Best Ways to Print an Envelope – Offset

The vast majority of the estimated 400 billion envelopes used annually worldwide are printed in 4 ways: offset, flexographic, flat sheet litho and digital. In today’s post, we will focus on the most popular method, offset printing.

The name offset comes from the process whereby a metal printing plate is burned with the image which is then transferred or “offset” to a printing blanket and then applied to the envelope.

The most popular way to offset print and envelope is on a Jet press. These are specially designed for envelopes and some of the newer models (we have four at Quality/Elite) can achieve speeds up to 50,000 per hour. This is sometimes confused with ink-jetting which is a completely different animal (used primarily to print addresses on bulk mailings). Jet is a brand name for envelope printing presses made by the Halm Corporation. The vast majority of offset presses used by envelope companies are this type and brand. The quality is excellent and very consistent.

How do you know if offset printing is right for your envelope job? The two main criteria to consider are the quantity you are looking for and the specific graphic image you want printed.

Quantity: – Offset printing is the most economical way to go on jobs of 2,500 and over up to around 100,000. Jobs from a handful to around 2,500 are most economically done on one of the smaller, (non-Jet) presses out there. These are in use at most local Instant Print type shops which would most likely be your best option for a 1 or 2 color job of that size. Anything 2,500 or more would be best sent to an actual envelope company which utilizes Jet presses. . At Quality/Elite, we routinely print jobs from 2,500 into the millions on our Jets. Another economical way to print small quantities of envelopes is on digital presses. We’ll get into that in a later post.

Quality: – Certain graphic images such as those containing fine lines, long, thin lines, half-tones (photos) screens (lighter shades of a darker color made by a concentration of tiny dots of varying density) or tight registration (a combination of images placed very close together or actually touching) generally require offset printing for best results. An envelope expert can tell from viewing your artwork what the best printing method would be.

In the next post, we’ll get into flexographic printing. Please don’t hesitate to send any questions our way and I’ll be happy to answer them. You can reach me directly at