This beginner’s tutorial is a great introduction to preparing print items for special post-print effects, like die-cutting and embossing.
You’ll use Adobe InDesign to create an elegant wedding invitation, and learn how to set up a print-ready file, complete with die line, foiling and embossing layers. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about preparing your artwork for unusual print finishes, or just want to be able to create special wedding invitations with a professional look at home, this tutorial will be right up your street!
Let’s get started!
1. Before We Begin...
Before we dive into designing our wedding invitation, you need to understand a little about the post-print techniques we’re going to be preparing our invitation artwork for. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to:
- Set up a die-line around the edge of the invitation, which will allow the invite to be die-cut after printing. This will give the finished invitation beautiful curved edges with a French-style look.
- Prepare a spot color layer for metallic foiling—this will give the perimeter of the invitation a metallic gold print effect, making it appear luxurious and glamorous.
- Set up a layer for embossing decorative elements onto the invite—embossing raises areas of the card’s surface, creating an elegant 3D effect which makes the invites feel extra tactile and luxurious.
While we will be creating the design below in the tutorial, the techniques you’ll pick up will be easily transferrable to other print projects. Why not try embossing a business card? Or applying metallic foiling to a book cover? The possibilities are endless!
For this tutorial you’ll need access to both Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator. We’ll be creating the invitation in InDesign, but we’ll also hop over to Illustrator to create a vector design for the border of the card.
2. Create the InDesign Invite Template
Let’s get started with creating the basic template for our invite.
Open up Adobe InDesign and go to File > New > Document.
Set the Intent to Print, Number of Pages to 2 and deselect the check box next to Facing Pages.
Under Page Size, adjust the Width to 175 mm and Height to 106.5 mm.
Keep the Margins at their default width, and add a Bleed of 5 mm to all edges of the page.
Click OK to create the new document.
We now need to set up a series of layers in the InDesign document to help us separate the sections of post-print artwork. Note that we will also need to export the print effects layers as separate PDF files at the end of the process.
Expand or open the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on the default Layer 1 name to open the Layer Options window. Rename the layer Background Color and click OK.
Select New Layer from the Layers panel’s drop-down menu. Create a second new layer and rename it Typography. Click OK.
Repeat the process, creating a further five new layers in the following order. All layers which require a special post-print process should be described in uppercase letters:
- EMBOSSED DECORATION
- FOIL BLOCK bleed
- FOIL BLOCK inside
- DIE LINE - DO NOT PRINT
You should end up with a sequence of seven layers in total, with DIE LINE at the top of the pile.
3. Create a French-Style Border for Your Invite
Minimize your InDesign document for now and open up Adobe Illustrator.
You can choose to either create your own border design for the invitation using the drawing tools in Illustrator, or choose a decorative frame from a ready-made selection, like this range of elegant frames from Envato Market.
Either way, you want to make sure the border is 175 mm in Width and 106.5 mm in Height, to match the proportions of the InDesign document.
Keep the border as simple as possible—any overly detailed edges or corners will be trickier to die-cut. Something simple like the border shown below will work perfectly. Once you have your border vectorised in Illustrator, set the Stroke Color to [None] and the Fill Color to a solid color, like Black.
Select the vector border, and go to Edit > Copy.
Return to your InDesign document and to Page 1.
Head over to the Layers panel and lock all the layers except the bottom layer, Background Color. Click on the layer to activate it.
Then head up to Edit > Paste. The vector border will be dropped onto the page.
Center the border on the page perfectly, then head up to the Controls panel at the top of the workspace and adjust the Fill Color of the border to [None].
Download a hi-res image of a plain sheet of paper or card, like this one from Envato Market, to give the invitation a bit of background texture. This will add even more tactile texture to plainer card stock, giving your invite a more vintage vibe.
Go to File > Place, select the paper image, and click Open. Arrange the image in the frame, and then go to Object > Effects > Transparency and reduce the Opacity a little, to around 70%.
