You’ve set the date, found the venue, hired the caterer, and chosen the theme. Now you just need people to show up! Whether you’re creating a digital invitation to send in an email, or a print design for the mail, this is a pretty crucial part of the event planning process. It can also be fun! You get to think about color palettes, themes, typography, imagery, event details, and more to distill your event into a single design. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can learn how to make your own invitations without any design knowledge.

Looking for a place to start designing? Try Shutterstock Editor, where you can personalize invitation templates or create your own custom party invitations using powerful tools and beautiful images.

Read on to discover 21 professional tips to make unforgettable custom invitations, cards, and save the dates for any occasion.


1. Begin With Your Card Dimensions

Depending on the type of event you’re designing for and its context, your card dimensions may vary. Listed are some variations of invitation cards, ranging from small and square to thin and oblong.

Popular card dimensions

Here are some popular dimensions for cards and invitations:

  • 3.5 x 5 inches (RSVP card)
  • 5.25 x 5.25 inches (square invitation)
  • 4.25 x 5.5 inches (response card)
  • 4.5 x 6.25 inches (response card)
  • 5 x 7 inches (standard invitation)
  • 5.5 x 7.5 inches (large invitation)
  • 6.5 x 8.75 inches (large invitation)
  • 4 x 9.25 inches (thin invitation)

2. Start Designing Early

Every well thought out invitation takes some time to design, so avoid a rushed timeline by planning out your invitation designs early. It’s important to give yourself time to think about the layout, typography, illustration, and color schemes involved in your invitation.

Woman designing invitation on laptop
Computer mockup via SFIO CRACHO. Wedding invitation via Alewiena_design.

3. Understand Color Theory

Color theory is one of the most important aspects of a design, guiding how different colors pair together to create a specific tone or emotion in a composition. Don’t apply colors willy-nilly – your design will look much better if you’re intentional about color.

Read our in-depth guide to color theory, color psychology, and color meaning, along with some downloadable color palettes to inspire your next invitation.

Abstract swirls of paint color
Image via vhpicstock.

4. Find Your Visual Style

Most invitations fall within or take from distinct visual styles. These styles affect the overall appearance of the card, including its color scheme, illustrations, and typography. Finding the right style for your invitation may be overwhelming at first, since there are a lot of directions you can go in. Do some extensive research to help you narrow down which styles work best for your event.

Mood board shows watercolor style for invitation
Left image via Floral Deco. Top image via Iisima. Bottom image via Floral Deco.

A mood board helps you compile those inspirational examples of illustration styles, typography, and color schemes in one place. You can also browse through sites such as Pinterest to find existing invitation styles or search through Shutterstock’s collection of invitation templates.

5. Experiment With Templates

Beginning with a predesigned invitation template is a quick way to jumpstart your design journey. They’re especially helpful when you’re not as accustomed to designing invites, or if you’re in a big rush. Shutterstock features endless vector invitation templates, from wedding to holiday party invites, that can be easily edited and customized in Adobe Illustrator. Or, you can make it even easier on yourself and use a predesigned template in Shutterstock Editor, where you can quickly personalize it within the app.

Party invitation templates
Wedding invitation via Ivan Negin. Birthday invitation via littleWhale. Christmas invitation via Vasya Kobelev.

You’ll notice many templates feature sample text (“Lorem Ipsum”) and a color palette to show you how typography and color comes together within the design. In a template, most of the design and illustration work is completed; you just need to change out the text and color schemes to make the invitation more personal. This can be achieved within Illustrator using the handy Type Tool (T) and the Color or Swatches panels.

6. Define Your Color Scheme

A consistent color scheme ties all design elements together and sets the tone of your invitation. The color scheme plays a bigger role than just appearance; it also defines the nature of the invitation. For example, vibrant palettes work well for birthday invitations, while more subdued palettes are ideal in wedding invites.

Painbrushes and paint swatches
Image via Bukhta Yurii.

Finding the right colors for your design can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with color theory. To speed up the color selection process, I’ve created tons of  custom color palettes for you. These 101 color combinations, 25 retro color palettes, and 20 holiday color palettes will give you a jolt of color inspiration.

7. Source High-Quality Fonts

Using a high-quality font is especially important when you make your own invitations. Just like other design elements, typography plays a huge role in a composition. Different fonts evoke different emotions. For example, script fonts exude elegance, while sans serif fonts give off a more casual vibe.

Free hand drawn font
Font via Very_Very.

That being said, there are many sites to source your fonts from, and many of them are free. Some of these free fonts run the risk of being poorly designed, but there are some trustworthy sites to find free and high-quality fonts. If you design your invitation in Editor, you already have a selection of great fonts to use, including invitation classics like script fonts.

Don’t have time to scroll through endless sites to find the font you need? Look through these 20 free script fonts

8. Stick to a Few Classic Fonts

Now you know where to find fonts, but don’t get too font-happy. Typography play a huge role communicating the details of your event, so it’s essential to stick to a select few that capture the essence of the invitation. In any design, use three or fewer fonts to keep things legible.

Invitation mockup using script font
Mockup image via Ariadna Nevskaya. Birthday template via LineTale. Used Montserrat and Yukikato fonts.

When you think of each typeface used as a different voice it’s easy to see how too many voices could make the invitation too “loud,” overpowering the actual event info. With the right selection of fonts, you can effectively set the tone of the invitation without overwhelming the reader.

Not sure how to carefully choose your fonts? Read through this handy guide to spot-on font pairing.

9. Don’t Crowd Your Card

When you make your own invitations, it’s important that you don’t crowd the design elements. A key concept in design is negative space, which allows the viewer to take in all aspects of the invitation without feeling completely bombarded. Don’t be afraid to leave blank space between text or images.

