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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Printed Envelopes – Top 5 most common mistakes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 9, 2017 1:33:34 PM

Envelope printing can present some unique problems and issues mostly due to the construction of the envelope.  Here are some of the most common problems that come up and how you can avoid them.

 

Design for your budget - Envelope printing runs the gamut from a simple black return address to full coverage process printing.  Pretty much anything you’d like to print on an envelope is possible – at a price.  And that’s what anyone designing an envelope must keep in mind. Creating a champagne piece on a beer print budget will inevitably lead to frustration.  The best way to proceed would be to involve your envelope vendor at the design stage in order to get a realistic idea of what’s possible and then go from there.

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Choose the right print process – You might refer to my three previous blog posts which detail the most common ways to print an envelope.  A simple design at a small to mid-size quantity is going to be best done by offset printing.  If heavy ink coverage is required, you’re probably looking at printing on flat sheets and converting afterward.  Long run jobs with simple copy can be done most economically by flexo printing.  Your needs will be best met by a company that can produce printing in all three styles and has no vested interest in one or the other.

 

Know the limitations of each process

  •  If you’re offset printing on a made envelope, avoid heavy solids which might cause offsetting or seam marks showing through. 
  •  If you’re flexo printing, avoid fine lines and screens and halftones unless you’re planning on a very long run and a budget that can support the state of the art flexo technology that exists.
  • If you’re digital printing, you need to understand that the look of digital can be different than say offset. That means if you’re trying to match a couple of components, say custom letterhead and custom envelopes, you might need to print them both in the same process.  Also, if you’re printing digitally on window envelopes, you’ll need a special window material that is resistant to the heat caused by most digital presses.
  • If you’re printing on flat sheets and converting, areas of heavy coverage may need a coat of varnish to keep the ink from smudging during the converting process.  You’ll also need to make sure you factor in “knock-out” areas where the glue is applied so the envelope will seal properly.  “Knock out” simply means areas where there is no ink on the paper.

 

Incorporate variation in your planning - One of the most popular designs for an envelope is the flap that is flood-coated in a solid color.  Most customers however are surprised that they cannot get every flap to print right to the score line.  The reason for this is laid out in my previous blog piece on the variation which is inherent in the process of printing and making envelopes.

 

Take everything into account

  • If you’re printing a piece on flat sheets with heavy coverage, understand that it takes at least a full day for the sheets to dry to the point where they can be converted.
  • If you plan to run your printed envelope through an ink jet printer for addressing, you might need to use a type of ink which can withstand the high heat of the digital printer. 
  • Rather than stamping or metering your mail, you might consider printing a postage-paid indicia right on the envelope to save time.

 

It’s always best to consult with an envelope converter before making any final design decisions.  A converter will be able to give you the proper advice based on their expertise in making and printing envelopes.

Topics: envelope printing, envelope printing mistakes, envelope offset printing

Offset Printing for Envelopes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 2, 2017 12:02:50 PM

Envelope printing has come a long way since the days when Confederate soldiers folded wallpaper to serve as a carrier for their letters home.

These days, the vast majority of the estimated 400 billion envelopes used annually worldwide are printed in 4 ways: offset, flexographic, flat sheet litho and digital. In today’s post, we will focus on offset printing.

The name offset comes from the process whereby a metal printing plate is burned with the image which is then transferred or “offset” to a printing blanket.  The blanket is attached to a roller in the press and coated with ink. The envelope is fed through the press and is printed with the image when it comes in contact with the ink-covered blanket.  Small, 2 color offset presses such as Multi and AB Dick can be adapted to print envelopes with the use of an envelope feeder.  While relatively slow, these do an OK job for small quantity runs (2,500 or fewer).

For anything over that quantity, envelopes are most economically printed on a Jet press. These presses are specially designed for envelope printing and some of the newer models can achieve speeds up to 40,000 per hour or more. Those of us in the biz will use the word “jet” as a verb as in “those envelopes need to be jetted”.  This is sometimes confused with ink-jetting which is a completely different animal (used to print addresses on bulk mailings).  Jet is a brand name for envelope printing presses made by the Halm Corporation.  The vast majority of offset printing for custom printed envelopes are done by this type and brand. The quality is excellent and very consistent.

