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How to Design Your Mail Piece

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You can help reduce mailing headaches and their added costs by remembering a few rules while you design printing projects that will mail. If you have questions about designing your mailing project, please contact your Customer Service Representative (CSR).

Remember to leave enough room for a mailing panel.

Leave blank space for the return address and mailing permit (indicia), as well as an area about 1.5' by 5' for the address of the mail recipient. It’s important to leave enough room for the return address to be well above the mailing address because the post office machinery will read the panel from left to right and send the mail to the first city and state it comes to. If it reads your return address before it gets to the mailing address, you’ll get all your mail back - delivered to the return address. Leave the area to the left of the address block blank, and don’t put anything within 5/8' of the bottom of the mail panel. The automated readers at the post office scan these areas for information, and any text or graphics placed here will interfere with their ability to accurately read the mailing address.

Place the address area so the open side of the piece is at the top and the fold is at the bottom.

We will close the open top edge of your self-mailer with a tab to make the piece compatible with post office automation. This allows the finished mailer to ride through the post office machinery on a smooth folded edge, eliminating any need to hand sort the mail.

Use the correct return address and mail indicia.

A surprising number of printing orders come in with an obsolete return address borrowed from a previous project. If you would like, we will place our mailing permit in your design and include the postage on your printing invoice. Just let us know whether you’d like the job to go out Presort Standard (bulk) or First Class when filling out your printing requisition and leave a blank space for the indicia on your camera-ready copy. If you have questions about the proper wording for a mailing indicia, contact your Customer Service Representative (CSR).

Design your mail panel so the address information stands out.

Select a paper that will contrast with the mailing address so the automatic readers at the post office will work accurately. White, cream, or soft pastel colors work well on mailing pieces. Avoid dark or fluorescent colors because they may be rejected by the post office due to low contrast between the print and the background. Speckled or fibered papers are acceptable, but be aware that the little specks in the paper may interfere with the post office machinery’s ability to read the barcoding on your mail piece. In the future, post office requirements for machine compatibility may make it impossible to use speckled paper for pieces to be mailed.

Don’t use solid areas of dark ink when designing the mailing panel of a self-mailer. The black ink used for the address information may disappear if the background ink is too dark. In general, the basic principles used when selecting a paper apply to the ink coverage you use for the mailing panel.

Whenever possible, create letter-size mail.

Letter-size mail has a minimum dimension of 5' x 3 1/2' and a maximum of 11 1/2' x 6 1/8'. The completed, folded piece also must be less than 1/4' thick. The piece must also be within the proper aspect ratio of length to height. A template showing the dimensional standards for letter-size mail is also available through your local post office. Letter-size mail travels smoothly through the post office machinery and is charged at a lower postage rate than other mail.

Make a dummy.

The easiest way to check a mail piece is to actually make a rough sample. Use a piece of paper the same size as the mail piece and fold it the way it will be when it is mailed.

  • Is the address in the right place and facing the right direction?
  • Can you fit the longest address on your list in the space provided legibly?
  • If the mail is inserted into an envelope, does the address show through the window of the envelope?
  • Does everything fit into the envelope so it can be sealed properly?
  • Is anything so small that it floats around in the envelope and interferes with the address window?

Taking a few minutes before the order is placed can save you hours of stress trying to fix the job so it meets all the postal regulations.