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How to make your wedding invitation special

We speak to The Alphabet Press about a centuries-old printing tradition that's making a revival in Malaysia

By Andrea Tim | Published: 17 Apr 2017

The art of invites
Photo: The Alphabet Press

We may live in the digital age, but wedding invitations don't. Physical invitation cards, posted or hand-delivered, are your guests' first hint of what to expect on your big day. There's been a revival of traditional printing methods in Malaysia and across the world, and the proof of the pudding is in the increase in unique, bespoke wedding invitations.

"People love personalised stationery, especially for weddings," says Cliff Leong, brand strategist at The Alphabet Press. "You want everything to be perfect, even your invitation card. Letterpress lets you have this detail that normal digital printing doesn't offer. When someone receives the card, they can see the effort the couple put into making it special."

Cliff Leong and Zeejay Wong, co-founders of The Alphabet Press. (Photo: Bryan Ong)

Letterpress printing has existed since the 15th century and its use continued, in some shape or form, until the 1980s. The rise of personal computers and printing was a blow to the letterpress industry, but recently craft printers have been bringing it back into fashion. What sets it apart from digital or offset printing is the way the printed areas have a debossed effect, which doesn't appear on the other side of the thick cotton paper. The Alphabet Press offers bespoke stationery, ranging from greeting cards and business cards to postcards and calendars. The company also has extensive experience in designing wedding invitations, and we took notes.

HOW TO GET YOUR DREAM LETTERPRESS INVITE

"Extra colours cost more when printing via letterpress," Cliff says. So if you've got a tight budget, consider keeping ink colours to a minimum.

Photo: The Alphabet Press

"Designs with large areas of solid colours are not recommended as the ink may appear slightly uneven and mottled – this appearance is called saltiness." It's a small flaw in letterpress, but one that you can use to deliberately give your card a rustic look.

"Impressions on smaller text, patterns and details can be achieved more successfully than big solid areas of colour."

Photo: Bryan Ong

... although too many patterns can be a bad thing. Large areas covered in patterns may cause the sheet to curl. "We call this the 'potato chip' effect," Cliff says. Make your design too fancy and the final printed piece might not lie completely flat.

Plan ahead and allow your printer to have a margin of time for production. "Our average turnaround time is three to four weeks, but two to three months before the wedding is a comfortable time to work with."

HOW IT WORKS FROM IDEA TO INVITATION
1. Letterpress requires fewer colours than digital printing. Once finalised, the design will be converted into polymer plates that will be used to press designs onto the paper. A separate plate is produced for every colour printed.

A polymer plate, bearing the design that will make an impression on the paper (Photo: The Alphabet Press)

2. The paper is cut to size, the ink is mixed by hand, according to the colour recipe, and the machine is inked up.

3. The plate is aligned to a metal base and locked into the press.

4. After the paper is fed into the tray, printing begins.

5. The machine picks up the paper as the rollers ink up the polymer plate. Then, each paper is fed into the section where it is pressed hard against the plate – the paper gets printed on and pressed at the same time.

6. Checks are made on the first dozen or so pieces to ensure impressions and coloured areas are clear.

7. Once all the prints are dry, the paper pieces are cut to their final sizes.

Quality checks are made on the first prints to see if adjustments are needed (Photo: Bryan Ong)

This article first appeared in the ELLE Brides 2017 issue.

Related: How to personalise your wedding invites with calligraphy
Related: Wedding accessories under RM350


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