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How do you know if offset printing is right for your envelope job?  The two main criteria to consider are the quantity you are looking for and the specific graphic image you want printed.

Quantity: - Offset printing is the most economical way to go on jobs of 2,500 and over. If the job must be done with offset printing, quantities from a handful to around 2,500 are most economically printed on one of the smaller, (non-Jet) presses previously mentioned.  (Digital printing is perhaps an even better option for these small runs, more on that in a subsequent post)  Anything 2,500 or more would be best sent to an actual envelope company which utilizes Jet presses.  

Quality: - Certain graphic images such as those containing fine lines, long, thin lines, half-tones (photos) screens (lighter shades of a darker color made by a concentration of tiny dots of varying density) or tight registration (a combination of images placed very close together or actually touching) generally require offset printing for best results. An envelope printing expert can tell from viewing your artwork what the best printing method would be for your custom printed envelopes.

I’ll get into the other main envelope printing methods in my next posts.

How do you print your envelopes these days?

Topics: elite envelope, envelope printing, offset printing, custom envelope printing

Custom Envelope Variation – part two

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 5, 2017 11:40:45 AM

In our last blog we presented the issue of variation in envelope converting and the reasons why it happens. In today’s piece, we’ll add the third and final reason for variation; jet offset envelope printing.

Envelopes can be printed in 3 ways (that topic to be fully discussed in a future article). The type of printing where variation can come into play is Jet offset printing. This is when the envelope is made and then printed after the fact.  In the typical Halm jet offset printer, a stack of envelopes is placed on one end and through vacuum pumps is fed through the printing cylinder over the plates and printing blanket and out the other end.  Like the envelope folding machine which forces the envelope to travel over a distance to its final destination, the printing press brings the envelope through various stages which cause it to move slightly.

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If the envelope is being printed with the same copy for each item and going through the press once, the amount of variation is so slight as to be virtually undetectable. However if, say,  you have a company logo that has been pre-printed onto the envelope and you are then feeding those “shells” into the press to add a certain return address next to the logo, you could see some variation or “bounce” in the placement of the return address in relation to the logo.  As in folding, the variation is generally within 1/16” of an inch but it could be more on a larger envelope like a 9 x 12.

Which brings us to things you can do to minimize the variation in your custom printed envelopes or custom envelopes in general; here are a few ideas you can put to use:

  1. Be realistic with your design – Certain designs for envelopes are almost sure to be a problem. Perhaps the most common one is designing the flap to be fully covered in a certain ink color. This looks cool but unfortunately the variation inherent in the process will cause there to be either some white on the flap or some color folding over of the color to the front of the envelope. The best way to avoid this is to either end the color 1/8” below the score line or wrap-around the color to the front 1/8”. It might not look as sharp but you’ll get a much neater and more consistent look.
  2. Avoid gloss coated stock where possible – Yes, it’s shiny and looks and feels great but it is also much more difficult to handle and the slipperiness of the coating causes more movement in the paper both in cutting and folding which can bring about greater variation.
  3. Deal directly with an envelope converter – Those of us who do this type of thing on a daily basis will be more familiar with the potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Have you had any problems with envelope variation on your printed pieces?  Contact us and we will provide an analysis of the problem at no charge or obligation to you.   

Our commitment to customer service never varies!

Topics: envelope printing, envelope printing mistakes, Envelope variation, custom envelopes, envelope variation solutions

Top Five Envelope Custom Envelope Converting Tips

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 27, 2017 11:12:35 AM

Envelope converting can be a confusing and somewhat daunting experience for someone not familiar with the process.  For printed envelopes, the term simply means printing on a flat sheet and having the sheets die cut and then folded and glued into envelopes.  The term also applies if you’re just cutting the paper with no printing. You are “converting” sheets of paper into envelopes:  pretty basic stuff.  Once you’ve gone through the process for the first time; it becomes much clearer and easier to understand.

