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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Envelope Converting Tip: Setting up the sheet for printing.

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 4, 2012 11:41:00 AM

One of the most common questions from printers who aren’t familiar with envelope converting is, “Where do I place the impression(s) on the sheet?”

An envelope converter will typically provide a layout to the printer which will show the proper placement of the unfolded envelopes on the sheet to be printed. “Print to the layout” is the short answer to these questions and will usually suffice.  

However, with the growth of digital printing as an economical way to print small-run 4-color jobs, converting jobs of under 5,000 are becoming more common. Digital printers are making customers aware that they can print as few as 500 letterhead and matching envelopes in 4 color process at a reasonable cost. The envelope component is typically printed on flat sheets and then converted for a minimum charge that is less than the cost of setting up a litho press with plates, etc.

In these cases, the printer will be using a small sheet with a one-up impression. The envelope converter will usually provide a die layout that doesn’t always show the proper position on the sheet.

In these cases, the standard rule is very simple. The printer must position the unfolded envelope impression 3/8” of an inch from two sides: typically the flap side will be one and one of the side seams the other.

envelope die cutting through paper 

Often, printers will assume that the envelope must be centered on the sheet. This looks neat and clean but it does not yield good results. The reason is that when the cookie-cutter style high-die cuts through the paper (see photo), it needs to break through the ream.  Envelope dies have a small metal piece screwed to the side in the shape of a small anvil. This is what slices through the paper as the die is pressed down. However, it needs to be positioned no more than ½” from the edge in order to work.

If the envelope impression is centered on the sheet, the “anvil” will not be close enough to the edge and the paper will buckle as it is cut. This will cause more variation in the folding. (See previous blog posts to get an explanation of variation in envelope converting).

So, by all means, print to the layout! But if the layout doesn’t show position, just make sure you place the impression no more than ½” from two sides of the sheet (3/8” is ideal) and you’ll be good to go.

Topics: envelope converting, envelope converting tips, Envelope variation, envelope converting layout, envelope die cutting, envelope converting mistakes

Envelope Converting Issue Du Jour

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 15, 2011 11:55:00 AM

Yes, as The Who famously sang, it’s “another tricky day” in the world of envelope converting and manufacturing.  I strongly suspect they were not referring to envelopes in that song, but hey, a hook is a hook!

I’m taking a break from handling a couple of very common problems to write this blog on the subject of one of them.  

The problem concerns the customer who is looking for a rush delivery on converting two thousand press sheets to a 9 x 12 booklet envelope with a peel and seal flap.  Aside from whether we can accommodate their stiff delivery requirements on the week before Thanksgiving, the main problem is that they printed the sheets to the layout provided from another converter.  Now that converter has told them they can’t make the delivery so they are asking us to do it. The copy on the face of the envelope doesn’t bleed to the edge so the printer is assuming that since a 9 x 12 envelope will always measure 9 x 12 (one of life’s certainties for sure) it shouldn’t be a problem.

But here’s where it gets tricky: when envelopes are die cut out of flat sheets, the die is lined up to the impression on the sheet. While 9 x 12 envelopes are always going to measure 9 x 12 after folding, the variable tends to be the size of the flap.  Standard size envelopes from various manufacturers are generally never identical when it comes to flap size.

elite envelope die cutting

Let’s say the flap on the layout they printed to is 1 ½ inches. If our flap is 2”, then the impression on the front of the envelope will be moved  ½” causing it not to line up properly.  We’re checking right now to see if we can come up with a comparable size on the die but if not, the printer is out of luck whether we can do the delivery or not. (We probably can, we’re good that way).

So, the moral of the story here is twofold: first, always try to print to the layout supplied by the vendor who is doing the converting. Secondly, and most importantly, always try to use Elite Envelope for your converting!

BTW, just found out that we can work with the layout AND do the delivery which includes peel and seal on the flap. OK, back to work now: see you next week.

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes, envelope converting, envelope converting tips, envelope die cutting, envelope converting mistakes, envelope converting process

Envelope Converting Tips and Mistakes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Aug 25, 2011 10:49:00 AM

In my previous post, we took the converting process from the point where the printer prepares the sheets and ships them to the envelope converter. Once the sheets are received, the envelope converting process actually begins.

The first step is die-cutting the envelope impressions (or blanks) out of the sheet.  The envelope company will use a steel die – resembling a cookie cutter (see picture below). This is also sometimes referred to as a “high die” as the sides are generally around 4 inches high to account for the size of the ream being cut.

 die cutting envelopes, Elite Envelope & Graphics, envelope converter

Depending on the quantity of the envelopes to be converted, the die-cutting will be either done by hand as the picture shows or in an automated fashion using a programmable hydraulic press (PHP).  The hands-on method allows for a little more accuracy and individual adjustments on cuts which can be improve the results on certain tricky jobs. Once the envelope blanks are cut out of the sheets, they are stacked and ready to be fed into the folding machine.  Each folding machine has a mechanic or “adjustor” who is responsible for setting up the equipment to run the various size envelopes with or without windows.  The adjustor constantly monitors the equipment and pulls off envelopes as they are being made to measure and check glue and other factors which are important to a properly constructed envelope.

Some tips to ensure a problem-free converting experience:

  • Always ensure that the sheets are printed in strict accordance with the layout/template provided by the envelope converter.  If you don’t get one at the time of the order, ask for it. The converter knows how the job is to be laid out for best results. Going by the layout and submitting a proof sheet for prior approval can prevent many of the most common errors.


  • As I’ve covered in previous posts, there is variation inherent in both the cutting and folding of an envelope. If you are printing an envelope that has color which bleeds to one of the folding edges, you must wrap-around the image by at least 1/8” to ensure no white space shows.   The only way to significantly minimize this variation without the wrap-around is to individually die cut each envelope prior to folding. This is a much more costly process and not feasible on a large order. Plus, because of the folding variation, you’re still not going to get them all perfect.


  • If your envelope has full ink coverage all around, you must leave a space – called a no-print area – on the side flaps where they meet the back panel and also on the back panel where it meets the flap. This is where the glue is applied to hold the envelope together and seal it. The adhesion property of the glue is significantly lessened when it is applied on top of heavy ink coverage.  The layout provided by the envelope converter should have these areas marked off.

Topics: elite envelope, envelope converting, envelope converting tips, Envelope variation, envelope converting layout, envelope die cutting, envelope converting mistakes

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!


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