Let’s chat about printing methods and processes

One of the trickiest things, when thinking about your wedding invitations and stationery, can be which printing method to go with. There are so many lovely options, all with different pros and cons, it can be difficult to know what the best fit will be for you and your partner’s beautiful stationery.

As it might be the first time you’re working with printing methods it’s also 100% understandable if you’re not sure of what’s available, let alone what the technical details for each one are. While the printing methods available will differ from stationer to stationer, the following are the printing/ production methods we use most often:

Ultimately, the printing method you go with will depend on a few things such as your design style, budget and stationer - if you had your heart set on letterpress invites, for example, make sure they can do it. What printing method you would like to use could also be a factor in picking the perfect stationer to work with - we chat about this in a bit more detail here

Let’s look at each of the methods in a bit more depth to help you pick the perfect method or combination for your stationery!

1| Digital printing

Digital/ Flat printing is the most cost effective printing option and is great for all types of designs - it’s especially lovely when you’re looking at having several colours, photographs or watercolour elements in the set as a whole.

The Pros:

  • Cost effective and the cost is not dependant on how many colours you’d like printed. (you can print in colour or black/ grey only - printing in black/ grey only is the most cost effective option)
  • This method is especially beautiful for watercolour or photo-based designs.
  • Digital printing has a quicker production time. (we like to give our printers a least 1 to 1 and a half weeks for printing)
  • Printing double sided is easy and looks great.

The Cons:

  • We can sadly not print metallic colours or white ink with normal digital printing (sigh).

2| Letterpress

Over in the Swan Pond we are incredibly lucky to work with some of the best letterpress printers in South Africa!

This method of printing “pushes” the text/ design into the card giving a luxurious finish and your card that extra wow factor. Letterpress printing brings a beautiful added depth and texture to an invitation.

The Pros:

  • Letterpress gives any invitation a classic & sophisticated feeling.
  • Having your invitation in letterpress with the rest of your elements done with normal digital printing lets the invitation stand out and really make a statement.

The Cons:

  • The letterpress process requires more time than normal digital printing - we like to allow for at least 2 - 3 weeks for printing on these elements. This is good to remember when working out your wedding stationery timeline.
  • This process is more costly than digital printing methods and is best when using just one or two colours as each colour added increases the costs.
  • With letterpress printing we cannot include large solid areas or realistic/ photographic elements to the design.
  • We recommend letterpress cards being single sided as the indentation the block makes on the card can be seen on the reverse. 

If you’re thinking of having your invitations done in letterpress (swoon!) we often suggest pairing it with digital printing on the other elements such as map/ directions card or RSVP card. This way you can splurge a little on the invitation while keeping the other items a bit more cost effective.


3| Foil

Foil adds a luxurious touch to any invitation set and is a great way to incorporate metallics or white “ink” to your colour scheme.

Depending on your stationer’s printing suppliers your invitation could either be full foil or a combination of foil and letterpress/digital printing.

The Pros:

  • Touches of foil in your invitation set is the perfect way to bring in a metallic colour (gold, rose gold, silver) to your overall colour scheme.
  • With foil coming in a variety of colours (including white!) it’s a great way to get light text on darker papers - yay!
  • Foil on any element automatically gives it that extra special touch.

The Cons:

  • As with letterpress printing, the foiling process requires more time than normal digital printing - we like to allow for at least 2 - 3 weeks for printing on these elements. This could impact your overall wedding stationery timeline, download our free stationery handbook for tips on how to create and manage the perfect schedule. 
  • Foiling is more costly than digital printing methods.

4| Laser cutting

While not technically a printing method, laser cutting is also a great way to make your invitations stand out from the rest. This process allows you to have shapes and/or words cut out of your elements or to even create a custom shaped card or band.

Having laser cutting as part of your invitation set/ stationery item is a great way to add a unique element to the set as a whole.

The Pros:

  • There are many ways to bring laser cutting into your stationery; it can be paired with digital printing or be the only production method on the card. So, for example, your invitation can have your wording printed on it and then have lovely details cut from the card or, the wording itself can be laser cut (with no printing needed). The possibilities are endless!

The Cons:

  • Laser cutting is, by nature, a burning process so slight burn marks do appear on the cards. Personally, we still go through everything making sure there is no excessive burning (and our suppliers are amazing!) but these slight marks are unavoidable and part of what makes laser cutting unique. If you’re unsure of what a final laser cut card might look like you could always ask your stationer to send you photos or physical samples of work they’ve done in the past.
  • The production time of laser cut elements depends heavily on the level of detail on your cards. The more detailed, the longer the laser takes to cut the cards. We like to allow for at least 2 - 3 weeks for cutting on these elements
  • The cost of laser cutting also depends on the amount of detail of the design with more intricate designs increasing the overall costs.

Phew, that’s a lot of information to take in! We hope it’s helpful in showing you what each different printing method entails and which one (or combination) would be perfect for you. If you're looking for more inspiration and examples of the different processes, pop over to our Pinterest boards and get lost in the beauty! 

Let’s quickly summarise the most important things from these 4 different methods:

  • Digital Printing is the most cost effective and great for colourful designs.
  • Letterpress is a more luxurious method where the text/ design is pushed into the card.
  • Foil printing allows for touches of metallic on your wedding stationery.
  • Laser cutting lets you have shapes and/or words cut out of your elements.

We hope this helps and makes these all-important decisions a little easier to make! Happy planning!

The Swans