Expand or open the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and create a new CMYK swatch. Name it Pale Oatmeal, and set the levels to C=11 M=13 Y=16 K=0.
Duplicate the swatch and create a tint of the swatch by double-clicking on the copy and moving the Tint slider at the bottom of the Swatch Options window down to 10%. Click OK.
From the Swatches panel’s menu, choose New Gradient Swatch.
Rename the swatch Ivory Gradient and set the Type to Radial. Click on the left-hand stop on the Gradient Ramp, choose Swatches for Stop Color, and select [Paper] for this, the lighter swatch in the gradient.
Click on the right-hand swatch and choose the Pale Oatmeal 10% Tint swatch from the selection of swatches. Click OK.
Select the paper-filled vector border and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste in Place. Double-click inside the frame to directly select the paper image and delete it.
Set the Color Fill of the pasted border to Ivory Gradient.
Then head up to Object > Effects > Transparency. Set the Mode to Hard Light and Opacity to 60%, to be able to see some of the paper texture beneath. Click OK.
4. Set Up Your Die Line
Now we have the French-style shape for the invitation, we’re ready to set up the die line around the edge of the shape...
Return to the Layers panel and unlock the top layer, DIE LINE - DO NOT PRINT.
Select the top border vector on the Background Color layer and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste in Place.
Back in the Layers panel click on the arrow to the left of the Background Color name to reveal all the elements sitting in the layer.
Click and drag the pasted vector element (called <path>) up to the DIE LINE layer.
Then lock the Background Color layer and click on the DIE LINE layer to activate it.
Select the vector border and set the Fill Color to [None]. Remove the transparency settings (Object > Effects > Transparency).
Set the Stroke Color to CMYK 100% Magenta from the Swatches panel. Open the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and adjust the Weight of the stroke to 0.5 pt.
Double-click on the Magenta swatch to open up the Swatches panel. For the die line, we need to highlight this in a spot color, so choose Spot for the Color Type and rename the swatch Magenta Spot. Click OK.
Go to Window > Output > Attributes, and with the magenta die line selected, check the box that reads Overprint Stroke. You can then close the Attributes window.
5. Create a Foil Border
Foiling is a technique of applying a special coating, such as metallic or gloss, to a specified area of our printed item. In this case, we want to apply a gold foiling effect to the outside border of the invitation*.
* You will have to specify to your printer the specific sort of foiling effect you would like to apply. The artwork only specifies where the foiling will be, not what sort of foil effect it will be.
Return to the Layers panel and lock the DIE LINE layer. Unlock the Background Color layer once again.
Click on the arrow next to the Background Color layer name. Duplicate the <path> element by dragging and dropping it down onto the Create New... button at the bottom of the Layers panel.
Unlock the FOIL BLOCK inside layer and then move the pasted <path> element up onto this layer.
Lock the Background Color, and keep the FOIL BLOCK inside layer unlocked and active.
Select the vector border and remove any Fill Color and Transparency effects already applied.
Set the Stroke Color to [Black] (we’ll pull out all foiling areas in this swatch), and from the Stroke panel increase the Weight to 5 pt and adjust Align Stroke to Align Stroke to Inside, pulling the black border inside the edge of the magenta die line.
Return to the Layers panel and unlock the layer below, FOIL BLOCK bleed.
Make a copy of the black border on the FOIL BLOCK inside layer and move it down to sit on the FOIL BLOCK bleed layer. Then lock the FOIL BLOCK inside layer.
From the Stroke panel adjust the Align Stroke of the duplicate black border to Align Stroke to Outside, so that the black border on the bleed layer is pulled to sit outside the die line.
This FOIL BLOCK bleed layer simply allows the printer to apply the foil effect past the edge of the die line, which means that if there are any slight errors in cutting along the die line, the foiling will appear completely seamless.
Unlock the DIE LINE - DO NOT PRINT, both FOIL BLOCK layers and the Background Color layer. Drag your mouse across the whole of Page 1 of your InDesign document and Edit > Copy.
