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How to talk to a printer about invitations

Make sure your printer knows what you want when ordering invitations

Printers sometimes talk a different language. It will make their job and your life easier if you know what to give them and what to expect.

You may have decided to print 100 invitations or 1,000 - it doesn't matter. If you're dealing with a print shop for the first time, you should shop around for prices. They will vary widely, depending on how busy the printer is and how detailed the job. You want to work with someone who will give you alternatives to pricier styles and who can help with setting the type.

Quantities are critical. The lower the number of invitations, the costlier they will be. Order at least a 5% overage because you won't be able to go back for a handful of reprints. Ask about what papers the printer has in stock and ask for their recommendations as well. They may have some sheets left over from another job that they will offer at a discounted rate. If you are using a non-standard invitation size, then envelopes will have to be special-ordered and colors may be limited. You can, however, shop on your own for envelopes - several companies doing business on the Internet offer some fun colors.

If you are ordering paper and envelopes through the print shop, go ahead and purchase the envelopes. You'll be able to get those addressed while you're waiting on the printing. If you want the envelopes pre-printed - perhaps with a script font on the back flap - then, it may reduce costs to wait and run them with the invitations - especially if the ink color needs to match the rest of the printing.

Decide on invitation copy before you visit the shop. You don't want to waste their time while you try to decide. On the other hand, if you simply do not know how to word a particular type of invitation, look for a print shop with personnel on hand that can help. Shops should have stylebooks that can help.

Type out the invitation copy and save it as a Word document. Do not use any fancy fonts, just plain Arial or Times will do. You want the printer to be able to read it when they set it up for the presses - they will help you choose a font that is available in their format. You can use your own art on the invitation, but do not download clipart from the Internet and expect it to print clearly. The versions you see on-line look great on the monitor, but they are not high enough quality for printing. If you have taken a photo or drawn a piece of art, don't scan it yourself of manipulate its appearance unless you are an expert. Tell the printer what you would like and let their specialists handle the scanning.

You'll find differences in costs between what is called spot color and process color. Spot color means that up to four solid colors can be used: each color will add cost. Process color is used for photos and for graphics that have a rainbow of colors. If you're printing on a traditional press, this will also drive the cost up.

The printer can also walk you through some of the different styles and the costs of each.

Letterpress is the basic type in which large sheets of paper go through the press and then are cut to the right size.

Embossing adds an elegant touch to invitations and is one of the more expensive options. The look and feel of raised letters is impressive.

Thermography is the inexpensive version of embossing. Special ink is applied to the paper to give it a raised-letter look.

Foil stamping is just that; shiny lettering - in a range of colors - that is pressed onto the paper. You can also order foil embossing for an impressive appearance.

Engraving is for wedding invitations or the most elegant events and should be used on only the finest papers.

Last, be sure you see a sample of the type setup before the printing begins. You don't want any surprises or mistakes when you receive the invitations. Read each word out loud and have a second person go over the type setup and the original with you. Once you have approved the final setting, you will be asked to sign off on the approval form. You are agreeing that any further mistakes - barring print press mishaps and mis-folded invitations - are your errors and not the fault of the printer.

This is a simple overview of what to expect when you start shopping around for a printer for your invitations. If you choose a reputable printer, they will stand behind their work and you'll be pleased with the end result. Remember, even if you don't have another printing job in the future, they want you to recommend them to friends and acquaintances.

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