Maybe you’re thinking about designing a custom envelope for a customer. Or maybe you’re an envelope printer and your customer is asking about a specialty envelope.  Here are a few things to keep in mind for your first converting job:

  1. Deal directly with an actual converter – Many companies that sell envelopes and have the word “envelope” in their name are not converters. It’s best to ask first before sending over an order.  You’ll be better served by those more experienced in the process and doing the job in-house.
  2. Preparation is the key to good results - A good converter should provide you with a specific list of instructions before you begin. Most important is a layout of the printed sheet showing where the envelopes should be placed. They will help you through the process.
  3. Not all design ideas are created equal - If the envelope is printed with a solid that bleeds to an edge, the image must wrap-around to the back by at least one-eighth of an inch in order to account for the normal variation inherent in the process. For window envelopes you can bleed the copy right to the edge of the window when converting. This is not possible with regular envelope printing on a pre-made envelope
  4. Understand what is possible in the process – speaking of variation, this is something that many designers don’t take into account when creating their envelope. Cutting paper in large reams and folding and gluing involves some variation – generally one-sixteenth of an inch in either direction.  This needs to be understood in order to have a satisfactory result and a realistic idea of what to expect.  Something that looks great in a direct mail marketer’s imagination doesn’t always translate to the finished product.
  5. Why convert? – If you want an envelope that features a large amount of ink coverage, generally with bleeds on most or all sides, the best way to proceed would be to print on flat sheets and convert. Anything short of that might be able to be printed on a jet press using pre-made or stock envelopes at a much lower cost. A converter and printer will be able to advise you on the best way to go on your specialty envelopes based on a simple inspection of your artwork.

 Envelope types.jpg

Custom printed envelopes can enhance your image and cause a potential buyer to be curious enough to at least open it up.  Choosing the right envelope company; one which does the envelope converting, printing and manufacturing under the same roof and can make the process easy to understand, is a good place to start.

Topics: envelope printing, specialty envelopes, envelope converting, custom envelopes, envelope converter

Elite Envelope Goes Solar!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 14, 2016 12:33:24 PM

So I was shocked twice this morning.  First, when I realized I hadn’t written a blog entry in over a month (I know, I know you’ve all been sitting at your desks each morning wondering where it’s been). And secondly when I looked at the calendar twice to see that it’s indeed December 14th and Christmas is next Sunday(!)  

 Rather than try to explain the inexplicable; i.e. how another year has apparently come and almost gone, I’m going to jump right into the topic of the day which is the value of renewable energy in the printing and envelope industry and the importance of accurate claims in this regard.

 As anyone who follows this blog is aware, I’ve been skeptical of the claims made by some of our competitors that a particular envelope was manufactured or printed using wind power.  In fact, “skeptical” may not be the right word.  “Dismissive” might be more accurate.  The way this works is that a company will purchase what are known as Renewable Energy Credits or REC’s.  These represent a purchase of a certain amount of power that is actually produced by a random wind farm somewhere in the US. The theory is that the power once purchased goes into the grid and is available for use by someone/anyone.  So this energy is thought to replace power that would have been produced using conventional fossil fuels.

I’ve always thought this to be a bit squirrelly and you can read why here.   But I’ve also said that if you really want to make a difference and think that renewable energy is important, then by all means put your money where your mouth is and you’ll get no quarrel from me.

That’s what we’ve done at Elite Envelope & Graphics.  As of the beginning of 2017, we will begin generating somewhere between one half and three quarters of our total energy consumption through an array of solar panels that we’ve just installed on our brand new roof.

Elite Solar JV standing.jpg  

To be honest, our primary reason for doing this was economics.  Between the incentives provided by the Federal and State governments, the system will pay for itself in a fairly short time after which our monthly savings on electricity will be substantial well into the future. And once all the impending breakthroughs in large, storage battery technology I’ve been reading about come to fruition, it’s possible that we could be completely self-sufficient in our energy usage in the not-too-distant future.

But aside from the economics,  there are certainly environmental benefits to consuming less fossil fuel and we will now be in a position to print this (below) on our customer’s envelopes and have it be literally accurate.  There’s a lot to be said for truth in advertising!   Let us know if we can help you impress your customers.

