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The Wedding Files: Gocco Wedding Invitations

Invitation

Have you ever paged through Martha Stewart Weddings? By my estimate, half of the "real" weddings featured there are of current or former MSO staffers. Crafts Editor. Former Crafts Editor. Former Abused Underling of the Current Crafts Editor. In about an additional third of the couples, bride or groom or both are fabric designers, art directors, set designers, or unemployed artsy types. The couples throwing the more whimsical of these affairs claim they spent $3000 dollars on the wedding (because it was held in the enormous backyard of the bride's parents' fantastic house, and Mom and Dad paid for the vegan caterer - that doesn't count, does it?). This bride spent eight months sewing the pennants strewn over said back yard - she likes to call them "peace flags!" And her dress was transformed from an old "farmhouse bed sheet" into a agnes b.-ish masterpiece.

There is nothing so different about this - home design magazines nearly always feature the "real" homes of interior decorators and architects. It's just more jarring with weddings, because there is truly nothing about a fabric designer that makes her (or him) better at getting married than the rest of us.

I don't begrudge people their "peace flags" and vegan cupcakes, or anyway not much. I am clearly a fan of handmade touches (pompons, anyone?!), and hope to include one or two in our wedding. But I wanted to point out something obvious - that you don't see too many lawyers, especially among brides, gracing the pages of MSW. (Funny that when I type that acronym I think "Master's of Social Work!"). And here is why: it's not because there are no creative types in the litigator set, though I concede that they number fewer than in the average population. It is because handmade touches + law firm = staying up very, very late. So late, that you begin to lose the battle against the dark circles you really intended to obliterate by your wedding day. So late, that your partner may begin to give up on calling "come to bed" from the bedroom. So late that your cat is in her prime nocturnal hunting hours by the time you pack it in.

Anyway, where am I going with this? I guess the relative absence of lawyer brides from MSW makes me feel better, in a sad sort of way, because at least I know it's hard for lots of us to go the peace flag route. Still, I wanted to pick ONE wedding project, just one thing, that I could go whole-hog DIY on and get it right.

This is a long way of introducing the post where I break down the making of our wedding invitations. Aside from the odd stamping project, printing and paper arts are not my usual thing, though I enjoy design and visual stuff like photography. Gocco is a self-contained printing system that's a bit like a cross between screen printing and stamping, that allows you to mass produce some pretty amazing looking designs on paper or fabric. I first heard about the Print Gocco (rhymes with "loco" - took me a while to figure that out) when it was discontinued by Riso, its manufacturer, and the Save Gocco! campaign gained traction on the internet. So I was a bit behind the curve. You can still find the machines pretty easily on eBay, which is where mine was purchased. I did not count the cost of my Gocco - about $200 including shipping - in the cost of our invitations because I had been meaning to invest in one for a while, and will use it for other projects.

Gocco - Preparing the Screen Gocco - Burning the Screen
L: preparing the screen; R: burning the screen

To understand the basics of how Gocco works, you can watch this short video from EtsyLabs. But the quick-and-dirty version is that the machine uses specially-treated lightbulbs that react with the carbon in photocopies or laser printed designs to burn tiny holes in the screen in your desired image. Then you ink that screen and use the Gocco machine to push the ink through onto paper as many times as you need to.

Gocco - Used Bulbs inking the screen
L: used bulbs; R: inking the screen

There are a few different models of Gocco. I'm no expert, but the biggest differences are between the B6 variety and the PG-10 and PG-11 models, which provide tools for registration, which means lining up multiple screens on top of each other (for instance, our names over the ampersand in our invitations). Mine is a PG-10, but I wish I had gotten the PG-11 since it seems that by the time the PG-11 came out, Riso really understood what worked for registration. There are also some models with larger printing areas than the 4x6 that is standard on most Goccos.

The process took me about two weeks, squeezing in Gocco time on nights and weekends and not counting the time it took to design them in Photoshop and order supplies. In the end, we are both so happy with our invitations. They are pretty much exactly what I had pictured and more (silver ink was a last-minute stroke of inspiration - you can't design in Photoshop with silver!). Each is a little different but that gives them character. And best of all, each of our guests will get something in the mail that was handmade by us.

