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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

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Custom Printing: Producing a Client’s Identity Materials

June 2nd, 2020

Posted in Corporate Branding | Comments »

I’m trying to win new commercial printing work from a client I lost about a decade ago. Now she works at a new job, a nonprofit, and she has just sent me specs for five projects, including her employer’s annual report, a conference program, a brochure, a 9” x 12” booklet envelope, and a fundraising letter.

Although my client put together a rather comprehensive specification sheet, here are some of the issues (or questions) that arose as I went through the specs a number of times.

The Annual Report

The annual report specs were straightforward: 24 pages plus cover, 8.5” x 11”, saddle stitched, 4-color plus flood gloss coating on all pages, 1500 copies, 80# gloss cover and 80# gloss text, PDF proofs.

Here are my thoughts (actually only one), which I think you might find useful, too, if you design high profile commercial printing products. That is, my client may want to consider an actual hard-copy proof instead of just a PDF proof. Colors onscreen are often misleading, especially since computer monitors are back-lit. They create color with light rather than ink or toner, and they often make colors look brighter than the final printed product will actually appear. It helps to see a physical representation of what you will actually get.

What You Can Learn

It’s very easy to view the on-screen image at larger than 100 percent size, which will make the text imminently legible and the colors brilliant, but which will bear no resemblance to the final printed product.

You may also want to consider what my client has done with the extra gloss coating on all pages of the annual report. The plus side is that gloss coating makes photos seem to jump off the page. The potential problem is that adding a fifth color might necessitate moving the job to a larger press at a higher overall cost. That said, most presses these days do have four units to print 4-color process inline plus a fifth coating unit. But it may be wise to ask your commercial printing supplier before making this assumption.

The Envelope and Letter That Will Accompany My Client’s Annual Report

This is where I noted problems in my client’s spec sheet.

She planned to print the logo and company address in one color (PMS Process Blue C). This is actually cyan, almost identical to the cyan used in 4-color process work. My client said this looked great on the computer monitor. My response was that she should print out a color mock-up (at 100 percent size) of this logo and address to make sure everything is readable.

Why? Because light, small type can in reality be a lot less legible than the same type printed in black ink. And on an envelope, the return address is functional, not decorative. It has to be readable. To be safe, I asked for her permission to amend the spec sheet. I plan to ask the printers I approach to price both a PMS Process Blue version and a PMS Process Blue plus black (2-color) version of the 9” x 12” envelope.

What You Can Learn

If you’re a designer, you can learn two things from this. An ink color might look great on a computer monitor, and the type may be legible. But when you actually print the job, the color might be too light overall and might therefore diminish readability. A square swatch of color in a PMS book is not the same as type printed in the PMS color. This is because the type characters have a lot of empty space between the strokes of the letters, so the white background will lighten the overall look considerably.

Therefore, it’s usually wise to choose a darker hue for type. This is a smart approach to any design. For instance, if you’re thinking of making heads or subheads in a book orange, it may look great, but will it be readable?

My client’s accompanying letter had the same issue, so I encouraged her to request pricing for two colors as well as one: black for the type and PMS Process Blue for the logo as well as a price for PMS Process Blue for both the type and logo.

But there was one other issue she raised. She said the letter would be “static,” as opposed to variable (all copies would be the same, in contrast to the alternative, in which each letter would be addressed to a different recipient). This ensured an offset lithographic printing of the letter (1,000 copies) as opposed to the digital run that would be necessary if the job had included variable data (a unique name and address for each letter).

This was especially useful information, and it was not on the original specification sheet I received. So I added it.

What You Can Learn

The take-away is that if you’re printing a letter for a marketing package, make sure you tell your printer whether you will print the same letter for all recipients or whether you need a digital job with variable data capabilities. That is, if you will merge names and addresses into the original file and make every copy of the letter a different printed product, your printer needs to know this at the estimating stage of the job.

Another issue that arose concerned a future printing of the letterhead. My client planned to also print a run of blank letterhead in the near future, with only the logo and address, and she wanted to make sure this would work on her laser printer.

What You Can Learn

The reason this is relevant is that laser printer drums get extremely hot when fusing the toner to the paper. Unless you (as a designer) tell your printer you will need laser compatible inks, you may run the risk of the ink’s heating and smearing in the laser printer. This may not be an issue in your case, but it bears confirming with your printer when you’re designing and printing your own letterhead (or letterhead for your organization).

Finally, my client questioned the paper used for the prior run of letterhead, 70# Lynx smooth white text. She asked about using 60# text to save money.

This was my answer, and I would encourage you to keep it in mind if you design letterhead or business cards. Paper thickness gives a job a feel of importance, weight, gravitas. A 70# text paper feels more opulent than a 60# stock. I could understand using 60# as well. (This would be comparable to 24# copier paper.) But I’d never go as low as 50# stock for letterhead. It’s just too flimsy.

My Client’s Conference Program Print Book and Two-Page Brochure

My client’s conference program booklet was just a shorter version of the annual report (in terms of format), so the specs and the issues we discussed were similar. It had a press run of 850 copies, so I will ask the printers to price it as an offset lithographic job. However, my client’s accompanying brochure will only have a press run of 250 copies.

Here were the thoughts I shared with my client:

  1. Due to the short run, the most cost-effective way to print the brochure would be on digital laser equipment using toner rather than ink.
  2. Colors produced via laser or inkjet digital printing are “built” with screens of the four process inks. PMS colors are not used as they are in offset lithography. Therefore, matching colors exactly in a digital print job and an offset print job is often not possible. Fortunately, in my client’s case the specific PMS color is PMS Process Blue, or cyan, which is almost identical to the hue used in 4-color work.

What You Can Learn

In your own work, remember that color builds don’t always match PMS colors. This is doubly true when you’re trying to match commercial printing ink colors (used for offset printing) and colors made from powdered laser toners (used for digital printing work).

The Take Away

I’ve been in the field for 44 years now, and I still pore over the custom printing specs (either a client’s or my own) many, many times. Each time I seem to catch something new (an omission or something to clarify). In your own work, think of the specification sheet as your contract with your commercial printing supplier. Review it multiple times to catch and correct errors.

Always choose colors on paper (use PMS books, some of which even have type samples in the PMS colors) rather than on the computer monitor. Also, print out physical proofs to ensure the legibility of the text. You may be looking at a magnified view on the monitor, and the back-lighting of the monitor may also affect your judgment.

Don’t expect 4-color process builds of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to match PMS colors exactly. And don’t expect ink on paper to match toner on paper exactly.

If at all possible, design all elements of your corporate identity together, comparing one item to another from both a design perspective and a custom printing perspective. It will be of immeasurable help in ensuring a sense of visual unity among all printed components.

Posted in Corporate Branding | Comments »

Choosing Between Printing With Uncoated Or Coated Paper

May 25th, 2020

Posted in Paper Coatings | Comments »

Almost all companies will get to the point where they need to print information on paper for clients, customers, or other people to read. Printing companies are capable of printing quality collateral for other businesses in high quantities, making them more ideal in most situations than printing collateral with one’s own printer.

