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Hopefully, the following list will address most of your questions regarding the commissioning of a custom invitation. Please feel free to call me if other questions come to mind.
Brainstorming and Design Considerations:
When is the right time to start planning the invitation?
It is helpful to work backwards from the date of your simcha to think about when we need to start designing your invitation. It is customary to mail out invitations six to eight weeks prior to your big day. To give you time to address your envelopes, it is a good idea to get them to the printer at least one month before you plan to send them out. Because my queue is sometimes quite full with projects, all of which have deadlines, it is ideal if you begin the process at least six months prior to your event. If that isn't possible, two to three months is often workable.
How do we develop the design for the invitation?
During a personal discussion, we first explore possible directions, such as: overall design preferences and the desired look, whether you want just a simple text written in beautiful calligraphy or whether you want to add a decorative passage, illustration of Judaica objects, or other design. If we can't meet in person, I may send you some sample designs that reflect the look you are seeking and that might spark ideas. You might choose to reuse an existing design, for which I charge half of the original cost; or you might prefer that I develop a new design.
Creating a theme:
If there is some design element on your invitation (e.g., a tallit, a leafy vine, a flower, a name in beautiful Hebrew calligraphy), I try to use it in some way on each part of the invitation set, including the outer envelope, response card, envelope, any enclosures, and the thank you note. Repeating the design in this way helps to tie all the parts together to create a unified package.
How are charges for calligraphy and design determined?
The final calligraphy/design fee, based on an hourly rate, depends on the amount of text and complexity of layout and design. Though an exact fee cannot be determined until the design is completed, I am happy to provide an estimate as we discuss your wish list. Note that printing charges are separate from calligraphy/design fees. If you request it, I am happy to share current pricing guidelines in an email.
What if you want to reuse an existing design?
You may find that one of the designs I have created before is just right for your invitation. You can choose to use an existing tallit, passage, or some other design element. You can also have me create a new design with different passages. If an existing design is desired without modification, the charge is half the cost of the original design. By law, designs remain the property of the artist; clients buy the right to a one-time use of the design for the occasion stated, and it is available to the artist to use again.
What is the payment schedule?
I request an initial payment as we begin our relationship to ensure a place in my queue and to cover the cost of the initial design work. A second payment is due when the design is approved before going to the printer. The final payment is due upon receipt of the printed invitation set.
Who takes care of the printing?
Over the years, I have learned that the only way to ensure the quality of printing is to use the printers I have trained to treat my artwork with the same care I put into the design. I only use printers who have fine quality papers, who maintain the fine lines in my artwork, and who position the artwork on the page as requested. Since my name usually appears embedded somewhere in the design, I want to know that the final product is one with which I want to be associated.
When is copy sent to the printer?
I do not submit copy to the printer until my clients have approved the design, which means they have okayed the wording, spelling, artwork. At this point, clients must also finalize paper and ink color selections. I send designs to clients either through email, fax, or snailmail.
What is presented to the printer?
The printer requires copy in black ink. Technology now allows a plate to be created directly from a disk, which produces the finest, cleanest lines. Thus, after I do the calligraphy and drawing by hand, I scan it into the computer, where I am able to fine tune the layout and artwork to ensure the best possible camera-ready preparation. I provide the printer with a disk or emailed files from which they make printing plates.
Is the printing flat (offset) or shiny and raised (thermography)?
I use printers who can print both flat offset or raised thermography, depending on preference. Most of my clients use thermography because they like the effect.
What color inks can be used for printing?
Most announcements and invitations are printed in one ink color. Adding a second color can almost double the cost of printing, as it is like starting over for the print shop. The thermography printers tend to have a wide selection of standard colors from which to choose. Should a specific shade be desired, it can be matched for an extra fee.
What papers can be used?
The thermography printers I use have high quality, thick papers. The company I use the most is a moderately priced printer with a nice thick vellum stock that comes in white or ecru. Because the hand done lettering and artwork are what get noticed, the vast majority of my clients agree that the paper needs to be nice, but doesn't have to be the most expensive. This being said, an occasional client prefers a finer, toothier, pricier stock, and I also work with a higher end company that is able to provide this look and feel. The color of ink and paper affect one another, so some inks look better on white, others on ecru. On occasion, we have used other paper colors for special effects; for example, gold metallic ink on dark navy paper. Because art is the focus, I do not advocate the use of multiple paper layers, ribbons, and other decorations, all elements used by social printers to capture attention because their typography is relatively boring.
What card sizes are possible?
Card sizes are determined by the size of envelopes carried by different printers. The printer that I prefer offers envelopes that are: 5.75" x 8", 5.75" x 5.75", and 7.5" x 7.5". Cards are cut to be .25" less in both dimensions. Thus, corresponding card sizes tend to be: 5.5" x 7.75", 5.5" x 5.5", and 7.25" x 7.25".
Are invitations printed on only one side or double-sided?
Most of the announcements and invitations I create are printed on a single-sided card. This not only saves on printing costs, it is also more ecological. For an added printing fee, I have also worked with printers in creating a two-sided invitation, with a cover design and text inside.
What is included with the invitation?:
The basic items are the invitation, outer envelope, response card, and response envelope. Most families also order thank you notes that will tie in with the invitation. If you are having a special dinner or breakfast for out of town guests, you may need an enclosure card to convey this information. Some families also have me design and print direction/accomodation cards, though many print this information on a computer and have it photocopied. Some families also have me design a cover for benchers or for a program book. Blank outer envelopes come with the invitation. If you want your return address printed on the flap, there is a printing charge. For environmental purposes, I do not order inner invitation envelopes, which serve no purpose, pollute air and water in their making, and add to trash or recycling piles.
What about a printed cover for a bencher or wedding program booklet?
I have designed a number of covers for benchers and wedding programs, using design elements from the invitation to carry out the theme. For benchers, you would give the printed covers to the organization from which you are ordering the benchers so they can put the books together. For wedding programs, you would give the covers to the copy shop that is copying and collating the booklets.
What if you are having a Havdalah service as part of the celebration?
I have created a Havdalah service, which prints on a both sides of 8.5" x 11" card stock, with room for a cover design with the child's name in English and Hebrew and some artwork, perhaps borrowing a theme from the invitation set.
How are printing charges determined?
Because printing charges are set by the printer and may change, I will be happy to share current charges if you are considering having me create your invitation set. The printer I use the most has beautiful, fine-quality paper, does great printing, and tends to be in the lower-middle price range of most printers.