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Copy Design | Image Limitations | Backprinting | Marginal Words | Mailer Design Considerations

Copy Design

Copy for mailers can consist of rules, text, graphics, screens and halftones. When designing the copy for the mailer, you must keep in mind that there are image limitations on the press equipment that manufactures the mailers. (see Image Limitations below).

Screened Copy:

  • Use it to highlight areas.
  • Use it to shade backgrounds.
  • A variety of are densities available.
  • Screened copy is supplied in a negative or on a disk.
  • Use 5% to 15% screen in areas that will be imprinted.
  • Use halftones for pictures.


Image Limitations

Web Press Equipment:

Continuous multipart mailers and continuous self mailers are most generally printed on a web press. Promotional mailers and cut sheet self mailers can be printed on a web press or a sheet fed press. Web presses have plate and blanket cylinders, which along with other components, produce a printed impression on paper. The plate and blanket cylinders have a slot or gap in them where the plate and the blanket are attached. Nothing can print in the gap area. The nonprintable area is known as the "cylinder gap" or the "plate lockup". The gap area is usually 3/8" in depth and extends the full width of the sheet.


Note: All colors have this 3/8" gap because each color is printed on a separate cylinder.

Three Ways To Allow for the 3/8" Gap on a Continuous Mailer

Example: A 9 1/2" x  11" form would have a maximum image of 9 1/2" x  10 5/8". 


Three Ways To Allow for the 3/8" Gap on a Single Sheet Carrier
(Printed on Web Press Equipment)

Example: A 8 1/2" x  11" form would have a maximum image of 8 1/8" x  11".

Three Ways To Allow for the 3/8" Gap on a Laser Sheet Carrier
(Printed on Web Press Equipment)

Example: A 8 1/2" x  11" form would have a maximum image of 8 1/2" x  10 5/8".

Listed below are some ways that a manufacturer can work around the image limitations:

  • The manufacturer can work around image size limitations by trying to adjust the copy within the image limitations.
  • The copy can be printed as a split image (run on two separate printing units on the same press).
  • The application can be printed oversize and then trimmed to the finished size on laser and single cut sheet mailers.
  • Laser or single cut sheet mailers can be printed on sheet fed equipment.

Note: When discussing the image limitation options with your manufacturer, you will have to let them know how many colors you will have on the front and back of your mailer for them to determine which option they could use.

Sheet Fed Equipment:

Laser or single cut sheet mailers can be printed on sheet fed presses. The image limitations are less restrictive on sheet fed presses. The mailer can be printed oversize and trimmed to the finished size. Indicate where the copy bleeds so the supplier can allow for the proper gripper and trim needed. Although printing the form on sheet fed equipment may solve image limitations problems, it may not be cost effective if you are running a large quantity of forms.


Backprinting is any copy printed on the back side of the mailer.

  • The same design features are available as on the front of the mailer.
  • The same image limitations apply to the back as on the front of the mailer.

Marginal Words

Marginal words are printed on a dry offset unit using a rubber stamp type of material. They are generally used on the continuous multipart mailers but can be used on the single cut sheet mailers if required.

  • They are usually printed in a standard red ink.
  • They are used to make reference to the distribution of the form or to provide special instructions for the user.
  • They may be used as a method to add an additional color to a form, but the quality will not be as good as the quality produced by a regular offset printing unit.
  • There may be size limitations depending on your supplier's capabilities.

Mailer Design Considerations

Listed below are design features that should be taken into consideration when designing your mailer.

  • On continuous multipart mailers, be sure that data transfers to the correct areas on all parts and inserts.
  • Check to be sure that when a self mailer is folded that all copy is in correct location on each panel and that the address and other postal information is in the proper location.
  • Be sure your outgoing mail information and your business reply mail information is set up according to postal regulations. See Postal Regulations - Outgoing Mail and Postal Regulations - Business Reply Mail for more details.
  • Be sure additional copy, printed on the outside of the mailing piece, does not interfere with postal requirements.
  • Consider using blockouts to keep content of the mailer from being viewed before being opened by recipient.
  • Be sure to use security features on negotiable and confidential documents. See Security Features for more details on available security features

Contact your manufacturer about any concerns you may have when designing your mailer.


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