Solar Power Logo Sun.jpg

 

Topics: elite envelope, envelope printing, envelope manufacturing, going green

The 2 Most Common Envelope Printing Mistakes

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 23, 2016 2:02:33 PM

You might be thinking, “Printing is printing”, right?  Well, yes and no.  Printing processes are pretty much the same regardless of the material.  You’re laying ink (or toner) on top of paper, cardboard, cloth, plastic or many other possible substrates. 

 However, as you can imagine, printing a T-shirt is quite a bit different than, say, printing a paper label.

In the world of printing, envelopes can present some unique challenges requiring some forethought and a bit of knowledge about how the process works in order to achieve the best result.

 So, here are some of the most common errors. Try to avoid them if you can!

1.)    Selecting or Assuming the Wrong Printing Process - As I’ve laid out in previous posts (see here and here) there are a number of different ways to print an envelope. Each method has its own unique characteristics as well as limitations.  Factors such as the size of the envelope, the amount of colors and ink coverage and the quantity will tend to dictate the best process be it offset, litho, digital or flexo.  For a complete explanation of each of those processes, click on either or both of the links at the beginning of this paragraph.

Two examples of how the wrong envelope printing process can lead to bad results are the heavy, dark ink solid and printing up to the window.  On the former, some envelopes will feature a large area of solid dark ink. Maybe some copy is knocked out of the box, maybe not.  If this type of a design is being printed on a stock envelope, it will most likely cause smudging on the back of the adjacent envelope. This happens as the envelopes come off the press onto the moving belt before they are put in the box. The heavily printed part can actually rub off a bit onto the back of the next envelope. The technical term for this is “offsetting”.  An envelope like this either needs to have the solid portion cut back or lightened with a screen effect.  If the heavy solid needs to stay, then the envelope will likely have to be printed on flat sheets and converted after the fact. This will add considerable cost to the job.

Printing right up to the window cut-out can only work if the job is converted after printing.  If you want to print that design on a stock envelope, you have to leave a white border of at least 1/8” all around the window in order to account for print variation and to avoid ink on the window.

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2.)    Improper Design – Envelopes can be printed in a myriad of different ways with lots of color and coverage. However, sometimes the design that looks great on a computer screen will not be the most practical.  One of the most common examples of this is the flap that is covered with ink right up to where it folds. That looks really sharp and it can definitely be done but there is a caveat. This type of design can only be accomplished by printing on a flat sheet and then converting into an envelope.  The converting process includes some inevitable variation. This means that the ink on the flap will only hit the fold exactly about 20% of the time at the most. The rest of the envelopes will either show some white on the front or the ink will wrap over a bit to the back.  That inconsistency is generally not anticipated by the customer.  At Elite, we will always warn a customer about this in advance but that’s not always the case with other companies.  The best way to avoid this is to design the ink coverage on the envelope flap to wrap around to the front of the envelope by ¼”.  You’ll show some ink on the front but at least it will be consistent although still with a little variation. 

Another common example of an impractical design is when heavy ink solids are placed on top of where the envelope folds or where the flap sits.  Envelope presses rely on the pressure of rubber rollers to impart the ink and image.  Because of the numerous folds in the back of an envelope, there is a slightly uneven surface on which to print.  Placing a heavy coverage of ink, especially a dark color like blue directly over these uneven areas can result in small white lines through the printing. These are what’s known as “seam marks”.  Moving that portion of the graphic image to another spot on the envelope or, as in #1 above, lightening the image with a screen effect can usually solve the problem.

In all cases, your best approach would be to deal with a company that specializes in envelopes who would be able to advise you on the best way to print your particular job.  

 

Topics: envelope printing, jet printing, printed envelopes

Pushing the Envelope: Talk versus E Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 24, 2016 9:59:22 AM

I was talking to my daughter the other day about something funny I saw on Facebook. Someone had posted a picture of what used to be on the TV screen when the programming stopped in the early morning hours.  Kind of looked like this!  It was accompanied by a continuous low beep that lasted until the early morning hours when the shows would start up again.  Yes kids; that really used to happen.