I learned so much in the process that I wanted to collect and share all of that here, for others who may be motivated by a wedding to plunge into the world of Gocco:

Reasons to Gocco your wedding invitations:

  • You have a sense of adventure
  • You like the idea of total control over your invitation design, colors, paper size and shape, and layout
  • You are comfortable designing and manipulating fonts and artwork, either in Photoshop or by hand
  • You like depth / texture (almost) of oil-on-paper inks
  • You want to use light colored inks on dark paper, but can't afford the more expensive printing methods that typically enable this (don't forget about offset though!)
  • You want to use metallic inks
  • You have a fair amount of time in which to get all of this done
  • You want to show your partner how dedicated you are to your wedding ;)
  • You are obsessed with the capabilities of pre-digital technology (I mean it, it's pretty amazing - just like dolby cassette tapes!)

Reasons not to Gocco your wedding invitations:

  • You tend to panic when things go wrong
  • You're a perfectionist; you want all your invitations to look exactly the same
  • You are on a tight deadline
  • You aren't great with messes
  • You are not crazy about a process that may or may not involve a few toxic chemicals (the flashbulbs are coated in god knows what - wash your hands!)
  • You want a lot of texture in your invitations (i.e., you envision letterpress or engraving)
  • You don't shop online
  • You need 300 invitation sets
  • Your may get frustrated by having to lay things out using a print area that may be smaller than your invitations
  • You have an ill-behaved cat who likes to knock wet invitations onto the floor and eat the paper

Adventures in Gocco, Phase 1:  We Start Small, Learn a Few Lessons the Hard Way, and Eat Chocolate from Switzerland When Things Get Dicey Project Gocco, Phase 2 public
L: reply envelopes drying; R: envelopes and liners

We purchased all our paper from Paper Presentation in NYC, where we chose the paper we wanted and had it cut to size. Gocco supplies came from Welsh Products and Northwood Studios.

Cost breakdown:
$120 - Paper (100 invitations, reply cards, outer envelopes, inner envelopes)
$60 - Printed envelope liners
$22 - 4 tubes Gocco ink (silver, white, orange, brown, burgundy)
$25 - 5-pack Gocco screens
$25 - 10-pack Gocco bulbs
$20 - Estimated shipping for Gocco supplies
----
$272 - Grand total for 80 invitation sets ($3.40 / invitation set) + extras

It would have been substantially less had we nixed the envelope liners, but they were just so cool and we were saving money elsewhere, so we splurged.

BUT. I ended up messing up a few times, partly due to the Gocco novice's steep learning curve, and partly due to making the absent-minded person's dumb mistakes. Like, I printed the colors wrong on an entire set of the main invitation paper I'd bought. Whoops.

Project Gocco, Phase 2: First Invitation Screen whoops
lookin' good . . . Doh!

So we spent a little more on materials, and the whole process took a bit longer than expected (invitations went out about a week late) since we had to await the arrival of more supplies in the mail. The extra expenses associated with this amounted to about an $80 stupidity tax.

Stupidity Tax
$40 - Extra paper
$8 - Extra ink
$15 - Extra screens
$15 - Half pack extra flashbulbs
_____
$78 - Total Stupidity Tax
$350 - Total cost (including stupidity tax) ($4.38/set)

info card rsvp card
L: info cards drying; R: rsvp card

Resources used:

Tips / lessons learned:

(Most of these are covered in Marissa's tutorial or one of the other resources above, but they bear repeating!)

