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A Beginner's Guide to Invitations

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What You'll Be Creating

There's lots of great events in life that garner a special invitation. Weddings, birthdays, charity events, anniversaries and art openings all have fancy invitations. However, what exactly makes up an invitation? 

In the course "Introduction to Designing Invitations", I'll take you through creating your own invitations and their different uses. 

In this article, you'll discover the standard components of invitations and tips for selecting details such as color, sizes and paper that will get you started designing your own invitations in no time.

1. The Invitation Card

The invitation card is the most important element of your invitation. It's the item that features all the event information and special details such as colors, graphics and images that match the event. Cards come in all shapes and sizes but classic invites come in either a portrait or landscape format and are usually folded in half at an A7 size (5”x7”). You can easily go larger or smaller, but if you are just starting out designing invites, this is the size to work with first. You can also change things up by going with flat invitations that are printed on both sides without a fold, similar to a postcard.

Paper Options

Just like size, paper options are vast for invitations. From textured paper stock to glossy cover stock, how do you choose the paper that's right for your event? Remember that paper choice will determine cost, so many people choose a paper that both fits their budget and also maximizes the impact of their invitation. A standard approach to paper is looking at gloss versus matte and cover versus text stock. Choosing a glossy cover stock offers a heavier and sturdy option over a text stock and also makes lots of graphics and colors more vibrant. A linen stock is a nice alternative to the standard gloss cover stock with a focus on matte printing for colors with added texture to the paper. How do you decide which option is best? If your invite features a lot of color and imagery, go with a gloss stock. If your focus is simpler with emphasis on text and subtle illustrations, a matte paper stock with texture will make those elements pop while the texture will give additional visual and tactile elements to your invite.

2. The Invitation Envelope

Next up, the envelope. Envelopes, like invites, come in all colors and sizes. You have the option to go with a solid color envelope that matches your invitation color scheme or choose a white envelope and print a matching design onto it. Your invitation size will determine the size of your envelope. For example, an A7 invite (5”x7”) means you'll need an A7 (5.25”x7.25”) envelope to fit your invite.

Types of Invitation Envelopes


Two classic invitations types are baronial and announcement. The main difference of these two types comes down to their flap shapes. Baronial invites feature a pointy flap while an announcement envelope has a square flap.

Choosing Colors

Envelopes come in a variety of colors including bright florescent, metallic, translucent vellum, patterned, and neutral colors such as white, black and ivory. Envelopes can also have foiled interiors for a special pop of color. How do you choose the right envelope for your event? Start by considering how you intend to mail your invite. If you need to print addresses, a dark color won't work and you'll have to use a white label. Not as elegant. Instead, you can choose a lighter color or white and print design elements onto the envelope leaving room for your address and postage on the right. The envelope is the perfect opportunity to bring in colors from your design either through the envelope color itself, or a printed design.

3. The Reply Card

Reply cards are the guests' way to send back their RSVP to your event. Reply cards can be double-sided or not. They also typically feature a place for guests to leave their name and contact information that help event planners obtain an estimated attendance count. Reply cards are smaller than the invite because they fit inside it. For example, if your invite is an A7, you'll want to use an A2 (5.5”x4.125”) reply card.

Colors and Paper Stock

Most of the attention goes to the invite, so reply cards can be as simple as a black and white design on a white card stock. Other options might be using a solid text color that matches your design instead of black text. Either way, guests are going to write on this card, so dark text stock is out.

4. The Reply Envelope

If you are supplying a reply card, you'll want to make it easy for your guests to send it back with a reply envelope. Reply envelopes are simple with a return address right in the middle. Want to increase the chance your guests will use it? Add the bonus of a prepaid stamp. You don't have to do this for every event, but specialty events like galas and fundraisers commonly do this to increase the chance they'll get their reply cards back. Remember the size you choose for your reply card means the envelope size will directly correlate with this choice. For example, an A2 card means an A2 envelope (5.75”x4.375”). It's slightly larger to accommodate the insert.

Colors

Just like invitation envelopes, reply envelopes can be baronial or announcement. They are essentially the same thing, just a different size. This means you have the same options with colors and can have some fun with this simple invite component. Dress up the inside of your invite with a pop of color from your reply envelope. Is red a color of choice in your design? Choose a solid red reply envelope with black return address type. This provides an instant pop of color when someone opens your invite. You can also dress up a classic black and white invite with a bright color. The opportunities here are endless.

5. The Special Insert

Special inserts offer the opportunity to add extra information to your invite without fitting it all on the invitation card. Examples of this would be a listing of additional events tied to the main event such as a list of exhibits at an art opening. You could also use this to tell guests about registries for weddings.

Paper Options


Special inserts, like reply cards can come in all shapes, sizes and colors. The idea here is not to overshadow the main invite, but compliment it. Consider going with a smaller size so it fits nicely inside your invite next to the reply card and envelope. Then choose a vellum paper for something unique and print text and designs with a solid color that goes with your overall design. You could also include a blank vellum sheet, common in wedding invites. If you go with vellum, keep in mind it's best to use simple text and illustrations for this sheet. Full color photos won't print as well on translucent paper.

Conclusion

Now that you have an idea of the basic components of an invitation, it's time to start designing! Head on over to my full introduction course on designing invitations for a complete walkthrough on how to design the invitations featured here. The course will guide you through the design of three invitations-unfolded, portrait and landscape- for a variety of events. You'll also design matching envelopes and reply cards.

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