a more casual feel than other printing methods, like engraving or letterpress. But saving money on the printing process can mean extra room in the budget for things like belly bands, envelope liners, and envelope printing (which are also great ways to up the formality of your invitation). And if you’re reproducing handmade images, it’s often the best (or only!) route to take.
Thanks Ellie! You can check out more of Ellie’s fabulous invitations and day-of wedding stationery over on Hello Tenfold!
Photo Credits: Nina’s invitation photo by naturally nina, all others by Ellie Snow for Hello Tenfold
*Hello Tenfold is a sponsor of Oh So Beautiful Paper; for more on my editorial policies please click here.
I am so excited for these posts! YAY. I’ve been designing stationery for a while but definitely get held up when it comes to deciding on printing or even explaining printing to clients!
Great write up!
love that third image! the blue yellow & coral colors are fun
I am so appreciative to see digital laser (and inkjet) printing written up with such respect, thankyou Ellie. Even though it is usually earmarked as the “inexpensive” option (and that’s when someone is being kind!), digital printing is a very worthwhile option for quite a few reasons, in addition to cost, and makes fantastic things possible in the actual design. I don’t think it deserves to be looked down upon, particularly in comparison to letterpress, etc. My mantra is, it’s not how expensive or inexpensive it is, it’s what you do with it that counts! Great post.
great post, ellie! there’s absolutely no shame in digital printing, and like you said in your post, it’s often times the best option for brides that might not have (or even want) a letterpress budget. we print a TON of digital work and it truly comes down to paper choice and quality. in the end, great design + great paper + quality and attention to detail from your print shop = fabulous invitations, no matter how they are printed.
Great article. Does anyone know any resources on how to find digital printers in your area? Specifically recommendations in LA or Orange County, CA? Thanks so much.
Thanks for suggesting digital printing. Now I know what to tell my bestfriend on how to save some money on her wedding invitations!Thanks for sharing!
Great post! Thanks so much. I am wondering if you can talk about paper choice some more. What papers would you recommend for this type of printing process? Or have you worked with certain papers you would recommend? I am most familiar with Epson inkjet papers (b/c I’m a photographer)which have specific printing profiles you use when printing. But I am wondering if you recommend something else, different brand, watercolor paper, etc? Thank you!
I think a post on digital offset – which is different than digital (laser, inkjet) would be great! Would be happy to write it too!
Great post, thank you 🙂
Great post — it’s exactly what I was looking for! I’m interested in learning how to do digital printing from home for my illustrations, to then make them into cards. What paper do you recommend would be best? Thanks xx
What programs are recommended to design invitations and/or graphics in order to print at home on a laser or inkjet printer?
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