It can be difficult to understand why printing costs vary so much, especially when it comes to luxury printing. It’s important to remember that luxury printing techniques are not fully automated, you’re paying for the individual’s expertise and time. It’s not as simple has hitting the “print” button like you do at home.
The papers, inks and foils are often unique and generally special order rather than off the shelf. Understanding all of the techniques can be confusing, so below is a breakdown of printing methods explaining each and which could be the best fit for your project and budget.
Digital printing is the most affordable method of printing and the most popular worldwide. It is a 4-colour reproduction process meaning no plates or set up is needed. This keeps the cost down but also means you have less control over the finished product. It’s most suitable for short print runs for people on a slightly tighter budget. There is a limitation of paper thickness through a digital printer, which is why with most semi-custom wedding stationery you will find the digital design is offered on 350gsm paper which can feel a little flimsy. There are ways around this such as paper duplexing, (duplexing is essentially gluing 2 pieces of card together to create a thicker card) but this comes at a further cost!
Letterpress can give your stationery a bit more texture, depth and luxury feel. The first step is to create a printing plate for your design, which is like a large stamp. This is usually created using a special polymer, these plastic plates won’t last forever, but are perfect for smaller stationery runs. You can also use traditional metal or wooden letter blocks arranged into the words you want to press. Your plate is covered with ink and pressed into the paper creating a deboss effect.
Foiling is my preferred printing method. There are so many options when it comes to foil colours and papers to play with such as these Suede invitations above, allowing a design to have a completely different look and feel just by tweaking a few details. Foiling also involves printing plates and pressing onto paper, but foil plates need to be made of metal and thin foil sheets are used instead of ink. The foil plates are typically made of brass or magnesium. The plate is heated and pressed onto the paper with the foil sandwiched between the plate and paper, which transfers the foil to the paper.
This is the method of printing that most people confuse with ‘Debossing’, the best way to remember the correct term is ‘EMBOSS’ – think of the M like a mountain, is raised – which is how Embossing is created. The design is raised up from the paper. There are limitations to embossing, such as the line thickness and overall design itself.
I hope this post makes it easier to understand the various printing techniques available and why the costs can vary by so much! A good designer should always have an understanding of these techniques and help tailor a design to match the features you wish to create while respecting your budget.