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Printing Processes

Flexography | Lithography | Thermography

Envelopes can be printed by several different processes. Several factors should be considered when deciding what type of printing process would best satisfy your requirements. You should consider the quality required, the quantity and the type of image being printed. Shown below are brief explanations of different printing processes that are used to print envelopes. The explanations may help you determine the best process for printing your envelopes.

Also when determining what type of printing process will best satisfy your printing requirements, you should consider the design guidelines for each process. Considering the guidelines will help you achieve the quality you desire on the finished product.


Flexography is a type of printing process that uses a plate with a raised surface and fast drying fluid inks to print directly onto the print material. The plates are made of rubber or photopolymer and are attached to a drum on rotary printing equipment. Flexography would be printed while the envelopes are being converted. On larger runs, this is a less expensive process than lithography because it eliminates a separate printing process, but the print quality will not be as good.

On small quantity runs, it is generally less expensive to use the lithographic printing process due to the make ready charges that would be charged for a special order printed with flexography.



Lithography printing is a printing process that uses a flat plate where water is applied to the plate surface and is absorbed into the non-image areas. Then when the ink is applied to the plate, the image areas accept the ink but the non-image areas repel it since ink and water don't mix. The ink is then transferred from the plate to a blanket which in turn transfers the image to the printing surface. Lithography is a high quality printing process used on envelopes after they have been converted into envelope blanks or into a finished envelope. Lithographic printing is generally more expensive on long runs than flexography because it is a separate procedure in the manufacturing process. Even though it is more expensive, it is sometimes preferred because it produces better quality than flexography.

Note: When printing a bleed on an envelope before it is folded into the finished on an envelope before it is folded into the finished envelope, whether it is by flexography or lithography, allow for 1/8" bleed compensate for the converting equipment's 1/16" tolerance in folding.


Thermography is a process that works along with another printing process by the use of a resin powder, the printed ink, and heat. The powder is applied to the ink while it is still wet and then is sent through a heating process. The powder only sticks to the printed area. When it goes through the heat process, the powder swells and creates a raised image in the printed area. The coating hardens when it cools. Thermography has the appearance of engraving but does not have the ability to obtain its fine details. Thermography is used to add quality to your stationery, envelopes and business cards without the cost of engraving.

Laser Thermography: If your thermographed envelopes are going to run through a laser printer, you must be sure that laser safe thermography is used.


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