Scroll down to Page 2. Before we paste, go to the Layers panel’s drop-down menu and just make sure that the Paste Remembers Layers option is switched on.
Go to Edit > Paste in Place to make a copy of all the layers’ content on Page 2, which will be the reverse side of our wedding invitation.
6. Create Some Embossed Decoration
As lovely as metallic foiling and a die-cut border are, we want even more!
Embossing is a lovely technique for giving invitation designs an extra-special feel. On this invitation, we’re going to create some border decorations to be embossed after printing.
Scroll back up to Page 1 of your InDesign document. Lock all the layers, and then unlock the EMBOSSED DECORATION layer.
Download the free glyphs font IM Fell Flowers 1, and install it onto your computer.
Return to your InDesign document, and open up the Glyphs panel (Window > Type & Tables > Glyphs). From here you’ll be able to view all the glyphs available in the typeface.
Create a text frame on Page 1 using the Type Tool (T). Set your type cursor in the text frame, and from the Character Formatting Controls panel running along the top of the workspace, set the Font to IM Fell Flowers 1.
From the Glyphs panel, choose a symmetrical glyph with one straight side, like the one I’ve selected here. Double-click the glyph to insert it into the text frame.
You can switch the orientation of any text frame by Control-Clicking (Mac) or Right-Clicking (Windows) > Transform > Rotate 90 Degrees.
Choose a second glyph, a smaller one this time, like the one shown here, and place it in a separate text frame.
Select both glyphs and go to Type > Create Outlines to transform both glyphs into editable vectors.
Set both with a [Black] Fill Color and no Stroke Color.
Place the decorative vectors against the sides of the invitation, similar to the way shown below. Copy and Paste each glyph to create identical copies and Control-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (Windows) > Transform > Flip Horizontal or Vertical to make them mirror each other.
Select all four glyphs and Control-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (Windows) > Group.
When you create an embossed design on the front of your print item, you also need to consider how the effect will look from the back, which will appear depressed into the paper.
Why not fill this area with some lovely color, to make the back of the embossing effect look even prettier?
First up, head back to the Swatches panel and create a new CMYK Process Swatch. Name it Midnight Blue, and set the levels to C=88 M=80 Y=41 K=42. Click OK.
Select the group of decorative vector elements on Page 1 and Edit > Copy. Scroll down to Page 2, and Edit > Paste in Place.
From the Layers panel, unlock the Decoration layer below the active layer, EMBOSSED DECORATION, and drag the copied <group> element down onto the Decoration layer.
Now on Page 2 you have a copy of the decorative elements that are no longer sitting on the embossed layer, so you can apply color and focus on making them purely decorative.
Adjust the Fill Color of the decorative vectors from [Black] to Midnight Blue.
7. Add Elegant Typography
You can transform the look of a wedding invitation by simply switching up the style of a typeface. Aim to find two fonts with contrasting qualities—two script fonts might look a bit fussy, but teaming a script with a cleaner sans serif makes for a lovely, balanced combination.
Download and install the following fonts:
- Learning Curve Pro (Regular)
- Fontin Sans (Small Caps)
- Baskerville (Italic)—this should be already installed on your system; if not, Libre Baskerville is a nice free alternative
Create a new CMYK swatch, C=26 M=36 Y=75 K=13, and name it Antique Gold.
Lock the Decoration layer and unlock the Typography layer below.
Use the Type Tool (T) to create two long text frames in the very center of Page 1.
Type in the names of the bride and groom in each frame, and set the Font to Learning Curve Pro Regular, Size 40 pt, Align Center and in Antique Gold.
Increase the weight of the type a little by adding a Stroke Color in the same Antique Gold to the text, with a weight of 0.2 pt.
Add an ampersand (&) between the two names, set in a separate text frame and in Baskerville Italic, Size 15 pt, and in Midnight Blue.