  • Have an assistant. You need someone for clean hands and moral support, and to hold the plastic part of the screen down when it keeps flopping over. The fabulous Carrie M. played this role to perfection! I did some of this on my own, but it was much easier and more fun to do with a buddy.
  • Plan for accommodating your paper when you burn your screen. Gocco screens only fit into the machine in one way, so you can't flip it around once it's burned. Our first screen was burned right-side up, but then I realized that since the text was supposed to go relatively low on the paper, we wouldn't be able to fit the paper into the machine to print without getting the paper crunched up in the Gocco's hinge.
    Names and Bike and Thanks

    So I had to burn a second screen with certain of the elements I was using done upside down. Spend a lot of time figuring out how the paper will be positioned before you use a screen.
  • Maximize screen space. Since supplies need to be ordered online, and are kind of pricey, you want to maximize the surface area of your screens. Leave enough space between designs to apply ink blocker, but use up as much of the surface as you can. If you can't think of what to print, just pick a design you think you might use later. We planned for thank you cards, and burned an image of the parachute drop at Coney Island, just because we had the space. I'll find a use for it later. I suppose it's possible that the unused parts of a screen could be burned later if you tape paper over the part of the screen you weren't using when you burn them the first time, but I haven't tried that.
  • Be careful when re-using older batches of mixed paint. I thought it would be wise to mix large batches of the colors we were using so that they would be consistent across the invitations. However, I found that if the paints weren't stored totally air-tight, they would develop small lumps that would interfere with printing when they were reused - lumps would block parts of the screen and part of a letter would end up missing from the text. I found it easier and less wasteful to mix as much as I needed, and match each batch to a paint chip I got from the hardware store of the target color. That way I was always using smooth, fresh paint. However, on more detailed, non-text designs (like the bike) I actually found using old paint was better, since it came through the screen more sparingly and small design elements were more visible.
  • Ink blocker (the sticky foamy stuff that prevents the ink from spreading on the screen and colors from bleeding into each other) goes on the ink-side of the screen. That's the the side that's covered with the plastic flap, not the printing side. Carrie and I learned that one the hard way (we blame etsy).
  • Make multiple copies of the images you're using for your screens. You might even try making them in multiple sizes. It's nice to be able to play around with the scale of your design if you want to.
  • Save your screens until you're sure you're done with the project. You never know what you might have to redo!

As a final insane touch, I ordered loads of vintage stamps off eBay, vowing not to pay much more than face value for any of them. I ended up getting a leetle carried away and ordered way too many, so we had a nice selection and have lots left over for thank you notes, and, er, bills for the rest of our lives. (Yeah, gas company, you get the Bob Hope stamps).

Gocco_20090719_0029-2 All done!
L: all done; R: assembly line

I did buy the new King and Queen / Love stamps for the RSVP cards, and frankly those are just as adorable (go USPS! In my mind you're still doing penance for that horrible Rapaelite cherub love stamp, yech). My mom, who has gorgeous penmanship, offered to address them for us and we couldn't have asked for a better hand. I also owe thanks to Marissa (whose tutorial is above) for Gocco tutoring, my dear friend Joy for design advice, and Carrie M., the best Gocco assistant ever!

invitation suite
the whole set

People seem to think the invitations are nice, and most people are surprised to learn that they're homemade. Now that we're receiving reply cards, and are getting a huge kick out of reading what our friends and family have written, we're getting super excited for the wedding!

Posted by jess at July 27, 2009 8:25 PM | TrackBack
Comments

They are just amazing! I'm so impressed with the final product. I strongly considered going the Gocco route myself, but ended up having a friend and her mom make them while I concentrated on other things, like not going insane. Lovely work!

Posted by: mick at July 27, 2009 9:21 PM

I definitely pay attention to wedding invitations I receive, so I would totally love something created with so much thought and care! (Worst is when you can see they came out of an ink-jet printer - clean the rollers first, people!) Yours are lovely!

Posted by: grumperina at July 27, 2009 9:29 PM

WOW. That is some wedding project! They turned out beautifully and look very professional!

I agree with you about the "choose one project" approach to wedding DIY, when we got married I decided that I had to draw the line (a FIRM line!) somewhere. I initially intended to calligrapher the envelopes myself but gave that up after it took me 2 hours to do the first 2 . . . I did knit the chuppah and Adam and I made the wedding programs, menus, escort cards and place cards (the venue wanted to charge $1 for each menu!), but that was it!

Posted by: ivete at July 27, 2009 10:44 PM

This is such a beautiful way to set the tone for your wedding! I love the casual elegance of the design. Well worth the effort.

