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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Envelope Printing – flat sheet printing and convert

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 25, 2017 1:36:41 PM

While offset and flexographic printing are the two main methods for custom printed envelopes, there is a third way which is very commonly employed; lithographic printing on large, sheet fed and web presses.

 mixing ink for flat sheet envelope printing

These presses are typically employed by printing companies which provide high quality, full color printing on sheets up to 28 x 40 or larger. If a customer has a custom printed envelope that requires full ink coverage on all sides or even very heavy coverage on just one side, then it must be printed on a flat sheet which is then die-cut and converted into an envelope.  (For more specific information on envelope converting, see the previous blog post here.  

There are two main reasons why this approach must be taken.  First, envelope printing presses like the most commonly used Halm Jet presses are not able to print full coverage on all sides of a made envelope.  As my previous post on flexographic printing explains, full coverage can be printed this way in-line but it’s only cost-effective at quantities of at least a few hundred thousand, usually more. 

The second reason is that when jet presses print heavy solids on a made envelope, there are potential problems.   Two of the main ones are seam marks and offsetting.  When a heavy application of ink is applied in this way, the seams usually become visible due to the combination of dense ink and the pressure of the print rollers.  Offsetting occurs when dense concentrations of dark ink are applied to an envelope. As the envelopes come off the press, they come in contact with one another before being scooped up in bundles and put back into a box. The rubbing or scuffing during this process causes the heavy ink solid to rub off onto the envelope next to it leaving a mark.

Offsetting can be mitigated or eliminated by using a UV dryer. This unit applies extra heat to the envelope as it comes off the press which can dry the ink sufficiently to prevent it from rubbing off.  This approach is workable but slows down the process and adds cost to the job.

Printing an envelope on a flat sheet and converting it after the fact eliminates any seam marks or offsetting. It’s also a better way to print full coverage on window envelopes.  Any envelope with a window needs a white border if it’s printed on a Jet press.  Flat sheet printing allows for the window to be cut out of the print solid during the converting process which looks much better.

Envelope printing with flat sheets and then converting is a more expensive way to go but yields excellent results and is very common in high-end direct mail pieces.  One of the disadvantages of this approach from a customer’s standpoint is that it almost always requires dealing with two different companies for the same job.  There are very few companies that have both the printing and envelope equipment necessary to do both components. (Elite Envelope happens to be one of the few companies that can do both under one roof with our combination of web printing and envelope converting).

Topics: custom envelope printing, envelope converting, litho envelope printing, envelope printing options

Three Useful Tips for the Best Envelope Printing

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 3, 2015 12:03:00 PM

Elite Envelope Jet Press

When you’re in the market for printed envelopes, there are a number of things that are useful to know before making a decision.  Printing on an envelope versus a simple flat sheet presents some unique challenges. Here are three things that experienced print buyers already know when they purchase printed envelopes:

  1. Choose the right style of printing – There are four ways to print an envelope.
    • Offset on a pre-made envelope
    • Offset on a flat sheet which is then converted into an envelope
    • Flexo which is typically done in-line as the envelope is being converted
  • Digitally either on a pre-made envelope or a flat sheet

The style of printing you choose revolves around three factors: the quantity you need, the quality of printing you require and the amount of print coverage you’re looking for.  I’ve laid out the details on all this in a previous post which you can view here .


       2.        Know the limitations of the process – Printing customer service professionals must be adept at “managing expectations” i.e. educating customers on what is possible and reasonable with what they are trying to accomplish.  When speaking about your order with your envelope printer, be sure to make clear what you want the piece to look like so that you can receive the best advice on what the likely outcome will be.  For example: if you’re looking to print a large, solid block of dark ink on the face of an envelope, you need to be aware that the seams created where the paper folds in the back will likely cause light lines to appear in the solid block due to the pressure applied by the print rollers. These are called “seam marks” and are generally unavoidable if the envelope is being printed after it’s folded.  The way to avoid this is to fold the envelope after it’s printed on a flat sheet. This is more expensive than printing on a pre-made envelope.

 

       3.      Design with the envelope in mind – When printing on a flat sheet, the only real limitations are presented by the type of stock or your budget. However, printing on envelopes is different and there are different things to consider. Some examples: 

  • If the envelope contains a window, you cannot print right up to where the poly cover starts or risk getting ink on the window. You can work around this by printing on a flat sheet and converting after the fact. Doing this allows the window to be cut out of the printed portion which allows for a clean line.
  • If your envelope is being mailed, there are limitations and restrictions to where the print coverage can be. These are dictated by postal regulations. For instance, you have to be careful with any printing on the lower right-hand corner of a #10 envelope due to the presence of a bar code which facilitates mail processing.

