Is it a such a pain to letterpress envelopes?

Hello all,

I’m a newbie here and I keep hearing that it’s a real pain in the you-know-what to letterpress print envelopes. Is that true? I need to print some return addresses on the flap (square flap) of Crane’s Lettra and also a floral image on the front of the envelope that will spill over the back of it onto the flap. Am I being to ambitious with this? I’d love to hear what you guys think in terms of printing on envelopes and whether or not it is worth it (timewise). Thanks!

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I forgot to mention that I will either be using a Vandercook #4 or Vandercook Universal 1.

Hi. I use a Vandercook No. 4 and have printed return addresses on the square flaps of Crane’s Lettra with no problem at all. It’s hardly different from printing a regular sheet. I put the bottom of the envelope in the grippers and print with the flap open. You just don’t want your impression to be as deep as it might be on the 110-pound stock.

I don’t know about wrapping the floral design to the back. The easiest thing to do would be to position the design so that it prints on a single thickness of envelope stock. If you need to position it so that it prints over two layers of envelope, you’ll need to tape some makeready to the cylinder such that the printing area ends up an even thickness. This would not be difficult.


You should have no problem printing on the envelopes. Just keep two things in mind.

1. Since the flap is already scored and bent, it’s probably easiest to print the envelopes sideways, so that the flap stays open and flat. If you print from the bottom, there’s a good chance that the flap of the envelope will tent again as it rolls around the cylinder, screwing up all of the carefully planned alignment.

2. If you’re printing on the front of the envelope, be aware of areas where there are different layers to the envelope. If you “dissect” the envelope you’ll notice that in some areas there are two layers of paper, in some three, and in some only one. You may have to build some makeready to counterbalance the different thicknesses of paper if your image/address bridges two such areas. The Kelsey printing guide has a good diagram of this.

Good luck.


So I guess I can figure it out…..but what do you mean by “makeready?” I get the whole evenness issue, but I’m not sure what makeready means. Sorry, I’m really a newbie.

your “makeready” is simply eliminating diffrences in pressure. this difference in pressure can be due to the press itself, the type/plate, or as in an envelope, the material. the situation of an envelope having 1,2,3 layers of paper creates different pressures. this needs to be equalized. if you are printing on mulitple layers, add sheets of production stock to equate the thickest part. I.E. if 3 layers are next to 2 layers add 1 sheet to the 2 layer area. (on your makeready) if 3 layers are next to 1 layer in your image add 2. your make ready is under your print aea. the type with ink hits against your product, which hits against your makeready. imagine having 1 board then 2 then 3 in stacks side by side. what do you need to do to have a nice level surface across the top of the stacks. hope this helps…E

Yes, thanks that helps…..but another question: so I’m using a vandercook universal I. And I’m using polymer. So do I have to add a layer under the polymer (that doesn’t seem right) or do I add paper in the envelope as I run it through the press? In an ideal world a demo of this would be on youtube! Or maybe it already is…..


I’m a newbie who tends to do things “her own way,” but what I do is affix the makeready to the impression cylinder with a repositionable spray adhesive. Krylon Easy-Tack works great. I use a mylar drawsheet, but the Easy-Tack doesn’t leave a residue so you might be able to use it with regular tympan paper.


Ok, so I affix it to the cylinder then. That make sense. I’ll be printing these tomorrow morning…..wish me luck! I’ll let you know how they turn out!

I did it! It came out awesome! Thanks Barb, I did what you suggested and viola—worked like a charm! The envelopes were not as much of a pain in the rear as I thought. Thanks everyone for your input and help!