Now we’ve come so far since then that my 16 year old daughter didn’t see it as such a laughable relic of olden times because in 2016, her connection to television, especially the broadcast variety is tenuous at best.  Most of what she watches these days is on You Tube or Netflix or from links she picks up on social media.  Television; the fantastic gadget that tantalized my parents’ generation at the 1939 World’s Fair is now pretty much consigned by the iGens to “whatever” status.

Another story about the “good old days” that I regale her with occasionally concerns the land line telephone. Yes, my child there were obnoxious sounding busy signals which just kept going and going until you hung up. If the line was busy and you had to speak to someone, you just kept calling until you got through. And when my big sister used to speak to her friends, she had to pull the cord and walk part way down the basement stairs and close the door behind her so she had some privacy.  This maneuver didn’t deter my grandmother who used to gingerly pick up her extension upstairs and listen in while covering the mouthpiece with her hand.  

 

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These days what used to be generational changes are happening within a much smaller timeframe. In the span of the past ten years or so, e mailing, like Facebook, has become more of a middle-aged thing.  My mother used to cut out articles she wanted me to read from the newspaper and magazines and send them to me.  Now I do the same thing with my kids but via e mail.  My older kids – both in their mid-thirties will read and respond. My youngest rarely even opens them. To her, e mails are something you get from school (or your parents!) and should mostly be ignored. If you want to reach her and get a reasonably quick response, you pretty much have to text.

E mail, however, still rules in business – at least in the envelope converting and web printing business.  In fact, the sheer number of e mails I get each day has become somewhat burdensome.  Now, I’m NEVER going to complain about a customer requesting something via e mail, or a prospect for that matter.  Hearing from customers; quoting on jobs, expediting requests and orders, and providing general customer service is the lifeblood of a business. It is something we value and is certainly not a problem.

But reading, considering and responding to those e mails, especially when they require some action on our part, takes up a lot of time.  Which leads me to my point (finally!).   I think we’ve become too used to e mail to the point where we’ll generate a trail of three, four or many more about a single subject when one simple and shorter phone call would do.  Now there is something to be said for typing up a quick note and sending and moving quickly on to the next thing before having to respond. I think we get into a groove with that activity and it gives us the sense that we’re being productive and plowing forward. Trouble is, I’m afraid in many cases we’re wasting time.  Why not just give the person a call and review everything in one (hopefully short) phone call?  Speaking in real time can resolve questions that might take several e mails back and forth as in; “is THIS what you meant?”, etc. Plus an actual conversation can reinforce any type of relationship business or personal much better than trading notes.

My grandmother, who was all about saving time would approve. Of course she wouldn’t be too interested to listen in on conversations discussing the best way to print an envelope or why web presses are the best option for direct mail printing.  My sister’s conversations with her boyfriends were much more interesting!

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes, envelope printing, pushing the envelope, web printing

Envelopes and Web Printing – Best Friends Forever! 

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 14, 2015 2:59:00 PM

If there were ever a title that required a smiley-face (or emoticon or emoji or whatever they’re called at the moment) I suppose it’s this one.  Yes, it’s time for the Elite Envelope and Graphics blog to dip its toe into social media-speak and the culture in general.  Just be glad that I didn’t go all middle school and use BFF: one of the many things for which you can be grateful this beautiful, late summer morning in America.

Can there be any doubt of the pervasiveness of social media in 2015? On a personal level, it’s been great when it knows its place; not always an easy place to find in the midst of the non-stop lives that many of us live.  We can keep up with our friends (maybe could do without all the updates about the latest meals), reconnect with people from our past who probably would have been forgotten, become aware of what’s new and perhaps exciting in our area and the world beyond.  All these things can be a welcome addition and diversion from the daily grind.

Business has latched onto this in a big way. No marketing conference can get away with not having at least one or more sessions on how to use social media to increase sales and brand loyalty.  Social media has reinforced and amplified the already well-established trend toward informality in business which in many cases has gone from Casual Friday to Casual Everyday without a lot of notice.  When you’re “liking” the new dress of some distant acquaintance on the same day that you’re “liking” the landscaping company you just hired, the distinction between personal and commercial is blurred beyond distinction.

