Cotton, Eggshell, Deckled, Duplexed, what the what? If you’ve started looking into your wedding stationery, you are probably getting a lot of new terms thrown at you. Turns out, a seemingly-simple paper wedding invitation is not actually all that simple. And definitely no two are the same!
One of the trickiest parts to figuring out your wedding invitations is understanding the differences between paper types. With the increase in ordering invitations (and well, really everything) online over the last several years, many people are not getting the chance to physically touch, feel and see the different paper options before they order. So, if you (like me) previously thought all whites were the same, or that Eggshell was just a color, then you are in for an eye-opening post!
I have put together a comprehensive guide to wedding invitation paper terms – complete with self-snapped photographs – that will help you wade through the jargon and choose the right paper for your wedding invites!
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First things first, we need to discuss how designers, mills, printers, and others identify paper. You may think there are only a couple different types of paper, but it turns out there are thousands and thousands (and that’s just in the “white” category). When I am ordering things from my printer, I have to identify the exact paper in 6 (and a half!) different steps:
1. Paper Mill The mill is basically who makes the paper. Think of this as the brand. If this is a dress we are identifying, the mill would be Hayley Paige or Vera Wang, for instance.
2. Line The line will be exactly which “type” of paper you’re getting from that mill, and typically refers to a set of papers that are similar. The line would probably be the season or collection if we want to continue the dress metaphor.
3. Paper Weight
Cover or Text: Here’s where the half comes in. Cover weight is basically cardstock, and text weight is more like printer paper. Usually anything above 100# is cover and below is text, but it’s sometimes important to identify this. For wedding invitations, you will almost always want cover as it’s more luxurious.
Actual Weight: Weight is…well, paper weight is very confusing. I could explain it all but, just like dresses, each weight from a different brand means something different. In the same way that a 6 from Vera can fit differently than a 6 from Hayley Paige, a paper weight from one brand will be different than that from another brand typically. Paper weight in the US is measured in #, which is called a pound, not a hashtag in this case! Standard cardstock ***typically*** runs from around 100# -150#, and you’ll see your “deluxe” or extra thick upgrades coming in around 160#-200#. My house stock is 120# for invitations.
4. Color YAY, a word I understand! << This is what I thought when I first started delving into the world of paper terms too. However, there is never an easy answer. All colors from different mills are slightly different, which means it may be tough to find the right color match unless you scour a few different sources.
And if you thought white was just white, then you have got another think coming as my grandmother used to say. There are approximately 8 million different shades of white according to my very made up statistics. This is why many designers will pull out giant swatchbooks to compare when you meet with them. The trick with color matching paper is to stay within the same product line or mill, and you should be okay, although of course the only surefire way to know your colors match is to order samples.
5. Finish The finish of the paper is all about the ingredients and the making process. We will go over the most popular wedding invitation paper finishes in a little while, but think of this as how the paper feels when you touch it. In dress terms, you’d say silky, satin, linen, etc.
6. Size And of course, size. This one’s obvious so we won’t dwell on it. Typical invitations are what’s known as an A7 or A9 size, and reply cards are known as A2 or 4bar—the most important part of the sizing issue is just making sure everything is a little smaller than the corresponding envelope so that it fits inside!
PHEW. Okay, that was a ton of information. And all of that just to identify one type of paper. Typically, you won’t need to know the mill, line, or exact weight of your paper, and size as well as color are often determined for you when you order, as there are industry standards. This only leaves the finish, which is often times the only part you’ll need to determine as the client!
If you see words like cotton, linen, eggshell, smooth, or felt, these are all paper finishes. There are a ton more that I haven’t covered, but a general rule is that if there is a term that sounds like a fabric, it’s probably the name of a finish. Here are a few of my favorites.
Smooth is…well…smooth. That’s the best way to describe it. Smooth paper stock has a clean, crisp feel to it and you can run your hand over it without feeling any texture. Smooth paper is perfect if your invitation has photographic elements, as textured paper can sometimes obscure the image a little. Smooth papers can be glossy or matte, but if you print a large area on smooth paper it typically gives it a glossy-looking finish. As a bonus, smooth paper is generally the most cost-effective option that we will discuss!
Cotton is probably the most luxurious type of paper you will come across for your wedding invitations. It is typically fairly thick and made from cotton seed fibers—unlike other papers that are made from wood fibers. It has a little more durability, and honestly it just feels really nice when you touch it. Cotton can hold up to watercolor, and takes gold foil like champ. Cotton paper is typically a favorite of letterpress printers, for the deep impression that it gives. As you can see, there is more texture to cotton paper than eggshell or (duh) smooth papers.
I used to get really confused when I first started designing invitations, because I thought eggshell was a color. Way to go, Laney. Luckily, I figured out quickly that eggshell is basically the best of all worlds when it comes to papers.
An eggshell finish adds a little texture to your paper, but without the price increase of cotton paper. It is a great in-between for cotton and smooth papers without breaking the bank, and surprise, it’s available in a couple different shades of white to match the rest of your suite. Double thick eggshell also offers a nice imprint for letterpress or gold foil, if you want to combine those techniques with digital (flat) printing. If you order pretty much anything digitally printed from Design by Laney, chances are it will be on eggshell paper, as this is my house stock!
Linen paper is very unique! Its texture is a lot like linen so it has tiny little cross-strokes that are both vertical and horizontal. Linen paper is beautiful and luxurious, but can be a little too textured for some designs sometimes. I find linen is best paired with a very simple, classic design like the one below.
Handmade paper is in a league of its own. It is, like the name suggests, made by hand, every single sheet. There are many different brands, and each brand as well as each individual sheet will be slightly unique. Typically, handmade paper has what’s called a deckled edge, which many people refer to as “torn edges”, from the mold that is used to make it. Handmade paper has more texture than any of the other papers, and has a decidedly romantic and organic feel to it.
Okay, are we confused yet? I hope that these descriptions have helped you wade through some of the new terminology that you’re seeing with your paper selections. If you see any terms that are still unfamiliar, feel free to ask us questions in the comments section below and we are happy to provide some advice!
There are plenty of sites that use slightly different internal terms, as well as some that we haven’t covered (believe me, you’d be reading for days if we covered everything), so we would love to help you pick out the right wedding invitation paper for you!
Wedding invitations to tell your story, and business education to help you write your own.