Posted by: jenna at July 27, 2009 10:50 PM

These are just amazing! So much more personal than the commercial ones!

Posted by: tiennie at July 28, 2009 12:40 AM

Great post! Gocco seems a lot less intimidating now, although I'm still nervous about investing in something that might need supplies that won't be available in the future (screens and lightbulbs and whatnot). I guess I should read a bit more about it before deciding.
Love the love stamps. Those are the coolest stamps I've seen in a long time.

Posted by: andrea at July 28, 2009 1:34 AM

i love the invitations, so clean and cute and whimsical! stamps and the old-world calligraphy really make a lovely set. have fun planning your wedding! i love gocco, thought about getting a set but got busy and now i don't even have time to do craft, any craft. sigh!

Posted by: blossom at July 28, 2009 6:31 AM

They are beautiful! I like the bicycle built for two motif.

Posted by: Jo at July 28, 2009 6:41 AM

Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! Very well done on your personal touch invitations. Nice!

Posted by: Karen B. at July 28, 2009 8:01 AM

They are lovely and so nicely done. Better than any print shop could do. I'm sure your wedding will be just as personal and nice.

Posted by: Kathode Ray Tube at July 28, 2009 8:16 AM

Ummm . . . GORGEOUS! And I think you should send a link to MSW. You never know when they might want to run something real (although I do sigh a little when I read their mag).

Posted by: Ava at July 28, 2009 9:10 AM

I've apparently missed something: congratulations! Great job, by the way. You have a side career!

Posted by: Sara at July 28, 2009 9:46 AM

wowee! beautiful invites and thanks for breaking down the process for all of us! i especially love the stupidity tax - i think there are a lot of potential applications for that in my life and i'm going to start using it. ;)

Posted by: marri at July 28, 2009 9:57 AM

Amazingly gorgeous! You could take on MSW any day!

Posted by: Nancy at July 28, 2009 10:20 AM

1. You're brilliant. Nice invites.

2. I so completely and totally agree with you re: the crafty perfect wedding vs. the amount of time available to invest in such. We completely encountered that this spring during the lead-up to ours. And then, when I did devote all that time to my one or two special projects, I actually wound up feeling kind of stupid for it because not that many people cared about it as much as I did...

3. My fella is a graphic designer. He got a local screen-printer to cut us a deal on our invites -- they turned out pretty well.

Posted by: Elizabeth at July 28, 2009 10:28 AM

The final product looks better than almost anything you could have paid someone else to do - congrats! PS - The stamps on the invitations and return cards are perfect!

Posted by: Delia at July 28, 2009 11:15 AM

Wow - thanks so much for posting this! I'm in the midst of wedding planning myself, and very much appreciate the invitation tip-off! *off to research Gocco :)

Posted by: CanarySanctuary at July 28, 2009 4:08 PM

holy crap- those are amazing! great job- way cooler than anything you could buy.

Posted by: kym at July 28, 2009 4:48 PM

Those are absolutely amazing! I love the designs and the vintage stamps are a perfect touch - I never would have thought to do that.

Posted by: Meredith at July 28, 2009 5:45 PM

you are so talented & patient! they came out beautifully with clean lines and a great font - totally dig the color scheme too!

Posted by: meg at July 28, 2009 10:35 PM

Completely wonderful!
You're so right about craft v. time as a lawyer bride. I think you chose the perfect project to spend the time on. As a lawyer, I find I have a much greater appreciation for the power and the beauty of the printed word and formatted page. It's great that you brought that particular care and understanding to your wedding.

Posted by: kathryn at July 29, 2009 12:55 PM

Oh ha ha, that crack about the stupidity tax really made me laugh, because I should really add that into my own crafting ventures!

LOVE the invitations - so personal and unique!

Posted by: Rachel at July 30, 2009 9:53 AM

I adore the whole set. Nice work. :)

Posted by: E to the M at July 30, 2009 2:38 PM

Gaaah! So gorgeous!

