Direct Mail

Postcard Burn Marks: What Are They and How to Avoid Them

What are Burn Marks?

You’ve spent a lot of time designing a postcard campaign and mailing it to hundreds of addresses. Only to find out many of the postcards reached their recipients with big, black smudges across the text and images. Frustrating.

The marks sometimes look like smudged ink, so you may assume there was a quality control issue at the printer, but that’s not the case. These black smudges are called burn marks or postcard friction burns, and they sometimes occur from the mailing process – after your postcards have left the printing facility.  

How Do Burn Marks Happen?

Once your freshly printed postcards leave the printing facility, they are routed to a USPS facility for sorting. While some mail is sorted by hand, bulk mail like your postcard campaign is sorted by high-speed machine using a series of belts and rollers. Sometimes, these machines are not correctly calibrated for postcard-sized mail, which may cause them to skip and scuff as they move through the machine’s rollers, causing smudges, scuff marks, rub marks, and even tears. Burn marks can also occur if the rollers have not been recently cleaned.

How Can My Print Partner Help?

Since this happens during the mailing process, you may feel like it’s up to fate whether your postcards will get damaged. Although your print partner has no control over how your postcards are handled after they leave their facility, professional print operations have several strategies in place to provide you with quality products that will stand up to wear and tear.

Scuffs and smudges are rarely caused by ink at print facilities because the ink used in professional printing is not like what you use for your home printer. Bulk postcards are printed on machines that use dry toner or liquid toner. Dry toner is powdered pigment that melts at high heat during the printing process to create text and images on paper. It does not need any time to dry once printed, which means there is no risk of smearing. Liquid toner penetrates the paper during the printing process, securely attaching the printed text and images to the paper. This gives it a much higher resistance to fading or smudging.

At professional printing facilities, preventative maintenance is done regularly to keep the equipment running at peak performance. Frequent quality checks are completed by highly trained technicians for each machine, and tests are run often to identify any issues before they affect an order. The new, latest model printers also alert the operator if a roller or any piece of equipment needs replacing.

How Xpressdocs Can Help

On top of the rigorous procedures mentioned above, Xpressdocs has introduced a new solution that can help you avoid burn marks and other damage to your postcards called Postal Protect. It’s an extra-durable coating that can be applied to your postcards to shield them from errant marks, wear, and tear. Just like our other coating options, Postal Protect comes in Gloss or Soft Touch finishes so you don’t have to sacrifice the look and feel of your postcards. This affordable solution is a great way to protect your direct mail marketing investment. We’re confident Postal Protect helps decrease the risk of burn marks as your postcards go through the mail system, so your message will arrive as bright and clear as you intended to every single address on your mailing list.

Postal Protect is now available on many of our partners’ storefronts and on personal storefronts as well. If Postal Protect has not yet been set up for your company, reach out to your Account Manager to discuss adding this solution today.

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