Opaque vs. Translucent – Making it Clear

posted by Dave Ward in Design Direct Mail.

This post is part of our ongoing series about the key elements related to the Machineable Presorted Addressed Admail product. Today, we’re going to talk about opacity.

Okay, so we are not all physicists and, on occasion, people get the terms translucent and opaque reversed. However, as you will see, this could cause real problems when using Machineable Presorted Addressed Admail, so we want to take a few minutes to clarify these important concepts.

If something is opaque light cannot pass through it and, therefore, you cannot see through it. If something is translucent, then light can pass through it and you can see through it. The extent to which light is blocked is referred to as opacity. If opacity is very low, one can see through something more readily. If opacity is high it is more difficult to see through it.

As direct marketers, opacity may not seem like all that important of a concept right now, but with Canada Post’s push towards more machineable mail products, it’s a concept that is going to become increasingly important for all of us.

Why? Well, when it comes to envelope construction for machineable products, Canada Post cites a required opacity of 80% or greater. Any machineable mailing that fails to meet these requirements can be subject to rejection. Since rejections cost you money and can erode the savings of using Machineable Presort, it only stands to reason that the concept of opacity will bear an increased importance as we move forward.

Interestingly though, it’s not just the weight of the stock that affects the opacity. Some envelope manufacturers use tinting on the inside of the envelope to increase opacity. While this is a clever trick, it also means that there is no simple correlation between paper weight and opacity levels. Additionally, we found it difficult to track down any charts that specify opacity percentages for different envelopes, either generally or for particular envelope manufacturers. As such, that good old ingredient “common sense” should also be considered as we look at opacity requirements.

In another upcoming blog post we will be looking into the “quiet zones” on machineable envelopes. Basically, these are reserved areas in which you cannot print. It goes a bit further than just what’s printed on the envelope though. Even though your design might comply with all of the quiet zones, if images from the contents are visible or partially visible through the envelopes and appear within particular quiet zones, the mailing pieces might be rejected. Again, because rejections can be pricey, the degree to which text and/or graphics show through the envelope must be considered when using this product.

Also, be aware that the envelope that works for one mailing may not work for another! Why? Well, imagine if you were to mail just a single letter inside a plain #10 envelope, where there was virtually no content bleed through the envelope. You might even send this to Canada Post for pre-testing and have a 100% acceptance rate.

This might lead us to believe that the envelope that was used would always be 100% compliant. However, what if another used the same envelope, but had a very dark graphic on one of the inserts? That’s a much more saturated area than plain letter text, and as such might bled through the envelope, even though the of the original letter did not. If this happens, there is a very good chance that the pieces might now be rejected, despite the fact that it is the same envelope.

In view of the foregoing, unless you are using envelopes that are entirely opaque, it is difficult to say that a given envelope will always be your best bet. I think that you have to look at each piece and work with Canada Post and your mail service provider to ensure that your combination of envelopes and contents meet the stated requirements.

I hope that the importance of opacity is now “clear”. All kidding aside, this is a very important factor to consider when using Machineable Presort. As we noted earlier, your layout and design might be 100% compliant, but the image of contents bleeding through the envelope could well cause your pieces to be rejected.

If you have any questions about the new Machineable Presorted Addressed Admail product, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to discuss this exciting product with you.

For more direct marketing tips and ways to enhance your DM programs visit our Archive of Direct Marketing Tips


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