In last week’s blog post, I listed the various ways envelopes can be printed: offset, flexo, flat sheet litho and digital. Those are listed in descending order from the most popular methods through the least popular, at least in my experience.
But the question remains: how does one choose the best method for printing an envelope? You could just send a quote to your favorite envelope company or printer and ask them to provide a price. That may get you what you need but it also might get you a price on whatever works best for that particular company and not necessarily what is the best and most economical way for that particular job.
No, it’s always best for a buyer to be knowledgeable on his own in order to get the best quality and price. That applies to anything you purchase really.
In my previous post I mentioned the three factors to be considered when deciding how to print your envelope: quantity, quality and print coverage. In thinking about this, I tried to come up with a simple formula for your use. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy because multiple factors need to be considered for just about any envelope print job. So here’s my best shot on the basics for you to consider using those three criteria:
1. Coverage: If the envelope prints with full coverage front and back or full coverage on one side with bleeds all around, the three print options you have would be enhanced flexo, flat sheet litho or flat sheet digital with converting after the fact. (Most envelopes that print with this type of coverage tend to be 4 color process. If the piece prints in spot colors, then digital would not be an option unless the artwork could be converted to CMYK.) The enhanced flexo process is done inline on a web machine. Diagonal seam envelopes cannot be done this way because of the web process.
If the envelope has light to medium ink coverage, then Jet offset (printing on a pre-made envelope) is the best option for quantities up to around 250,000. At higher quantities, regular flexo might be a more cost-effective option depending on the quality of the printing required. Half tones, fine screens and fine lines and close registration generally require offset printing. However, something like a simple BRE or line copy could be printed flexo with good results.
2. Quantity: Small quantities up to around 2,000 are where digital printing on a pre-made envelope can be cost-effective. However, as I mentioned, most digital presses can only print process colors. So anything with spot colors needs to be printed in one of the remaining three processes. Strictly from a price standpoint, offset would be the least expensive on quantities up to 250,000. However, the best option would also have to consider the amount of coverage and the quality required.
Some companies, like Elite Envelope, feature very competitive Jet offset pricing at quantities well into the millions. For this reason, the offset/flexo decision can also depend on the company you are dealing with.
3. Quality: I’ve mostly covered the quality considerations that need to be taken into account except to say that even if an envelope can be printed flexo, you will get superior quality by printing it offset. So if you can make the pricing work, you’re better off going that route simply for best print results.
Of the four printing options for envelopes, the best quality would be flat sheet litho for the simple reason that those presses are larger and built to produce high-quality fine printing on pieces where the expectations exceed what is commonly required for an envelope. However, that is generally going to be the most expensive way to go so that must be taken into account as well.
Lastly, one of the comments from last week’s blog concerned bleeds on envelopes. Bleeds can be printed on Jet offset presses in certain cases. The best results are where the coverage is light or involves a screen that bleeds. However, we have printed many envelopes with fairly dense coverage on the jet that happen to bleed. There can be some occasional ink build-up on the edge which needs to be monitored but overall a good pressman can make it work quite well.
I hope I’ve clarified some of the envelope printing decisions you might need to make. If you’re still unsure, just send me a pdf of your artwork and I’ll be happy to provide a suggestion of your best way to go.