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

Guestpost by Aerin on Jul 23rd
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!