You only get one chance to make a good impression and this is certainly true of your company’s stationery suite. Like me I am sure you can remember a time when you were impressed by a letter you received on beautifully textured paper, or a time when you were given a business card at a networking event that was clearly superior to everyone else’s or a time when an envelope dropped through your letterbox that looked so attractive you couldn’t wait to open it.

Over the last 20 years I have had the opportunity to print stationery for many companies. I have seen the things that work well and the mistakes that happen when important details are overlooked.

The following are my tips to help guarantee that any stationery you get printed will lead to a good first impression.

To keep things simple, I have picked business cards, letterheads and envelopes as the three main elements in any stationery suite. I have included 5 tips for success for each one and a note about design at the end, as this ties all the elements together.

I hope you find this information useful. More importantly I welcome any comments you might have on the points covered. Please feel free to do so in the comments box below.

5 Tips for Success with Business Cards

Let’s start with business cards. They are one of the least expensive items to print and one of the best ways for you to promote yourself and your business.

  1. Keep the card close to credit card size (55 high mm high x 85 mm wide)This will ensure your cards are easy to store and give to customers.
  2. Use a good quality thick material.Because business cards are relatively small, they need to be printed on thick card so that they do not feel flimsy. A 350 gsm thick card or higher will be perfect. The measurement term used to describe paper thickness is “gsm” which stands for grams per square inch. The higher the gsm the thicker the material.
  3. Choose a material with a silk or matt finish.Most business cards are printed on board with a silk finish. A silk finish means the board will have a nice smooth finish and will show off colour well. Cards with a matt uncoated finish are also popular. The matt board has a more textured finish. It absorbs ink easily resulting in colours showing up less brightly than on cards with a silk finish.
  4. For extra durability have your cards laminated.A laminate is a thin plastic film that is placed on the front and back of the card after printing. By laminating your cards, they will not tear easily and will last longer. Matt laminate is the most popular, but you can also use a gloss laminate or for the wow factor add a soft touch laminate which has a really nice velvet like texture.
  5. Whenever possible get a few peoples business cards printed at the same time.As you may know when getting things printed the extra cost for printing an additional quantity is often quite small. This is particularly true when it comes to printing business cards. The extra cost to print a second lot of 250 cards may be as low as just € 30.

5 Tips for Success with Letterheads

Today we are much more used to writing emails than letters. However, letters still have their role to play in our marketing and day to day business communications. So, it is worthwhile taking the time and expense to make sure your letterhead paper reflects well on your business identity.

Tips for success with letterheads

    1. Choose a paper with a minimum thickness of 100 gsm.90 % of all letterheads you receive are printed on 100 gsm bond. By printing on 100 gsm, you are guaranteed that the paper is not too flimsy and will absorb ink well. Perception of quality is often dictated by how thick a paper feels in the hand. So, if you want your letterhead to feel superior to 90% of all others go up a grade to 120 gsm.
    2. Make sure the paper you choose is guaranteed to work well in office printers – the paper should be specified as “laser guaranteed”.Office printers and photocopiers generate a lot of heat when the paper goes through the fuser units in the machines. If the paper you use is not laser guaranteed it may cause two or more sheets of paper to stick together and cause paper jams. If the paper it not laser guaranteed it can also result in the ink from bigger colour sections on your letterhead (like your company logo) melting causing spots of ink to transfer to the next page.
    3. Choose a paper with a good white finish.You would be surprised at how many shades of white paper there are. In fact, if you have not done so before it is an interesting exercise to ask your printer to show you the different options available from “off white” which has a slight grey tone through to “brilliant white”.
    4. Always use a bond uncoated paper for letterheads.Another way of saying this is never use a paper with a coated finish like 100 gsm silk to print your letterheads. This is because paper with a coated finish can smudge when you write on it whereas bond uncoated paper will never smudge.
    5. For the wow factor choose a bond paper with a textured finish.You may have heard of paper brands like Conqueror or Swiftbrook bond. These brands are associated with premium quality papers that offer a range of textured finishes more commonly referred to as “laid” finishes. In the hand these papers appear to have very fine ridges running parallel to one another. They may also have the brands watermark showing through on one part of the sheet. These papers are expensive but are worth considering for important communications.

