The options are endless, this can be a little confusing for the unacquainted.
What makes Emma Jo a little different is that along side our design background we are print specialists with over 10 years experience in a number of techniques. From our print room we design, print and handcraft to a professional standard on a personal level.
We understand that not everyone is as familiar with the different printing processes available, confusing terminology and potential limitations. Therefore we have put together a little summary to outline the main processes Emma Jo uses daily – what it is, how it works and a few pros and cons you may need to consider for your stationery. We could waffle all day long about these techniques but here’s the short and sweet version that will hopefully aid your choices.
Our house paper was hand selected for it’s unrivalled quality. This paper is used as standard for our invites but we also boast a huge range of alternative paper choices including a rustic, kraft paper made from recycled fibers.
We only believe in using the best materials so there is no upgrade option, only weight, colour and texture options!
Our extra thick, luxury envelopes are specially made for us using the same paper as our invitations. The quality and weight make them perfect for envelope liners and address printing.
The envelopes come in soft white as standard but other colours are available for an additional fee.
Digital Printing or Flat Printing is the most commonly used printing method, with the majority of us using home or office printers each day. Our digitally printed stationery is printed in a similar way only with a slightly fancier and much larger, laser printer.
The Printing Process
Digitally printed invitations are printed directly from a digital file on a computer producing a full colour print with a single pass through the printer. This means that each invitation takes less time to print and is less expensive to produce than other printing methods.
Unlike letterpress, which leaves a relief impression, digital printing produces a flat image without any texture. The prints are clean and crisp and a laser printer handles the fine details of type and graphics well.
Digital printing is fast and since printing plates aren’t required, it’s a cost effective way to print low runs, a perfect choice for personalised pieces (guest name printing) and no limitations to the number of colours you can use in one piece.
Digital printing does have limits: papers must be able to withstand heat and to go through a curved or straight path in the printer, which means you are limited in paper weight and thickness.
Letterpress printing is a printing method with heritage; the process involves inking the surface of metal plates with raised images or type, and pressing them onto a soft impressionable paper creating crisp, tactile prints. What we treasure today as an artisan product, made by a handful of skilled craftsmen, was once known simply as printing.
The Printing Process
All our designs are created digitally and then separated into the different colours, for each colour a separate plate is made. We then print each plate one at a time, carefully aligning and building up the colours to complete the final design. Card is fed by hand onto the antique press as the machine prints, letterpress printing is not an exact science, inks are mixed by hand and every print is subtly unique.
While letterpress was never intended to be printed with a dramatic impression, it is often the most desired feature today. Certain papers and designs show off this impression better than others.
A plate represents each colour in the design. In theory, you can produce a lot of colours, but these plates are a big part of the letterpress expense and time. Every time we add/change colour, we need a new plate and the machine has to be configured to run that new colour.
The impression! Whether it be a physical impression you can run your fingers over or just the overall sense of luxury and quality, there is something extremely special about a letterpress print that is unrivalled by any other print method.
Letterpress printing excels at printing on heavy stock something you might be otherwise restricted by when digitally printing.
As the design is printed from a plate, once the press has been set up large runs become very economical to print.
Letterpress printing takes some time. Before printing can begin, designs are sent off to be made into plates and a print job can be several hours on the press from start to clean up. A two to three week turn around is common.
As the artwork is converted into a printing plate to be printed from, personalising each piece of stationery isn’t possible.
Letterpress printing is not ideal for solid fields of colour. Most large solid shapes result in the colour printing ‘salty’, a term used to describe the texture and colour of the paper showing through the ink, however depending on the job this can also add to the charm of the print!
Hot foil printing is a speciality printing process that uses heat, pressure, metal dies and foil film. Foil printing gives amazing solid, opaque coverage of true metallic colours, finishes and optical effects.
The Printing Process
Foil printing is very similar to letterpress, in that the colour is applied to paper with pressure with metal dies. As a result, the foil process can leave a slight impression on the paper.
Once the design is finalised, dies are created for each foil colour to be applied. The dies are heated and then stamped with enough pressure to seal a thin layer of foil to the paper.
Foil is an opaque medium. Unlike letterpress, foil stamping does not use any ink. As a result, the foil colour changes very little based on the colour of paper on which you are printing. This makes metallic or lighter colour foil great for darker or coloured papers.
Foil can be used for a variety of finishes, including metallic, matte, glossy, pearlescent and patterns, available in a huge array of colours.
Metallic foils have a shiny, lustrous finish, simply not achieved with any other print method.
The metal dies are a little more costly to produce compared with letterpress plates so this can add to the cost.
There are times where very fine intricate detail may be lost or small areas for example, within counters (holes within letters) tend to fill in with foil.
The paper you are printing on can affect the foil, smooth papers achieve a crisp print and foil printed on textured papers can take on that texture or reduce the quality of the print.
Laser Cutting is a precise method of cutting or engraving a design from a material using a laser and a computer to guide it. It involves firing a laser that cuts by melting or burning the material to achieve a really fine level of cutting detail with a wide variety of materials.
Extremely delicate and intricate designs can be cut with a high level of accuracy.
I huge array of materials can be laser cut and/or engraved including paper, card, wood, acrylic, fabrics and glass.
Laser cutting is ideal for single and small runs as the machine works directly from a digital file meaning set up is quick and inexpensive.
Depending on the material and settings a laser cut can leave a burnt, brown edge compared with a die cut edge, which may not be the desired effect for some jobs.
Die Cutting is a process used to cut a flat material into a specific shape using a metal cutting die. It can be used to punch out a decorative shape within a larger piece, or to create the overall shape of an object using the same presses that we use for letterpress printing.
A metal die is placed into the press just as we would a letterpress plate and again using pressure makes a cut the same way as if we are printing.
A die-cut can add a decorative element or a functional component to a design.
It is an accurate way to cut a shape numerous times, particularly shapes that would be difficult by hand.
Complicated shapes may not always be suitable.
Paper can affect the outcome, thinner paper tends to have less resistance and seem to cut more cleanly while thicker stock can yield mushy edges and soft, squidgy stock can struggle to achieve a crisp edge even more.
The cutting die is costly so it works best for large runs.
Duplexing is the art of bonding together two or more sheets of card to appear as one, increasing the overall weight of the card for a more luxurious feel. As the process involves gluing and clamping, duplexing is usually done before any printing begins. However we do specialise in duplexing pre printed pieces to exceed the card weight limitations of digital prints.
Foil Edging gives a wonderfully smooth, radiant and reflective surface to the edges of your stationery. We recommend thicker papers, usually 500gsm or more to really maximise the lustrous finish so you may need to consider combining this process with duplexing to increase the weight of the stock. Folded pieces and die-cut edges are not suitable for foil edging.
These are printing methods we use regularly but exclusively. If you would like to explore these or any others please get in touch to discuss further.