Envelope Terminology

Are you ready to order your quality, custom envelopes? Knowing the language can help you feel more comfortable when discussing your order. We have compiled a list of terminology used in the envelope industry that will have you sounding just like a pro.


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A.

  • A-Series – Announcement envelope that is open side seam with a long, square flap.  Flap must be 2-1/2″ long or greater to be considered A-Series.  Ranges in size from A2 to A10.
  • Acid Free Envelopes – Envelopes made from virtually any cellulose fiber source (cotton, wood, etc.) and buffered with an alkaline substance to resist acid deterioration. Bleaching, aluminum sulfate, or pollutants in the atmosphere may lead to the formation of acid if a paper or board has not been buffered with an alkaline substance.
  • Adjustable Die Cut – Adjustable envelope die used to cut OECS or OSSS from pretrimmed paper.
  • Address Block Barcode – A barcode contained within the address block, as opposed to one in the lower right hand corner of a mail piece.
  • Adhesive – The substance used to seal an envelope:
    • Back gum is matched to the paper grade to form strong permanent bonds at seams that form the body of the envelope.
    • Seal gum is also matched to the paper grade, and when moistened, quickly and securely seals the envelope.
    • Latex is a self-sealing adhesive requiring no moisture, which forms a bond when two coated surfaces come together.
  • Announcement Envelopes – Envelopes with either deep pointed flaps and diagonal seams, or deep square flaps with two side seams. They are used with baronial cards, informal mailings, and social and commercial announcements. Both styles have their own unique sizes.
  • Artwork – A general term used to describe the digital files containing photographs, drawings, paintings, hand lettering, etc., prepared to illustrate printed matter.Back to top

B.

  • Back Gum – Adhesive that cannot be re-moistened for sealing; used as a permanent seal on envelope seams.
  • Bangtail –Perforated coupon attached to the body of a return envelope; must be torn off before the envelope is sealed. Used for remittance envelopes, order envelopes, and other direct mail applications.
  • Bar Code – Used by the Postal Service to speed mail processing. A series of vertical bars and half bars representing the zip code printed in the address block or underneath the address on a mail piece. If not preprinted, space must be left at the bottom of an envelope for the bar code. Barcodes are also used for electronic scanning of retail products, filing, materials handling, and photo-finishing systems.
  • Baronial – Type of envelope recognized by large pointed flap, usually open side with diagonal seams. Used most often for social correspondence, including announcements, greeting cards and invitations. Ideal for that formal look when sending invitations or R.S.V.P. cards. Baronials are available in a wide range of sizes and paper stocks with special panel cards and sheets made to fit inside.
  • Bindery – The finishing department of a print shop or firm specializing in finishing printed products.
  • Blank – A die cut sheet of paper before it is folded into an envelope.
  • Blanket – The material on the press that transfers the ink from the plate to the paper.
  • Bleed – In printing, an image that extends off the edge of the page or envelope, or into a window.
  • Blind Emboss – Raised design stamped in paper, without foil or ink. Can be done before the envelope is folded so that design is not debossed onto the back of the envelope.
  • Bond Grade – Grade of writing or printing papers, often used for letterheads and matching envelopes. Characterized by strength, rigidity, relatively low opacity, and erasability. Sometimes with cotton fiber content.
  • Booklet – 1) A large, open side envelope for catalogs, annual reports, and brochures. This style is gaining popularity over traditional Catalog (Open End) envelopes because it can be used with automatic inserting machines. 2) Also refers to Commercial Open Side envelopes with two side seams.
  • Brightness – The light reflecting property of a paper. The more light it reflects the higher its brightness. A bright sheet offers the best print quality and appearance.
  • BRE Stands for Business Reply Envelope. An envelope printed to determine who pays the postage. They are recognized by a series of horizontal bars and other special markings. They require a special postal permit so that the postage is paid by the business sending the envelope. Another kind of reply mail often confused with Business Reply is Courtesy Reply. These envelopes do not have the horizontal bars or special endorsements, and the sender pays the postage.
  • Bulk Pack – Efficient way to package envelopes. Refers to packaging of envelopes in a carton, as opposed to packaging them inside separate boxes within a carton.Back to top

C.

