What software should I use to design my DIY wedding invitations?

July 23 | Guest post by Aerin offbeatariel
I am planning on designing our STDs, invitations, and thank you cards myself.

Do you have advice on great design or desktop publishing software?

I have MS Publisher, but have never been that happy with it (should I give it another try?).

Any recommendations for invitation designing software would be most appreciated.

-Amelia

Great question, Amelia. I decided to bring in an expert to tackle answering this one — Aerin, whose wedding y'all saw here, and who designs wedding invitations (and wedding website templates!) as Royal SteamlineThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them. Take it away, Aerin!

Royal Steamline designs
Now, we're not saying you'll be able to DIY invitations as snazzy as Royal Steamline's designs… but you can sure try!
First off, I love your DIY attitude! Whether it's because of the rotten economy or because you want to add a personal touch, I support anyone who uses the tools at hand to bring their wedding to life. Invitations can really set the tone for your wedding (they're the first thing your guests see, right?) and it's not surprising that many brides and grooms want to have an active hand in this important first step.

Before I address your question about recommendations, let's talk definitions and uses…

Desktop Publishing Software

MS Publisher is a desktop publishing platform, meant to layout text and existing graphics; its primary utility is to produce reports and papers that are comprised of formatted text. I think the crew at Microsoft would quickly admit it's not meant as a primary design platform (they developed Microsoft Expression for that). Also, the end products of desktop publishing suites like MS Publisher are meant to printed at home on consumer printers. Why is this important? Well, while there are some very good and relatively inexpensive consumer printers currently available, using a commercial print house affords a range of advantages such as quality of print, control over color (which is important to many brides and grooms) as well as having the input of professionals who can advise you on how your save-the-dates, invitations, programs and thank you cards can look their best.

If you do plan on printing on your home printer and MS Publisher isn't working out for you, I'd encourage you to explore other desktop publishing options:

Apple's Pages (which comes packaged with the popular iWork suite) is a very user-friendly application. While many consider Pages to be Apple's answer to Microsoft Word, I think it's much more. It comes with a library of nifty templates (including two invitations!) that can be used as customizable foundations and features some solid design elements. The drag-and-drop ease of Pages makes it a fine option for Mac users who want an easy way to produce some basic print materials on their home printers.

Other alternatives include PagePlusX3 and PrintShop. Most of these applications have free trials available for download, so you can see if it's right for you before investing your money.

Graphic Design Software

While a desktop publishing program can handle layout duties for simpler, text-based invitations, design applications are the preferred tools for graphic designers and handy DIY-ers who craft more elaborate designs.

These types of applications allow much more freedom to work graphically, allowing the user to have complete control over the creation and production of a design. This includes working with vector graphics, photographs, hand-drawn visual elements and creating original design and sophisticated font treatments.

Adobe Creative Suite (which includes the programs Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign) is the standard toolbox for many professional designers and is the environment in which all our Royal Steamline designs are produced. However, while Creative Suite (the latest version of which is called CS4) is extremely powerful, it is also pricey and requires time to learn, so it may not be a viable option for someone on a restricted budget and doesn't have the time or inclination to master a new piece of software. If you're already familiar with Photoshop and InDesign (or the illustrious Quark), there are a couple of free design and layout tools worth checking out, such as Gimp and Scribus.


A couple of tips:

  • Define your design goals. Are your prints going to be mainly text-based? Are you going to print them at home? If so, a desktop publishing program will work just fine. If you're aiming for a richer design with a unique layout that includes original visual elements, you'll need to seek out a more robust design application.
  • Try before you buy. Many applications have 30-day free trials.
  • Have fun creating!

Be sure to check Offbeat Bride's amazing archive of wedding invitation DIY projects!

  1. My fiance and I DIY'd all of our invitations, rsvp cards, info cards and envelopes. He used Photoshop because we wanted to incorporate a lot design and illustration and it seemed easier to play around with font placement. However, he already had some experience with it. And he had to call a few of our graphic designer friends when he couldn't figure something out. Plus we ended up buying a font package because the standard fonts weren't quite what we wanted.

    We had great luck with some of the free downloadable fonts and graphics from this blog : http://www.i-do-it-yourself.com. I also posted a tutorial on how to make your own envelopes on my blog recently if it's helpful.

