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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Custom Envelopes and "Overs"

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 16, 2017 10:29:58 AM

One of the most persistent questions posed by customers ordering specialty envelopes is, “why am I being billed for more (or fewer) envelopes than I ordered?”  Ah yes, the dreaded “over/under” question!

Annoyed designer gesturing in front of her laptop in her office.jpeg 

On custom envelope jobs, most envelope converters and printers will mention the possibility of more or fewer pieces being produced on the customer’s order.  Many customers tend not to pay attention to this; especially ones who are new or not familiar with the process.  Then, when the job or invoice is received, the howling begins.  It’s understandable for sure.

Despite what might seem to be a brazen attempt to increase the order under a dubious pretext, there is a very sensible reason why envelope converters maintain this policy. That reason is centered on the waste involved in the process. 

Let’s say a customer is ordering 5,000 special double window envelopes on a special stock.  There are two main processes in the manufacturing of envelopes. One is die-cutting of the paper (and maybe one of the windows) and the second is the actual folding and gluing of the paper to create the envelope. 

Setting up the paper to be cut involves placing a die in just the right position. Whether it’s done manually or automatically, it takes some trial and error before the cuts come out just right.  Until that point there are numerous sheets that are cut and discarded.  Then, once the paper is cut, setting up the folding machine and getting the specs exact also requires a lot of “make ready” paper.  Lastly, once the machine is running, constant fine adjustments must be made to keep the job running properly.  This can involve numerous stops and restarts which waste more paper.

In order to have enough paper to allow for possible contingencies, a company must order a significantly higher amount which adds cost to the job.  Being able to bill for a reasonable amount of “overs” allows a company to cover these added costs while providing extra envelopes that a customer will more than likely be able to use.  The alternative is for a customer to specify at the quoting stage that they do not want an overage on their order. What most companies will do in this case is simply include their extra costs into the price.  Under this scenario, the customer will pay the same overall cost for his job but without the benefit of more envelopes.  

“Unders” or receiving a quantity less than the amount ordered is also a possibility. It is less common however as getting less is generally a bigger problem to customers than getting more so companies will try to buy more than enough paper to ensure that the count is met.

What is a “reasonable” amount of overs or unders?  In the envelope world, generally the figure is up to 30% on minimum quantities and then the percentage declines as the quantity of the order goes up.  The higher percentage of overs would apply to more expensive specialty envelopes like custom Tyvek envelopes, bubble mailers and poly mailers.

Topics: bubble envelopes, tyvek envelopes, specialty envelopes, envelope converting, custom envelopes, overs/unders, envelope converter, poly mailers

Bubble Envelopes & Recycling

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 3, 2016 2:33:50 PM

I was raised not to waste. As a child growing up in the northern New Jersey suburbs, wasting anything was one of the worst things we could do. The ethic of conservation around our house was neatly summed up in the aphorism quoted to me innumerable times by my grandmother and my mother: “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”.  I also heard, “waste not, want not” more than a few times for good measure. We were the children and grandchildren of the generations that lived through the Great Depression and the hard lessons of that era were drummed into most of us growing up in the 60’s and the 70’s. 

 I don’t believe I owned a pair of “play pants” (as they were quaintly referred to) that didn’t have multiple patches stitched into them by my grandmother and her trusty Singer sewing machine.  When I’d make another hole (we played hard back then!) I’d just get another patch. It was no big deal and nothing embarrassing to me.  And we weren’t poor, by the way.  We lived in a small but comfortable single family home in a solidly middle class neighborhood.

 patches on pants.jpg

Can you imagine someone these days doing that?  Now there are many reasons why you see very few patched pants on kids today.  Probably the biggest one is that the general level of affluence in society among all economic groups is greater than it was 50 years ago.  There’s less of a need to patch pants when you can afford to just buy a new pair for a reasonable price.  Another factor is personnel-related. How many families have an in-house grandma who’s got the time, skill, equipment and willingness to do it?

 Today the cultural ethic of conservation and recycling has mostly become the province of environmentalism. I have mixed feelings about this development. On the one hand I think it’s good to carry on the traditions of frugality regardless of the rationale. But I tend to look at these things more from a moral perspective rather than just a “green” perspective. The two are not always in synch. But, that’s a topic for another day!

What I’ve been leading up to here is that it’s good to recycle and reuse and that at Elite, we have come up with a way to allow you to reuse your bubble envelopes while still having it your way.  The answer is our Smart Bubble ™ product.  Like all good ideas, it’s very simple. We print you an envelope in however many colors you want, with as much coverage as you’d like and we provide it with a removable bubble sleeve.  We can do these in small quantities if you’d like with the same quick turnaround we provide on just about everything we make.  The removable sleeve can be re used or recycled.  Sometimes it’s good to have the item that’s been shipped in the envelope stored in the same protective packaging once it’s removed.  Or you can use the liner to send something else or add protection to something you’re shipping in a box.

