How To DIY Wedding Invitations

DIY Wedding Invitations

Madigan here, one of the Community Coordinators at Goulet Pens. If you’ve been following our company you might know that in the past year, five team members have gotten engaged, including me. For those of you counting, that is 1/6 of our company!  This had led to a lot of wedding talk around the lunch table and the requisite DIY vs. purchasing discussions.
 
For me, DIYing my invitations was a no-brainer. Not only is it less expensive, but it makes the invitations a reflection of my fiancé, Shane, and I. I fell in love with flex pens and ink my very first week of working here and I really wanted to incorporate that enthusiasm into the necessary wedding correspondence.  Additionally, I love the idea of using my handwriting to invite my guests… call me sentimental but handwriting is such a personal and unique expression of who we are as people. It seemed entirely fitting to use it for this very personal life event.

Handwriting makes it more personal!

Through a few ink spills, a lot of letter practicing, and a couple of failed attempts, I’ve come up with what I think will be a very doable and satisfying way to bring a personal touch (literally!) to wedding invitations. My wedding will be pretty casual but these techniques can translate into any number of formal or informal invitations and don’t only apply to weddings. In fact, Jeremy from our Customer Care team is using one of these techniques for his daughter’s birthday invitations!

So while reading through the rest of the blog keep in mind that these are just suggested techniques. You can incorporate one or all of them into your invites. You’ll be creating the ink washes, using your flex pen techniques, and bringing your own unique perspective to your event. Experiment and have fun!

Bring a completely unique perspective to your wedding invitations!

For most weddings, there are four types of letters that are involved

  • Save the Date (post card)- sent out a few months before to let your guest know the date
  • Invitation– the most essential and information filled item 
  • RSVP (post card)- for guest responses
  • Thank you– to thank them for coming and for the sweet swag they donated to you and your partner

Supplies

  • Rhodia Dot Pad for practicing your writing- $9
  • Flex Fountain Pen (I used a Noodler’s Konrad)- $20
  • Bottles of ink  (color of your choice, I used J. Herbin Diablo Menthe and Gris Nuage)- $9 to $30 depending on your ink choice
  • Watercolor Paper (cut to size)- $15
  • Paint Brushes (small but nice ones)- $5
  • Water and cup- free!

Planning

Pick an ink that matches your wedding colors

First, you have to pick your colors; then you have to find the perfect shade to match your vision. The awesome part about using fountain pen ink is that you have hundreds of shades to choose from. We’ve got some great comparison tools on our website to make it easy to find that perfect shade. Word of the wise when choosing your ink- make sure it isn’t water resistant. You want an ink that will spread on the paper when additional water is applied.

Check out the Swab Shop to find your perfect color. Keep in mind that you will be adding additional water to the ink, so it could change the potency of the hue. If you are torn between two (or several!) colors, you can always order Ink Samples to do tests before purchasing the full bottle. I do suggest eventually purchasing a full bottle as I went through a lot of ink in the experimentation phase. 🙂

Practice, practice, practice!

The second stage in planning is writing practice. Maybe your writing is already amazing, in which case, congratulations! You can skip this step. If it isn’t, do not despair. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect! To make your very own “calligraphy” or just get a little line variation grab one of our Noodler’s Konrads, Ahabs, or Nib Creapers (you can use several other brands of pen, but for the writing experience and price, Noodler’s pens are tough to beat). Fill it with your black ink of choice (I used Noodler’s X-Feather because it’s a rich black and has anti-feathering properties). A Rhodia No. 18 Dot Pad is great for this because you can try different size fonts and have a large page space to practice on.

Pick the trickiest letters to practice first

You are going to write your names A LOT, so get these down first.  If you have a crazy long name like me, pick out the letters you think will be problematic and practice those first. I picked the capital letters of each of our names along with a couple of other more difficult lower case letters.  Pick out the major words on all of your correspondence and do this for all of them.

Don’t be afraid to take your time
Some tips for flex writing:
  • Go slow! Find a quiet time you can concentrate on forming your letters
  • Press lightly on the up strokes and apply pressure on the down strokes. This will flex the tines and give you a broader line
  • Make sure your hand position allows for flexing. Pressing straight down will give you the widest line
  • In my experience, if you are writing for awhile you will eventually get some railroading. It’s not a big deal, just go back and fill it in afterwards
  • If you want more of a calligraphy look, go over the down strokes again for even thicker lines
  • If your pen is being fussy, check out this video on Heat-Setting

Apply pressure on the down stroke, don’t worry about railroading- just fill it in after
For naturally thicker lines, go over the down strokes again

You’ll be doing four different correspondence pieces so make sure to practice all of them. The invitation will be the most difficult (since it has the most writing), so choose your wording wisely. A practical wedding has a great blog on Wedding Invitation Wording.  Now on to the fun part…

Design Ideas

Ink wash techniques

Since I did four different items in the wedding correspondence set, I’m going to show you four different ways of using ink to make a whimsical and gorgeous design. As you can see above, I did several different versions and I’d advise you to as well. You are going to want the most beautiful ink wash along with your most beautiful handwriting as the prototype for your invitation.  This could take a few tries so don’t get discouraged!

