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Invitation Terminology

Blind-embossing
A printing process that uses a die (see below) to make colorless letters and images with a raised surface.

Calligraphy
The perfected art of handwriting/penmanship, often related with fancy, curlicue script.

Cotton fiber
A type of paper made from 100 percent cotton- possibly the most traditional and elegant option for wedding invitations.

Deckle edge
The irregular, “torn” edge of handmade paper.

Die
An etched metal plate used to create engraved or embossed images and type.

Die-cutting
The process of cutting various paper shapes, particularly with envelopes.

Embossing
A printing technique that forms letters and images with a raised surface, conveying added dimension to the invitation design. Usually used for large initials or borders.

Engraving
The most formal printing method, through which the letters appear slightly raised. An indentation usually forms on the back of the paper from the pressure.

Engraving plate
An etched steel die used to create engraved type or images.

Flourishes
The ornate calligraphic details that are common on very formal invitations.

Glassine
A very thin, waxy paper. Thinner than vellum (see below), its surface is slick and shiny, whereas vellum is more translucent. Glassine is best for envelope use, while vellum is sturdy enough to be printed on for invitation use.

Handmade papers
A type of paper made from natural organic materials such as cotton, rag, hemp, or plant fibers- usually uneven or “rough” in texture.

Hands
The various (calligraphic) script and lettering styles a talented calligrapher can create.

Industrial papers
A paper made from chipboard or newsprint, often from recycled fibers. Industrial papers have a rugged, hip look about them (examples: corrugated cardboard or brown paper bags).

Initial Cap
A term for the oversized first letter of a word you’ll sometimes see in lavish calligraphy or a decorative typeface.

Jacquard
A screen-printed paper that creates an illusion of layering (example: paper that looks like it’s overlaid with a swatch of lace).

Laid
A paper that’s similar to vellum (see below), with a rougher, bumpy finish.

Letterpress
A beautiful printing alternative to engraving (but more expensive). The images and typeface appear precise- individually stamped into the paper- and are very rich in color. Letterpress is great if you’re using unusual paper, motifs, typeface, or different pigments.

Linen Finish
A paper type with a surface that’s grainier than pure cotton stocks- another traditional choice for wedding invitations.

Marbled Paper
A decorative paper marked by swirling, abstract patterns that resemble the surface of marble.

Matte
A paper with an opaque, non-reflective finish.

Mylar
A foil-like paper, with a shiny finish. It’s best for envelopes, and not appropriate for the invitation (ink doesn’t take to it well).

Offset Printing
The flat printing used on everyday fliers, letterheads, stickers, and more. It’s a nice choice if you want to save money, use highly textured paper, or use several different colors of ink.

Parchment
A cloudy, translucent paper that creates a dreamy effect.

Point Size
A unit of measure indicating the size of an individual letter or character.

Rice Paper
A thin, soft paper that is actually not made from rice. It’s non-traditional, but beautiful and elegant. It can only accept the letterpress printing mode.

Stock
The term used to describe the thickness and heaviness of paper. Hardy card stock is ideal for formal wedding invitations. They’ll often come accompanied by a square of tissue or parchment (delicate stocks) for elegant contrast.

Thermography
A heat-based process fuses ink and powder to create raised lettering. Possibly the most popular print method (it’s less expensive than engraving). Thermographed text is slightly shiny and the back of the invitation remains smooth (no impression).

Typeface
The style/appearance of a letter or numeral. With the arrival of desktop publishing, the term is synonymous with the word “font.”

Variegated
A term you might hear used to describe the look of certain paper or ribbon, meaning that it has hints of different colors.

Vellum
A paper made from a cotton blend with a translucent, frosted appearance and a smooth finish.

Watermark
The translucent emblem or “beauty mark” buried in fine paper that becomes visible when the paper is held up to light. A watermark denotes superb quality, signifying the exclusivity of the paper company or boutique.