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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

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

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

Envelope Printing – What are your Options? – Offset

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 5, 2011 2:45:00 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 and then applied to the envelope. 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 run on a Jet press. These are specially designed for envelopes and some of the newer models (we have a couple at Elite) can achieve speeds up to 50,000 per hour. Those of us in the biz will use this word as a verb as in “those envelopes need to be jetted”, etc. 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 presses used by envelope companies are this type and brand. The quality is excellent and very consistent.

Elite Envelope jet press quality envelope

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 up to around 100,000. Jobs from a handful to around 2,500 are most economically done on one of the smaller, (non-Jet) presses previously mentioned. These are in use at most local Instant Print type shops which would most likely be your best option for a 1 or 2 color job of that size. Anything 2,500 or more would be best sent to an actual envelope company which utilizes Jet presses. . At Elite, we routinely print jobs from 2,500 into the millions on our Jets.

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 expert can tell from viewing your artwork what the best printing method would be.

In the next post, I’ll get into flexographic printing. As always, your comments are most welcome and I’ll respond to each of them.

Topics: envelope printing, jet printing, envelope offset printing, how envelopes are printed

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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