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Wedding Invitations: A Glossary of Terms

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Choosing your invitations? Your stationer will lead you down many avenues, but don’t get lost in the shuffle. Instead, prep with this glossary beforehand. Knowing the terms is your ticket to total satisfaction.

Blind-embossing:
A printing process that employs a die (see below) to yield colorless letters and images with a raised “relief” surface.

Calligraphy:
The perfected art of handwriting/penmanship. Often associated with fancy, curlicue script, calligraphy is now comprised of several genres and styles.

Corrugated:
Term describing the appearance of paper with thick wrinkles, ridges, and grooves.
Cotton Fiber:
Type of paper made from 100 percent cotton. Arguably the most traditional and elegant option for wedding invitations.

Deckle Edge:
The irregular, feathered, “torn” edge of handmade paper.

Die:
An etched metal plate used to create engraved or embossed images and type. Die-cutting: The process of cutting various paper shapes, particularly with envelopes.
Embossing:
A printing technique that forms letters and images with a raised “relief” surface, imparting added dimension to the invitation design. Usually used for large initials or borders.

Engraving:
The most formal of printing methods, through which the letters appear slightly raised. A “bruise” typically forms on the back of the paper from the pressure. Engraving plate: An etched steel die used to create engraved type or images.

Flourishes:
The ornate calligraphic details that frequent ultra-formal invitations.

Font:
(see “Typeface”)
Glassine:
A very thin, waxy paper. Thinner than vellum (see below), its surface is slick and shiny, whereas vellum is more translucent. Glassine is best suited for envelope use, while vellum is sturdy enough to be printed on directly for invitation use.

Handmade Papers:
Made from natural organic materials including cotton, rag, hemp, and plant fibers, uneven or “rough” in texture.

Hands:
The various (calligraphic) script and lettering styles a talented calligrapher can create.
Industrial Papers:
Made from chipboard or newsprint, often from recycled fibers, industrial papers have a rugged, hip look about them. Corrugated cardboard and brown kraft paper (think brown grocery bags) are examples.

Initial Cap:
A term for the exaggerated, oversized first letter of a word you’ll sometimes see in lavish calligraphy or a decorative typeface.

Jacquard:
Screen-printed paper that creates an illusion of layering; for example, paper that looks like it’s overlaid with a swatch of lace.

Laid:
Paper that’s similar to Vellum (see below), with a rougher, bumpy finish.

Letterpress:
A beautiful printing alternative to engraving (but more expensive). The labor-intensive method dates back to the fifteenth century and involves inking an image to produce an impression: the impression is transferred by placing paper against the image and manually applying pressure. The images and typeface appear precise — individually “stamped into” the paper — and very rich in color. Letterpress is great if you’re using unusual paper, motifs, typeface, or want to play around with pigments. Comparatively, engraving and thermography restrict the possibilities.

Linen Finish:
A paper type with a surface that’s more grainy than pure cotton stocks. Another elegant, classic choice for wedding invitations.

Marbled Paper:
Decorative paper marked by swirling, abstract patterns that resemble the surface of marble.

Matte:
Paper with an opaque, non-reflective finish.

Mylar:
Foil-like paper, non-crinkling with a shiny, mirror-like finish. It’s best for envelopes, and not appropriate for the invitation (ink doesn’t take to it well).

Offset-printed:
The “flat” printing used on everyday fliers, letterhead, stickers, and more. It’s a nice choice if you want to save lots of cash, use highly textured paper, or several different colors of ink (with engraving and embossing, you’re usually limited to just one).

Parchment:
Cloudy, translucent paper that creates an airy, dreamy effect.

Point Size:
Unit of measure indicating the size of an individual letter or character.

Rice Paper:
A thin, soft paper, that is actually not made from rice. It’s non-traditional, but beautiful and elegant. It can only accept the letterpress printing mode; cream and ivory are the most common colors used in the design of rice paper wedding invitations.

Stock:
Refers to the paper component of a project. The term is used to describe the thickness and heaviness of paper. Hardy card stock is ideal for formal wedding invitations. They’ll often come accompanied by a square of tissue or parchment (delicate stocks) for elegant contrast.

Thermography:
Probably the most popular print method (it’s less expensive than engraving.) A heat-based process fuses ink and resinous powder to create raised lettering. It’s virtually indistinguishable from engraving work. The subtle differences: thermographed text is slightly shiny and the back of the invitation remains smooth (no impression).

Typeface:
The style/appearance of a letter or numeral. With the arrival of desktop publishing, the term is more or less synonymous with the word “font.”

Variegated:
A term you might hear used to describe the look of certain paper or ribbon, meaning that it bears discreet hints of different colors.

Vellum:
Paper made from a cotton blend, with a translucent, frosted appearance, and a smooth finish.

Watermark:
The translucent emblem or “beauty mark” buried in fine paper that becomes visible when the paper is held up to light. A watermark denotes superb quality, signifying the exclusivity of the paper company or boutique.

 

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