5 Tips for Success with Envelopes

Having gone to the expense of getting good quality letterheads printed you want to carry this through and make sure your envelopes give the same impression of quality.

But first let me explain what the difference is between the main envelope sizes C4, C5 and DL

A C4 envelope is the biggest of the three and holds one sheet of A4 paper like a letterhead comfortably.

A C5 envelope is half the size of C4 and holds a folded sheet of A4 comfortably.

A DL envelope is one third the size of C4 and holds an A4 sheet that has been folded twice comfortably.

Tips for success with envelopes

    1. Whenever possible order envelopes that are self-seal or peel and seal.You know how it can be annoying to have to moisten envelopes before sealing them. This is easily avoided by ordering envelopes that are referred to as self-seal or peel and seal. With self-seal envelopes one side of the opening flap is pre gummed so that when you fold over the top of the envelope it seals easily. Peel and seal envelopes are similar but there is a protective paper strip over the pre gummed area. There is very little difference in price between these two options.
    2. Always try to brand your envelopes by printing your logo on the front.It is easy to have your logo printed on the front of envelopes. In the past you had to get a large quantity printed before this was cost effective but these days with digital technology you can get a small quantity printed for a good price. Adding your logo will make your envelopes stand out from the crowd.
    3. When appropriate choose window envelopes over non window envelopes.
      DL, C5 and C4 envelopes are all available with clear windows or without. If you use your envelopes to send our things like invoices chose the window option as it will save you a great deal of time not having to address the outside of the envelopes.
    4. Choose envelopes with a minimum paper weight of 100 gsm.Like letterheads you need make sure the envelopes you buy have a minimum paper weight of 100 gsm. This will be perfect for most of your uses. However just like letterheads you can buy envelopes that are 120 gsm or thicker and you can also buy them with many different paper finishes.
    5. For convenience chose C5 envelopes over DL envelopes.There is no difference in the postal cost between DL envelopes and larger C5 envelopes. For this reason, I generally advise customers to order C5 envelopes as you only need to fold A4 sheets once before placing in the envelope whereas with DL envelopes you must fold twice.

5 Tips for Success with Stationery Design

It goes without saying that good design can make a real difference to how you and your company are perceived. Get it right and the perception will be one of quality, get it wrong and the perception could be mediocrity.

Tips for success with the design of your stationery suite

    1. Seek out a good designer.Time and time again I have seen what a big difference a good designer can make to pulling together all the elements that make a great stationery suite. They start by listening and trying to understand your business and the message you wish to convey to customers, clients and suppliers. Then through consultation, mock ups and sharing ideas they show how your identity can be expressed uniformly across all elements in your stationery suite.
    2. Keep it simple!I know it is an overused cliché, but it is worth repeating here. Think of any corporate design that you like and simplicity will be one of its standout features. The same should be true for the design of your corporate stationery.
    3. Keep things uniform.Related to keeping it simple is keeping things uniform. So the typeface, logo, materials and colours used across all elements in your stationery suite must be uniform. Larger companies pull this together in a “Brand Identity Guide” and you should ask your designer to do this for you. Always make sure to look over paper proofs of each element before you decide to go to print. That way you can see at a glance how each element sits side by side and spot anything that needs to be changed.
    4. Use colour – wisely.As you know different colours evoke different emotions, so it is important to choose your colours wisely. Because we are talking in the context of printing you should also remember that printing in full colour is generally more expensive than printing in one or two colours. So consider if it is possible to have your stationery designed with just one or two colours as this will reduce the amount you have to pay for printing.
    5. Refer to standard templates for the layout of each stationery element.There are certain rules that should be followed regarding the layout for each stationery element. For example, with business cards all contact information should be kept on the front side of the card and at least 5 mm away from the edges, for letterheads the contact details should be centred at the bottom of the page and with envelopes you need to avoid putting anything in the top right corner.


As mentioned earlier I hope you find some aspect of this Blog useful. If you keep your eye on the points I have noted you can be sure that when your business cards, letterheads and envelopes arrive the quality will be to the standard you require. Over the next few months I will be posting further blogs on things like labels, brochures and different stationery items not covered here. I welcome any comments you may have which you can send to me via the comments box below.

Kevin Rafferty