 With Elite’s Smart Bubble™ envelope, you can have your favorite design and ship it too.  (Patches not included!) 

Topics: elite envelope, bubble envelopes, smart bubble envelopes, recycling envelopes

Envelopes for Small Business

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 22, 2014 3:01:00 PM

small business photo

As we’ve been told forever, small business is the prime driver for economic growth in our economy. While the numbers employed by the Fortune 100 are huge, they tend to plateau at those exalted heights and remain relatively stable once they get there taking into account new hires and layoffs on a net basis.  Large companies tend to grow by buying smaller companies which often results in a net loss of jobs due to the consolidation of resources.   

It makes sense that when you start a company with a staff of one, the potential for exponential growth is large. And in a country as big as the United States with the world’s largest economy (maybe second to China these days but if so, not by much) the sheer number of people starting businesses on a daily basis accounts for most of the new jobs created in the economy and it has been that way for quite some time.

What has changed however is the types of small businesses. While there are still plenty of gas stations,  hair salons, dry cleaners, café’s and the like, the new economy has spawned a huge number of start-ups which require little more than a home office, a computer and some software along with a clever idea.  Many of these need envelopes for sending or receiving products which they distribute; a t shirt, a candy bar, a greeting card, etc.

Elite Envelope gets many hits on its website each week from companies looking for a special envelope for a certain type of application – mostly some type of packaging envelope.  In my last post, I mentioned a company in New York City which was looking for something to mail diapers.  Just this past week I got a request from a company looking for something like a photo store envelope but for the purpose of returning used ink cartridges.  We’re in the process of putting together a template for him. The piece will have consecutive numbering in two different spots in addition to printing on both sides. The flap will have a tear off strip and will have a peel and seal strip to close after the tab is torn off.

There are many other envelope solutions for shipping, fulfillment and other applications that small businesses need.  Some examples:

Expansion envelopes:  These have a fold or gusset on the side which allows them to open in an accordion-like fashion in order to accommodate thick contents like papers or cloth material.  Expansion envelopes can be made in heavy-grade kraft paper (white, brown and grey are the most common colors) as well as in tear-resistant and water-proof materials.  (For more specific information on expansion envelopes, click on the keyword in the right hand column of this blog page.)

Tyvek, Herculink, Fiberkraft and Tri-Brite:  All of the items are virtually impossible to tear which makes them a good choice for sending bulky or uneven items through the mail or shipping channels.  On Tyvek the sizes range from a standard #10 size all the way up to jumbo sizes of 18 x 23 inches. All of these are durable and can be printed with just about any type of graphic design you’d like.  They are also water resistant and very light which can mean savings in shipping and especially postage if you send them through the US Mail.

Bubble lined envelopes:  These are also commonly used to transport fragile or odd-shaped items that require extra protection.  They come in paper or all plastic.  Elite supplies its own version called “Smart Bubble” which features a removable bubble sleeve that can be re-used to protect the item after it arrives or simply recycled.

Fiberboard – These are often referred to as “Fedex” envelopes but they come in heavier weights – very stiff, coated-one-side board which provides an extra level of protection as well as preventing the items inside from folding or creasing; very important for important documents.

Armorpac – This is a relatively new item on the market which combines the tear resistant features of Tyvek with the extra layer of protection of a bubble mailer but at a lower cost.  The product features a soft and light foam lining on the inside of the envelope; not quite as protective as bubble lining but more than adequate for many applications where bubble lining may be more than is needed.  They are also smooth on the outside and look great printed where bubble envelopes have a certain texture that doesn’t lend itself to a nice graphic presentation.

Give me a call anytime to discuss any of these or other possible custom solutions.

Topics: bubble envelopes, tyvek envelopes, shipping envelopes, envelopes for small business, packaging envelopes, smart bubble envelopes

Bubble Envelopes: Smarter and Better

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 17, 2013 12:46:00 PM

I was going to write about the Post Office raising rates again and paper plants being decommissioned leading to higher paper prices throughout the market. Neither of those things is particularly good for printers and envelope companies although the postal service needs to do something to stem the tide of red ink and there is clearly over-capacity in the paper market which needs to be corrected.

But, hey, the Red Sox are two games away from being in the World Series (hopefully!) plus it’s fall in New England; a beautiful time of year, so we’ll dispense with the gloom and doom for now and instead focus on something positive; a better bubble envelope.  How’s that for a convenient segueway?

Conventional wisdom repeatedly tells us that the digital age spells bad news for paper, envelopes and direct mail. Lots has been written on this topic, including a number of posts in this space,  and I’ve continuously made the point that embracing and exploiting this same technology will make us more competitive and enable us to grow despite the convenience of e mails.

beam me up star trek


One of the bright spots for us is the continuing growth in E Commerce. Until Amazon and others figure out a way to use Star Trek technology (“beam up that T shirt to the end-user Scotty”) your purchased goods will need to be shipped in boxes or envelopes. Bubble lined envelopes have become more popular as a result. They are very capable for shipping a variety of materials and also very light which helps on the postage side.

