How to Design for Print: 5 Essential Rules for Designing Envelopes

When it comes to branding, it’s all about crafting a consistent, positive image. For companies who want to be thorough, that branding starts the moment a piece of marketing hits a customer’s mailbox.

As their graphic designer, you can help them make a great first impression with a custom envelope. Not sure where to start? Here are the most essential rules for how to design an envelope.

How to Design an Envelope

You don’t have as much freedom while designing envelopes as you do while designing other media. Here’s how to make sure your process goes smoothly.

1. Mark Off Your Unusable Areas

No designer wants part of their design covered by mailing information or a postmark. Even worse, you don’t want the postal service to refuse to deliver mail in your envelope due to design problems.

The first thing to do in your design file is to mark off the unusable areas of the envelope. There are specific standards from the US Postal Service for what areas can’t have printing.

Block off those areas as save that as its own file so you can save design time in future envelope designs.

2. Find Out About Your Bleed

Don’t make assumptions about what type of bleed you need. It depends on how the printer is cutting and printing the envelope. You don’t want to put in hours of work and end up with a weird border.

Communicate with the print shop to find out what they need from you. You can’t assume the print shop will notice if the bleed in your file doesn’t work for them.

3. Consider Your Addressing Method

Your envelope design could depend on how your client will add the addresses to their envelopes. Will they have the print shop print the names and addresses on each envelope? Will they use self-printed blank printable labels?

Get those details and make sure you factor that into your design. You don’t want a label covering part of your hard work.

4. Find Out How Two-Sided Designs Will Impact Your Budget

You went into graphic design because you have an artistic part of you. Like it or not, though, there are budgetary constraints on your work.

Find out whether your client’s printing budget will allow you to have a design on both sides of the envelope or just one. The price difference depends on how the print shop is constructing your envelopes.

If you’ll be printing on pre-made envelopes, a two-sided design will cost twice as much to print because it will go through the printer twice. If the print shop is printing the envelopes on flat paper before cutting and folding them, a two-sided design will have little or no impact on the cost. 

5. Coordinate With the Contents

If you want your design to make the best first impression, coordinate the envelope design for its contents.

For instance, if your client is sending a designed invitation, incorporate similar design elements into your envelope design.

Creating the “Wow” Factor

Let’s be honest: most of the things customers get in their inboxes aren’t exciting. That’s why your well-designed envelopes can make a powerful impression. Before you let your creativity loose, follow the rules above for how to design your envelope.

Looking for design inspiration or more tips from the pros? Check out other articles on our graphic design blog.