When looking to print an envelope, it’s always best to deal with an experienced envelope vendor, particularly an envelope converter wherever possible in order to get the full range of options available.

We’re happy  to answer any of your questions!

 

Topics: envelope printing, envelope converting, envelope solutions, envelope printing options, how envelopes are printed

Envelope Printing – Choosing the Best Method

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 17, 2012 12:37:00 PM

Printed Envelopes

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.

 

Topics: elite envelope, envelope offset printing, jet printing, how envelopes are printed, flexographic envelope printing, envelope printing options, elite envelope, envelope printing, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, printed envelopes

What’s the Best Way to Print a 4 Color Envelope?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 10, 2012 10:43:00 AM

Envelopes can be printed in four different ways: Offset, Flexographic, Litho and Digital.

The majority of envelopes are printed on an offset press; the most popular of which are the “Jet” presses made by the Halm Corporation.  Those are the presses used by most envelope companies and some printers. The Jet press is a sturdy workhorse that feeds envelopes up to 12 x 15 ½ in size and prints at speeds up to 30,000 per hour in some cases.  Most Jet presses print up to two colors and can perfect (print on both sides) in the same number of colors. However, there is a 4 color Jet which prints process or spot colors on envelopes with excellent quality.

Elite Envelope Jet Press

Probably the second most common way envelopes are printed is flexographically. (I say probably because I have no hard data on this. If anyone out there has evidence to the contrary, I’d be very interested).  Flexographic or as it’s commonly referred to, flexo printing is generally done in-line as the envelope is manufactured. Unlike offset printing which uses a metal printing plate, flexo printing uses a hard plastic, photo-polymer plate.  Flexo printing technology has come a long way in the past 20 to 30 years. It used to be done with soft rubber plates and used only for the most basic printing like, say a business reply envelope.  However, these days so-called enhanced flexo machines routinely print full coverage 4 color process envelopes with great results.

The next most popular way to print envelopes is on flat sheet litho presses.   This requires a two step process of first printing on the sheets and then converting the sheets into envelopes.  As an envelope converter, Elite Envelope regularly advises customers on when this might be necessary. It is a more expensive proposition than simply printing an already converted envelope on a Jet press but yields the best quality printing because of the size and capabilities of the equipment.

Lastly envelopes are sometimes printed in small quantities on digital copiers or presses. These machines can only print in process colors so they are not workable for a simple one or two color job. Also, the economics only make them a good choice if the quantities required are small. Generally anything over 2,500 doesn’t make sense to do digitally at least as far as envelopes are concerned. Not all digital presses can easily accommodate envelopes. Some of the newer models include this feature and work quite well.

So back to the question: What IS the best way to print a 4 color envelope?  Well, the simple answer is it’s based on three main factors: quantity, quality and coverage or a combination of the three. I’ll break this all down for you in next week’s post.  In the meantime, your comments are always most welcome!

Topics: four color envelope printing, envelope offset printing, flexographic envelope printing, flexo printing, envelope printing options, elite envelope, envelope converting, envelope printing, envelopes and printing

Envelope Printing Options – flat sheet litho and convert

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 18, 2011 3:52:00 PM

Elite Envelope print flat sheet litho and converting envelopesWhile offset and flexographic printing are the two main ways envelopes are printed, there is a third way which is very commonly employed; lithographic printing on large, sheet fed and web presses.

These presses are typically employed by printing companies which provide high quality, full color printing on sheets up to 28 x 40 or larger. If a customer has an envelope that requires full ink coverage on all sides or even very heavy coverage on just one side, then it must be printed on a flat sheet which is then die-cut and converted into an envelope. (see my previous blog posts for a more thorough explanation of the envelope converting process).

There are two main reasons why this approach must be taken. First, conventional envelope printing presses like the most commonly used Halm Jet presses are not able to print full coverage on all sides of a made envelope. As my previous post on flexographic printing explains, full coverage can be printed this way in-line but it’s only cost-effective at quantities of at least a few hundred thousand, usually more. The second reason is that when jet presses print heavy solids on a pre-converted envelope, there are problems that can ensue. Two of the main ones are seam marks and offsetting. When a heavy application of ink is applied in this way, the seams usually become visible due to the combination of dense ink and the pressure of the print rollers. Offsetting occurs when dense concentrations of dark ink are applied to an envelope. As the envelopes come off the press, they come in contact with one another before being scooped up in bundles and put back into a box. The rubbing or scuffing causes the heavy ink solid to come off onto the envelope that is next to it. What is left is ink residue that usually shows up on the back of the envelopes when the heavy coverage is printed on the front where it mostly is done.