For printing commercially, there are two types of paper to choose from, both of which printing companies can use within chosen design patterns. These are uncoated paper and coated paper.

The Difference Between Both Paper Stock Types

All paper originates as an uncoated paper stock ( like the paper you use in your desktop printer, e.g. 20lb. bond or 50lb. white offset, porus to the touch ). When manufacturing a coated paper stock, the paper mill takes an uncoated stock and adds a clay and chemical mix coating. This is like waxing your auto paint finish. This clay and chemical coating thus fills in the pores of this uncoated stock in creating a smooth and more reflective finish after calendering ( or buffing ) the paper stock.

Uncoated Paper Stock vs. Coated Paper Stock

An Uncoated paper stock absorbs ink ( offset presses ) like a spunge. The pores allow less reflective values as light enters the uncoated stock pores. Thus, less sharper images reflecting back to any eye.

A Coated paper stock has a smooth buffed / calendered finish in which ink dries predominantly on the surface. Thus, much less paper interior ink absorbed inside any coated paper stock. This smooth finish and like waxing an auto paint finish, allows light to reflect back much better – like a mirror to any eye delivers sharper and more crisp image reflections.

If one seeking sharp and crisp images with their printing project, coated paper is highly recommended. Uncoated stocks and Coated paper stocks offer numerous choice variations within each category.

Uncoated stock: brightness, stock thickness, white or colored shades of stock, etc.

Coated stock: Brightness, thickness, & finishes as gloss, semi-gloss, dull gloss, matte ( a flat coated white finish ) , etc.

Uncoated Paper

Depending upon any specific custom printing project, choosing the right paper stock is paramount in receiving your best and targeted design quality results. For one, Uncoated paper can be as light or as heavy as you need it to be. Uncoated paper can be thin for little booklets and brochures, or thick for applications that anticipate wear and tear, such as temporary outdoor signage.

Uncoated paper comes with more texture ( porous finish ) than Coated paper. It is easier for commercial printers to print on Uncoated stock since it can absorb ink easier in having more texture. The majority of Uncoated paper finishes are actually quite softer and ideal in seeking no slickness as you would receive from most Coated papers.

Coated Paper

Coated paper is the less common of the two types of paper, both for small businesses and small business printing services. Coated paper reflects light in an attractive way thus yields a more classy and sophisticated design ( higher cost ). The printed content on a Coated paper yields sharper and crisper images than Uncoated paper. Again, if image quality detail is high on your list, using a Coated stock is highly recommended. Coated paper is most ideal for printing photographs and color images as a Coated paper is the only way in showing off design details.

Choosing Between Uncoated and Coated Paper

Both types of paper can be used to print posters, flyers, brochures, postcards, business cards, calendars, catalogs, and other types of collateral. Which one should you go with for your application?

Choose Coated paper if:

You have colorful graphics that you want to grab people’s attention with.

You want the best quality and not an average look from an Uncoated paper.

You want your paper to look more reflective within design choices.

You want to use graphics or photographs showing fine details.

Choose Uncoated paper if:

You want your graphics to look beautiful, but look subtle, and in a way that isn’t flashy or


The color inks used are mostly black or black + 1 PMS ( Pantone Matching System ).

You want your paper to feel soft and comfortable to the touch.

You are on a budget and high-quality printing is not one of your priorities.


There are two types of paper that businesses need for their collateral: Coated paper and Uncoated paper. They are different in many ways. While Uncoated paper is traditional and simple. Coated paper is slick and usually shiny. We do not consider one to be better overall than the other.

Posted in Paper Coatings | Comments »

Custom Printing: Design Your Job with Paper in Mind

May 21st, 2020

Posted in Paper and finishing | Comments »

Paper is a resource. In addition to coming (mostly) from trees and therefore being worthy of preservation, paper as a significant materials cost of commercial printing bears consideration. Paper is expensive. Don’t waste it. In fact, it is sometimes a rather large portion of the overall cost of your print job.

For example, if you’re printing 100,000 copies of a 352-page perfect-bound textbook, two things you should seriously consider–and discuss with your printer–are the cost of paper and the cost of shipping (in addition to costing money in large-page-count, long-press-run projects, paper is heavy and costs a lot to transport).

So how do you save money buying paper for your custom printing job?

I’ve addressed this in prior print blogs, but I just came upon a few more suggestions in Mark Beach’s and Eric Kenly’s Getting It Printed, my all-time favorite book on commercial printing. In no particular order, here are some suggestions:

Consider the Purpose of the Job

If you are mailing out an invitation to a fundraising gala dinner, the paper has to be perfect. However, if you’re printing an in-house newsletter for your employees, you don’t necessarily need the finest printing stock.

This isn’t as much about the particular paper you choose as it is about your mindset. Getting It Printed even suggests asking your printer what kind of extra paper he has in his inventory, perhaps partial reams of paper that may not exactly match but that might be perfectly adequate for an in-house newsletter.

I once did this for a client who needed hang-tags for her clothing designs. She was self-employed, and every dollar counted. I did what Getting It Printed suggested, but I took it a step further. I found waste paper (the last few unused sheets from a few reams in my printer’s inventory) that had the same feel but that came in different colors: as I recall, a pink, a green, and a brown. Just by digging in the printer’s paper stacks among paper selections too small for a full job, I gave my client a rainbow of colors for her hang-tags and business cards.

Discuss these options with your printer. Sometimes even a slight difference in color or surface texture will be irrelevant to the audience for your print product but could save you some money.

Group Your Jobs

When I was an art director/production manager, I used to get an annual list of over 100 publications that had to be designed and printed within the following year. (I didn’t take the following advice, but I think you should consider it.) Getting It Printed suggests that in such a situation you talk with your printer (or maybe a few printers) about grouping your jobs.

The list I received when I was an art director included a number of textbooks, a number of newsletters, a number of invitations—the list goes on—each year. There really was only a short list of different kinds of jobs we designed and printed. What would have saved us money at the time would have been to group these publications, by type, and request bids for a number of them.

Getting It Printed suggests this. For instance, we could have compiled specs for five different newsletters produced on the same commercial printing stock, along with any additional printing specs, and spread these over twelve months within a predetermined schedule.

The good news is that printers in such a situation can often provide an overall discount for additional, regular work, and can sometimes even provide a discount on the particular paper stock based on a larger commitment over a longer time. You can presumably negotiate terms that would involve your only paying upon completion of each job.

The bad news is that this requires foresight and forethought. Back when I was an art director, everything was always a rush, so I never quite got around to doing what I’m suggesting. Learn from my mistake.

Paper Size and Job Trim Size

The elusive goal of paper management is to eliminate waste entirely. Although this will never happen, it will save paper (and therefore save you money) to consider the size of the poster, flyer, or book page for the job you’re designing. This is not just on an individual page-size level, but also in terms of how many copies you can get on a press sheet.

