You’re probably asking – what’s the difference? How do I know how to tell between these methods? Why does each one cost a different amount?
When we create your wedding invitations, we have to factor in three different elements – the cost of design, the cost of supply, the cost of printing, and the cost of labor to finish your product. The cost of printing is, perhaps, the one piece that we get questioned on the most. So, to that end, we would like to take the time to explain why different print methods have different costs.
Digital printing is flush to the page – when you run your hand over it, the print is flat on the page. Digital printing is run on a digital press, which is typically comprised of four different toners or inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, black – often called CMYK). Some machines have other variations of these toners/inks, but in general, this is industry standard. The paper passes through the paper feed, and the toners are transferred to the paper in one pass. Digital printing is a low-labor print method, meaning that it does not require a press operator to continually monitor the print work.
We typically recommend digital printing for those clients who are looking for a large amount of color saturation, who are looking to print photos, or for those who are printing a very small quantity of items. Digital printing tends to be the most cost-effective method of printing, though, that is not always the case once you get into larger quantities. With digital printing, the cost per unit to produce stays the same no matter how many units you print – so for very large quantities of printing, Thermograph or Offset is sometimes a better choice.
Thermograph (and Offset)
Thermograph printing is raised off the page – when you run your hand over it, the ink is raised up off the page. Thermograph printing is run on an Offset press, which is capable of running two ink colors at at time. Different than a digital press, the inks that are used in Thermograph print are hand-mixed to match and are gel-like. When working with two (or more) colors, the colors must be registered to one another, to ensure the placement of the colors is in the right place. Once the ink is mixed correctly and the registration is spot-on, only then is ink is laid to the stock. Once ink is laid to the stock, a resin powder is poured on top, which adheres to only the wet ink. The remainder is blown away off the stock. The stock is then passed through a heating element, which causes the resin powder to melt into the shape of the ink below. Thermograph tends to have a glossy/shiny look, which is a result of the resin powder melting to the ink. Offset printing is the same as Thermograph, simply without the use of the powder, so the finish is flush to the page.
We typically suggest Thermograph or Offset printing for those clients who are looking to print only in one or two color, who are not working with heavy saturations of ink in one area, and who are not sensitive to the potentially glossiness of the ink. Thermograph and Offset printing requires a pressman to mix the ink colors, calculate registration, and continually monitor the ensuing print work. Because of this added amount of labor, Thermograph is typically priced higher than Digital Printing. However, once quantities are larger (think Quantity 200+), Thermograph is often a more cost-effective method of print, as the set-up costs and labor for the press are absorbed over more units, and the cost per unit goes down as more items are printed.
We will be posting another blog post about additional print methods that are available at our studio – Letterpress, Foil Stamping, and Engraving. Stay tuned!
-Christina & Kristen