Offsetting can be mitigated or eliminated by using a UV dryer which applies extra heat to the envelope as it comes off the press which can dry the ink sufficiently to prevent it rubbing off. This approach is workable but slows down the process and adds cost to the job.

Printing an envelope on a flat sheet and converting it after the fact eliminates any seam marks or offsetting. It is a more expensive way to go but yields excellent results and is very common in high-end direct mail pieces. One of the disadvantages of this approach from a customer’s standpoint is that it almost always requires dealing with two different companies for the same job. There are very few companies (none of which I am aware) that have both the printing and envelope equipment necessary to do both components.

At Elite Envelope, we have the expertise to handle the printing in conjunction with one of our many printer customers as well as the envelope equipment necessary to cut, glue and fold the paper into a high-quality envelope. We also have digital printing capability which works quite nicely for small quantity jobs (up to 2,500) at a very competitive price.

Please let me know your experiences in this regard. I’ll respond to all comments.

Topics: envelope converting, envelope printing, digital envelope printing, elite envelope, envelope offset printing, how envelopes are printed, flexographic envelope printing, envelope printing options

Envelope Printing Options – Flexography

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 10, 2011 11:51:00 AM

Flexographic printing, more commonly referred to as “flexo”, has been one of the main types of envelope printing for almost a century. It was a technological upgrade from letterpress printing which goes back to the days of the Gutenberg press. Flexography got its name from the flexible rubber plate which it uses to apply the graphic image.

Because of the limitations of the rubber plate, flexo printing was traditionally confined to very basic graphic images: mostly just type and numbers. However for a return address or reply envelope copy, the quality afforded with flexo printing was more than acceptable for most simple envelope printing requirements.

In the late 1980’s, the invention and practical application of hard plastic (photo polymer) printing plates helped to revolutionize flexographic printing by opening it up to a much larger range of printing possibilities. These days, flexo printing is routinely used with process printing, halftones, screens and many other fine applications which were previously not possible in that process.

For envelopes, the advantage of flexographic printing stems from the fact that it can be done while the envelope is being made. Many envelope folding machines have built-in printing stations which can apply not only an inside tint (typically printed flexo) but also printing on the outside of the envelope up to two colors. This “in-line” printing is more economical than printing an envelope on an offset press as a separate process. Although flexography has come a long way, the type of image that yields acceptable results on this type of equipment is still limited compared to what is possible with offset printing. The plastic plate just doesn’t hold the image as well as the metal plates used in offset printing. Also, the flexo printing units employed on the folding machines are subject to more “bounce” and variation generally than an offset press.

elite envelope flexo printing

The more advanced flexo printing mentioned above is done on big, expensive machines that require very large quantities (usually starting around 500,000) in order to be cost-effective. The reply envelopes that you get along with your credit card bill are mostly flexo-printed on these types of machines.

So how do you decide whether flexo printing is right for your job? The same two criteria that we applied to the offset printing decision process will apply here as well.

Quantity: In-line flexo printing of the most common variety (1 or 2 spot colors) becomes competitive with offset printing at around the 100,000 quantity level. That’s where Elite Envelope will generally start quoting if the customer is looking for the best possible price. The cost of the plates and set up time will usually make it less cost-effective at quantities lower than that. For high-quality flexo printing of the type I mentioned, use the 500,000 quantity as a general rule although some companies will price these jobs competitively at quantities of 250,000 or more.

Quality: - At Elite Envelope, flexo printing is quoted conditionally “based on suitability following an inspection of the copy to be printed”. Some quotes are so price-sensitive that a customer will want the flexo price only to find out that what they are printing cannot be done that way. Unless you are printing at the kind of quantities which allow for the state-of-the-art equipment to be employed, any copy with screens, half tones or duo tones, tight registration or fine lines will most likely have to be printed offset. Some of the decision is based on what is possible and some of it is based on the level of quality that a customer is expecting. We will generally err on the side of being conservative in our approach as there are few things worse than a disappointed customer.

In my next post, I’ll delve into flat sheet litho printing and converting. As always, I welcome your comments!

Topics: envelope printing, flexographic envelope printing, flexo printing, flexography, envelope printing options

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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