Custom printed envelopes can seem expensive because they are converted; meaning they are printed flat, die cut, then folded and glued together.  This extra processing drives up the cost.

Envelopes are one of the three items Rains | Birchard Marketing routinely designs and produces for new clients as an integral part of business stationary.  Everyone needs business cards, so when designing those, our agency also designs the letterhead and #10 envelopes to match.  Over the years, many new clients have been surprised at the high cost of printing standard envelopes when compared to letterhead at an equal quantity on the same paper.  With online printing services like VistaPrint.com literally giving away free printing of business cards, some clients are reluctant to invest in printing at all; or think we’re trying to “pull a fast one” on them with the price of envelopes.

To understand the price disparity, one needs to understand the printing process.

With offset printing, ink is applied to paper by a press in one or more colors.  Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black are all you need to reproduce full color photos and graphics.  A printing press applies each color, one at a time, to a flat, consistently sized sheet of paper.  Typical press sizes can accommodate paper that is 29″ wide or 40″ wide, called “parent sheets.”  The flat shape of a #10 business envelope will fit five times on a parent sheet for a 40″ press.  This same parent sheet can print eight sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ letterhead.  To yield a finished quantity of 1,000 sheets of letterhead and 1,000 matching envelopes, you’d need to print only 125 parent sheets for the letterhead but 200 for the envelopes.  That’s roughly 60% more paper for the envelopes.

Letterhead then simply needs to be chop-cut to size using a straight blade.  Envelopes on the other hand need to be die-cut with a custom metal cutting die to the special flat shape of an envelope.  A bindery machine then will be fed the flat envelopes and will fold and glue the flaps together to form the bottom and sides, then apply adhesive to the top flap for you to lick and seal.  This process is referred to as conversion.  And those extra steps along with the increase in the amount of paper used for printing are what drive the cost of envelopes up.

Like anything else, an understanding of the process helps to explain the overall cost.  Perhaps when I meet with our next new client, this will have answered one common question.