  • Camera Ready – Old-fashioned terminology used to describe copy or art which is ready for photography in the plate making process.  We no longer use a camera to shoot copy – when we have to capture an image for artwork, we use a scanner.
  • Catalog – Describes a large OpenEnd envelope usually with a center seam.
  • Cello – Abbreviation for cellophane which is a window material that is very clear. Due to the expense, cello is not used as much as it once was. It can be too reflective, causing errors in OCR reading.
  • Center Seam – The permanent seam located approximately in the center of the envelope running from the bottom fold and seam, up through the envelope to its throat. Center seams are most commonly used on coin and catalog envelopes.
  • Clasp – Metal fastener sometimes used with remoistenable gum on Booklet and Catalog envelopes, allowing for repeated opening and closing of the envelope.
  • Closure – Any product or substance used to seal the flap of an envelope. In addition to various adhesives (gums), metal clasps can be applied (most often to coin and catalog envelopes) for added durability. String-and-button fasteners are also used on envelopes that are opened and closed several times.
  • Coated Paper – Paper that has been coated with clay and other materials to improve printability. More often used for four-color printing on envelopes, for direct mail and other applications.
  • Commercial – General term for the most common style of business envelopes. Open Side usually with diagonal seams.
  • Converting – The process of producing an envelope from a sheet of paper.
  • Corner Card – Return address and other identification of the sender in the upper lefthand corner.
  • CRE – Stands for Courtesy Reply Envelope. An envelope with a preprinted address on the face that is supplied without pre-paid postage.
  • Crop – To cut off parts of a picture or image.
  • Crop Marks – Small lines at the corners of the artwork showing the boundaries of the final printed product.
  • Cross Grain Cut – Envelopes cut so that the paper grain is perpendicular to the paper side seam fold. This makes the envelope more difficult to fold.
  • Cross Cut – A window envelope without the window patch material.Back to top

D.

  • Deckle Edge – Feathered edge on envelope flap deliberately produced for decorative purposes. Formed especially on formal announcement or invitation envelopes.
  • Density – The degree of color or darkness of an image or photograph.
  • Diagonal Seam – Seam style frequently used in Commercial Open Side envelopes, invitation and baronial envelopes. It’s name is derived from the seam running from the back corner of the envelope diagonally to the middle.
  • Die – Precision tool used to cut out envelope blanks, windows or other shapes.
  • Dieline – The outline of the final shape of the envelope.  The dieline will exactly match the shape of the die.
  • Dot Gain – A printing phenomenon in which halftone dots spread at the press, printing larger than they did on the proof, causing darker tones or colors.
  • Drilling – Precision piercing of stacks of paper or envelopes. Interoffice and bank teller envelopes are often drilled to ensure that all contents are removed by the recipient.
  • Dummy – A hand folded mock-up of a piece of material to be printed that has exact specifications.
  • Duotone – A common printing technique by which a halftone is printed in two ink colors, most often black and another color.Back to top

E.

  • Embossing – A process performed to stamp a raised image into the surface of paper, using engraved metal embossing dies, extreme pressure and heat. Embossing styles include blind, register embossed, and foil embossed.
  • Environmentally Friendly – Refers to envelopes made from grades of paper that contain a percentage of recycled material.
  • Expansion Envelope – Envelope with a gusset or box bottom and sides, allowing it to expand for bulky mailings.
  • Extension Flap – A relatively small flap parallel to an envelope’s opening. It has no seal or scoring and is not folded down.Back to top

F.

