I get this question more than any other question – what’s a good printer for a wedding invitation business? The answer is a little more complex than you might think, and there’s a lot that goes into choosing the right printer for your wedding invitation business. So let’s dive into printers that work well for invitations and stationery…and maybe some that don’t work so well! You may be surprised that the best printer for your stationery business might not be a printer, but a print shop! I outsource about 90% of my printing, for a lot of reasons. I will share those reasons and my number one favorite print vendor for wedding invitations, I promise. But first we need to determine the pros and cons of different types of printing solutions.
The first question you should ask yourself is what different types of invitations will you be printing? What invitation papers will you be using? What sizes do you need to print? Will you need to print full-bleed, or not? How many pieces will you be printing? These questions will help determine the right printer for your stationery. I’ll elaborate on a few of them!
Most of my work is wedding invitations, meaning I need to print on more luxury, thick papers, and am generally printing about 100-150 pieces at a time. I also typically have a good amount of lead time for each project.
If your business prints more party invitations, shower invites, personal stationery, etc. then you might have more projects that are smaller, you might have tighter timelines and you might have a larger variety of papers to print on.
If you have tighter timelines, printing in house will be a good decision for you as you have more control and don’t have to wait for a print shop to finish your orders. However, the more projects you have the more print adjustments you’ll have to do which can get annoying! I’d recommend streamlining your projects a bit by offering a limited color palette, for instance, so that you don’t have to calibrate your colors every single time you print.
If you work on social stationery or party invites, you might be using slightly thinner paper, although you’ll still want to use cardstock paper for your invitations. Paper is measured either in pounds (#) or in GSM, and a general rule is to use about 100# or 250GSM minimum for invitations. For wedding invitation papers, I like 120# which is about 300GSM.
The issue here is that a lot of in-house printers don’t handle thicker papers well. The printers that are fast and crisp are laser printers, and they generally top out around 100#. My 120# paper can jam my laser printer, because the laser printer has to rotate the paper around a drum in order to print it.
I can print thicker papers on my inkjet printer, because it feeds the paper directly through the printer, without rotating it around! However, inkjet printers are typically slower and less crisp than laser printers. It also generally costs more per print to print on inkjet than laser.
Larger machines, for instance by OKI, that are made for commercial printing can generally handle those thicker papers, but they run more expensive (in the $8-10k range) and a lot of beginning stationers aren’t looking to invest that money up front. In my business, I just don’t really have the space for a larger printer like that!
Thick paper makes invitation printing in-house a little tough – but the good news is that so many invitation print shops can handle luxurious paper way better than our in-house printers can. My favorite print shop for invitation designers is called PrintsWell Fulfillment and they even offer a 240# option which is double my typical paper weight! It’s extra luxurious, and they can print it single or double-sided. We’ll talk more about them in a bit…
Most wedding invitations are 5x7” (also called A7) or 5.5x8.5” (also called A9). These are the standard sizes that come with standard envelopes to fit, although of course you can print an invitation at any size.
It’s generally simple to print in-house on A7 or A9 papers. However, what gets tricky is that paper doesn’t generally come in these sizes. Paper comes in larger sheets, typically in the 11x17” range, 8.5x11” or even larger up to 26x40”.
What this means is that when printing wedding invitations, you have to print multiple on a page and then cut the paper down to size. Or you have to cut the paper down to size and then print it. You can also order pre-cut paper from some places, but of course they do charge for this.
Personally, I don’t have space for a specialized paper trimmer in my office, which I think is the number one reason that I don’t print in-house. But if you do, or you’re willing to order pre-cut paper, then you shouldn’t have trouble printing A7 or A9 invitations.
Printing 4Bar invitations is another story however. 4bar is a common size for RSVP or reply cards. A 4bar Reply card is 3.5x4.875”, and there’s a corresponding 4bar envelope that they’ll fit into nicely. Most printers, even some of the fancy ones, have trouble handling paper that small. So if you want to print in-house then you’ll want to print multiple at a time and cut down to size, or only offer a slightly larger RSVP card size (A2 would be the next standard size up, at 4.25x5.5” and is relatively simple to print).