This gets a bit complicated when we’re discussing press signatures, so we’ll start with short jobs.

Let’s say you’re printing a pocket folder (before it’s converted from a flat press sheet into an actual folder). When you take apart last year’s model, you’ll see that the pockets have glue tabs and other little flaps and protrusions that turn an unassembled pocket folder into a much larger flat item on a press sheet.

If your printer can give you an idea of the press sheet size (based on the size of the press he will be using), then you may see that you can get (for example) two of these flat, unfolded pocket folders on one press sheet (including all the tabs and flaps that will need to be folded and glued).

The ideal situation is that when you lay out two of these folders on a press sheet (which is called imposition, and which is a task your commercial printing vendor will handle), there will only be enough room for bleeds, printer’s bars (color targets and such), and the gripper margin (the gripper pulls the press sheet through the press)–and nothing else. No waste. That is ideal. If you work with your printer to determine the best press, the best press sheet (both its size and its availability on the market), and the best size for the flat printed job, you can often minimize paper waste. And this may lead to a paper cost savings.

Press Signatures

All of this becomes a bit more complex when you’re producing multiple-press-signature work. For instance, if you’re printing a 32-page saddle-stitched booklet, presumably this will be composed of two 16-page press signatures, each with eight pages on each side of the press sheet.

Each press signature will constitute one press run. Each signature (eight pages on each side of the sheet) will fit on the press sheet ideally with no waste. That is, with nothing but the press bleeds, printer’s bars and color targets, and gripper margin. For this to happen, the size of each booklet page has to be determined and each page has to be positioned on the press sheet.

For instance, if your book is 8.5” x 11” in format, and you have four pages across by two pages down on each side of the sheet (eight pages, four above, four below—and the same number on the back of the sheet), you need at least 34” across (4 x 8.5” across the width of the press sheet) and 22” down (2 x 11” along the length or depth of the press sheet). Plus, you need room for the gripper margin, printer’s color bars, bleeds, etc. If your printer can run a 25” x 38” press sheet through his press (very likely), you’re golden. You have almost no waste.

Talk with your printer. Get these specifications and match them to your preferred book page size, and see whether everything fits on the press sheet. If not, ask your book printer by how much you need to reduce your page size (sometimes only slightly).

Granted, this assumes a 16-page signature. Some book signatures are four pages, some eight, some even 32 pages. Sometimes your printer will even print two copies of the same (often a four-page or eight-page) signature on a press sheet. But this, at least, is a starting point for discussion with your printer. It’s also useful for you to start considering press sizes and printing paper sizes, as well as the trim sizes of the publications you design and print. In the long run, this expanded awareness will save you money.

Consider the Post Office

With the preceding information in mind, you might be inclined to change the size of your publications. For instance, you might want to make a fold-up self-mailer larger, since larger pieces often stand out more dramatically in the recipient’s mailbox.

But be aware of the ramifications. The “wow factor” of a large printed piece is only one criterion for the success of the job.

Unless you have a business mail template from the Post Office, by lengthening one dimension of your fold-up self-mailer, you might inadvertently change the ratio of length to height and unknowingly make the job unmailable. Or it might require a postage surcharge. It might look great, but in the process of redesigning the self-mailer, you might have unknowingly made the overall job (printing and mailing) more expensive, even if you reduced paper waste by using more space on the press sheet.

Or, if your job will go out in an envelope (for a job that’s not a self-mailer), your (slightly larger than usual) printed marketing piece might not fit in a standard envelope. You might need a custom envelope (which will cost more), and the size difference might cause you to incur a Postal Service surcharge.

What can you do to avoid making these mistakes? Get a business mail template and booklet from your Post Office, and learn everything you can about aspect ratios (length to width), size requirements, paper weights, how to keep your mail piece machinable and automatable, and how to reap the greatest postal discounts. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to find a business mail specialist at a local Post Office and give her/him your mock-ups for feedback. Then you can approach your printer, as noted above, regarding presses, paper sizes, and waste from a more knowledgeable position.

Posted in Paper and finishing | Comments »

Reasons to Get Postcards for your Business

May 15th, 2020

Posted in Postcard Printing | Comments »

From cost-effectiveness to versatility to efficiency to tangibility, there are plenty of reasons why postcards are the best marketing tools. However, to realize all these benefits, you have to work with the best postcard printing services.

One technology advancement example within the digital press arena in printing postcards. In creating a provided your mailing list, the use of Personalization Printing. Thus, adding the recipients full name or gender images in having the postcard creating a better bonding effect.

The advancements in technology have seen a transformation in the way businesses do marketing. Today, there are ten times as many platforms as there were decades ago – and that’s a good thing. However, some things never go out of fashion, and that includes postcards. Postcards have been around for ages, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, they are widely embraced for the incredible benefits they offer to businesses today. In case you are new to the concept of postcards, then here are reasons why you should try them out.

Affordable marketing

One of the main problems that most startups, small and mid-sized businesses face are marketing costs. Postcards provide excellent marketing at low rates. It’s safe to say that they are the most affordable form of targeted marketing today. In addition to the affordability of best postcard printing services, you get to enjoy lower postage rates.

Campaigns are easy to track

Tracking is an essential component of any marketing strategy. If you cannot measure results, then you won’t know whether you are making progress or not. The good thing about postcards is that you will have a clear picture of the number of cards you’ve mailed out, as well as the resulting inquiries, leads, and sales.

They are as versatile as your imagination allows

With postcards, the limit lies within your head. We say this because postcards can be used for any reason. Whether it is to announce a special offer or sale, launch new solutions, drive traffic to a website, invite prospects to an event, seminar or tradeshow, serve a coupon, and so on.

They are efficient

One thing that sets postcards apart from other marketing platforms like direct mail is the fact that they aren’t enclosed in a packet or envelop. So the recipient can quickly get the message as they browse through their daily mail.

Keep competition in the dark

Unlike newspapers and other marketing platforms, postcards allow you to market in secrecy, without giving your competitors a heads up. This is an excellent thing because you can overtake it without them even seeing it coming.

Better branding experience

Postcards can brand your company in ways that other marketing strategies can’t. For example, if you become a regular on a specific postcard-mailing program, your customers will start associating you and your brand with the postcards. This may give your company a particular reputation in the market.

They are time savers

In the world where things are moving so fast, there is just no time for marketing strategies that consume a lot of client’s time. Otherwise, you will end up losing out. According to recent research by the US Postal Service, only 14% of letters get read. But postcards enjoy a whopping 94% read through ration.


In addition to the benefits above, postcards are easy, space-saving, and effective. If you were thinking of ways to boost your marketing strategy, then you should consider printing postcards.

Posted in Postcard Printing | Comments »

Custom Printing: Embossing, Debossing, and Foil Stamping

May 13th, 2020

Posted in Embossing, Foiling | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Embossing, Debossing, and Foil Stamping

Since the dawn of time humans have sought to embellish things. This is evidenced by everything from the floor mosaics in Rome to the illuminated manuscripts hand-copied by monks.