  • Face – The side of the envelope without the seams.
  • FIM – Stands for “Facing Identification Marks” – pre-printed bars on the face of the envelope, as specified by the Postal Service to expedite the automated processing of Business Reply Mail. The vertical bars are located at the top right corner of the envelope.
  • Finish – The surface properties of a paper, including smoothness, gloss, absorbing ability and texture. A paper can be smooth or textured, coated or uncoated, soft or hard. Different finishes offer different printing characteristics and their own relative advantages and disadvantages. The finish of an envelope paper contributes greatly to the emotional judgment about quality. A slightly textured surface, such as vellum or antique, can impart a sense of higher quality than the very smooth surface of a white wove.
  • Flaps Extended – Leaving the envelope’s seal flaps in a vertical position (not folded down).
  • Flexography – A form of rotary letterpress using flexible rubber or photopolymer plates. Most common type of envelope printing fast drying process, suitable for screens of 65-85 lines. Least expensive printing process mainly for line type and simple logos.
  • Flood – To cover a printed page with ink or varnish.
  • Foil Stamping – An alternative or an addition to printing with ink, by using a die to place a metallic or pigmented image on paper.
  • Font – Typeface family.
  • Form Number – A small code number placed inconspicuously on the printed piece to identify it internally.
  • Four-Color Process – A printing and reproduction of full color images using the four process printing colors—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—to create a full-color, continuous tone image.Back to top

G.

  • Gang – Getting the most out of a press run by using the maximum sheet size to print multiple images or jobs on the same sheet. A way to save money.
  • Glassine – A smooth dense semi-transparent paper. Sometimes used as window patch material, but losing popularity compared to the new poly- styrene materials which are more transparent and less sensitive to moisture. Glassine is biodegradable and recyclable.
  • Grain – Direction in which most of the fibers lie in a finished sheet of paper. Paper folds more easily with the grain. It offers greater resistance to being torn across the grain, and demonstrates greater tensile strength in the direction of the grain.
  • Grain Long – A term used to designate that the grain of the paper is parallel to the longest measurement of a sheet of paper.
  • Grain Short – Grain of paper runs at right angle to the longest dimension of the sheet.
  • Gripper Edge – The leading edge of paper as it passes through a printing press or folding machine. No printing can take place on the portion of the paper which is gripped – usually between 1/4″ and 1/2″. Referred to as a “common edge” when jogging a stack of paper.
  • Guide Edge – The side of a printed sheet from which copy registers left to right. This is the second “common edge.”
  • Guide Marks – A method of using marks on the proof and press plate to indicate trim, centering of the sheet, centering of the plate, fold, score, etc.
  • Gum – An adhesive made with a plant base to seal paper envelopes. Some gums take moisture to seal, others such as latex gums will adhere to themselves.
  • Gussets – Envelopes with expanding accordion pleats for extra capacity.Back to top

H.

  • Halftone – A method of screening a continuous tone image (like a photograph) for printing or reproduction. The dots in the screen vary in size and density to recreate the complete range of highlights, low lights, and mid-tones of the original image.
  • Hand Cutting A process of cutting envelopes by hand placing the die in a precise position on a lift of paper. This is often done for short run converting work.
  • Hand Folding – Orders as small as 100 can be die cut and folded by hand, including seam gumming and flap gumming. This is most often done to make custom “King Size” envelopes.
  • Hard Proof – A tangible representation of the final printed product.  May refer to a desktop laser printout, or a higher quality color output, which is physically sent to the customer for approval.
  • Hickey – Recurring, unplanned spots that appear in the printed image from dust, lint, dried ink, or other contaminants at press.
  • Highlights – The lightest areas in a picture or halftone.Back to top

I

  • Image Area – Maximum available area to be printed on.  Image area may be the total final size, minus the margins, or it may exceed the total final size if bleeds are included.
  • Imposition – Arranging images for plating, so that they fall in the correct location on the plate, and so that they are in the correct order for printing. Imposition used to be called “stripping” when it was done mechanically using film and paper or plastic. We impose electronically today, using software and PDF files.
  • Impression – The image transferred from the printing plate to the substrate.
  • Indicia – Postage permit located on the upper right corner of an envelope which is preprinted and requires no postage stamp.
  • Inserting Machine – Automatically inserts enclosures into envelopes.
  • Inside Tint – Printed design on the inside of the envelope. Used for added opacity and/or for graphic interest.Back to top

J.