The laser printer that I have handles 4bar envelopes fairly well, although not perfectly. I generally get a few crooked ones in the batch, so I always order extra, which is a good policy if you plan to print in-house anyway. If you need to give your client 100 reply envelopes, for instance, you can order 100 from your printer and they pay for the extra. But if you’re printing in-house, you have to order the extra – I typically order 15-20% more than the final quantity – and you pay for those.
A “bleed” in printing is when a design travels over the edge of the paper. I use full bleed printing in many of my designs. It’s a little tougher to print a design that bleeds! Typically, you print a larger size with the design extending past the desired final size, and then cut it down a bit. It’s much easier to do that than to print right up to the edge of the paper!
So if you want to print lots of full bleed designs, you’ll need to understand the printing and trimming that’s involved and have the appropriate equipment. I have a friend who does all her stationery printing in-house on pre-cut stock and simply does not offer bleed printing because of that. Her designs are limited in that regard, but she still creates beautiful pieces.
My laser printer in-house is the HP m452dw. It’s out of production now, but can still be purchased, as can its newer model, the m454dw. You can read a full review of this printer here.
Laser printing, as I mentioned earlier, is faster, crisper, and generally cheaper than inkjet printing. It’s (generally) not susceptible to bleeding if it gets wet, although you shouldn’t ever get paper wet if you can avoid it. I also love that laser printers can print on metallic papers and envelopes, which inkjet printers unfortunately cannot do without significant smearing.
My laser printer has much more accurate colors than my inkjet printer, and the colors don’t vary as much based on the ink levels. I appreciate that. However, my laser printer can’t handle thick papers really…at all? I can force through a couple if I need to, but the printer usually jams and is difficult when it comes to anything above 100# in weight.
While laser prints are dry from the time they come out of the printer, they do get warm and sometimes bend the paper a bit. If you print envelopes on this laser printer, it’ll give you some lines where the folds of the envelope are. And no, you can’t print the envelopes with flaps open because the adhesive can melt and ruin your printer on the inside. This means that if you’re printing the return address and guest address on the envelopes, you’ll need to run them through the printer twice.
I have a full course on envelope printing you can access for free on Skillshare if you want to check it out!
Most commercial stationery print shops use laser printers, because they’re faster, more cost effective, and have more accurate colors than inkjet printers.
There are pros and cons to inkjet printing as well. Again, I have an older model that’s no longer in production – the Canon Pixma Pro 100. It’s trusty and does a fine job. Now that I have my laser printer, I pretty much only use the inkjet in certain scenarios.
This printer is known as a photo printer, so it handles photo paper really well. It lays down ink really thick though, in my opinion, and the lines aren’t very crisp when it comes to text designs. However, it’s able to handle handmade paper, which a laser printer will typically burn, as well as envelopes with the flaps open. It also handles larger paper than my laser printer, and thicker paper much more easily. There are certain types of vellum that only work in inkjet printers (and certain types that only work in laser printers) so when I buy that vellum…of course I print it on my inkjet printer!
Overall, Wanda (that’s her name!) was my first stationery printer and I do love her. But her colors are way more dull than Cosmo (my laser’s name) and she’s much, much, much slower. I use her when the project fits, but I definitely gravitate toward the laser printer.
However, I mostly only print envelopes in my office. If I were printing the actual invitations, there’s a chance I’d give Wanda more credit, because the laser can’t handle that thick paper!
The main reason for me getting the laser printer was actually so I could print white ink! Did you know that white ink printing doesn’t really exist? If you’ve ever printed a design with white in it on a normal printer, that white was actually just the paper color showing through – it wasn’t actually printed.
Normal CMYK color mixes can’t produce white (more info on CMYK printing here). So one company has created what’s called Ghost Toner. It’s a toner cartridge that fits into normal laser printers and allows you to print white ink. You replace the black cartridge with the Ghost cartridge, and create your design in all black (100% K). It tricks the printer into printing from the Ghost cartridge instead of from the black one!
