About Paper

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Don't Panic Design - How to choose the right paper for your invitation - what paper should I print on
The question I get asked the most is: What paper do you recommend? The short answer is card stock.  After that there is really is no wrong answer.  But there are few factors to consider:
1. The look you want.
2. How you are printing (the next post will be all about printing methods).
3. How you are going to present your invitations.

About Paper
•Even if you are printing at home, check with your local printer for paper.  They will have single sheets of paper you can see and touch to judge the weight and finish, and they sell it be sheet and the ream, so you can purchase samples and do some test prints.• If you still want to purchase paper on your own, but want a shop to print onto it, consult with the printer first about what sizes they can print onto and other restrictions they may have about what papers they can and cannot use.

• Any design in color is going to look great on a smooth, matte, white card stock, especially if there are large areas of color being printed.• A light-colored card stock can complement some color schemes, like an ivory or gray, and the color will still stand out well.• If you are printing online, choose the mid or heavy weight matte option, and you can't go wrong.• Avoid glossy paper. Gloss is usually too much, unless you are using a photo and specifically want a high shine effect for some reason.  Think of a framed photo; the way the way the light glares off the glass will be similar to a high gloss finish.  High-gloss papers are best left for marketing materials.• If you do want glossy paper, I don't advise printing at a local shop. High glass often show roller lines or other machine issues that you just won't see with a smooth, matte paper, especially for larger runs. Use a press printing shop, or order online.Here's some tips to make it go more smoothly.• Match your printer PAGE SETUP with the physical paper size.1. Make sure your file size matches the paper size, and that all the writing is inside any border or other decoration on the sheet.If you have someone set up the inside design for your (I've done this for customers several times) send them a picture of the page you want to print onto, and measurements of the border lines.2. Set up the PAGE SETUP.-  Go under FILE and choose the PAGE SETUP option.-  Click on PAPER SIZE and look a CUSTOM option.  Input the dimensions of your invitation card with a portrait orientation, (ie. the short end feeds into the printer). If your file is landscape, you can rotate it: in Adobe Acrobat, go to DOCUMENT, and then ROTATE PAGES.  Rotate the page 90 degrees, either clockwise or counter clockwise, it doesn't matter.-  Then go to PRINT. The print preview should show the 5" x 7" page, with a portrait orientation.-  Next, make sure there is NO SCALING selected in the SCALING option box.  It usually defaults to FIT TO PRINTABLE AREA.  Having this selected can result in an off center print.-  Next, cut a sample piece of paper to size and write FACE UP, HEAD IN and insert it face up, top in to the machine.  Run a test print to see what size and direction it prints.  Orient your paper so that the print will print correctly, run a test print, and then go to.• PRINTHave Fun!

• If you don't feel confident about choosing by the label, try a print shop.  Most print shops will sell paper by the sheet or the ream (a ream card stock has 250 sheets). You can get recommendations on color, finish, and weight, they can print a proof for you, and they may even be able to order something custom for you if you need something specific.

Pro-Tip: Smooth Card Stock
• Whenever possible, see a proof on the card stock you choose, and if you aren't sure about which paper, see a proof on each one, because the finish of the paper will make a difference in the end result.

Pro-Tip: Textured or Metallic Card Stock
Textured options can be beautiful, elegant, or rustic.  Consult with your printer first before purchasing your own paper: many textured papers cannot be used in laser printers.  They can be printed at home on an ink jet printer, or at an offset printer.  
• If you are printing at home, run a proof and see what you think.  Ink gets absorbed into the paper, and there can be a little ink spreading on a textured paper, resulting in a less crisp print. This can give a rustic or antique look, or it may not be noticeable. 
• If you are printing on a metallic paper at home, the ink will sit on top of the paper and then dry, instead of get absorbed into it. This means it will easily smear before it drys, so print one page at a time and set it out all the pages to dry individually before stacking.

• If you love the idea of a vellum invitation, you can use it as a cover sheet and decorate with an embellishment: something hand written (perhaps a calligraphy element), or maybe something hand stamped. 
• Only a heavy weight vellum will run through a commercial machine, and even then it doesn't always usually work well. Some printers may refuse to do it. 

• Light weight vellum isn't meant to be printed onto, and more of it will get torn up by the machine than printed nicely.

Unless you really want to be hands on with creating your invitations, avoid vellum.

Choosing Paper
Choose your envelopes first, especially if you want something colored or fancy. You can easily match the invitation color and size to the envelope. Unless you want plain white (which is a classic choice), finding envelopes later can be frustrating.
When printing invitation and matching stationery, you are usually looking for a card stock.  Card stock is a heavy weight paper like you would use for a postcard.

When buying paper separate from printing, purchase at least 10% more paper 
than you think you need. Something will go wrong, and it's a pain in the ass to match 
and reprint after the fact. However you are printing, your sanity is worth 
the cost of a few extra pieces of paper paper. 

• If you want an ivory or antique look, print locally & choose a paper in that color.
Most online printing services only offer white paper and printing light colored background that looks natural can be tricky.

• Some designs want a textured card stock, like a linen or watercolor paper finish. These aren't great choices for large areas of printed color, so this will be for a text based design with a monogram or a minor graphic details, and maybe a black only, one color, or two color design. This lets the paper be part of the whole design, rather than the vehicle to show off the design.
Still want something textured, but don't have the time or money 
for an offset printer? Check with a print shop to see about a paper weight stock that has the texture you want. Print on a paper weight, and mount the invitation onto heavy or colored card stock, or onto an enclosure folder.

• Metallic paper is usually too heavy or too slippery to go through digital printers. This means it won't bend inside the machine causing it to jam or print crookedly.

• Vellum is a slightly transparent paper that comes in several weights and has different purposes.  I've see this used in many ways, and I'll be honest, I don't love it.  If you want to try and print onto vellum, choose a heavy weight vellum and be sure to buy 20% extra, and print it at home. 

• Like a metallic finish paper, the ink will sit on top of this paper, and take longer to dry, so print sheet by sheet and set them out to dry individually before stacking. This will also be true with you writing on it calligraphy ink, or hand stamping something onto it.

You've probably seen the invitation kits for sale.  It's a box with invitations at size (usually 5” x 7” or 5.5" x 8.5"), smaller cards for printing and cutting to a smaller size, (3.5” x 5' or 5.5" x 4.25"), and matching envelopes, so no searching for matching pieces.

Invitation Kits

• These invitations will have a design already on them, sometimes something raised or metallic, and can be an inexpensive way to have a fancier touch on the invitation without the time and expense of using an offset printer.
These are true DIY kits.   Don't take them to printer. Print them at home. If everything is set up just right, these kits can go smoothly.  They can also make you want to tear your hair out.  If you don't mind being hands on, and spending the time to print, cut and put together your invitations, they are worth it. 

• Make sure you have more than you need.  This may mean buying an extra box, but you'll save time and frustration if something goes wrong.  If you don't need it, you can return it later.

Paper may be a minor consideration, as in online printing or full color designs, or it may be a huge part of the design aesthetic you are going for.  It can be fun to research options and choose just the right thing.  Be prepared to ask for help from printers, ask questions, and do some research before you decide what you want.  Know your budget - and have fun!

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