What’s the Best Way to Print an Envelope?

There are four main ways to print an envelope. Choosing the right one can make a big difference in the quality of the final result.

The envelope is the first thing that a customer sees. Before he gets into the contents, he will at least take a look at the envelope. A bad print job, or even just a mediocre job, can set a bad tone for your company. It could cause the customer to think that you don’t care as much as you should, or that your attention to detail is not that great. All those subtle messages can have a negative effect on your company. So, presenting a proper image to your customers is vitally important. And a quality envelope printing job is a good way to present that professional look you want.

There are four ways to print an envelope:

Offset printing
Flexo Printing
Litho printing
Digital printing

Offset printing is done with a metal printing plate that comes in contact with the envelope and some ink to produce the desired image. Of the four listed above, offset printing is probably the most common. It’s very versatile and can print excellent quality for all types of images including photographs and fine detail.

Flexo (short for flexographic) printing is done with a hard plastic printing plate. The main difference with offset is that the printing is generally done on the same machine that manufacture’s the envelope. For this reason it’s also referred to as “in-line” printing. Flexo printing has improved greatly over the years but it’s still not quite as sharp and clean as offset printing. Its main advantage is cost, especially on very large quantities (over 100,000).

Litho (short for Lithographic) printing is an offset process but is done with large presses that are designed for very high quality and heavy ink coverage. When an envelope is printed litho, it is done on a flat sheet which is then die cut and folded into an envelope after the printing is done. Litho is the most expensive way to print an envelope but is very common with very elaborate designs that cover most of the envelope front and back.

Digital printing has become more common over the past ten years or so. Digital printers can print in vibrant color including white ink. Digital has a different look than offset or flexo printing mostly due to the fact that the color is reproduced using toner or ink-jetting. It’s the most economical way to print a small quantity of envelopes in color.

This is just a short summary of the main ways to print an envelope. We will get into detail on each method of printing in subsequent blog posts. There are reasons why you would choose one of those four having to do with quantity ordered, price, amount of ink coverage and other factors. We’ll get into that as well as the factors to consider when deciding which method to choose.

Of course, the best start is to contact an envelope converter. Please contact us with any comments or questions and we’ll be sure to get right back to you.