One- Ink Wash
The first method (and arguably the easiest)
is to do a one-color ink wash. I used this for the Save the Date. You will need
your watercolor paper cut to postcard size, the ink of your choice, two
paintbrushes and a cup of water.
Take the bigger paintbrush and spread a light
coating of water on the paper. You can make whatever shape you’d like (mine was
a rectangle-ish). Dip your second paint brush into the ink and then lightly tap
it to the already wet paper. It will spread out beautifully. Once you’ve gotten
it to the color you’d like spread it around on the page using the ink
paintbrush. Set it aside and repeat the process until you have a comfortable
amount. 
1.Brush with water   2.Tap page with ink   3.Brush with ink   4.Let Dry
Two-Color Ink Wash

For the second method, I did a two-color ink wash. This is a little trickier and you need help from a friend (or your fiancé!). I did these on slightly smaller paper since it would appear on the front side of a Thank You card. Grab your paper, two different inks, three paint brushes, and a cup of water.

Just like in the first ink wash method, you are going to use your bigger paintbrush to lay out a light layer of water on top of the page. You and your friend each take a paint brush and starting at opposite ends of the paper, gently dab your color. Keep going until you have about a centimeter of space in between the two shades. Gently pick up card and tilt it side to side to subtly combine the ink colors. Set it aside to dry and repeat.

1.Brush lightly with water   2.Tap with color on opposite sides    3.Leave a centimeter between colors    4.Tilt to swirl
Doing this with a friend makes it more fun!
Gradient Method

For the invitations, I wanted something that gave the color impression but didn’t interfere with reading the information. After a few trials, I was able to make a really beautiful gradient. You’ll want your paper cut to size, two paintbrushes, your ink of choice, and a cup of water.

This time, start with the smaller paintbrush and apply it directly to the paper. Don’t go as far up the page as you’d think- you are going to use the water to spread the ink. Once you’ve gotten the ink down, take the larger paintbrush dip it in water and spread it in one direction. Go back and forth spreading the color up the page as far as you’d like. Set aside to dry and repeat the process.

1.Brush ink directly onto paper   2.Go up the page as far as desired   3.Brush water over the ink in one direction  4.Continue past where the ink stops

The final method is simply using two colors with the gradient method shown above. You’ll need your paper cut to size, four paintbrushes, and some water in the cup.

On opposite sides of the paper apply the ink directly in a thin line. Go over the ink with separate paintbrushes in opposite directions. Set aside and allow to dry while repeating the process.

1. Paint ink directly on the paper on opposite sides   2.In one direction, go over the ink is opposite directions

Those are the four ink wash methods I came up with. I’m sure there are a thousand of other ways to use these techniques and come up with some really beautiful stuff. I’d love to see your experiments!

Remember when you practiced all your writing? Now it’s time to apply it to the page! The final step in producing your Wedding Correspondence Set is to write your words onto the beautiful ink washes you’ve completed. Since you’ve practiced your writing, and made a few different ink washes, you will definitely make at least one you love.

It was all worth it

If you are really ambitious you could make an individual invitation for all your guests. I chose to get mine printed. A Practical Wedding has an awesome blog walking you through the different printing methods so give that a look.

Thanks for reading and be sure to leave your questions and comments below! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Write on,
Madigan

2017-11-15T14:32:40+00:00 March 26th, 2015|DIY, Tips & Tricks|27 Comments
  • oolalu

    I love this. A lot of really good practical advice and wonderful pictures to demonstrate what you are writing about!

  • Henry

    Excellent! I am impressed. People can see your talent and technique in creating something that everyone can consider to be art.

  • First off congratulations! Second, this is really awesome Madigan. The techniques you go through don't just have to be for wedding invitations, this can be applied to a wide variety of invites, events, etc. Seriously thanks for posting this. I've never actually seen how to do an ink wash before and have always wanted to figure out where to start. This gives me so many great ideas for art & crafty type projects. Awesome and thank you.

  • So pretty ~ I don't actually plan on getting married, but if I ever do I'll keep this in mind 😀

  • Madigan

    Hi there oolalu! I'm really glad you enjoyed the blog. 🙂

  • Madigan

    Hi Henry! Thank you for your kind comments. It definitely took a few tries before looking like this. I was really happy with the results! 🙂

  • Madigan

    Hey Kenny! Thanks so much! One of the reasons I wanted to write the blog was because I thought it could translate into so many different ways to make invitations or even just correspondence. If you do end up giving it a try, I'd love to see your stuff! 🙂

  • Madigan

    Hi Amaryllis! Totally fair. 🙂 Maybe you can use the technique to write thank you cards or post cards of some kind! It was really fun to play around with the ink.