    5 agree
  2. use dafont.com for free fonts, and there are a lot of really awesome romantic/rad woodcuts out there in the public domain. the art and fonts on mine were totally free! so i only had to shell out for the fancy letterpress. i designed mine in Adobe InDesign.

    Save the Dates: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepylovelorn/32705
    Announcement: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepylovelorn/34152
    Invitation/reply card No. 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepylovelorn/34161
    Invitation/reply card No. 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepylovelorn/34152

    2 agree
  3. I have to put in a word for inkscape. It's a vector graphics program which allows you to export to a png. It's pretty great, though a little wonky because it's open source. I did pretty much all my design in inkscape, exported as a massive png, then loaded into scribus to compress it to the size I wanted and check my color gamut. It worked really well and we've gotten loads of compliments on our invitations. For print, you want really high quality graphics, and scalable vectors allow you to do just that.

    3 agree
    • I have to put in a word AGAINST inkscape. I've just spent the last few weeks using Inkscape to create our invitations. While I can deal with bugs in opensource software, what I can't deal with is Inkscape REFUSING TO PRINT, OR SAVE IN ANY OTHER FORMAT for printing.

      I can't even try using another vector program to open my invitation and edit from there. No other program accepts the .SVG that Inkscape created.

      I now have to find a new program to create my invitations in, and start all over again.

      :(

      0 agree
  4. miranda, I adore your save the dates, and might very well be swiping your idea. Bless your heart.

    0 agree
  5. I'm sure these are all great–but they also probably cost a few dollars. Not so helpful when you're trying to SAVE money.

    I'll second Shoshie's Inksape, that's what I did my invites in. Also GIMP is a free graphics program for Windows and Linux that works well. Another option might be to check out OpenOffice's Draw (also free).

    4 agree
  6. I have had a lot of trouble growing accustomed to GIMP's interface (which was written by programmers back before open source programmers thought that it was important to make things user friendly! However, there is help available! GimPhoto is AWESOME. I just started using it last week. It's interface is the same as photoshop's, so it's easy to transfer from the very expensive photoshop to the very free GimPhoto!

    http://www.gimphoto.com/

    I'm looking for an open source alternative to InDesign, so I'll keep you folks posted on how I like the what's available!

    0 agree
  7. I think Scribus is supposed to be the open source alternative to InDesign, but I could be wrong.

    0 agree
  8. Another thing to mention which I think is probably the most common mistake people make and the highest impact, is resolution. Make sure you set the image resolution for print, not web. I'd recommend at least 300DPI. You'll know the DPI is too low when you print the image and notice it looks horrible and grainy compared to how it looked to you onscreen.

    3 agree
  9. Adobe photoshop offers a FREE 30 day trial. Its the full version too. If you think you get get it all done in a whirlwind 30 days give it a try. So far we have done our save the dates and they look great.

    3 agree
  10. i have a slightly different question–i plan to design our invitations myself (i'm a graphic designer), but i'm having trouble finding a place that will print them in full color that i can trust to do a good job–probably not a kinko's, for example(?). most online invite places, like minted.com, for example, will only print their own designs. does anyone have a recommendation for an online place that will take an uploaded design and print it, affordably and at professional quality?

    1 agrees
    • Try Costco's new "greetings" premium cards. You can upload your design (though I'm not sure about the different sizes available, might just be 5×7). The paper is a very nice quality. If you are near a warehouse, you can check out and touch examples in the photo center. They're $17.25 per set of 25 cards.

      0 agree
    • We used VistaPrint for ours and they turned out great! They were just delivered yesterday and the colors were true to our design which I did in Photoshop. We paid extra to get the oversize and glossy stock. We opted for a black and white backside, but that was because that's how we designed it. We paid $60 for 250, which is more than we needed, but the next choice was 100, which was less than we needed.

      0 agree
  11. I am making my invites but have had trouble finding somewhere to print them. Any suggestions?

    0 agree
  12. http://www.mpix.com — lets you upload your own design and has fantastic prices even sales sometimes!. I got 5×7 flats with color front/back on pearl card stock invitations, 125 invites for $143.00 shipping & tax included. They look amazing, and I ordered them on Sunday received on Wednesday. Fantastic turn around time!

    0 agree
  13. I'm sorry but… CS4? What? Was this written in 2008?

    The creative cloud is available by monthly subscription and you can get illustrator and indesign for $40 a month.

    It's so worth it.

    0 agree

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