At Elite Envelope, we’ve been working with our customers on bubble-lined envelopes for quite some time and have come up with a product that many find superior to what is typically available. We call it the “Smart Bubble” and here are the advantages:

  • The bubble lining inside the envelope is removable. This allows the recipient to re-use or recycle it. This provides options and convenience for the customer as well as minimizing waste in general.  I don’t know about you but I find bubble products very handy when I’m looking to ship a present or item that needs protection. They are nice to have around for a variety of purposes.


  • The removable bubble sleeve fits snugly inside the envelope. Once the envelope is sealed, it works exactly the same as one that is glued in.


  • One of the downsides of typical bubble envelopes is the strict limitation on how it can be printed and at what quantity. The reason for that is most companies who make these will glue the bubble liner to the inside of the envelope.  You then need a special press that can print on bubble envelopes; usually on a crash print/letterpress machine which doesn’t provide great quality or design options.  Because our envelopes feature the removable liner, we can print up to four colors on just about any type of envelope you require and in small quantities.

All of this can be done at a competitive cost and generally within a 2-3 week lead time or sooner depending on what you're looking for. So please contact us for a quote or samples.

Smart Bubble envelopes live up to their name!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, bubble envelopes

Envelopes for Mailing More than Paper – The Basics

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 18, 2013 11:41:00 AM

One of the less talked-about changes in the envelope market is the increase in demand for packaging style envelopes and mailers.  The many web-based distributors for various products (think Amazon) require versatile packaging in which to transport goods through the mail. Anyone who buys on-line has at some point received items in bubble mailers or similar products.

bubble envelope picture

The bubble-lined envelope or mailer is probably the most popular product of this type. They come in a wide range of sizes generally starting around 4 x 7 to as large as 19 x 22 in some products. The envelopes are typically in an open end or catalog style (opening on the short side) although they are available in open side or booklet style as well (opening on the long side).  The outside paper stock is either brown or white kraft.  Many businesses prefer the poly bubble envelopes which are white plastic on the outside. The poly is less easily punctured in transit than the paper variety.

Most bubble envelopes are sold unprinted. However, some companies want to at least print a logo and return address; others are looking for more exciting graphics.  Printing on bubble envelopes is only done on certain presses which are few and far between throughout the US.  There are generally tight restrictions on the amount of coverage and colors. You cannot, for instance, print full bleeds all around on bubble products. When considering a printed bubble envelope, it’s best to consult with your envelope converter who can tell you what’s possible so you can plan.

Bubble envelopes are thick. That’s kind of the point as the air pockets provide protection for the item enclosed. However that can be a factor if you’re intending to mail something that significantly adds to that thickness. I’ve been talking to a marketing manager who was looking to mail t-shirts with the company logo to certain customers. She was hoping to mail as many as six shirts at once and was considering a large bubble envelope for that purpose. I suggested rather that she consider a simple poly bag since t shirts are not in any danger of being damaged in transit. She was a lot happier with that solution as not only did she save a ton of money but she was able to get a nice four color process graphic image printed on the bag as well.

Poly bags are an excellent and relatively inexpensive method for shipping goods. They are especially useful for articles of clothing as previously mentioned. Most of the major online retailers like J Crew use poly bags for transporting purchased items to customers. They will generally include a return bag which can be folded inside taking up little space. Obviously the light weight of the poly mailers is a major advantage when it comes to the high cost of postage and shipping.  Poly bags can also be printed in almost full coverage front and back. There is a gloss finish option which shows ink very well.

A new product has entered the market called Soft Pack. This is an envelope with tear and moisture resistant paper outside and a thin, foam lining inside. Soft Pack has several advantages over traditional bubble lined products:  it’s generally less expensive, the printing options are generally greater than on bubble envelopes, it lays flatter than the bubble envelope and we can produce the item in a wide range of custom sizes tailored to your particular needs. Product tests show the soft pack outer material to be more less likely to tear than paper from standard bubble envelopes. Bubble envelopes are available in tear-resistant tyvek but at a much higher cost.

Being thinner, Soft Pack envelopes require less space in the carton and hence more available storage space for end-users who use them in large volume. Also, both the outer shell and inner foam are made from recycled materials. Poly bubble liners are completely synthetic. The only disadvantage vis-à-vis bubble envelopes is they don’t provide quite as much protection for the contents. However, they are more than adequate for items such as smart phones or electrical components. Anyone looking for a bubble envelope should consider Smart Pack as an alternative. You can contact Elite Envelope for further information.

 In my next post, I’ll cover board and other flat mailers.  As always, your comments and information from your experience is always welcome.

Topics: elite envelope, bubble envelopes, envelope converting, four color envelope printing, smart pack envelopes

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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