Add text frames above and below the names, with the information set in Fontin Sans Small Caps, Size 9 pt, Tracking 70, Align Center and in Midnight Blue.
It’s looking awesome!
Use the Line Tool (\), and holding Shift while you do so, drag to create a straight line, and position it to the left of the ampersand.
From the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) set the Type to Japanese Dots, 1 pt Weight and Stroke Color to Antique Gold.
Copy and Paste the line, positioning the second to the right of the ampersand, as shown.
Scroll down to Page 2 and add details about the event using the same text formatting (in Fontin Sans), and using dotted gold lines to divide up sections of information.
8. Export Your Invitation Artwork
Now that you have your design finished (hooray!) you’re ready to export it for printing.
Remember that we’ve set up three different post-print effects in the artwork—a die line for die cutting, decoration for embossing, and the border of the invite which is going to have a foiling effect applied to it.
When you have this many post-print effects, it’s wise to export each effect as a separate artwork file, and specify to your printer which artwork is intended for which purpose.
First up, let’s tackle the die-line export...
Return to the Layers panel and switch off the visibility of the FOIL BLOCK inside, FOIL BLOCK bleed and EMBOSSED DECORATION layers.
Go to File > Export and choose Adobe PDF (Print) for your Format. Name the file appropriately, like ‘Wedding Invite_DIE LINE Artwork’. Hit Save to open up the PDF Settings window.
From the list of Adobe PDF Presets choose [PDF/X-1a:2001].
Click on the Marks and Bleeds tab on the left-hand menu in the window. Ensure that Use Document Bleed Settings is checked, and hit Export.
Great, now we’re ready to export the artwork for the foil blocking.
In this example, I think it will look great if we can have a gold metallic foiling on the front of the invite, and perhaps a dark blue gloss (or metallic—fancy!) border on the reverse side of the invite. To do this, we will need to export each page of the invitation as a separate file.
Return to the Layers panel and switch off the visibility of all layers except the FOIL BLOCK bleed and FOIL BLOCK inside layers.
Repeat the process above—export the InDesign file as a [PDF/X-1a:2001] PDF file, but make sure to only select Page 1 to export at first. Name the file ‘Wedding Invite_FOIL FRONT_GOLD_Artwork’. Add the bleed too before you export.
Repeat the process for Page 2 (the reverse), naming the PDF file ‘Wedding Invite_FOIL FRONT_BLUE_Artwork’.
OK, we’re nearly there... I promise! Just one last thing to do, and that’s to export the embossed decoration as a separate PDF file. The process is identical, as we have set up the embossed decoration in a [Black] color, and placed the content on its own separate layer (we’re so organized!).
Return to the Layers panel and switch off the visibility of all layers except the EMBOSSED DECORATION layer.
Repeat the export to Adobe PDF process, naming this file ‘Wedding Invite_EMBOSS FRONT_Artwork’. The embossed artwork is only on the front of the invite, so make sure that only Page 1 is selected before you export.
Fantastic work! You now have four separate print-ready PDF files, which are ready to send straight off to the printers. Make sure to discuss the post-print finishes with your printer, to make your brief crystal clear. Post-print effects are expensive to produce, so you want to make sure they will be perfect the first time.
In this tutorial, we’ve covered a huge range of transferable skills for producing print- and post-print-ready files. You now know how to:
- Create a wedding invitation template in Adobe InDesign
- Drop in vector graphics from Adobe Illustrator to create a die line border for your cards
- Build up color and textures on the background of your designs
- Set up a spot color, overprinted die line on a separate layer
- Create and prepare a foil block design for creating metallic finishes on your cards
- Add decorative glyph elements ready for embossing
- Format elegant, beautiful typography on your invitations
- Export your design as separate print-ready artwork files
Awesome work! This should put you in good stead for tackling other projects with special print effects.
If you’re looking for more wedding invitation inspiration, check out the great range of elegant invite templates over on Envato Market. Why not try adding embossing, foiling or a die-cut edge to customize one of these templates?
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