Wedding invitations to set the tone for the entire wedding, but because there are so many options, you can choose something that has good impact without being outrageously expensive. What you should know is that there is a good reason why some invitation processes are much more expensive than others are.
There are several methods for printing invitations. Each has bot6h pros and cons. It's up to you to choose the qualities of print that you prefer, within the budget that you have allotted.
Digital and Offset Printing use different methods and materials, but they create the same overall look. Offset printing is also known as lithography. They are both very cost effective methods. They both can print multiple colors, they both can produce fine detailing, and both can be printed on a variety of different types of paper. The process, traditionally, transferred an inked image from an inked plate to a rubber "blanket," which is passed over the paper. Most of today's printing is done as offset. The end product is a flat design and is particularly appropriate for an informal wedding invitation. Besides its cost, it also has the advantage of being able to print crisp, true colors. It's important to note that the quality of offset printing can vary amongst different printers. If you choose this type of printing for your invitation, make sure that you see samples of the printer's before you commit.
The process of Foil Printing or Stamping yields an end result that creates a sheen, ranging from a slight glow to a shiny surface. Foil stamped invitations our little more expensive than digital or offset printing. What you're buying with foil is an expensive look, that's still relatively cost effective. The procedure is to etch the design and/or text into a copper plate from a film negative. The foil, which isn't necessarily color, is a special Mylar backed material that is applied to the paper where the heated copper plate is stamped onto the foil. Subsequently, the foil sticks to the surface of the paper, leaving the imprint of the letter pressed into the paper. Foil printing, although less expensive, creates a look and texture that are very similar to letterpress. It has another quality that letterpress does not have, because the printer is able to use a wide range of type styles (i.e., fonts) and motifs. Because of the look and its price (comparable to engraving), it's primarily used for with paper that has a heavy texture and grooves and for very formal weddings.
Thermography is a process that layers ink on the paper, so that when you touch the paper, you can feel the raised ink. Heat is used to meld the ink and a resin-like powder. That fusion of the materials that results in the appearance of raised letters. If an invitation looks engraved but the paper behind the printing is smooth, you have thermographed printing Thermography limits the number of colors, because the paper has to be passed back through the machine for each color added individually. The process is more expensive than digital. It's a very popular, traditional choice, because it gives the look of engraving with at a lower price. This printing process is pretty much the most popular choice for invitations.
Perhaps, the most elegant printing method is Letterpress. With this process, raised letters and art plates are rolled with ink and then pressed into soft, thick paper. The process works best with handmade, textured paper. Letterpress dates to the 1400s, when moveable type was invented. For each color in a design, a different plate is used. The press must touch the paper just enough to create the right amount of depth for the indentation. Letterpress makes use of a movable type machine. The "downside" of letterpress printing is that there are various type styles that aren't available with this printing process, because the individual letters are preset and determined based on the machine itself. In that way, letterpress is much like a typewriter. Neither the artwork, nor the letters can't be excessively thin, because the process for making the plates doesn't suit itself to the use of very fine detail. Because it's really an art form, letterpress printing isn't readily available and tends to be pricey, especially when several colors of ink are used.
Engraving is an old process that goes back to the 17th century. It is the oldest form of printing. The process used is to catch a design and/or text into a copper plate, taken from a negative. The paper is placed on the press face down above the inked plate. Pressure is applied on the back of the paper and the plate meets the front of the sheet. This creates an indentation on the underside the paper and gives the classic appearance of engraving. Some printers will actually give you the actual copper plate they used, which you may keep as a souvenir. Black ink is usually the best color for this style. Engraving is somewhat more expensive than thermography, so it is usually reserved for high-end, ultra-formal weddings. The larger the quantity of invitations, the more cost effective the process becomes.
Letterpress is relief printing of text and images. A "type-high bed" printing press and movable type are used to create a reversed, raised surface onto which ink is rolled and then pressed into the paper. That creates an image and text that
are in the correct orientation. Letterpress printing was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century and was used until the second half of the 20th century. This form of printing has become popular again. The process is somewhat different, as it now more
commonly consists of relief printing surface that usually comes from digitally-rendered art and typography. The effect and end results are the same.