Everything you’ll ever need to know about envelopes

Envelopes montage

Back in March we published a blog post in which, among other things, we briefly touched upon envelopes. Here we’ll expand upon that with more depth and detail about envelopes; their types, formats, sizes, the many variants available and, of course, printing and overprinting options.

‘Wallet’ & ‘Pocket’ formats

What on Earth do we mean when we specify ‘pocket’ or ‘wallet’ envelopes? Well, it’s a little like ‘portrait’ and ‘landscape’ orientation are to paper or works of art, except when it comes to envelopes we refer to:

  • Wallet, when we mean that the envelope has the opening flap on the longer edge. Such envelopes are often, but not always, used in the landscape orientation.
  • Pocket, when we mean that the envelope has the opening flap on the shorter edge. Pocket envelopes are often, but not always, used in the portrait orientation.

Window envelopes

Unlike standard envelopes, ‘window’ envelopes feature a small plastic window in the front side. This is positioned so that the addressee typed on the enclosed letter shows through the window in just the right position so as to be visible clearly. The point of the window in the envelope is to save time — using window envelopes means that a separate address label does not need to be produced.

Envelope enclosure methods:

In terms of sealing mechanisms, the most common forms of seal for modern business envelopes are:

  • Gummed; the most traditional type of sealing mechanism which simply requires a lick (or wet dab) before sticking down.
  • Self-seal; is probably the easiest type of seal and uses pre-applied pressure-sensitive adhesive which seals the flap shut after the simple application of gentle pressure;
  • Peel & seal; uses pre-applied self-adhesive tape rather like double-sided tape — just peel off the protective layer and stick.
  • Tucking is another closure method, where the flap is simply tucked in, but is significantly less secure than the other methods and, as such, should be thought of as only temporary.
  • ‘String and washer’ envelopes are also available but are used less commonly these days. Here the pre-attached string is wound around a pair of adjacent circular card washers to keep the flap secured.

Envelope weights

These fall into several categories:

  • Standard envelopes are available in a wide range of thicknesses which can all be thought of as ‘paper’ weight;
  • heavy weight is more akin to ‘thick paper’ or ‘card’ weight;
  • board-backed envelopes simply include one face which is reinforced with board or card to as to make them more rigid and protective;
  • All board envelopes are as above but the entire envelope is made using protective card/board, so are even more rigid;
  • Padded envelopes have thick walls which protect the contents by surrounding them by a ‘cushion’. This is usually formed by either a sealed layer of ground newsprint or by plastic bubble-wrap type layer.

Specialist Envelopes

These include:

  • Coloured paper or card envelopes;
  • Foil envelopes (metallic foil, usually made of mirror-like shiny plastic and available in an increasingly wide range of funky colours);
  • Foil bubble envelopes (as above but combining the coloured or clear foil with bubble-wrap);
  • Gusseted envelopes which have deep walls to enclose contents which have a significant thickness;
  • Tyvek®  envelopes are not particularly thick or rigid but are virtually impossible to tear;
  • Lined envelopes: here the envelope has a second layer of paper inside to give the envelope a luxurious feel. Usually this is made from coloured tissue;
  • Airmail  envelopes are light weight so as to keep the cost of posting abroad to a minimum;
  • Opaqued envelopes have and opaque or randomised printing on the inside which make it impossible to read the contents inside, even when held up to a strong light source;
  • Security envelopes are either tamper-proof or designed in such a way as to show clearly visible signs if tampering has taken place.

Envelope sizes

The most commonly-used envelopes sizes in the UK are:

  • C3    458mm x 324mm;
  • C4    324mm x 229mm;
  • C5    229mm x 162mm;
  • C6    162mm x 114mm;
  • The ‘C’ series of sizes above are designed to suit the ‘A’ series of paper sizes (e.g. A4 folded in half to A5 will fit nicely into a C5 envelope and so on).
  • There is also an equivalent ‘D’ series of envelope sizes but, as these are used for the ‘B’ series of paper sizes, we have not included them here (‘B’ sized sheets of paper are rarely used by businesses apart from printers, who usually cut them down to A sizes once printed).
  • DL* 220mm x 110mm;* strictly speaking DL is 210mm x 99mm (exactly one-third A4) and it is the size ‘DLE‘ which is 220mm x 110mm. However most printers and suppliers in the UK mean 220 x 110mm when they refer to ‘DL’ envelopes.
  • Square envelopes are available in an enormous range of sizes (too long to list) including anything from 40mm square to 350mm square by our reckoning.

Pre-printing (overprinting) envelopes

Printing your corporate brand and a concise marketing message onto your business envelopes can make a really good impact when received by your customer or prospect, yet this is often overlooked as a marketing tool. It is not expensive but looks highly professional and can convey your service or offer the instant your correspondence arrives, even before the mailing piece is opened, with the added benefit of an incremental increase in brand awareness.

It is possible to overprint off-the-peg envelopes on digital and litho presses; however it would be worth discussing your requirements with your printing company at an early stage so as to be sure that the design and artwork is suitable, for example where bleed or proximity of printing to edges is concerned.

It is also, of course, possible to produce printed envelopes entirely from scratch. This approach could, for example, mean that the entire envelope could be printed with images or graphics, even edge to edge, inside and outside. However this ‘from scratch’ process would usually only be cost-effective for a significant print quantity so as to keep the individual unit cost down.

Do talk to us if you would like to create a really lasting first impression using a bespoke or overprinted envelope.

About Firstpoint Print, London

Firstpoint Print are digital, litho and large format printers, based in London with 3 branches:

Click the relevant link(s) above to contact your nearest branch and we’d be delighted to hear from you. Our quotations are free and without obligation.