  • Right, that's a good idea 🙂 Most of my own ink bottles are from Noodler's Bulletproof series though, so I'll eventually need to get something else to make it like that!

  • Madigan

    From all my experimentation, it seems to work better with lighter shades of ink. So keep that in mind if you do end up trying it! 🙂

  • Heather Wagner

    What do you mean by at the end when you said you choose to get your invitations printed? Did you write them out then take them to a printer? what did you get printed? Did you just paint the paper then take it to a local print company?

  • Madigan

    Hey Heather! I made several invitations and then picked my favorite one to have printed. There are a bunch of different ways accomplish this including taking it to a local print shop, scanning it in and using an online service (this is what I did), and even at home printing. Check out A Practical Wedding's blog for more details! http://apracticalwedding.com/2015/02/diy-wedding-invitations/

  • Definitely!

  • Starchix

    Madigan, how lovely of you to share this with us. A hundred years ago, I hand-lettered my own wedding invitations — we had a small, intimate, private and very casual wedding, so it involved making less than 30 copies — but it felt so good to be doing it myself. I hope you will keep the original for your family scrapbook — I know you and Shane will look back in years to come, and remember the fun and sweet planning you both did. Thank you for all the detail — I, too, learned from the ink color wash instructions, and am heading straight for my art supplies to try some for myself. Best, best wishes for a long, happy life together.

  • Lighter shades, got it 🙂 Maybe I should eventually get some Apache Sunset and see what it becomes with this technique!

  • Madigan

    Hi Starchix! Thank you so much for the well wishes and sharing your own story. It sounds like it was a beautiful ceremony. I had a lot of fun playing with the ink washes and I'm sure you will too! 🙂

  • Madigan

    I think the gradient method would be stunning with Apache Sunset! Great idea.

  • Tom Johnson

    Congratulations Madigan!!! Hope you and Shane have a wonderful life together. We passed our 40th last Saturday.

    This is a wonderful short course, so creative, and you show not only how you do it, but how to practice and make trials. Looks like you love the flex pens, and you make them rock.

    Amaryllis mentioned she uses Noodler's Bulletproof inks. I believe this technique would work with them if you don't let the ink get too dry. Maybe moisten the paper with a fine mist of water first. You could put a little bulletproof ink in a vial and dilute it to lighten it (BSAR diluted is a lovely pastel).

    We non-artists are in awe of the beautiful creativity you talented artists come up with. I think what you have done here is beautiful, astounding, so perfectly personal and unique. Thank you so much for sharing a wonderful part of your life with us.

  • Moranin

    Wonderful tutorial, thank you so much for sharing. Very glad to read at the end that after you had one of each you went the commercial printing route, though! 😛

  • Madigan

    Hi Tom! Thanks for the kind wishes and congratulations on 40 years! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I'll have to try the methods with a Noodler's Bulletproof and see if it works the same. Perhaps if there is enough water down, you would be correct. 🙂

  • Madigan

    Hi there Moranin! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I'm glad I chose to print them as well. 🙂

  • Brittany

    Ok so I am really wanting to do this. My wedding colors are red orange and yellow…are they too dark to do as the brushed ink…I was then planning on doing the writing in Heart of Darkness…I am trying to figure out what would look cooler…a flex nib (which I have never done before but am willing to try/practice to get good) or a broad nib or even a 1.1/1.5…what are your thoughts…I have tried to see if anyone compares the writing on youtube but haven't had much luck…any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and congratulations!!!

  • Otter

    Congratulations, Madigan, and thank you for sharing that with us! I am in awe of your creativity and talent. I can see this working on all kinds of invitations and cards, etc. (I was also relieved to hear you printed them…I was thinking to myself, "OMG, she must not have many guests if she's going to hand-letter all her invitations!" *LOL*) Anyway, stuff like this is very inspiring…even us non-artists are wanting to give it a shot! 😉

  • Madigan

    Hey Brittany! I'm so excited you are going to try it! I had a great time. 🙂 Heart Darkness is one of my favorite inks and it should work well for this project. Have you figured out an ink for the was yet? Would De Atramentis Jasimine and De Atramentis Mahatma Gandhi? I prefer flex pens, but you can get some interesting line variation with italic nibs as well. 🙂

  • Madigan

    Hey Otter! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I had a lot of fun working these techniques out. Yeah, my wedding is definitely on the larger side, so I decided to go the practical route. 🙂 I hope you can use this for thank you cards or any other correspondence. I'm sure I'll use the technique for other projects in the future. 🙂

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