It can be difficult to understand why printing costs vary so much, especially when it comes to luxury printing. The papers, inks and foils are often unique and generally special order rather than off the shelf, as well as the specialist printing methods machinery and skilled craftspeople to operate them.
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. The ink sits on top of the card and leaves no indentation like the more luxury finishes of Foil and Letterpress. Digital printing is most suitable for people on a slightly smaller budget. There are limitations such as paper thickness, which is why with semi-custom wedding stationery you will find the digital design is offered on 300gsm card. 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 more texture, depth and a luxury feel. The first step of letterpress is to create a printing plate of your design, which is like a large stamp. This is then adhered to a Letterpress printing press then coated with ink and pressed into your card leaving an indentation impression. Due to the labour intensive nature of letterpress printing; hand mixing of ink, machine set up and alignment this method is more expensive.
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 being pressing into 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 into the paper with the foil sandwiched between the plate and paper. Again, due to the labour intensive nature of foil printing this method is more expensive than digital printing.
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, this method is generally used for monograms or small text areas.
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.