We recently engaged in a most delightful (!) pursuit of stationery for JYJewels.
Here is the final mock up of our beautiful stationery.
I thought, having gone through what we did to get this beautiful stationery, I might set out a nice cheatsheet as to what I learned as it might be useful for those of you who are customising your own wedding invitations!
I cobbled my understanding from meticulously questioning a number of possible printers, various artwork guides online and general online summaries so I in no way represent that this is comprehensive but I hope you will at least find it helpful.
The different types of colour - Pantone, CMYK, RGB.
Pantone is used to match colours across printers all over the world. There are many many MANY different pantone colours. It is different depending on the finish you want e.g. you can get uncoated (which is matte), coated (which is laminated)... and that's the end of what I needed to learn for that. Asking your printer to print in pantone is often more expensive than CMYK. Also some printers won't print certain items in pantone e.g. stickers, letterhead etc.
CMYK is what all printers will ask you to put your graphics in before you send it to them for printing. CMYK represents the colours which can be printed in (as opposed to .. all the colours of the world, which are apparently not available when printing). However, providing CMYK values to a printer does not necessarily ensure consistency. One printer told me that the ultimate colour would also be affected by the colours used in the printing previous to mine. VERY HELPFUL NOT REALLY.
RGB is what you use when you're creating graphics which will be published online. It doesn't print well, so make sure everything you want to print is converted to CMYK.
Converting Pantone to CMYK
I had a terrible time trying to convert my original Pantone swatches to CMYK. Pro tip - if you can, visit an in-real-life printer and take a look at their Pantone colour swatch book. I found it immensely helpful to see the actual colours in person.
IN SHORT - make sure everything you want to print is in CMYK and visit a printer beforehand to check out what the colour looks like. P.S. I found this conversion table quite helpful.
Preparing your graphics for printing
Your chosen printer is likely to tell you the specifications for any artwork you give them. Ideally, if you have someone designing your artwork, you can just send them the link and they can work it out because they are much more learned in this area. However, if you feel like having a truly marvellous adventure, you can try to work it out yourself! :P
Here is a picture I found online:
Graphic from http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/
Bleed is the section around your design that your printer will eventually cut off from your final design. It is usually around 2mm, meaning that if you have a background design (such as the lilac design we chose), you should try to make sure it overlaps into the bleed so you don't end up with white spaces at the edge of your card (printers always say they might cut a little differently to what you think so it could happen!)
Safe zone is a smaller area in your design where all text and important images should be included to make sure they don't get cut off in the end.
Also, no borders! Printers say no to borders!
Perhaps don't mention this, but I used to create my Look Books in Word and uh, Paint (back in 2006... okay, I actually tried again this year too) . But now that I am wiser (and have dealt with incredulous and unhappy printers), I use InDesign, which is an Adobe program.
So, "gsm" is generally how Australian printers tend to measure their paper stock. A standard business card is usually around 300-350gsm BUT I have recently learned that two paper stocks can be the same gsm but feel thicker or thinner! This is why I recommend obtaining as many samples as possible. Also, different printers use different whites for their "white" paper stock so consider how that might affect the colour of your printing.
If you want to engage in certain printing options e.g. letterpress, where they literally press your design into the paper, I have been recommended to look at paper stock which is 600gsm or thicker to avoid the design coming out the back of the card.
I have to say, a thicker paper stock really does make a lovely difference!
Oh! And my pro tip for printing is - you should print with darker colours than you see online as it will come up fainter in real life. Had I followed that, it would be much easier to show you a photo of my actual printed stationery. :)
Let me know if you have any questions or comments - I'll help where I can (but note I am a jewellery designer and definitely not a graphic designer!)
P.S. I have heard great things about Minted and Wedding Paper Divas if you are looking for lovely invitations online.