This is a pretty detailed post because it gets into the nitty gritty of paper and print — two things I geek out about. It’s also the last wedding vendor shout out I’m doing, and I saved the best for last. I’m seriously indebted to both Jim of Ackley Publishing and Megan from Field paper for their generosity of time spent on our wedding invites.
If it weren’t for Jim Daggs at Ackley Publishing, I would have been worried about designing our wedding invitations. Wedding invitation design can be stressful, and my anxiety was compounded with the expectation of having the perfect design since I’m a graphic designer.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to print using wood type and letterpress with Jim at Ackley Publishing company earlier in the year when I took some students on a field trip. He mentioned that we could come back and print with him if we had a project. I pitched the idea of printing wedding invitations, and he said to come back.
Jim’s offer was HUGE. Letterpress invitations are expensive (that link is just one example of cost). We love the look of letterpress but couldn’t afford it, BUT if we printed ourselves, we would only be out the cost of paper (and a tip that Jim refused to accept).
The experience of printing and not designing first took away the pressure to design the perfect invites — which was more important (to me) than the cost savings. Mark and I were going to Ackley together to print our invites, and we both wanted to choose the typography (that’s most of the fun). And Jim has drawers full of typefaces that are extinct (that is, they’re not digital and nobody uses them anymore). There was no way I was going to be locked into a design when I could open a drawer of type to discover an interesting specimen to use. So, instead of designing something, I created a couple of loose sketches (which I put together during the drive from Ames to Ackley) and our wording. Mark and I actually spent more time deciding on paper than we did on the actual design of the invitations because the design totally depended on the type that we chose.
When we got to Ackley, we went through drawers full of vintage wooden type. We ended up using large wooden typography to print our save the dates and our table numbers.
Once we decided on using the wooden type, Jim mixed us our own custom ink color with teal and white. Jim has a ton of ink, which meant we had a lot of options and could mix to make completely custom colors. We had a large and forgiving color palette, but we liked the idea of going monochrome by printing teal on teal paper. We also wanted to use a bronze color, which was the same as what I’d used on some of my Bowie posters earlier that year. A lot of what Jim has on hand is donated to him (or purchased at a low price) when print shops go out of business. In turn, he donates his time to teaching people the art of printing, like us, my students, and groups like Ladies of Letterpress.
We printed the large block date on our save the dates using the letterpress machine. Since four save the dates fit on one letter-sized piece of paper, we printed four dates at once, let them dry, and then cut them down to print the details on them. This process is called overprinting, if you were curious.
While the save the dates were drying, we chose the type for our invitations. Mark and I both really liked a couple of the typefaces I used for my Bowie print, specifically the one on the bottom (— David Bowie) and the one right above it. I forget what the bottom face is called, but the one above it is called Artcraft.
Jim helped us figure out what size of type we would need based on the wording we gave him. We picked out metal molds for the type, and then used a machine to pour molten lead into the molds to create our invitation and envelopes. This was the part Mark was most excited about.
The ampersand (&) is Caslon bold italic, in case you’re curious.
Jim decided it would be faster if we used the Intertype machine to create our small type. He also wanted us to have the experience of using the Intertype machine since they are long extinct and really interesting. An Intertype machine works somewhat like a typewriter, except when you type, a metal mold is dropped into a line which creates your wording. Once you’ve typed all the wording, you hit a button and it creates your type, which kind of looks like a stamp.
Here is what our finished typesetting looked like for the invitation. This included the type made in the metal molds and type made in the intertype machine. We would be inking this up and pressing it onto paper, kind of like with a rubber stamp.
Next, we used one of those huge, scary cutting machines to cut all the paper we had brought to print. Don’t worry — we kept all our fingers. The machine made you use both hands to start it, so there’s no way you could stick your hand in there accidentally. Once we had the paper cut, we started printing the envelopes and the invitations. We used what Jim called the proof printer to do this. Mark ran the wheel (which could be mechanized, but we slowed it down because we weren’t used to running the machine). I put the paper in.
Then we finally got to printing the rest of the information on the save the date, once the teal print was dry. We used gold for our invitation print, but it was too light on the dark teal background. So we ended up using black for the final save the dates. We allowed the black to mix with the gold so that it had a bit of shimmer to it. The first several save the dates showed this, but after a while the gold wore out.
This whole printing process took about 10 hours of time, which was hastened by the dry time for overprinting the save the dates. We ended up printing our envelopes and creating and printing a reception card while we were waiting for things to dry. I hadn’t anticipated printing all of those things, but I’m glad we were able to do so.
Here’s how our invitations turned out. I ended up printing the rest of the pieces using my black and white laser at home.
Going to the #usps tomorrow to find out what the postage damage is going to be. Want to do the liner and belly band because it’s so sexy. Who am I kidding? Those aren’t why it’s going to be overweight. It’s the 220# cover stock we used for the invites themselves. #handmade #bloatedmail #sexypaper #letterpress #invites #mail #graphicdesign #weddinginvites #frenchpaper #neenahpaper #herebedragons #justacec #malarckee2016
I’m a paper nerd. I love cool paper. And when I need an update on cool paper, I always turn to Megan Rold at Field Paper. She and I go way back to when I used to work at Drake. I emailed her when I found out that I’d be letterpressing our own invitations (side note: Jim has a TON of paper stock at his shop, so it wasn’t necessary for us to bring our own, but we wanted something specific).
Megan showed me Neenah Foundry’s WILD line, which is meant for letterpress, and comes in super heavy weights (for reference, card stock is usually 80#-100# and our invites were 210# and we even printed some on 314#). I fell in love and decided we had to use that paper.
Megan knew I’d flip for French Paper, so she reminded me of all the colorways they have and that they now do sample packs if I’m not too particular. She showed me their newest line, which had sort of a vintage feel to it. Ultimately we wanted something brighter. French also sells paper in smaller packs, so we did a lot of mixing and matching. We sent out a lot of different colored envelopes and cards. I mentioned that we spent more time choosing paper than we did designing the invites. This is true! I spent probably 12 hours making mockups of what our invitations might look like (without the design — just the paper), and Mark and I spent probably that same amount of time touching paper and doing the math to figure out how much of each sheet we needed.
We ended up spending probably $300 on paper (keep in mind the paper we chose was top-of-the-line). I saved some of the cost by figuring out that we could order sample paper from Neenah for a lot of what we needed. They allow you to order 5 sets of 5 sheets each of sample paper in various sizes. This was how we ended up having envelope liners and belly bands — for free (just the cost of shipping, which was $7). I ordered samples of as much invitation paper as I could and I think we ended up only buying 5 sheets of full-price paper from Neenah. French Paper, on the other hand, doesn’t have a great way to get samples unless you want a sample of one entire line and in letter size. I ended up getting sample packs to use for my thesis work and to print some last-minute stuff for the wedding, like these rehearsal dinner invites (which I printed on my black and white laser and used Prismacolors to handwrite our names).
How to use a black and white printer properly: hand write the color. I printed these #invites on @frenchpaperco #modtone ecru and used my #prismacolors to #handletter our names in our color palette. #wedding #malarckee2016 #justacec #holyshitimgettingmarriedin45days #minneapolisbride #stpaulbride #twincities #stillwaterwedding #smpinvites #design #graphicdesign #whenadesignergetsmarried
Here are some more of our finished printed pieces.
Anyway, that was a super nerdy design post. Hope you enjoyed the nitty gritty of printing our invitations. Thanks again to both Jim and Megan!