Is that good for business in general? It certainly is for some businesses.  I suppose that companies generally will reflect the broad changes in society for better or worse. The general descent into explicit content and crude language on radio and television; two areas which in the relatively recent past you didn’t see that much are a fact of life.  Will businesses start to embrace this as a way of connecting to customers?  I think not for a variety of reasons but it will bear watching. Sometimes these things are driven by someone doing something considered outrageous and getting rewarded for it. Everyone then follows along as a way to compete or from a lack of imagination.  Howard Stern might be an example of this phenomenon. 

Perhaps it’s a stretch to suggest that social media business marketing is the beginning of the descent to the lowest common denominator; where how you speak and act in private is transferred to your commercial transactions with no distinction between the two.  If this does happen, I believe it will be driven by businesses which have a small, targeted market that would accept or perhaps even embrace that approach. 

Thankfully social media marketing is not that big of a deal in the printed and converted envelope and web printing world.  I say thankfully because it would be one more thing for me to do and frankly I much prefer one on one communication with customers. I think it’s more effective and in the world of social media can be a welcome relief from the need to post and promote incessantly to get noticed.  I think after I write this I’m going call someone I haven’t spoken to in a while just to say hi. They may be shocked!  Or they may think of me the next time they need a custom envelope or a printed direct mail piece. That’s worth one of these

 smiley face emoji

Topics: elite envelope, envelope printing, envelope converting, direct mail printing, web printing

The Timeless Appeal of Print and Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 30, 2015 12:26:00 PM

Elite Envelope blog

I have a sixteen year old daughter who, like most kids her age is joined at the hip with her smart phone. She spends way too many hours on that and her tablet sampling the occasionally rich, varied and often stupid content on the net and social media not to mention the constant texting, Snap-Chatting, posting pictures (yikes!), etc. 

It wasn’t that long ago she had a list of TV shows that she recorded and watched on a regular basis. Now, she doesn’t even do that. It’s all internet content.

However, the other day a letter came in the mail addressed to her and she immediately picked it up and opened it.  It was just a renewal slip for her subscription to Teen Vogue which she promptly discarded as she’s no longer interested in that either. But the point is, she was curious to see what was inside.

Now someone born at the turn of the century who’s been marinating in the digital world for much of her sentient existence is perhaps not the best example of a target for direct mail.

Then again, I think she represents the perfect target for direct mail.

According to the DMA 2014 Statistical Fact Book a far greater percentage of 18-21 year olds opened mail immediately in 2012 than they did in 1987 (62.8% versus 46.9%).   This makes perfect sense to me as receiving a letter in the mail in 2012 is really a novelty and a surprise compared to 1987 when it was routine.  I’ve pointed this out before but how many people complain these days about “junk mail”?  Very few. There are far more complaints about e mail spam.

The DMA book is bursting with statistics showing direct mail to be resurgent in today’s world of direct marketing.  Mail has many advantages over digital communication; not the least of which is it exists in the physical world – the “real” world that you can touch and feel. That mail piece will stay on the kitchen counter until someone opens it or moves it somewhere. Just the fact that it’s tangible gives it a permanence that just doesn’t come from e mail despite the latter’s great convenience. 

As more and more payment and compliance transactions are done online, direct mail comprises a greater percentage of total print and mail volumes. At Elite Envelope, we see this to be very true in the composition of our business.  Much of the envelope converting we do every day comes from printers who are producing slick envelopes to enclose creative and colorful direct mail content.  A lot of the envelope printing including much of the four color envelope printing we do falls into the direct mail category including non-profit fundraising mail.

To ensure the viability of our industry into the future, we simply must appeal to millennials and even younger demographics. Getting them to look forward to receiving things in the mail should be high on the priority list for all direct marketers. It’s our future.

As always, would love to hear your comments on this subject.

Topics: direct mail, envelope printing, envelope converting, four color envelope printing

Four Color Process Envelope Printing - which method is right for you?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 9, 2015 1:29:00 PM

fancy envelope picture

Envelopes used to be an afterthought when it came to a printed package. A lot more time, attention and expense would typically be spent on the contents rather than the package which enclosed them. That is no longer the case and here's my theory as to why:

One of the pervasive aspects of our increasingly affluent society is that people's tastes and expectations change; generally in a more expensive direction. Just to take a couple of examples (there are many others):

My parents drank Maxwell House ground coffee that they bought in a large, pressurized can at the supermarket probably for the same price (or less!) than a single latte drink at Starbucks costs today. Maxwell House was good enough for them and millions of others.

