A big consideration when designing for envelopes is whether to print them before or after converting. There are a lot of factors to consider when making this decision, here are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s safe to say, in general printers would prefer all envelopes be already converted before printing. The drawback to this from a creative standpoint – no bleeds. Why the big fuss about bleeds? On an envelope that is already converted, they can only be positioned on three sides of an envelope, leaving one of the short dimension edges for the gripper. Non-bleed images and addresses can be printed on the back flap. When printing already converted envelopes,
keep in mind screens or printed text can appear heavier on the seams where the double thickness of paper and glue create a raised area. Depending on the artwork, you may want to consider a side-seam or diagonal-seam envelope.
If you’re printing an unconverted envelope, you can have bleeds on all four sides of the outside and inside of the envelope and flap, leaving the integrity of the design in tact. Bleeds on the inside of the envelope are a common design feature as well as providing security through added opacity. It’s a good idea to talk to your envelope converter before printing to find out if there are any special requirements for areas that will be glued.
Try to avoid designs that need an exact register across the seams, this is mainly due to the variability in die-cutting and folding.
Unlike converted envelopes, unconverted envelopes allow you to foil-stamp and emboss a design without leaving a debossed image on the opposite side of the envelope.
Test your envelope in the laser printer before running to avoid jamming and creasing caused by envelope thickness. In general, testing is always a good idea. Trust me on this one, the last thing you want is for your client to have issues with printing the envelopes (or letterhead for that matter) of their new identity system. Tacking of the seal flap can happen when the glue is exposed to the intense heat and moisture generated in the fusion chamber of the laser printer.
The number one frustration my customers have with envelopes is around availability. Since there are a huge number of possible paper/envelope size combinations, it is unrealistic for any paper merchant to inventory a complete selection of envelopes. Merchants and envelope convertors stock a small subset of popular sizes—typically No. 10 commercial, A2, A6, etc. in cream or white stock. However, any text weight can be converted into any size or style as long as you plan for it. A good rule of thumb is to allow three weeks for non-standard envelope orders. For best results I recommend working with your paper rep early on in the process.