Business Reply Card Stock
Designers are increasingly called upon
to produce direct mail packages that include business reply
cards. Specifying such jobs requires the designer to select
the proper paper stock by taking into consideration Post
Office requirements, aesthetics, the ability of the paper
stock to accept ink without smearing, and cost.
First of all, one must make sure that
the size and paper weight of the reply card will be accepted
by the U.S. Post Office. If the reply card does not meet
the Post Office's physical requirements, the mail campaign
will be rejected outright or will incur a mailing surcharge.
Even a few-cents-per-unit surcharge can add up in a large
mailing (for example, a $0.02 surcharge added to all elements
of a 100,000-piece mailing would amount to $2,000 of unnecessary
The U.S. Post Office requires business
reply cards between 3.5" x 5" and 4.25" x
6" to register on a micrometer to at least 7 pt. (0.007")
in thickness ("mic" to 7pt.). Cards larger than
4.25" x 6" must mic to at least 9 pt.
Selecting reply card paper stock can
be complicated because paper thickness is not always directly
related to the weight noted on the label of the ream of
paper. A sheet of 67# Vellum Bristol mics to 7 pt., but
a sheet of 75# Hi-Bulk also mics to 7 pt. To be sure your
paper will be acceptable, ask your printer to check a sheet
with a micrometer before ordering the paper for your entire
The designer must not only consider
the size and weight of the card stock but also the surface
coating or lack thereof. Your options, of course, are gloss
coated, dull coated, matte coated, and uncoated. If one
needs to personalize the cards with an ink-jet printer,
or wishes the recipient to fill the card in with a ballpoint
pen, the appropriate surface must be chosen.
- The first of these, gloss-coated
stock, is usually inappropriate, since ballpoint pen and
ink-jet address information would smear on its surface.
- Dull coated is more receptive
to ball-point pen and ink-jet addressing since the coating
is slightly rougher.
- Matte coated is a bit rougher
still and therefore more receptive to ink. (Patina Matte
would be an example of this stock.)
- Uncoated paper is extremely
receptive to ballpoint pen and ink-jet printing since
the ink will soak into thefibers of the paper rather than
sitting on the coated surface. Within the realm of uncoated
papers, one might choose 67# Vellum Bristol or 75# Hi-Bulk.
Both mic to 7 pt. The former has a bit harder surface
than the latter. The downside is that printing on either
of these uncoated sheets will increase dot gain, so colors
may become muddy and dark.
What is Thermography?
Thermography is an offshoot of offset
printing often used to produce business cards, stationery,
and the like. First, the job is printed with non-drying
inks. Once the inks have been laid down, powder is dusted
on the ink; the excess powder is then removed from non-imaged
areas by suction. Finally, the job is heated in a process
that causes the ink and powder to bubble up, creating raised
printing simulating engraving.
With thermography, it is best
to avoid using screens. Design only with type and solids.
First of all, the crudeness of the process makes it impossible
to print fine screens. In addition, coarse screen printing
reveals large dot patterns that would most likely compromise
When designing page spreads in a publication,
keep in mind that the binding process is imperfect. If type
or photos cross over from one page to another, misalignment
can ruin the overall design effect. To minimize this problem,
consider the following:
- In saddle-stitched books print
the crossover across the center spread. Because the two
pages are adjacent on one side of a press sheet, there
will be no misalignment.
- Position both halves of the crossover
on the same side of the press sheet if you can't place
the crossover on the center spread. This way the color
and ink coverage will be the same for both pages, since
ink color and coverage normally vary from signature to
signature or from one side of a signature to another.
- Avoid small type and thin rules
in your design. In particular, the small type will get
harder to read as it approaches the gutter and binding.
- Avoid placing the crossover image
on an angle. This will make misalignment more obvious.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]