  • Jet Printing – A general term for printing presses set up to print manufactured envelopes. Allows for fast, high quality turnaround.
  • Jogged Process using vibration to keep a stack of paper in register after printing.
  • Jogged –Adjust text so that it lines up in a specific way.  ie: Left Justified, Right Justified, Centered, etc.Back to top


K.

  • Knock-Out – An area or a setting that causes part of an image to be omitted. Colors or objects may be set to knock-out within the artwork file, to avoid muddying of colors. Knock-outs are also used in areas where the gum is placed on the envelope for sealing.
  • Kraft Paper – Refers to paper made from unbleached, bleached or colored wood pulp by a sulfate process. Used for its strength, kraft is bleached in varying degrees and used as an envelope paper. Most commonly used in manufacturing catalog and booklet envelopes.Back to top

L.

  • Laid – Type of paper finish, characterized by a closely lined appearance.
  • Latex – An adhesive used to seal envelope flaps which sticks to itself. It is usually placed on flap and back of the envelope. When the two gum surfaces meet, it seals. No moisture is required.
  • Layout – The arranged pattern of envelope blank dielines on a particular sheet size that is used as a guide for printing and cutting envelopes.
  • Lift – A stack of jogged paper (approximately 150200 sheets) placed on a cutting table to be die cut.
  • Line Art – Any image that consists of distinct straight and curved lines placed against a (usually plain) background, without gradations in shade (darkness) or hue (color) to represent two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects.
  • Litho – A generic term for any printing process in which the image area and the non-image area exist on the same plate and are separated by a chemical repulsion. Usually oil based offset printing.
  • Loupe – A magnifying glass used to review a printed image, plate and position film.Back to top

M.

  • Machine Insertable – An envelope configured to be used with various kinds of machines that automatically insert its contents.
  • Manila – 1) A semi-bleached chemical sulfate paper. Not as strong as Kraft, but with better printing qualities. 2) Light ecru commonly associated with manila stock.
  • Midtones – The tones in a photograph that are approximately half as dark as the shadow area.
  • Moire – An undesirable pattern on printed material that occurs when screens angles are wrong. A common cause of moire is using an image that has already been printed once (such as a newspaper clipping) to place into an artwork file.
  • Moisture Content – Refers to the amount of moisture found in a sheet of paper. Average amount ranges from 4-7%. This figure varies from sheet to sheet since paper will emit or absorb moisture according to the condition of the surrounding atmosphere. It is affected by both the drying conditions when made and the relative humidity environment in which it is used. The amount of water in a sheet of paper affects basis weight, printability, physical strength, and runnability. Moisture loss is realized in the form of shrinkage which begins at the edges of the paper and moves across the grain causing the sheet to tighten, wrinkle and curl.
  • Monarch Envelopes – Envelopes that are the same size as a #7-3/4 envelope, but have a larger (sometimes pointed) flap. Often used for formal personal correspondence.Back to top

N.

  • Nested – Envelopes are placed on press sheet in opposite directions or in an uneven, interlocking pattern in order to make the most economical use of the paper. A nested layout normally cannot be stepped.Back to top

O.

  • Offset Paper – Also known as book paper. General description of any paper primarily suited for offset printing. Can be coated or uncoated. Characterized by strength, dimensional stability, lack of curl and freedom from foreign surface material. Finish can be vellum or smooth.
  • Offset Printing – Also know as web offset or lithography. Offers highest degree of precision, clarity, and quality.
  • Offsetting – Partially transferring ink from a freshly printed surface to an adjacent surface, such as another sheet of paper. Offsetting can be avoided by using UV ink.
  • Opacity – Paper property that measures the degree to which paper stops light from passing through. The more opacity a paper has, the less show-through it permits of the envelope contents. Inside tints can be used to compensate for low-opacity papers.
  • Opaque Ink – A non-transparent ink that reflects only its color, regardless of what color it overprints.
  • Open End – Style of envelope in which the opening is on the shorter side.
  • Open Panel – Die cut opening for a window envelope that does not have patch material behind it.
  • Open Side – Style of envelope in which the opening is on the longer side.
  • Overprint – Setting up one color of ink to print on top of another color. If a color is set to overprint, it must generally be darker than the color it is going on top of. Overprint setting eliminates the need for trapping and ensures that the final piece will not mis-register.  However, overprinting can also muddy and distort the intended color.
  • Overprinting – Adding copy to a previously printed page.
  • Overrun or overs – Copies printed in excess of the specified quantity. (Printing trade terms allow for + – 10 % to represent a completed order).Back to top

P.

