Letterpress printer pistachiopress walks us through the process of getting custom made invitations. Check out some of the other Handmade Wedding posts we’ve done on invites: Invitation Options with Moontreepress, Pushing the Envelope with Calligraphy, Invitations and Papergoods by Poppytalk.
As a printmaker, I have always loved the tactility of prints on good cotton papers. Naturally, this led me to letterpress printing and eventually to working with brides and grooms on custom wedding invitations. I know that the idea of working with a printer on custom invitations can be a bit overwhelming, but I hope this piece will clarify the process and make the experience a bit less daunting.
For custom letterpress wedding invitations, I think it’s best to start with a printer whose work you love, even if that work isn’t exclusively wedding stationery. There are a lot of great letterpress printers on Etsy who also make and design wedding invitations. Etsy’s Alchemy feature is another way to find a printer who will work with you on custom designs. My favorite part about Alchemy is the option to send a private request to a seller whose work you already love. (You can also contact a seller by sending her a “convo” message.) I suggest purchasing a sample of the printer’s work to get an idea about the quality of the papers and printing offered.
For most of the history of letterpress printing, the inked type just lightly kissed the page and didn’t create an impression. In contemporary letterpress printing, the tactility of a deep impression on cotton paper is often desired to set the piece apart from other forms of printing. Many printers now use photopolymer plates instead of lead type, which allow more options for typefaces and illustration elements (see more about how this works here). It’s a good idea to talk to the printer if you would like a very specific impression.
[Left: photopolymer plates, Right: detail of machine stitched invitation]
Letterpress printing is generally a bit more expensive than other forms of printing because the labor involved is often much greater. The paper must be fed through the press separately for every color printed, which will be a large factor in your pricing quote. To keep costs down, many couples opt to go with a two-color invitation and one-color response cards, thank you notes, and menus.
Depending on the complexity of the illustration you want and how many pieces are being designed, complete custom design work can range from $300-$800 in addition to the cost for printing, which can range from $500-$2000. This generally includes one design direction and about three rounds of revisions. For custom work, it’s especially helpful to have a clear idea of what you would like the finished product to look like because additional revisions can increase your overall price.
Having a solid idea about the kind of wedding you’re planning is key when you start looking for invitations. Are you going to have a large, traditional wedding or a smaller wedding at a park? Your invitations are the first indication your guests will have about the wedding and they help to set the tone. The more information you can give to your designer, the better! I love knowing where a client is getting married or what colors the bridesmaid dresses will be and incorporating these details into the invitations.
[Left: hand-drawn invitation, Right: detail of a response card]
Many letterpress printers have several options available for customizing handmade invitations without having a complete custom design created from scratch. For all of my pre-designed pieces, the couple always has the option of changing ink colors, paper stock, wording, and typefaces. I have a list of available typefaces that I provide to my clients and I often custom-mix the ink colors for the invitations to match a swatch of fabric from a tie or a dress. If the designer already has a card with a design you like, you may want to ask if that specific element can be incorporated into your wedding invitations. This may also cut down on the cost of custom design because the illustration and plate have already been created.
The timeframe for custom invitations is generally 4-6 weeks for design work and 4-6 weeks for the printing. The process may be shorter if you know exactly what you want, or longer if you make a lot of changes to the design. I would suggest building in a bit of a cushion in your timeline for addressing the invitations. Many printers will mail you the envelopes early so that you can start the process of addressing or give them to a calligrapher.
[Both images: custom design by Tara Hogan (tarahogan.etsy.com) and printed by Pistachio Press]
If you’re in love with the work of a designer who isn’t also a letterpress printer, you may want to ask the designer and the printer if they would be willing to work with you on the invitations. I have printed for a few clients who either designed their own invitations or worked with another designer and the process was a lot of fun.
Pistachio Press (www.pistachiopress.com)