You can read more about my experience with that here. The printers that are compatible with the Ghost Toner cartridges are listed on the Ghost website.
In my experience, the Ghost Toner printing isn’t as opaque white as commercial printers are able to do. There are better white toner cartridges out there if you have a commercial laser printer. My favorite printer for stationery is PrintsWell Fulfillment, and they’re able to do white ink printing on envelopes for you.
In this comparison photo, the green one was done in-house, and the red one was done professionally. You can see it’s a little more opaque, especially obvious in the thicker lines of the “JG” compared to the D on the green envelope.
So let’s talk about the best print shops for your invitation business! I have mentioned my number one favorite, who does about 80% of my outsourced printing. PrintsWell Fulfillment is a commercial fulfillment printer, meaning that they print whatever files you upload.
The benefits to using an outsourced print vendor are:
While I’m not saying that all successful stationers outsource their printing, I’m just pointing out that if your main reason for starting a stationery business is design, then you can use outsourced printing as a way to focus on design! I’ve made that choice for most of my business, but you don’t have to make the same.
However, if you’re interested in a print shop for invitations, I hope you’ll take a look at PrintsWell Fulfillment. They offer things like die-cutting, envelope printing, white ink printing, vellum printing, hole drilling, scoring, envelope liners, stickers, notepads, coasters, and…well…more. The links in this article will also give you $25 off your first order with them after your account is created! Make sure you order their sample kit to see all the paper types, which brings us to…
PrintsWell carries most of the really common types of wedding invitation papers:
Most of my clients use the Eggshell 120# Ultra White, but I’m glad that they carry additional varieties. I need to use thinner weight paper for things like envelope liners or belly bands, and even midweight papers when it comes to folded cards (like thank you cards). The eggshell also isn’t the easiest to write on with a regular pen or a calligraphy pen, so I order different finishes when the client needs to write on the paper (or when I need to do calligraphy on it!).
While PrintsWell specializes in digital printing, they also offer gold foil stamping which is something I’d *NEVER* be able to offer in-house due to equipment size constraints. Plus, it’s a specialized print method that I have no interest in mastering. So I love being able to outsource that to them…here’s a video all about Gold Foil Printing if you don’t know much about it!
You can print one-off samples on any of the in-house printers that I mentioned above. I find it’s kind of annoying to print just one of something, because you go through the work of settings and adjustments just for one piece.
Whenever I order samples of my new suites, I want to make sure they’re going to look just like the final product, so I like that PrintsWell lets me order as few as 10 invitations (and even 1 piece in certain sizes). I place orders so often that it’s really easy to just add on a 10 pack of samples for less than $5 usually. Way easier than dealing with my HP or Canon printers on a rough day.
The final word on printers for your stationery business is this: do what works for you. I want you to do what is right for your business, not just blindly follow what I do or what another invitation designer does – because that may not work well for you.
I feel like a lot of beginner designers are scared to outsource because it seems more expensive than printing in-house at first glance. And when you add up the costs of ink/toner and paper, it still seems more expensive to outsource. But what you’re not factoring in here is that your time has value too! If it takes me an hour to print something, and I charge $125-150 an hour…then I have to add that to the total cost of the order. And generally when I do that, places like PrintsWell come out significantly cheaper. Plus, I just don’t like printing. So props to those of you who do!!!
There’s never going to be a one-printer-fits-all solution though! Some things PrintsWell doesn’t offer, so I print those things in-house or outsource them to another vendor. I probably use about 15-20 different print vendors every year, and many stationery designers use more than that. So I have my arsenal of 2 in-house printers, 2 local printers, 1 main commercial printer, and then countless other specialty print shops depending on the exact needs of the project.
*Some links in this article are affiliate links for which I get paid a small commission! Thank you for supporting my ability to provide you with this free education!
Hi, I'm Laney!
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I make wedding invitations and I teach artists how to work smarter, make money, and run a business that works for you.