Anyone try to give away their old cathode-ray TV lately? Last year I had the Salvation Army refuse to take mine because "everyone wants flat screen TVs these days".  They also wouldn't take my used but good condition sleeper couch with down cushions because of a small, faded portion on the back from the sun.  Apparently, even poverty isn't what it was 50 years ago.

Those are just two examples but the point is, for most of us, pedestrian isn't good enough anymore. One of the prime drivers of this is technology which, for example, makes flat screen TVs less expensive today than my 19" Sony Trinitron cost 15 years ago. Our standard of living has gone up largely because the cost of what used to be premium items has decreased. We're less willing to settle for...

simple black printing on envelopes for example!  You can buy a fairly inexpensive color desk top printer and print your own envelopes in pretty colors.  You can also go to Staples or other walk in digital printers, hand them your flash drive and walk out with some fancy color printed envelopes.

But what about if you're a small business owner or a print buyer?  What are your options for more than just a few hundred four color process envelopes? 

There are four possible ways to do this:

  • Offset
  • Lithographic
  • Flexographic
  • Digital

 

  • Offset - The most common offset press made for envelopes and used by most envelope converters, envelope manufacturers and envelope printers is the Jet press made by the Halm Corporation. The four-color jet press is a great option for a quantity of 5,000 and up where the printing is light to medium coverage with no bleeds.  For instance - if you have a small four color logo that you place with your return address, the four color Jet is generally the best way to go for price and good quality.

 

  • Lithographic - By this I mean high-quality sheet-fed printing from a large, sophisticated press made by companies like Heidelberg and Kamori which you'll find at large, commercial printing companies. Envelope converters like Elite Envelope will take printed sheets from these companies, almost always printed in full color, and cut, fold and glue them into envelopes. The reasons an envelope is printed this way boil down to three: coverage, quality and stock.  If the envelope has full coverage, front and back, this is one of your two options (flexo is the other, more on that shortly). If the envelope uses coated stock, then it generally needs to be printed this way. And sheetfed offset is generally the gold-standard for print quality in the industry. So if your envelope has to look better than anyone else's, this is probably the way for you to go.

 

  • Flexographic - Also known as "flexo" uses hard-plastic photo polymer plates versus the metal plates used in offset printing. It is done in-line (as the envelope is being manufactured) and features quick drying ink. Flexo used to be pretty much exclusively for "down and dirty" print jobs;  black or one color with simple copy. It's main advantage is cost; especially on very large quantities (typically 100,000 and up).  The quality of flexo printing has improved dramatically over the past several decades and there is now so-called "enhanced flexo" equipment which prints four color process in full coverage with outstanding results. However the quality is still not quite up to the level of lithography.

 

  • Lastly as I already mentioned, there's digital printing.  This is done mostly with toner versus ink. The quality is generally very good especially as the technology improves. Unlike the other three methods, there's virtually no-set up time required for digital printers. You pretty much just click and go. For that reason, digital is great for small runs of up to around 2,500.  However digital printers are very slow in comparison to offset or flexo presses so after that number, you're better off going offset.  Another drawback with digital printers is because of the intense heat needed to set the toner, regular poly window patch material melts.  So special and more expensive material must be used if you're printing a window envelope.  Plus, while the quality is good, it has a different look than offset printing. So, if the components are printed offset, they won't match the envelope which can be a problem in some packages. However, one great advantage to digital printing is that it can easily print variable data which has become essential in the world of direct marketing. And if you need a larger quantity of digitally printed envelopes, there are some very-sophisticated digital web presses that can print on sheets or rolls for converting later.

 

If you have a question on how to print a particular envelope to best meet your needs, send me an e mail or give me a call. I'll be happy to help you sort things out.

 

 

Topics: envelopes and printing, envelope printing, envelope manufacturer, envelope converting, four color envelope printing

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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