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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: Window Options for Envelopes

I’ve been receiving a lot of direct mail custom envelopes with large windows recently, and I’m intrigued. The windows run almost from one side of the envelope to the other. Compared to the small address windows I’m used to, these look like plate-glass windows.

From a marketing perspective, I think that’s the purpose of the custom envelopes: to provide an expansive view of the contents of the direct mail package, to entice the recipient to open and read the mail.

To familiarize myself with the options (for both large and standard window envelopes), I did some research. I started with Google Images and then perused some envelope printing vendors’ websites. This is what I learned.

The Purpose of the Window

One main purpose of a window envelope is to avoid needing to print the address twice (once on the bill or statement, for instance, and once on the envelope). If only the recipient’s address changes, you might need only one window. If, on the other hand, different divisions of your business send out statements or other formal business correspondence, you may want two windows (one for the recipient’s address and one for the return address).

In either case, the benefit is that the addresses on the letter (or other insert within the envelope) show through the window. This makes the (essentially) blank envelope cheaper to buy and easier to use. And the envelope never becomes obsolete, regardless of where your business moves.

Another advantage is that for mass mailings, there’s no chance of mismatching the name/address inkjetted onto the envelope and the name/address included on the direct mail pieces within the envelope.

Window Standardization

Within certain limits, windows on envelopes have been standardized. Nevertheless, there are a number of categories, involving single and double windows on a variety of envelope sizes, with a variety of window placements. Windows are measured (from top to bottom and side to side), and the placement of the windows is noted (the distance from the window to the bottom of the envelope, and the distance from the left edge of the window to the edge of the envelope). You can find this information for the various sized envelope options on the websites of envelope printing suppliers.

Standardization lowers the overall price of these envelopes. After all, since diecutting the windows adds money to the cost of the envelopes, using standard (rather than custom-made) dies for the diecutting limits this extra cost.

Another benefit of standardized window placement is that the addresses can fall precisely where the US Postal Service’s automated address reading (OCR) equipment can easily capture the information.

Window Placement Options

If you check out Google Images, you’ll see more varieties of window envelopes than you can imagine. On regular business envelopes (such as the #10 envelope), the window placement seems to fall into the following categories: bottom right of the envelope (for the main address), bottom left of the envelope (for the main address), and upper left quadrant (for the main address). Corresponding return address windows fit where they can, usually above and to the left of the main window. Obviously, no windows come close to the postage (stamp, meter, or indicia) at the top right.

Booklet and catalog envelopes (larger envelopes that open on either the longer or shorter envelope dimension: i.e., their sides or on their ends) can include windows that are parallel to either the longer dimension or the shorter dimension of the custom envelopes. The position of the address windows will make the orientation of these larger direct mail packages appear to be either upright (vertical or portrait orientation) or horizontal (landscape orientation). (You might use one of these styles to either send a catalog or booklet to a client, or to send an important document without folding it down to fit in a #10 envelope.)

Window Patches

Envelope windows can be holes diecut into the custom envelopes without a covering, or they can be covered by plastic. When I first saw these envelopes in the 1960s and 1970s, the windows were covered with glassine, poly (plastic), or cellophane. Now they are almost all plastic. If you look on the inside of a window envelope with a patch, you will see that the covering material is slightly larger than the diecut window, and you will see that the edges extending beyond the opening have been glued onto the interior of the envelope.

Full-View Window Envelopes

To get back to the custom envelopes that initially caught my interest, the larger window envelopes (called full-view envelopes) showcase their contents. For example, a circular cut window covered in plastic can both display and protect a vividly screen-printed, or inkjet-printed, music CD. Or a large rectangular window can frame an irresistible photo of a Carribean beach scene sent out to prospects by a cruise ship line seeking business.

In short, you have a lot of options. Do some research online and through dedicated envelope printing suppliers, and find the perfect custom envelope for your direct mail package. It’s the first element of a promotional piece that your prospects will touch.

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