I am so impressed. I made my own save the dates, just stamping a custom rubber stamp onto cards, and thought that was a lot of work. And now I feel like a little country mouse. Your invitations are wonderful!

Posted by: yoel at July 30, 2009 11:05 PM

I looked into those, but they seem a little labour intensive for me. I am a bit of a slacker-chick.... the invitations look good!

Posted by: Carol at July 31, 2009 4:32 PM

what an amazing wedding project! i've always wanted to work with a gocco but never had the ambition to do it. i wish i had done this for my wedding invitations. in the end, i was happy with doing my own wedding invites though i designed them in illustrator and printed them one by one using our ink jet printer :)

Posted by: gleek at August 1, 2009 12:40 PM

Wow, these are amazing! They came out great, and I love the design. Thanks for all the helpful tips and how-tos, too. I was actually thinking of getting a Gocco for Christmas cards this year but then I gave up because I couldn't find any great resources online and couldn't figure out if supplies were actually still available or not. You've inspired me to go for it!

Posted by: molly at August 3, 2009 7:22 AM

The invitations are amazing. I love them, and congrats on your upcoming wedding!

Posted by: Jacey at August 3, 2009 9:31 AM

The invitations are amazing! I especially love the vintage stamps.

Posted by: Jacey at August 3, 2009 9:31 AM

love your invitations! thanks for sharing the process, very informative and inspiring. the vintage stamps are the perfect touch!

Posted by: carol at August 4, 2009 12:45 AM

Jess: Three cheers for crafty-lawyer-brides!!! Your pros and cons of Gocco are spot on, and the post will be invaluable to future DIY brides out there. The invitations are fantastic. I wasn't brave enough to commit to that and am afflicted with Con #2!

Best, Debbie (Gocco-lover and in-house counsel!)

Posted by: Debbie at August 6, 2009 4:59 PM

love your invitations! thanks for sharing the process, very informative and inspiring. the vintage stamps are the perfect touch!

Posted by: Wedding Invitations at August 12, 2009 7:09 AM

Hi Jessica!
Those wedding invitations are stunning! I especially love the tandem bicycle. Unfortunately we already got married last year - otherwise I would definitely have copied your idea! ;)

Posted by: Johanna at August 14, 2009 6:33 AM

Lovely invites! And great, informative blog post.

Posted by: Rima Aranha at August 26, 2009 6:58 PM

I so related to the "stupidity tax." I just went to the post office to buy stamps for my own invites, paniced, and bought 40 extra stamps. Why??? The stupidity tax follows me on nearly every wedding-related purchase. :)

Anyway, I fully agree with the picking one handmade element. And your invites -- well, they just couldn't be any lovelier. Love the colors and the bicycle, of course. Beauteous.

Posted by: Sarah at August 31, 2009 3:01 PM

These are gorgeous and so much better than the half-assed homemade ones we sent out. Have a lovely time.

Posted by: moirae at September 2, 2009 6:10 AM

Are your invitations 4x6? Do you know what model has a 5X7 printing space?

Posted by: JBurgon at December 7, 2009 11:42 AM

you are a saint for posting this!! seriously, i've had so many questions about the worth of gocco-ing my invitations, especially as a busy professional myself, but you answered all my questions.

thank you thank you thank you!
and beautiful job with the invitation suite. really stunning!

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Posted by: IleneCotton20 at July 20, 2010 4:35 AM

Thankyou for your clear pros and cons on the gocco. i am kooking to get one. Do you have any advice. I am in australia.

Posted by: Al at August 10, 2010 10:09 PM

I wish i had done this for my wedding invitations. in the end, i was happy with doing my own wedding invites though i designed them in illustrator and printed them one by one using our ink jet printer :)

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The process took me about two weeks, squeezing in Gocco time on nights and weekends and not counting the time it took to design them in Photoshop and order supplies. In the end, we are both so happy with our invitations. They are pretty much exactly what I had pictured and more (silver ink was a last-minute stroke of inspiration - you can't design in Photoshop with silver!). Each is a little different but that gives them character. And best of all, each of our guests will get something in the mail that was handmade by us.

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