So it was no surprise to me when an associate of mine asked about embossing, debossing, and foil stamping as methods for decorating print books, certificates, and the like. Therefore, I went to school on the subject, and this is what I found.

Paper Embossing and Debossing

Paper embossing and its close cousin paper debossing involve pressing flat sheets of paper between two components of a die to either raise an image above the surface of the paper or lower it below the surface.

In either case, an engraver prepares a metal die for the top of the paper and a corresponding die for the bottom of the paper. These dies fit exactly into one another. That is, recesses in one half of the die correspond to raised areas in the other, whether these are strokes of letterforms (for text) or line artwork. When a special press is used (with one half of the die apparatus above, and one half below the press sheet), the force of the printing press against the dies (plus additional applied heat) causes the paper trapped between the dies to rise above the surface of the paper or fall below the surface of the paper (embossing or debossing, respectively).

It is the skill of the engraver who makes the dies and the quality of the fibers within the flat sheet of paper that allow the image to rise or fall without tearing the paper. Because of this, it is important to choose typefaces (and type sizes) as well as thicknesses of rule lines that are wide enough to not cut the paper and to be readable after the embossing or debossing process. (It pays to consult your custom printing supplier on this.)

There are several options for embossing and debossing. The first is the “blind emboss,” which involves only the raising or lowering of the image on the paper (and not printing or foiling anything). This creates a subtle, sophisticated effect. You may have seen the results of blind embossing on a notarized document or even a “This book is the property of…” stamp inside a print book you have borrowed. (You can get such personal embossing stamps online for your own library with your own name on the die. If you look closely, you will see the two interlocking elements of the die.)

The second option is the “registered emboss.” That is, for such an embossing or debossing process, you raise or lower the image in exact alignment with a corresponding printed or foil stamped image (more about that later). If the effect is created with ink and embossing dies, the process is called “color registered embossing.” If metal foil is used with embossing dies, the process is called “combination stamping.” In either case, the goal is to have the embossed or debossed image in precise register with the inked or foil-stamped image.

Another thing to consider is the order of these separate processes. First you print the image(s) on the press sheet. Then you emboss the press sheet on a separate press. If you think about it, this makes sense, since the pressure of offset commercial printing would crush the delicate embossed or debossed image(s). So anything you need to do other than the embossing or debossing step has to come first. This includes varnishing and laminating as well as custom printing.

Correspondingly, the press used for the stamping process is more like a letterpress than an offset press. That is, the two pieces of the press come together vertically, up-and-down, to press the image into the paper fibers (in contrast to the rotary nature of offset commercial printing). Names of presses to look for online to see this process in action include Kluge, Heidelberg, and Kingsley.

Regarding the dies used in embossing and debossing, the metals for their fabrication include zinc, magnesium, copper, and brass. For the following reasons, embossing and debossing can be very expensive:

  1. Die-making is a specialized skill. A limited number of vendors can make dies. This also adds to the time needed for their fabrication.
  2. Embossing and debossing are processes separate from the printing component of your job, and they are done on presses that not all printers may have. This also adds to the cost and the turn-around time.

To go back to the combination emboss noted above, which both foil stamps and embosses an image, this process accomplishes both goals at the same time using the same die apparatus. This die is sculpted, usually made of brass, constructed to maintain tight register between the embossed image and the foil-stamped image, and made to also trim away the waste foil (any non-image area not needed for the registered embossing). Again, you pay for this ingenuity.

Foil Stamping

I think a description of foil stamping at this point will make the whole procedure of combination stamping easier to visualize.

For metallicized foil stamping, a roll of foil is used that has a liner (the base layer of the sheet, also called a release layer), the adherent (glue) layer, and a layer of chrome or aluminum. The metallic layer can be made to “simulate” gold, silver, copper, and bronze. In addition to metallics, printers that offer foil stamping can use colored foil that is not metallic but that has a gloss or matte finish as well as the pigment. They can also use holographic foils. (You may see that these have been used on some paper money or, perhaps, on your driver’s license as well.)

Using the same or similar presses to those used for debossing and embossing, the foil stamping process applies heat and pressure to attach the adhesive foil to the substrate (for example, a diploma with a foil-burst seal of achievement). At the same time, the die cuts away any scrap (anything that’s not the image area).

So when you want to bring together the die-based processes of embossing/debossing and foil stamping, you can create elegant effects using these combination sculpted dies.

Uses for Foil Stamping and Embossing/Debossing

Embossing/debossing and foil stamping, either by themselves or together, can be used to adorn paper or leather. Therefore, they’re especially useful for specialized art books. But if you look closely, you’ll also find these techniques used in a lot of functional printing (industrial printing) as well. For instance, hot stamping is often used to mark or embellish plastic pieces of televisions, kitchen appliances, and audio equipment. You can also see foil stamping on cosmetics and cosmetics packaging, as well as RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags. As noted before, you’ll also find them on some paper money and identification cards (like driver’s licenses) and other security-printed items.

What You Can Learn from This Discussion

Think about ways you can use either embossing/debossing or foil stamping (together or separately). Keep your eyes open, and you will see these techniques more and more. Walk through a department store and check out the cosmetics counters. Look at print book dust jackets in book stores. You’ll see foil stamped bursts on some of the dust jackets. All of this will give you ideas for using these adorning techniques.

If you want to apply any of these techniques to your own work, approach your commercial printing supplier early in the process. Discuss both costs and scheduling. Add extra time to your production schedule. In particular, ask about what fonts and type sizes will work the best as well as how thick to make your rule lines (for underlining or boxes). Be safe. Ask for printed samples to make sure you and your printer envision the same results.

Stay abreast of emerging digital adornment (or enhancement) technology. You may want to Google “Scodix Based Printing.” It is increasingly possible to build up surfaces, textures, and colors (including metallic colors) digitally (kind of like 3D printing) to simulate the look of both embossing and foiling. Personally, I find this exceptionally exciting, since it makes die-making (and the related costs and extended schedules) obsolete.

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5 Steps You Should Take to Find the Best Print Company

May 7th, 2020

Posted in Printing | Comments Off on 5 Steps You Should Take to Find the Best Print Company

Summary: Here are five things that should be of concern to you when you are looking out for a print company.

From the time Gutenberg invented the first printing machine, there are so many changes that occurred to printing machines. Printing machines did evolve greatly, and they are helping us to get print material much faster with better quality and fewer errors. So many companies are offering print services today than ever before. But, this has created a lot of confusion than good.

If you check online, you will find so many printing services websites. Take some time to pick one that is best among all the options available. You need to check some things before using print services. Not many people know what exactly they need to consider.

Here are some tips or insights to find the best print services:

Visit Their Office: Now, this is one of the first things that you should plan on doing once you identify a printer. You do not have to visit all the printers in the city. Visit only them that have the best name in the market.

