How I Prepare an Invitation for Print

Heather O'Brien Design

Welcome to week 2 of our 12 week blog series about wedding invitations and running a stationery design business. In case you missed it, week 1 covered 3 Tips for Starting a Stationery Design Business. If you didn’t have a chance to read it, be sure to hop over and check it out; it also comes with a great freebie check list for your business!

This week we will be talking all about how I prepare an invitation for print once the client has signed off on the design approval. You may think you’re in the clear once the client signs off on the design, but there are still lots of steps in the back end that you have to go through to make sure that you can now turn these digital beauties into printed beauties!

First thing that will determine what steps you need to take for production will be based off what print method your client is wanting. Do they want digital/flat printing? Letterpress? Foil? Foil AND Letterpress? There are a lot of variables. I am going to walk you through the different options and the process for each. While most of them have similarities, there are a few specifics needed for your speciality print methods like foil and letterpress.


Pre Prep

First thing is first, I like to create a sub-folder in my client files called “Print”. These will be all of my final print ready files that I will then send to my printer for production. I like to leave the native files alone in case I need to go back to them. So open up your final approved design files and do a “save as” and place them in to that “Print” folder. You can even add the word “print” and the end of the title of each file name.

Size and Bleed

Once you have all of your files copied over to the Print folder, you will open up each one to start prepping it.

Check the file size to make sure it is correct

Make sure there is a .125″ bleed all the way around the file

The file size needs to be set to what your FINAL size will be. When you add a .125″ bleed to your file on all sides, this will allow the printer to print slightly over that final file size if your design intentionally runs off the page (aka bleeds off the page) and they can still have room to cut to the final size.


Once you have made sure your design size is correct and there are bleeds set to your file, you will want to make sure that all of the colors used in your file are set to CMYK if you are printing digital/flat. If you are printing letterpress, thermography, or foil. You will set your colors to 100% black. You will tell your printer what specific Pantone or foil color you want and they will use that with your file design, but they do not need your file in color.

Text Outline

After you have checked your colors, you will want to outline all of your text. This will help your printer if they do not own the font that you are using. This will prevent any shifting or errors when they go to open it. When you outline your text it turns it into part of the design opposed to live/editable text. For both InDesign (this is what I use) and Illustrator, you can select all of your text and go to Type > Create Outlines to convert it.

**TIP if you have a thin script font, I sometimes recommend adding a .0125 stroke to the script AFTER you outline it. It will help had a tiny bit of weight to it so when it’s printed it still looks solid. Some whimsical scripts tend to print speckled if the strokes on them are too thin.

Multi Print

If you have a file that will be printed in 2+ color letterpress, letterpress + foil, digital + foil, 2 color foil, etc – you will need to separate out your design elements so your printer can create separate plates for each of the colors/foils. Let’s use a letterpress + foil sample. I have a 1-color letterpress design that has foil names, I will take my page in InDesign and duplicate it two times, so I have a total of 3 identical pages. I keep that first page as is with the full design combined and will sometimes write “go by” or “sample” on it in red so the printer knows this is what the final design should look like. I will then go to page two and DELETE the foil part of the design, so only the part that will be letterpress will show. Then I go to page 3 and DELETE the letterpress portion so only the foil part of the design shows. So basically when you combine pages 2 and 3, it should look like page 1. Do not move any elements on any of these pages. They need to stay as is so they all line up correctly when printed together.


Once you have gone through all of these steps, you are ready to export your files to send to your printer. Most printers accept high quality PDFs, you will need to check with your printer as to what their exact requirements are. In InDesign you will go to File > Adobe PDF Presets > Press Quality. When your dialog box pops up, you will want to make sure that you have “all” selected in the pages section if you have a multi-page document, and under Marks and Bleeds, you will want to select “use document bleed settings” this will be the .125″ bleed you already specified when setting up your document. And then export your PDF. When you open your PDF, you will see that the actual PDF size is now .25″ larger in width and height than your final size because it is pulling in that .125″ bleed all the way around.


Whew! Who knew there were so many steps to prepping a file for print! Now you get to repeat this process for each of your stationery pieces. Don’t worry though; it will soon become second nature and really doesn’t take as long as you think!

Has this been helpful? Be sure to download your checklist you can keep on hand as you are going through your production process!

How to prepare your wedding invitation and stationery files for print and production - Heather O'Brien Design | The Cultivated CreativeHow to prepare your wedding invitation and stationery files for print and production - Heather O'Brien Design | The Cultivated Creative

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I'm flattered that you've stopped by to see what I have to write about! I am definitely no blogger, by any means, but I love the idea of being open and transparent with my clients and followers. I’m a designer, wife, and mama to three beautiful little girls. Follow along to get a glimpse of my work, behind the scenes details and musings from my everyday life. Enjoy!