  • Patch Material – Translucent or clear material covering windows. Made from plastic or paper.
  • Patch Pocket – Paper or window film gummed on 3 sides to form a pocket. Typically done on the inside of envelopes behind a window, they can also be adhered to the outside of an envelope.
  • PDF – Portable Document Format; this is the preferred file format for uploaded artwork.  There are many different varieties of PDF file, depending upon how the file is to be used. For uploading art to our website, please choose PDF/X-4.
  • Peel & Seal – Term used for adhesive which is exposed by peeling away coated release paper. Will adhere without moisture.
  • Perf – Perforation; holes of precise dimensions/spacing pressed into paper for ease of separating.
  • Perfecting – Printing both sides of a sheet in one pass. Perfected jobs will be slightly less dense on the back side than on the front, because the image must transfer twice on the back, but only once on the front.
  • Pica – A unit of type measure; 1/6 of an inch. One pica equals 12 points.
  • Plate – The material that carries the image and transfers the ink on the press. Each color requires a separate plate.
  • PMS – Pantone Matching System. A color matching system that has a palette of colors with matching ink formulas. When printing “spot” color, a PMS color is usually used.
  • Point – A unit of type measure; 1/12 of a pica,  72 points equals one inch.
  • PostScript – The computer language recognized by most printing devices.
  • Printing – The choice of a printing process depends upon the size of the run, the complexity and quality of the artwork, the number of ink colors, the paper stock, and the level of quality desired.
  • Process Colors – The four colors of ink used in 4c printing – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.  Often called CMYK.Back to top

Q.
R.

  • Ream – 500 sheets of paper.
  • Registration Marks – Symbols placed in the artwork using Registration Color, which is a mixture of every color used in the file. Symbol is usually shaped like crosshairs and is used for aligning color separations at press.
  • Regular – A style of commercial envelope that does not have a window.
  • Remittance – An envelope with a flap almost as big as the envelope itself. Often printed on both sides, remittance (aka: collection) envelopes are designed to allow a customer to fill out an order or pledge information and enclose a check. They save the expense of having a separate order form or pledge card. Another similar envelope is know as a two-way mailer.
  • Re-moistenable – Envelope adhesive activated by water or solvent; applied to seal an envelope flap.
  • Re-sealable – Envelopes with a latex adhesive designed to form a lighter bond, for multiple sealing and resealing.
  • Resolution – The degree of detail visible in a photographic image, expressed in dpi (dots per inch). When supplying pixel based artwork for printing, we require 300 dpi.
  • RIP – Raster image processor; a device that produces a raster image for output. This computer is the liaison between the desktop and the platemaker.Back to top

S.

