Questions? Call Us!

(781) 961-1800

Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

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.

 _MG_0181-2.jpg

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

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

Does my envelope need to be converted?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 6, 2012 10:23:00 AM

Ok, so your customer or in-house client wants to do a mailing with a custom envelope: Good for them!

Studies show direct mail advertising to be a very effective way to get your message across. And a colorful and well-designed envelope can help the effectiveness of the message and create interest to open it and find out more.

Your client presents you with an envelope design and now it’s your job to decide how best to get it done.  One of the first decisions is how to print and make the envelope. Here are a few things to keep in mind in order to make the right call.

The three most important factors are the size of the envelope, the size and placement of the window and the amount of print coverage required.

If the envelope is not a standard size, it will most likely have to be custom-made.  If it has a window that is not standard (1-1/8” x 4 ½ ”, 7/8” from the left and ½” from the bottom), the same thing applies. Regardless of whether the envelope even has printing on it, these two factors will have to be taken into account. Obviously an off-the-shelf item in a standard size that can be jet-printed (typically the way envelope companies print envelopes – see other blog posts for more information) is going to be the least expensive way to go.  

However, the most important factor in determining whether an envelope must be converted or not is the amount of printing coverage. The term “converting” is really just another way to say “manufacturing”. However, they are generally not used interchangeably. “Converting” most commonly describes the process by which sheets are printed and then cut and folded to make envelopes.  It can also describe the cutting and folding of flat sheets of paper with no printing but for our purposes, we will stick with the most common use of the term.

Envelope Converting machine

Jet presses have their limitations and that mostly has to do with the amount of print coverage. If your design has either of the following printing characteristics, the envelope will most likely have to be printed on flat sheets and converted into envelopes after the fact:

  • Full coverage front and back

  • Heavy coverage and solids on either side of the envelopes including the flap that bleed to the edge

Anything less than that and it will be a judgment call. Some jet presses (like those at Elite Envelope) can print solids and bleeds to the edge with good results. Some of it has to do with the skill of the pressman (ours are the best!). If you’re unsure, the best way to proceed is to send a pdf of the copy to your envelope company and a trained eye will be able to give you the printing options.  It’s always best to deal directly with an actual envelope converter when you are trying to determine the best way to go. They would have the most expertise on both the printing and converting side.

Good luck and may you be happy and enthusiastic like all recent converts! Feel free to comment or pose a question and I'll be sure to get back to you.

Topics: direct mail, envelope manufacturing, jet printing, elite envelope, envelope manufacturer, envelope converting, envelope converting tips, envelopes and printing, envelope company

What they learned at the envelope plant tour

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 17, 2012 10:49:00 AM

Elite Envelope manufacturing plant

As an envelope converter and manufacturer, Elite Envelope holds a relatively unique place in the printing world. We are the only envelope converter in greater Boston and one of only six in all of New England.

One of our favorite things to do is invite customers and prospective customers to visit us for a plant tour. Many envelope buyers have never actually seen an envelope being made and it’s always an eye-opening experience.  There’s always at least one comment about the fact that they didn’t realize so much went into the making of a simple envelope.

We start by showing the paper cutting processes. We show how reams of paper are precisely die-cut either by hand for smaller jobs or, for larger jobs, on our computerized PHP cutter.  Showing the cookie-cutter-style die going through the paper lift demonstrates how variation can occur in the cutting process better than any explanation. You can actually see the paper bend just slightly as it’s cut.  Customers can actually see how certain designs are more practical than others given the limitations inherent in the process.

After a short stop at the latex self seal and peel and seal equipment, we move on to the folding machines which are the heart of the envelope converting process.  We show how the die cut “blanks” are fed into the machine at one end and come out the other end a scored, glued and folded envelope.  Customers see the seal gum applied as the first process and how once the gum is applied, the blank travels the entire length of the machine over hot lamps designed to set the proper dryness of the gum.

We show how the panel cutter die punches out the window area which is then covered over by the poly patch.  The tour guide points out how the window must be at least 3/8” from the edge of the envelope in order to allow for the patch and the glue necessary to keep it tight.  We show how the machine ensures an exact count coming off and how our adjustors/mechanics  continually make the fine adjustments necessary to keep the envelopes perfectly square and to the specifications required by even the most demanding customer in all aspects.

Finally, the tour reaches the printing department where our 2 color and 4 color jets are on display with all the various printing capabilities they provide.  Customers and prospects are generally very impressed by the quality of our four color envelope printing.

So, if you’re buying envelopes I encourage you to contact your envelope vendor for a tour of the plant. Make sure they actually make the envelopes though; not all envelope companies do.  There are many advantages in dealing directly with the manufacturer; not the least of which is you can go on a nifty tour and maybe even get lunch afterwards! 

Topics: envelope manufacturing, four color envelope printing, elite envelope, jet printing, elite envelope, envelope manufacturer, envelope converting, envelope converting process, envelope blank, envelope die cutting, printed envelopes

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, envelope offset printing, jet 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!

 

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all