Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Engraving vs. Thermography

Happy Wednesday everyone (only 2 more days until the weekend)! For today's Wedding Tip Wednesday, we were delighted to receive a reader request for our opinion on wedding invitations! If you have questions, please feel free to send them to us at We love to put our Nancy Drew/Angela Lansbury skills to work!

Dear Posh Purpose,
Perhaps you could check something out for me. I want to have engraved wedding invitations for my daughter's wedding. A lady I met at the tanning salon said that thermal printing looked like engraving but was cheaper. Now, I wouldn't mind saving a little money...but....if people can tell it's thermal rather than engraved (i.e.) by running their finger over the print, I would just skip the economy. Could you check this out and let me and your other blog readers know?

Sincerely, Nancy Jones

Thanks for sending us the request Nancy! Briana and I have read several articles that describe the differences in the types of printing and the price points. However, we haven't come across a whole lot of information about the actual look and feel. We decided to pay a visit to Papyrus to feel and look at examples of thermography and engraved invitations. Briana took J with her to Papyrus Boston, and Mr. 3 and I paid a visit to Papyrus at Tysons Corner. Papyrus has over 160 locations nationwide, so it should be available in almost all larger cities. We also picked Papyrus because of the quality of their paper goods and their wide selection. I also knew from ordering personal stationary in the past that they have tables in the back of the store where you can sit down and peruse the examples at your leisure.* We both had very helpful (but not annoyingly intrusive) sales associates who were knowledgeable about the different types of invitations.
Now! On to what we found. Text and desgins on thermography invitations are created by spreading an ink and powder residue on the paper and applying heat to get the text to "puff up" through a chemical reaction. It has a raised appearance and you can feel the raised print if you were to rub your hand across the lettering. Engraved invitations are made by taking a metal plate (often made of copper), and cutting the text into the plate. The plate is then inked, removing any excess ink on the blank portions of the plate, and then pressed into the paper using tons of pressure. The design and text also has a raised feel. Engraving is more expensive because the metal plate cannot be reused.
Both kinds of printing have the same feel to them if you were to run your finger across the front/top of the text on the invitation. However, if you were to take the invitation and rub the front and back at the same time, you would feel a difference because engraved printing presses the plate into the paper causing an indentation on the back. In contrast, thermography invitations will have a smooth back.
Thermography ink has a shiny or glossy finish, whereas engraved ink has a much more matte appearance. A word of caution, unlike engraved ink, thermography ink will absorb the color of the paper. So, if you are looking at a sample invitation book and you want to change the ink color, paper color, or both you may not get the exact color match you want. For example, a pink ink may appear more rosy or red depending on how dark/light the cardstock.
You also need to check the quality of the cardstock that will be used to print your invitations. According to my helpful Papyrus associate, some companies, such as Carlson Crafts, use a lower quality paper that isn't really suitable for engraved invitations. I say, when in doubt, use Crane and Co. paper regardless of the printing decision that you decide to go with...if the U.S. can use their paper to print U.S. currency since 1879, then it must be the best choice for a wedding invitation.
One really neat thing that I did find out is that you can request that your engraving plate be sent to you with your invitation order. The plate (especially a copper one!) would make a beautiful keepsake for your wedding that could be framed and hung in the home next to a copy of the paper invitation and/or wedding photo. According to my Papyrus associate, there usually is not a charge associated with this service.
Now to price. Here are a couple of examples that I found to illustrate the difference in cost. I chose them because they are printed on a plain paper with two colors of ink and a delicate embossed border. They also were about the size of a normal greeting card, so there shouldn't be any extra postage costs.
Thermography Example

So, for 125 invitations, it would be $417 with double envelopes (E pricing). The smaller sized card is $150-$276 depending on your envelope option (C pricing).

Engraved Example
Again, for 125 invitations, the price would be $657 ( E pricing). For the smaller cards, it ranges from $150-$476 (C pricing).

Based on these examples, engraved invitations are about $240 more and the engraved cards could be up to $200 more. So, it's a toss up. Yes, there is a difference between the feel of the thermography and engraved, but not so much the look. I really think another important consideration is the type of wedding you are having. For a backyard wedding or a beach wedding, a thermography style invitation would be a nice (perhaps more appropriate) choice, but if you are having a black tie optional or black tie affair I think the engraved option should definitely be considered as it conveys the feel of the event.
The best advice I can give is to take a look at your budget, the number of guests, and the postage it will require to send out all of the invites. I don't think you should buy engraved invitations at the expense of a great photographer or a beautiful dress, but if this is a wedding element that is important to the bride or the mother of the bride then there are ways to work this cost into your budget by using only one color of ink, plain white or cream (but good quality) paper, and knowing your size and weight limitations for postage. The more complicated your design is (like most things in life), the higher the price. If you can't find some wiggle room in your budget for engraved invitations, it's not worth blowing your budget and thermography is still a great choice! Nancy, I hope this helps with your question! Please let us know if we can help out in any other way!

*Big thanks to Mr. 3! He schelpped those heavy sample invitation books from the shelf to the table and then bought us a soda to share to keep my (and his!) strength up while looking through sample after sample. He also kept the heavy sighes to a minimum and I rewarded him by taking him to a man flick, with lots of shoot em up and blow em up scenes. I highly recommend the reward system when it comes to looking at invitations. Some other poor man was there with his fiance and he was ready to bounce after about 15 minutes...I think they were there for at least an hour and never placed an invitation order...bless his heart.