  • Score – To impress or indent a line in the paper to make folding easier.
  • Seam – The back of an envelope where it is glued together. Center Seam – on an Open End Catalog or Booklet where the seam runs down the middle of the back; Side Seam – on an Open End Catalog or Booklet where the seam is on the side of the envelope.
  • Security Tint – An opaque design printed on the inside of an envelope that makes it almost impossible to read through the envelope. They are most often used to send checks.
  • Serifs – The strokes or “feet” at the ends of Roman Letters.
  • Shadows – The darkest areas of a photograph.
  • Sheeter – A rotary knife machine that cuts specified lengths of paper from multiple rolls.
  • Shoulder – The part of an envelope where the side flaps crease with the top flap.
  • Side Seam – Side seams are formed by short side flaps and a wide bottom flap, providing a large area for printing on the envelope’s back. Booklet envelopes are normally side seams, and some commercial envelopes can be ordered with a side seam.
  • Size – The measurement in length and width of an envelope or window.  Size may be expressed numerically, or by using terminology such as “Number 10” or “A7” or “Lee”.
  • Soft Proof – A digital file, usually a PDF, sent to the customer electronically, usually via eMail, for the customer to view on screen or print out at their location for approval.
  • Special Window – Any non-standard window in an envelope. Our Products page shows the size and position of standard windows on commercial envelopes. We can change the size and place the window in almost any position on the envelope.
  • Split Seal Gum – Broken gum pattern on seal flap to prevent “tabbing.” Gum is broken where flap covers envelope seams; prevents flap from sticking to the back panel during storage in humid conditions.
  • Spot Color – Alternative to four-color process when colors other than black are desired on the printed product.  Usually uses PMS colors.
  • Straight Grain Cut – Envelope is cut so that the paper grain runs parallel to the side fold. Envelope is easier to fold and has less tendency to curl or warp with the straight grain cut.
  • String and Button – A mechanical closure with a string attached to the flap and a button on the body of the envelope. Used mostly in interoffice and other reusable envelopes.
  • Substrate – Any surface on which printing is done.Back to top

T.

  • Texas Envelope, Co. – The source for all of your envelope needs.
  • Text Paper – Type of high quality paper, manufactured in white or colors from bleached chemical wood pulp and/or cotton fibers. Made in a wide variety of finishes, including antique, vellum, smooth, felt marked, and embossed (linen). Often has a matching cover stock. Usually deeper colors than bond or writing grades. It is desirable to use an envelope that matches or complements the enclosure when used for annual reports, brochures or other prestigious mailings.
  • Thermography – Printing process that produces raised lettering simulating engraving. Used in letterheads and matching envelopes, business cards, or announcements.
  • Throat – The space between the top of an envelope’s back flap and its seal flap crease line.
  • Thumb Cut – Found on envelopes manufactured without flaps, such as filing and film storage. Can be cut on one side or double thumb cut through, for easier extraction of contents.
  • Transparent Ink – A printing ink that does not conceal the color under it.
  • Trapping – The creation of small overlaps between abutting colors in order to mask registration problems on the press.
  • Tyvek® – Spun-bonded olefin product manufactured by DuPont. Offers maximum protection and durability at a very light weight. For example, 100 10″ x 12″ envelopes weigh the same as 57 envelopes of the same size in 28 pound Kraft. Tyvek® is unaffected by moisture and inert to most chemicals. Acid, lint and sulfide free. Often used for disk and microfiche carriers where protection from acid, lint, and abrasions is needed.Back to top

U.

  • UV Ink – Inks that have an additive called a photo initiator that dries quickly upon exposure to ultraviolet light.Back to top

V.

  • Varnish – A heat-cured coating of one or more materials applied over the ink for protection and/or decoration.
  • Vellum – Smooth, high-quality paper stock made from plasticized cotton.  Vellum was originally made from animal skin.
  • Vignette – A style that softly fades the edges of an image out to nothing.Back to top

W.

  • Wallet Flap – A large style seal flap that’s approximately the same size and shape as the envelope itself.
  • Washup – Removing printing ink from a press, washing the rollers and blanket. Certain ink colors require multiple washups to avoid ink and chemical contamination.
  • Watermark – Translucent mark visible when sheet of paper is held up to the light.
  • Web – A roll of paper used in Web or rotary printing. Also, can be referred to the manufacturing of an envelope where die cutting and folding is done on one machine using a continuous roll of paper.
  • Window – Cutout in the body of the envelope positioned to show mailing address, return address and/or special messages. Eliminates the duplication of effort and the potential for error in addressing envelopes. Usually covered with transparent window patch material. Can be left open with no patch, except in Canada.
  • Wove – Paper having a uniform surface and no discernible marks. Soft, smooth finish, most widely used envelope paper. Relatively low opacity, brightness and bulk. However, recent changes in paper making from acid to alkaline sheets have improved the brightness. Mostly run in white.

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