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Invitations: how to make them at home

It's easy to create beautiful invitations at home and save money

Invitations are the first link in creating the mood for the type of party you are planning. Playful and bright, casual and outdoorsy, or special and formal. The choice of invitations is as plentiful as the types of parties and events that people are planning every day.

You can, of course, spend money on professionally printed invitations. However, if you want to create something unique and personal, it's time to come up with a fresh design and go shopping for fun papers.

You do not have to be an artist to make great-looking invitations. If you're stumped for ideas, visit a stationery shop or craft store for ideas. Bring along a friend to brainstorm. Take advantage of any family members or friends who have layout and software knowledge - they will surely be glad to take your ideas and turn them into a finished product.

Come up with a concept before you shop for papers. Jot down ideas based on the theme of the party. Of course, if it's formal - such as a wedding or a shower - the paper choices should be limited to white or off-white. These events also require matching envelopes and all the other inclusions, such as reply cards, etc.

Paper pricing varies widely; that choice will certainly depend on your budget. You can find handmade papers, preprinted sheets, and even packages of papers and matching envelopes that are set up for the easiest invitation-making.

If you choose a heavy weight or hand-made paper, purchase a sheet or two first. You want to make sure your home printer can handle the paper. When working with regular-sized sheets of paper, you will need to lay out the design to fit a standard envelope. You can usually get two invitations per page if the sheet is printed sideways. You may also have to trim the paper to fit - the invitation size should be at least 3/8-inch smaller than the envelope.

One standard invitation envelope size will hold one half sheet of 8 ½ x 11 paper, folded over. The color range will probably be limited, however. Plan ahead and shop around on-line - there are plenty of stationery companies that will accept smaller orders and they offer a wide range of colors and textures.

You can also find papers that are pre-printed with subtle borders. These can be embellished with a splash of hand-coloring or an appropriate stamp.

To add a touch of class, include a vellum sheet over the top of the invitation. Punch holes at the top of the front half and attach the vellum with ribbon. Leave the vellum plain to showcase the art underneath.

You can also use photographs as long as they do not interfere with the printing. It should never be hard to read. Try scaling back the strength of the photo by setting it to a watermark. Experiment on plain paper first.

If you are using the black ink setting for wording, run the color portion through your printer first. Then remove the color art and set up the type block. Run the printer at black only for the copy - you will get a much crisper printing.

Handwritten invitations are really special, but only if they can be deciphered. Don't think about doing it yourself if your penmanship is lousy. You can find plenty of free fonts on the Internet if your software does not have one that you like. Look around and, again, experiment first before committing that new font to the real invitation paper. Fonts vary in size and some that are set at 12 point may look extra small, especially script-style fonts. Some of these may need to be as large as the 36-point setting to look like the 12-point size and be readable. Do not make the font size too large or too small. Never use more than three different types of fonts; two is preferable.

If you use clip art, use it sparingly. The invitation should not look busy. This is not the time to learn stamping, either. That takes quite a bit of skill and practice to make it look professional.

If you're in doubt as to sizes and weights, take one "practice" invitation to the post office and ask for it to be weighed. You don't want any surprises after the invitations are in the mail.

Simple, custom invitations may take a little extra effort and time on your part, but in the end, your guests will not only anticipate a great party, but they'll have a memento of your friendship.

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