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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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Envelope Printing: Standard Envelopes Need Not Be Boring

Many months ago in a PIE Blog article, I listed a number of envelope printing options. I focused on paper weight (the thickness of the custom envelopes you might choose for a business letter vs. a formal invitation, for instance) and on how to leave enough space for the enclosure without needing to print and convert an odd-sized envelope for a premium price. (That is, you should choose a standard envelope printing size first and then create a slightly smaller enclosure that will fit. If you design the insert first, you may need a custom-made envelope to fit your piece.)

These rules of thumb are helpful, and they keep your expenses down by standardizing the size and paper weight of your envelopes. That said, there are still numerous envelope printing options that need not be custom diecut and assembled. Your envelopes need not be boring. Here are a few of your options.

Business and Correspondence Envelopes

The #10 envelope (4 1/8” x 9 1/2”) is the workhorse of the industry for business use. Within this category, you can find a number of different flap designs, including commercial flap, wallet flap, side seam, policy, and square flap.

Commercial flap envelopes have diagonal seams that converge at the center of the open envelope under the flap (this part of the envelope is called the “throat”). In contrast, side-seam envelopes have wider backs with (almost) vertical seams running much closer to the sides of the envelope.

Wallet flap envelopes have squarish (not exactly square) flaps that extend down over the back of the envelope. These are quite useful if you need a large area on which to imprint information about a charitable donation, for instance.

In contrast, standard square-flap envelopes have side seams and an almost square flap. This design offers a nice contrast to the more shallow and pointed flap of a commercial envelope. You might choose a square-flap envelope to add a contemporary look to your business correspondence.

Unlike the other standard #10 envelopes, a policy envelope opens on the side, has a square flap, and has a single center seam.

Keep in mind that both commercial flap and side-seam envelopes are fine for machine insertion, but square-flap envelopes are only recommended for hand insertion of their enclosures.

In addition to the varied flaps available on these printed envelopes, you may have multiple options in terms of paper color, weight, texture, and finish. Ask your commercial printing vendor or paper merchant for paper sample books. These will show unprinted samples of corresponding stock for envelopes, letterhead, and business cards. In some cases you might also find less corporate, and more colorful, options for informal business correspondence.

Window Envelopes

To keep the envelopes consistent (presumably for the US Postal Service automation equipment), standard window envelopes include a 4.5″ wide by 1.125″ deep window (almost always the same size and in the same position regardless of the dimensions of the envelope). It is located 0.875″ from the left edge of the envelope and 0.5″ from the bottom of the envelope. This diecut window may be covered with a “patch.” Over the years these have been made of transparent materials ranging from glassine to plastic to cellophane, but they are now usually made of plastic.

Booklet vs. Catalog Envelopes

Booklet envelopes open along the top, or larger dimension. They have side seams and are ideal for machine insertion of enclosures.

Catalog envelopes open on the side, or short dimension. They have center seams (one seam running down the center of the envelope). This single seam makes the envelope more durable, and ideal for heavier enclosures such as catalogs (hence the name).

Announcement Envelopes

You have three options for announcement and invitation envelopes (A-Style, Baronial, and Square).

A-Style envelopes have side seams and a square flap. Hence they provide a more contemporary look.

Baronial envelopes have a deep pointed flap and diagonal seams. They give a more traditional look to announcements, invitations, and cards.

Square envelopes are just what the name implies. With a square flap and side seams, they are ideal for bold announcements and advertising material. Their equal-sided dimensions make them arresting in their appearance. However, the US Postal Service charges a premium for mailing square envelopes.

Ask for an Envelope Printing Chart or Find One Online

In addition to requesting sample paper books to help you determine specifications for your envelope printing needs, look for a chart that shows the dimensions of all standard envelopes (along with their preferred enclosure sizes). This will become a useful, treasured tool as you design and order more and more envelopes over the years. It will help you converse with envelope printing suppliers and also keep you from making sizing mistakes.

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