Avoid visiting the facilities of print companies that do not have an excellent name. If the facilities are well-kept, it only means they care about quality. Hence, you should take the time to check this aspect. The presentation of the facilities should be of concern to you.

Quality of the Work: You should take the time to check the quality of the work. Get some samples from each of the printing companies that you are planning to use. Go through their work to see if it is upto the mark. If yes, you should plan on taking things further. If not, you should continue to search for the best printing company. You should never skip this step if you have a determination to find the best print company.

The Customer Service: Yes, this is one more thing that should be of concern to you. You should take the time to find a company that provides excellent customer service to their customers. You do not want to work with a company that does not care about your priorities and feelings.

Now, this is the main reason why you should check for companies that try to understand your concerns and problems. A good company will prioritize customer service above everything.

Service They Provide: Yes, you must understand what kind of services a print company is offering. Take the time to check the printing services websites to get an idea of this thing.

A company that has vast experience will provide you with an array of services such as printing brochures, flyers, posters, magazines, and so forth. If the services they are giving is apt for your requirements, you should plan on using their assistance.

Check the Prices: Lastly, you need to take the time to check the prices for each of the services with various print companies. Take the time to understand the market pricing and to compare the costs with other vendors or print companies. Once you have a clear understanding of things, you should proceed forth to award the contract to a print company.

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Custom Printing: Samples of the Fine Art of Advertising

May 4th, 2020

Posted in Advertising | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Samples of the Fine Art of Advertising

I have been absolutely intrigued by the art of advertising for the better part of my life, perhaps because it usually blends visual art, writing, humor, psychology, and storytelling.

First of all, I want to draw a (minor) distinction between advertising and marketing. I consider advertising to be more targeted, directly selling a specific product or service rather than just nurturing a favorable image of a company (public relations) or increasing public awareness of a company (marketing). But really, they’re all the same in that the purpose is to make people aware of what you’re offering (either a service or a product) and to convince them to buy something.

Another way to say this is that, in both print and broadcast advertising, you use words and images to initiate and develop an ongoing relationship with a potential customer.

I have had the opportunity during my 44 years in graphic design, publications, and commercial printing to create many print products that fit this general category. These have included print ads, brochures, posters, banners, invitations to various events, and catalogs. What I have learned is that everything is an ad. If you are a graphic designer, even the business card you design to hand out to clients is an ad because you use it to promote your business.

Another way to say this is that your daily business goal, before you do anything else, is to build your brand. Your brand is your “avatar” in the business world. Everything you do and every piece of commercial printing material you hand out or mail either builds or detracts from your brand image.

Promotional vs. Editorial

Let’s lump advertising, public relations, and marketing under a general umbrella, which we will call promotions, or promotional custom printing materials. If you’re a graphic designer creating materials for the Internet, you’re still producing promotional products. This might include email marketing, social media marketing, or even blogging (or video blogging). The common element is that you are presenting your business, yourself, and your product or service in their best light and encouraging your prospective clients to buy.

This is different, in many ways, from the design, writing, and production of editorial materials. In the case of editorial matter, you’re writing and designing something in order to educate and inform your clients. That said, if you are really honest, there is still a fair amount of marketing involved in editorial writing because you or your company still has to position itself as an expert in the field. You have to convince your reader to commit time to reading your editorial material. You have to convince her or him that you know what you’re talking about, that you’re telling the truth, and that you are providing valuable information they cannot get elsewhere.

Elements of Advertising

First and foremost, effective advertising tells a story. More often than not, it challenges the reader’s mind with facts and information, but it also touches the reader’s emotions, often with humor or the element of surprise. A reader who feels you are talking directly to her or him on a personal and emotional level will more likely become a loyal customer than one with whom you only connect in an abstract, cerebral way.

And the best way to do this is to tell a story with words and images. A story complete with concrete details and an emotional appeal helps the reader connect in a personal way with the essence of the particular company.

Another key component is humor, which is usually based on surprise or the unexpected. Humor catches the reader’s attention and transports her/him from the myriad details of day-to-day life into a lighter, magical, and creative realm.

An Example

Here’s an example, which I found in Creative Strategy in Advertising, written by Bonnie Drewniany and A. Jerome Jewler. The book showcases a series of three billboards for Chick-fil-a. Here is a description of the billboards and my interpretation of why they enhance the Chick-fil-a brand.

Each of the three billboards includes two cows. (I’m not sure from the photos whether they are three-dimensional or just silhouetted.) They appear to be real because they are outside the “frame” of the rectangular billboard. In addition, the cows in all three billboards interact with one another in some way. In two of the billboards they are looking at each other. They have their two forefeet hanging over the front of the billboard as though they’re keeping themselves from falling behind the structure.

In one billboard, one cow is holding onto a roller (like what you would use to roll down the paper or vinyl of the large format print to the billboard support structure). Earlier, I mentioned the power of “the story.” Here it is again, because you can assume that the two cows just finished installing the display right before you drove past the sign.

The third billboard includes the two silhouetted (or 3D) cows painting on the billboard. One is sitting on the other’s back to get up higher on the billboard. She has a paintbrush and is painting the words, which seem to be streaking as the ink runs down the face of the billboard. Her tail is draped over the side of the other cow as she sits on her back and paints.

The three taglines for the billboards are as follows: “Eat chikin or weer toast,” “Eat mor chikin,” and “Vote chikin. Itz not right wing or left.” Underneath these words is the Chik-fil-a logo, prominently displayed.

So in all three cases we have a story: the cows just installed the print signage. We have the unexpected: the cows are separate from the rectangular-format billboard (either silhouetted or 3D). The cows can’t spell very well (i.e., the humor that captures the reader’s attention in a landscape otherwise cluttered with more billboards).

What you get out of all three images is name recognition. The more times you see the same “chikin” vs. cows ad campaign paired with the Chick-fil-a logo, presumably the more likely you will be to buy the product.

The overall message is that Chick-fil-a is smart, fun, and edgy. This impression will promote name recognition. (You’ll recognize the logo when you pass the restaurant, and hopefully you’ll be willing to try the food.)

The Take-Away

Broadcast advertising can be equally captivating. Think about the Progressive, Liberty, and GEICO TV ads for insurance. Personally, I love these because they have quirky characters and they’re funny. Each one has a “story” of some kind. This captures my attention and distracts me from other competing activities.

Regardness, the humor (particularly if it’s edgy and quirky) and the storyline appeal to the emotions. People buy from companies they like, and they remember advertisements that are funny.

If you’re a graphic designer, how can you use this information?

  1. Study advertising. Find ads you like, and deconstruct them. Articulate the goals of the ads, and note how the elements of design and writing support these goals.
  2. Copy what you see until you’re good enough to do it yourself. (Not word for word/design for design, but the general approach, layout grid, use of typefaces, etc.)
  3. Study the ways in which good imagery (usually photography) and succinct copywriting work together to make an ad effective. Extend yourself beyond graphic design to an appreciation of effective word usage.
  4. Study humor. (It’s not random. There are usually rules and structures for humor based on challenging the reader’s or hearer’s automatic assumptions or expectations.)
  5. Train yourself to notice ads everywhere: business cards, billboards, brochures, posters. Become aware that every example of commercial printing is an ad. Either it helps the brand, or it hurts it.
  6. Study psychology, advertising, marketing, and consumer behavior. Thrift stores have a wealth of textbooks on these topics.

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Custom Printing: How to Approach a New Print Job

April 27th, 2020

Posted in PresentationBinders | Comments Off on Custom Printing: How to Approach a New Print Job

What do you do if you’re faced with a new kind of commercial printing you’ve never seen before? Or at least maybe you’ve seen it but certainly not specified or bought printing for such a project.

This happened to me just this week, and I’ve been in the field for 44 years. When a client approached me with a request for a vinyl binder that will hold 32 stained wood samples, I had to decide how to proceed. I thought this challenge might be of interest to you since for everyone, at some point, everything is new. The big question is how you will apply your prior experience to make sense of the new job and find vendors who can manufacture it.

The Backstory

A friend and colleague in the printing industry encouraged the new client to contact me, saying I would be a good resource and ally. The client initially wrote an email describing the product. Needless to say, without photos I was at a loss, so I wrote specs for what I did understand based on prior jobs. My initial version of the specifications was essentially for a laminated press sheet (with the thickness of a menu and with the 2” x 4” x .5” sample wood pieces hot melt glued to the makeshift folder). This, if I recall correctly, is what I had seen at a flooring store at some prior point in time.

My new client then sent me photos of all pages of the sample wood binder. This clarified matters significantly. The client was more interested in a high-end binder, a double gatefold, with two pages side by side to the left of the (approximately) 3” spine and two pages to the right of the spine. These would fold in (page over page) to a thick, 8.5” x 10.5” binder. Only the interior pages would have wood samples (two samples across for each page and four samples down for a total of eight wood samples per page). When these book pages were folded in, the back of the pages would be visible, and these would only have a printed sheet of text attached. When folded up completely, the book would have a photo inset into the front cover and more text inset into the back of the book.

Within the book, each sample page would be covered in vinyl (with open windows for each of the inset wood samples). Inside the book (the sample pages) text would be printed in white, and on the covers the logo and some text would be white, raised printing.

How I Approached the Job

The photos gave me a clear picture (literally) of what my client wanted. So I amended my overall description of the project as well as the precise binder specs. These I had taken from another client’s book specifications as a template to which I could add all of the unique attributes of this new work. The spec sheet template ensured that I would not miss anything (like delivery specs, proofing specs, etc.).

I approached the book printer I trusted the most first. I sent him the specs (which by then my client had approved) and the photos my client had sent me. By then my client had also sent me a video of the book being opened and closed, showing exactly how each page looked, how the book was constructed, and how the various panels folded over each other.

Opening the Bid to Other Commercial Printing Vendors (Online)

Once I thought I knew what I wanted, based on what the customer had requested and how the customer had clarified things for me with the photos and video, I submitted the specs to the Printing Industry Exchange website.

(I know this sounds like a commercial, but I thought it would actually be quite helpful. Even if I didn’t wind up going with a vendor based on the specs I had uploaded to the PIE website, I would still learn something. I would also get a sense of the trending price for such a job, of how different custom printing vendors might approach the job, and what they might offer that I hadn’t considered: i.e., their own version of such a book. And I knew I might also find a good new vendor this way as well. After all, over the years I have found a number of good vendors online through the PIE server.)

My friend and colleague also suggested two vendors that specialized in unique bindings, and I contacted both of them immediately. So at this point I had two serious contenders for the job who would be actively bidding (one of the two vendors my friend/colleague had suggested and the vendor with whom I had had a long-term professional relationship). Granted, they might still need to tweak the specs to match their own capabilities. But they were especially good leads.

So I updated my client and waited. I also received photos from one of the printers, almost immediately, of what she could do (which was slightly different, but still attractive to my client).

What’s Next?

Hopefully I will soon have pricing from both of the most promising custom printing suppliers. If either declines to bid the job, I will ask what they can offer instead. If they still can’t help, I will ask for referrals. After all, a referral from a trusted print supplier holds a lot of weight. As noted, I will keep my client apprised of any progress.

With all prospective printers, I will ask to have samples of this particular kind of work sent to my client. I don’t want her to have any surprises. The first printer I have known for a decade. The second vendor I have not known for long, but she has been immediate in her email responses, and that goes a long way with me. I will ask both for samples. In the final analysis, my client can make a decision based on both the pricing and the samples, so she will know exactly what to expect.

And I still may get feedback and pricing from the two custom printing suppliers who approached me after I had uploaded the job specs to the PIE website.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

This process actually illustrates a number of teaching points regarding how to approach such a complex, unique print job. I would think that each of you who is either a graphic designer or a print buyer may well have faced such a situation.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Nothing communicates a client’s needs like a photo or, even better, a video. If you can’t get the actual product, ask for photos or a video, particularly if there are moving parts and other complexities in the product. And once you start approaching vendors to discuss your project, send them the photos as well as the written specs. Then ask for feedback before requesting prices. (After all, if you wind up making changes to the overall design, it’s better to do this in general terms before requesting a specific estimate.)
  2. Work through current vendors and trusted colleagues to get names of custom printing suppliers. These referrals will increase your level of confidence in the vendors, and you will be more likely to find high quality, appropriate printers.
  3. Point #2 above illustrates why it’s so important to cultivate honest, mutually beneficial working relationships with commercial printing suppliers throughout your career.
  4. See what you can find online with a service like the Printing Industry Exchange. You can always request samples and references from new vendors. And you might develop an important, new professional relationship.
  5. You may not have all vendors bidding on the exact same thing, because they may have different equipment and therefore different offerings. Focusing on what the product does, more than on whether all vendors offer the same product, might be a prudent approach. For instance, my client is looking at binders with foam inserts that hold the wood, with a vinyl covering on each sample page to surround and secure the samples. Each vendor’s offerings may be different. And the prices may vary. But the goals are to make sure the book looks professional and to ensure that the wood pieces cannot be easily removed. Sometimes there’s more than one way to achieve the same goals. It may serve you to be open to various options.
  6. Ultimately it all comes down to reliability (i.e., trust) and the vendor’s skill. No low price will make up for a product that isn’t stellar.

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Custom Printing: Asymmetrical Balance in Your Design

April 19th, 2020

Posted in Design | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Asymmetrical Balance in Your Design

When I first started designing publications forty years ago, I had no formal training. I made a lot of errors. Or, worse, I produced a lot of mediocre work.

In part this was because I had started in publications as a word person. I wrote and edited, but did not yet think in terms of how to design a page for a print book, a brochure, or an advertisement in such a way as to grab the interest of the reader. I could, however, recognize good design.

Over time, I found a number of print books on publication design, and I collected an expansive “swipe file” of printed products (everything from business cards to printed shoe boxes to posters) that I considered excellent examples of their own particular category.

The Rules of Design

I am a great believer in practicing the “fundamentals,” just as a basketball player practices dribbling and does lay-up after lay-up daily, I study the rules of design and composition. So year after year I studied “the rules” of design, first of all becoming aware that the rules of graphic design were no different from the rules of fine art. (I had studied painting and drawing for years before moving into art production for commercial printing, so I had absorbed many of the design rules already.)

This is how I think my entry into the field of design for commercial printing might be relevant to you, if you design anything from print books to brochures to banners for hanging on the sides of buildings. In some cases you may have come into the field by accident (without formal training), and as you develop your own skills, you may be looking for pointers.

In this light, I found a book at the thrift store entitled Graphic Design Basics, which was written by Amy E. Arntson. Basics, fundamentals. This book fits the bill.

Principles of Balance

When I speak of “rules,” I want to be clear that I think design rules can be successfully broken. That said, if you break the rules, you have to do it for a good reason, so the first and most useful step is to learn the rules from the masters.

Graphic Design Basics contains everything you need to know (so you can absorb the information and then practice it for the remainder of your career). Because the print book is so comprehensive, I’m going to pick just one concept as a starting point for this blog article, one that I think is particularly effective for spicing up your design work: asymmetrical balance.

To define our terms, the opposite of “asymmetrical balance” is “symmetrical balance.” Your face is pretty much symmetrical. If you draw a line down the center, everything on the left side has a corresponding element on the right. One eye, the other eye, one nostril, the other nostril. Everything is visually in balance. You can tell this intuitively. It’s just right.

You can approach a conservative business card or a formal invitation in much the same way. You can imagine a central vertical line with everything centered, balanced on the left and right, going from the top to the bottom of the card.

Symmetrical balance provides a sense of formality, gravitas, security, to a design. You can do the same thing with photos and text. Just draw an imaginary vertical line down the center of the page, and make sure every element on the left has a corresponding element (of equal visual weight) on the right.

Unfortunately this can become very boring very quickly.

Asymmetrical Balance

Whereas symmetrical balance works through a rigid balance of equal visual elements, asymmetrical balance works through contrasts. Based on things like size, color, and placement on a page (toward the center or toward the edge of the page—perhaps using a single-page advertisement as an example), you can achieve a visceral (or gut) sense of balance that is far more dynamic than a stolid symmetrical balance. This sense of energy and movement can be a useful way to capture reader interest.

But how do you do this? What are the rules? Fortunately, Graphic Design Basics lists a number of them, which I will share with you. You will find the same rules of asymmetrical balance also apply to works of fine art. Therefore, I would encourage you to both visit museums and also study samples of commercial printing.

Here are the principles of asymmetrical balance as noted in Graphic Design Basics. As we discuss these, consider how you might balance weights on a seesaw (teeter-totter). For instance, you could put a large weight on one side, close to the central fulcrum, and then actually balance this heavy weight with a few smaller, lighter weights at the far end of the opposite side (far away from the central fulcrum). Consider this metaphor when you read these rules, and when you look at samples of commercial printing work, I believe you will develop an intuitive, gut reaction to what is or is not “in balance.”

The rules (from Graphic Design Basics):

  1. Location: A large shape in the middle of a page is already in balance. It feels anchored (probably based on our intuitive understanding of symmetrical balance (half of the shape on either side of the imaginary central vertical line of balance). You can balance a large central shape with a much smaller shape if the smaller shape is near the edge of the page (any edge). This is just like the seesaw metaphor noted above. To put this in the terms of graphic design, the central shape might be a large photo, and the small shape near the edge of the page might be a smaller photo. Or, the central shape might be a photo, and the smaller shapes near the outside edges might be call-outs (pull quotes) or even large initial caps beginning paragraphs of text. Squint as you’re designing, and you’ll see the artistic shapes instead of the typeset words.
  2. Isolation: If you position a small shape surrounded by a lot of white space (negative space) on the page, this graphic element will have more visual weight than a much larger group of small objects. The key word is “group.” For example, when you’re designing a page, you can balance a group of head shot photos with a single photo positioned away from this collection of photos.
  3. Texture: “A small, highly textured area will contrast with and balance a larger area of simple texture” (Graphic Design Basics, p. 72). For instance, if you’re designing an advertisement, you can balance a large block of body copy text about the product with a more complex but much smaller headline, perhaps set at the top of the page and extending into the margin, maybe even at an angle. The visually-perceived (as opposed to actual, or physical) texture of the headline, with its complex letterforms, will contrast with and balance the much larger “sea of grey” provided by the body copy of the advertisement.
  4. Value: High contrast adds to the visual weight of a shape in a design. For instance, a small black and white photo on a page (if it has a lot of contrast and rich black tones) will balance out a much larger light (high-key) photo or an area screen of a color. The contrast between the overall black (or other dark color) of the photo and anything else on the page will give the dark photo more visual weight than the lighter, larger shape (perhaps a block of text typeset all in one size).
  5. Shape: “Complicated contours also have a greater visual weight than simple ones” (Graphic Design Basics, p. 74). An example would be a starburst design (in an ad) out of which you might reverse the words “Free Trial.” The jagged edge of this much smaller shape would contrast with, and balance, a much larger photo on the opposite side of the imaginary central line of balance (again, always think in terms of this central line, whether you’re creating a symmetrical or asymmetrical balance in your page design).
  6. Color: Bright and intense color (used sparingly) will balance out much larger design elements in less bright, less saturated color. Think about the use of an intense red color in any ad you have ever seen. Usually a little red goes a long way. In fact, if you highlight even a few words in deep, intense red, the rest of the advertisement can be printed in black, and yet the reader’s eye will go directly to the much smaller shapes (letterforms) printed in red.

What You Should Remember

  1. All of this comes down to two things. If you want the reader to be comfortable, find ways to create balance in a page spread. However, you may want to make the reader uncomfortable in order to confront or challenge her/him. In this case, consider ways to subvert the rules described above.
  2. The main goal is to lead the reader’s eye through the printed page in a specific order you have chosen, based on the levels of importance of the content (or the relationships among the elements of content). Think about the lines of direction and movement you create (for instance, if a model in a photo is looking in a certain direction, your reader will do the same; therefore, it might be effective to place an important block of copy there).
  3. There are many, many more rules (textbooks full). This is only one brief topic. So collect design textbooks and steep yourself in them. Then forget the textbooks and rules, and look at printed design and fine art you like. You’ll see more, and the rules will become a part of you. Some you’ll follow; some you’ll discard.

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Commercial Printing: Tips for Printing Envelopes

April 14th, 2020

Posted in Envelope Printing | Comments Off on Commercial Printing: Tips for Printing Envelopes

I think most people would agree that in the realm of custom printing, envelopes are decidedly not sexy. That said, I’d actually like to disagree.

I recently came upon an old handbook on printing paper from the 1980s, which in fact includes a wealth of information that is just as pertinent now as it was when I started my career in commercial printing. It’s called Walden’s Handbook for Salespeople and Buyers of Printing Paper (published by the Walden-Mott Corporation). If you ask your printer or paper supplier, I’m sure you can get a comparable (but current) text. What makes this such a good print book is that it focuses only on paper and related subjects, unlike most textbooks on graphic design and printing that don’t have this depth in this one subject.

Back to the envelopes. Walden’s Handbook includes a section on envelope styles and sizes. When you remember that nothing you design for direct mail can get to your intended recipient without a functional envelope, and when you consider that nothing is actually read by your intended recipient without your having produced an attractive envelope that entices your reader to open the envelope, envelope printing starts to get interesting.

First of all, you can find this particular information online, including relevant drawings of the envelopes. It would probably be useful to check out some envelope websites to research envelope printing, but if you learn better from paper charts, these are available, too.

In no particular order, here’s a smattering of useful concepts and terms related to envelopes.

(Only a Sampling) of Envelope Sizes and Styles

  1. In the realm of commercial and official envelopes, let’s start with #9 and #10 envelopes. The #10 envelope is the one you receive most often in the mail. It holds standard tri-folded letter paper (8.5” x 11”).
  2. If you receive a marketing package, and the sender wants you to fill out a form (or remit payment) and send it back, usually this goes in a #9 envelope because this will fit comfortably (with other direct mail items) in the #10 envelope, which is also called an “outgoing envelope.”
  3. Both the #10 and #9 envelopes are usually made of 24# stock (usually white wove, comparable to 60# text). Obviously your printer has latitude in paper stock, but if you can print on pre-made envelopes, they will be cheaper, and you know they will be acceptable to the US Post Office.
  4. The #10 envelope comes in two “flavors,” regular and window envelopes. If you will inkjet the recipient’s address on the envelope or on a label, the regular envelope will be your proper choice. However, if your mailing insert (usually a letter) has the recipient’s address on the front, your envelope printing supplier can fold the letter in thirds and insert it into a window envelope with the address visible through the window in the envelope. This makes labeling the #10 envelope unnecessary. These windows come in a variety of sizes and positions on the envelopes.
  5. Regular and window envelopes come in many, many other sizes (noted in envelope charts as 6¾, 7, 7¾, Monarch, and the like). On the charts, each has a number and a size (7¾, for instance, is 3 7/8” x 7 1/2”).
  6. It’s very important to choose an envelope that is large enough for your insert. Many envelope charts also include notations of the insert size as well as the envelope size. You want to have a 1/8” clearance on the top and on either side of the insert when the insert is in the envelope. An A-1 envelope, for instance, is 3 5/8” x 5 1/8”. It will accept 3 1/2” x 4 7/8” inserts. (That is, when the insert is in the envelope, there’s 1/8” of leeway on the left and right plus 1/8” leeway at the top opening, or “throat,” of the envelope.)
  7. Envelopes appropriate for various business uses come in a multitude of classifications in addition to the regular and window envelopes noted above. You can buy large flat envelopes (9” x 12”, for instance) that open on the long side and are called “booklet” envelopes (or open-side envelopes). Or you can buy envelopes that open on the short side and are called “catalog” envelopes (or open-end envelopes). You can buy printed “Airmail” versions of larger envelopes as well. Some of these larger envelopes also have windows (of various sizes and placements) through which you can read addresses (or messages).
  8. Other envelopes for commercial use (usually in-house use) include policy envelopes, coin envelopes, inter-department envelopes (in case you’re sending an inter-office document from one department to another), job ticket envelopes (with one open end and a lip). Envelopes like these can also be used for film (as opposed to digital) x-rays.
  9. If you’re announcing something, you may want to use A-6, A-7, A-8, etc., announcement envelopes. Or you may want to use baronial envelopes, the flaps of which usually come to a point. These are great for social occasions such as weddings. You may also want to include a flat or fold-over RSVP card and smaller envelope in the main envelope.
  10. If you want clients to pay for something, like a magazine subscription, you might print a “bangtail” envelope, which would have an additional, detachable panel attached to an envelope, and this entire unit might be stitched into the center of a magazine. Your subscriber could tear off the printed stub and then mail back the attachment in the envelope.
  11. Some envelopes will have flaps with remoistenable glue. You wet these to reactivate the glue, and then you seal them.
  12. Other envelopes might have a button and string, or a metal clasp, to seal the envelope. These are customarily used within an organization rather than sent out to clients.
  13. Still other envelopes might have a paper liner laid over a glue strip. You just peel off the liner and fold over the glued flap to seal the envelope. Still other envelopes might have a latex-to-latex bond. To seal these envelopes, you just fold the flap so the two strips of latex (like rubber cement) touch one another and the envelope will be sealed.

What You Can Learn from All of This Envelope Information

The first thing you may notice is that this is way too much information to keep in your head. That’s why there are charts with line drawings to which you can refer.

The next thing to learn is that it helps to break down your envelope needs into such categories as social, business, and functional. If you’re designing a social announcement, you might consider A-style envelopes or baronial envelopes. If you’re sending out a direct mail package, you would probably choose something like a #10 envelope. If you’re sending an envelope around the office, you might consider a button-and-string or metal clasp envelope. Envelopes like the bangtail noted above might be good for billing your customers. If you can articulate your envelope needs, you’ll either find the appropriate envelope in the charts or your printer or paper merchant can suggest a solution.

Think about whether you want a flat envelope or one that will expand. This will depend on what you want it to contain, but there are envelopes with gusseting that can hold a lot of forms or other items.

Think about the paper. White wove is good for most business uses. Choose from 20# (the same as 50# offset), 24# (the same as 60# offset), 28# (the same as 70# offset), or even 32# in some cases.

Think about the color of the envelope. If your insert is on a cream stock, you will probably want to choose a matching paper stock for the envelope. There are paper swatch books you can get from your printer that include matching business card, envelope, and letterhead papers for such a coordinated project.

Some envelopes even come to you “converted” from brown kraft paper stocks. These are especially durable.

The term “converted,” noted above, just means that a flat (printed or unprinted) press sheet has been die cut, folded, and then glued to make the envelope. This process adds time and extra cost to your envelope printing purchase. If you can use standard paper stocks and standard sizes, the job will cost less and be completed more quickly.

Finally, make it a habit to communicate early and often with your envelope printing supplier. It is also wise to make paper dummies of your marketing initiatives, including the outgoing envelope, #9 return envelope, letter, and anything else that will be mailed in the package. Make sure everything fits comfortably in the envelope. And make sure your US Postal Service business mail representative approves everything for both “mailability” and “machinability.” That is, you need to ensure that there will be no mailing surcharges (as there are for square-format envelopes, for instance) and that the complete mailing package can be successfully processed by all automated USPS equipment.

Posted in Envelope Printing | Comments Off on Commercial Printing: Tips for Printing Envelopes

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