Invitation mockup with negative space design
Mockup via CallMeStasya. Wedding template via Alewiena_design.

In regards to typography, always leave ample room between event details. Avoid stacking text on top of each other or squeezing type into a cramped space; text packed into a small space can be hard to read.

10. Align Text to the Center

Aligning type correctly is important in any design. Because most invitations don’t contain long paragraphs of copy, it’s best to align short phrases to the center of your design. Flushing (or justifying)  your text to one side or another may make your composition look off-balance. In Editor you can simply toggle the alignment controls on the left side of the app to set your text.

Invitation mockup with center aligned text
Mockup via TabitaZn. Illustrations via LineTale. Wedding text via LuFei.

11. Take Advantage of Ampersands

Ampersands have a timeless yet stylish appeal with their effortless swashes and terminals. Instead of just typing “and” between names or other info, try incorporating ampersands. They can inject some serious personality to an invitation.

Free fonts with ampersands

1. Prata 2. Playfair Display 3. Alice 4. Rochester 5. Niconne 6. Vidaloka 7. Ovo 8. Berkshire Swash 9. Petit Formal 10. Elsie 11. Gravitas One 12. Rozha One

I’m a huge fan of ampersands, and I want you to love them too, so I’ve compiled a selection of twelve free fonts with absolutely stunning ampersands. Layer them behind two names or combine the names in a unique way to highlight the ampersand. The options are endless!

12. Make Sure Details are Legible

An invitation is more than just its aesthetics. As you go through the design process, don’t forget about the reason you’re making the invitation in the first place: to notify others of an important event.

Calligraphy practice handwriting
Image via Kseniya Maruk.

To keep all details legible, be sure to use a considerable font size for location and dates. Be wary of font styles that are hard to read, such as loopy script styles or heavily condensed typefaces. Always contrast the text color with its background; print dark ink on a light background, or vice versa.

13. Be Consistent

When creating an invitation that consists of multiple parts, such as a wedding invitation, there needs to be a coherent theme amongst all portions. Stick to a consistent theme by using an established color palette, typeface, illustration, photography, and layout throughout all designs.

Invitation pieces in consistent visual style
Image via Alewiena_design.

14. Incorporate Photography

An invitation doesn’t always require illustrations or hand-drawn elements; you can also attach personal images, or in this card’s instance, flat lay images. Photography is a great way to make invitations more personal and intimate. If you want to make your own invitation using Shutterstock Editor, you can easily search and incorporate images from Shutterstock’s collection, or upload your own personal photos to the app.

Holiday invitation mockup using photography
Mockup via Bo.graphic. Christmas Flat Lay via Fortyforks.

15. Add Texture to Your Card

If you’re printing your invitation on a flat sheet of paper, the design might appear lackluster without some additional finishes. Try adding some dimension to a flat design by incorporating debossing, embossing, or letterpress.

Embossed invitations
Image via Dzikavitski Artsiom.

Debossed portions are depressed into the surface, while embossed patterns are raised on paper. Letterpress printing leaves an imprint of text or images, either with or without ink. All of these subtle imprints can give your invitations that wow factor. The elements cost extra at a printer, but they might be worth it on an otherwise minimal design.

16. Include a Personal Touch

Nowadays, many invitations are designed exclusively online with the help of design software, like our online photo editor. Stray from the norm and include a handwritten touch by personally addressing your cards with calligraphy or by incorporating splashes of watercolor. When you do this, simply leave room on the invitation for your handmade touches.

Add hand drawn elements to cards
Image via jujikrivne.

17. Experiment with Metallic Inks or Foils

For special and memorable occasions, like a wedding or important birthday celebration, try experimenting with metallic ink or foil accents. These accents add a hint of shine and brilliance to borders, illustrations, and typography. Before committing to using specialty inks in your invitation, be sure to consult with a professional printing shop.

Invitation mockup with gold foil lettering
Card mockup via Ariadna Nevskaya. Wedding invitation template via Alewiena_design. Gold foil via detchana wangkheeree.

18. Double Check Color Modes

There can be a lot of confusion behind RGB and CMYK color modes. When you make your own invitations, it’s crucial to differentiate the color profiles; designing in the wrong mode can affect the overall tonality and colors present in the invitation.

RGB and CMYK color modes
Image via petrroudny43.

As a rule of thumb, when designing for online-only invitations, keep the document color mode to RGB. When setting up your invitation to be printed down the line, make sure your document is set to the CMYK color mode.

19. Focus on Packaging

Invitations, especially wedding invites, can contain more than just a single card. The envelopes and other adorning details need to complement the invitation design – not combat it.

Invitations and envelopes
Image via LightField Studios.

Consider how the outer packaging pairs with the contents. Keep it consistent and polished by using a similar color scheme and typography.

20. Print on High-Quality Paper

Paper is the foundation of your invitation, providing texture and creating a base for printing. While often overlooked, it is just as important as the design.

Types of paper products
Image via Coprid.

There are many paper options to choose from, from a thin translucent vellum to a thick, textured linen cardstock. Most invitations are printed on a smooth cardstock, but there are various textures and weights to consider when you make your own invitations.

21. Remember to Send Thank You Cards!

Once the event ends, be sure to send out thank you notes in a timely manner to those who attended, supported your event, or brought gifts. Show your guests that you appreciate them attending and supporting your event by mailing them a handwritten note. Thank You notes don’t have to be as embellished as the invitation – try making a simple template on Shutterstock Editor.

Mockup of thank you note
Mockup via MaddyZ. Wedding template via INGA TOMASEVIC. Used Yukikato and Montserrat fonts.

Cover image via Floral Deco.

Searching for more guides and tutorials on to help you on your next design? Check out these helpful articles: