How to Work with SHQ

Variable Data Envelope Printing (I know, it’s about time)…

Variable Data Envelope Printing

We’ve had lots of requests for this service and we are finally able to make it happen through online ordering on

We are releasing this in A2 and A7 sizes initially. If we don’t have issues we will release A6 soon and will bring variable data to other products also.

To order envelope addressee printing, simply set up your addresses as follows:

1.    Create a multi-page, black or color, 7.25″ x 5.25″ document with each name and address on a single page for the A7 envelope. For A2 file size should be 5.75 x 4.375.

2. Save the file as a high resolution, multi page pdf file.

3. Upload the file.

4. Proof your artwork (you can view as many pages as you’d like).

5. Complete your order.

Go nuts with your typography. Once your file is ready, click here to get started.

Order Now

White Ink – how the heck should files be prepared?

You can do some beautiful things with white ink. Whether it’s on kraft or one of our other stocks the effects can be stunning. We already produce quite a few offline orders with white ink and in 2014 we will offer kraft with white ink online…..just don’t ask me for a date yet. Laura Mitzelfelt from shared this PDF so you can see how she prepares files for white ink (Thanks Laura). PDF_with_White_Ink_Channel

1. First, you will need to set up your white ink swatch. At the menu at the top, go to Window > Swatches.

It should bring up this menu: Click on the button to the left of the trash can to create a new swatch. You will want to name the swatch White_Ink (case sensitive), set the color type to Spot Color, and plug in whatever CMYK values you want so you can distinguish your white ink printing from the rest of your design.

The options should look similar to this:


Now, you have set up a spot color for white ink!

2. You can apply this color swatch to any object by selecting the object, and then clicking on the White_Ink color box that was created in your swatch window.

3. If you would like a white ink layer underneath a design (such as light pink text that won’t show well on Kraft stock), then we need to make sure the white ink layer does not knock out the design. To do this, you will need to duplicate the designs that need white ink underneath them and change the color to White_Ink. Make sure that the white ink layers are on top of the actual designs. Then, go to Window > Attributes to bring up another window. Select all of the white ink portions that need to be underneath a design, and then check the box that says “Overprint Fill”. This will ensure that the white ink layer is separate from what is underneath it, and will not knock the design out when the print ready PDF is created.


4. Once your design is completed, you can save your PDF by going to File > Save and selecting Adobe PDF as the file format. The best settings to use are below:


Should you be using Illustrator, InDesign, or Photoshop?

We are frequently asked by designers, “Should I be using IllustratorInDesign, or Photoshop?”

Normally, we would urge them to use the tool that they are best and most familiar with. After all, you can do the similar things in all of the programs and achieve very similar results. However, there are some key differences between the three that can affect how your artwork will print.

While Photoshop is an amazing tool for image and color editing, it can present printing challenges when it comes to wedding invitations, birth announcements, and other fine stationery. The reason for this is because it is a pixel based program. From a distance, you may not notice this. But if you zoom in, you will see that your letters and designs are built pixel by pixel. For the finer details, it can be very noticeable.

Illustrator and InDesign, on the other hand, work with shapes, called vectors. Vectors are based on mathematical curves (oh boy…), and because of this, it doesn’t matter how big or small they are. The shape will always remain crisp.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 5.21.52 PM

Comparison of an Illustrator PDF vs a Photoshop PDF

We (and our competitors) produce through digital printing, which is not as high resolution as conventional offset printing. Most of the time, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference; however, digital printing tends to have more trouble with small or thin text. Our digital presses print with dots instead of actual lines, and when the text gets too thin, the dots just can’t do a good job of replicating what it looks like on screen. Because of this, it is even more important to make sure your files are created in the best quality possible.

If you were to create and save a design in Illustrator, then save the same design in Photoshop, and then print them both on the same sheet, they would actually appear different. Illustrator outputs vectors and then the press changes it to dots. Photoshop creates dots (pixels) and then the press creates different dots. It is more reliable to count on the vectors to be converted into dots than pixels. Hopefully this makes sense.

Of course, for many designs this might not be a big deal, but when it comes to time crunched wedding invitations for a bridezilla, do you want to take any risks?

Long term, we really recommend adding Illustrator or InDesign to your toolbox for an optimal printing experience. We believe that this will help to make your customers happier.


Why won’t we refund or reprint orders lost or delayed by the USPS on

We love the USPS, wait we hate them. Sometimes it depends on the day.

We love them because:

  1. They offer great freight rates
  2. They ship coast to coast faster than ground
  3. They supply great boxes which protect products
  4. They have that whole “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night….” motto

We want to boycott them because:

  1. They won’t reimburse us when they mess up. (UPS and Fedex do). Well actually they will  occasionally  when they screwed up two orders valued over $500 this holiday and they reimbursed us around $60.
  2. Their shipment times are suggestions. The other carriers guarantee theirs.
  3. Sometimes their tracking doesn’t update for over a week

They drive us crazy. We want to offer their service and whenever we have a problem it is usually bad and we consider shutting off their service from We’re kind of stuck here because their rates are competitive but their reliability is shaky.

So here’s the deal, we cannot refund or reprint any orders lost by the USPS.

In our experience the USPS has an unreliable track record for delivering orders on time. When this happens they do not allow us to file a claim until at least 15 days after the order has shipped. Once a claim has been filed, the USPS initiates a search for your order. If you order is found it is shipped back to us and the claim is considered fulfilled (can you believe that?). This doesn’t help you, your client, or us does it?

If they can’t find it we MAY receive a claim (another can you believe that?)

We do want you to keep using USPS however please don’t use them on any order that is expensive or critical.

More information can be found about the USPS claims process here:

Domestic Claims

International Claims

We love California (except for taxes. aka all you never wanted to know about sales tax in California)

We love California. Great weather, inexpensive houses (just kidding) and no taxes (now I’m just crying). We have had a lot questions about how California sales tax works so I thought I’d try to share what I know.

Since our production facility is in Santa Clara, California we are subject to the California sales tax rules. As a former accountant I know that sales tax is really a use tax. The rules are as follows:

  1. If we ship within California we are required to charge sales tax unless the person we are selling to has a California resale license.
  2. If your customer is located in California (even though your business isn’t) we must charge and pay the state. To learn more I recommend this article: TAX ARTICLE. You can also visit the Franchise Tax Board
  3. You can apply for a license but I’ll warn you there are requirements you should review to make sure it makes sense for your business. Quarterly filings, etc.

It probably only makes sense if you ship multiple stationery orders per month to your clients with shipping addresses in California.

For most of you who occasionally ship an order in California we recommend you add 9% to your prices to cover the cost of the sales tax we are forced to charge you.

Now can we talk about our great weather instead? Even though I’m a recovering accountant I really hate taxes.

USPS: Cost-Ineffective?

The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. Not only are we hustling and bustling, but we try to stay within a budget to make sure that we cover everyone on our shopping lists.

As stationery and gift makers, we have to add punctuality to that mixture. Shipping with USPS helps to shave some extra expenses, but at what cost? Is saving a few dollars worth not giving your loved one’s gift on time? Is it worth the wait?

Everything boils down to the value of time. Unlike money, once it’s gone, it’s gone.

To help weigh the costs, I’ve placed two mugs and a canvas gallery wrap in my StationeryHQ shopping cart, a fitting gift for my grandparents. Upon checkout, I can choose from the following methods to ship to Fremont, California:

  • USPS Priority Mail 1-Day® ($8.20)
  • UPS Ground ($9.22)
  • UPS 3 Day Select ($12.98)
  • UPS 2nd Day Air ($16.76)
  • UPS Next Day Air Saver ($27.59)
  • UPS Next Day Air ($31.77)

I can spend $8.20 for USPS to ship it in “1-Day”; however, their reputation proves that “1-Day” may equal to “1-week” (or more).

Screen-Shot-2013-12-10-at-10.14.09-AM-300x133Screen-Shot-2013-12-10-at-10.15.45-AM-300x196UPS, on the other hand, delivers on-time with options for notifications of your package’s journey.

At a little over twice the cost of the USPS option, I am guaranteed to have my package delivered in two days. If Christmas were two days from now, I wouldn’t take that risk.

Would you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Hello everyone,

We get a bunch of questions on our new platform called CAPOW, so I thought I would try to answer the most common ones here. Please feel free to contact me if I failed to answer one or more of your questions.

What is CAPOW?

CAPOW is a technology platform which enables our partners to offer real-time preview, automated file creation, and seamless order fulfillment. The acronym C.A.P.O.W. stands forComplete Automated Personalized Order Workflow.

CAPOW was created to enable our partners a simpler and automated way of doing business. The platform has 3 modules.

1. Show it:

Creates real-time preview of your products for the end user.
Creates print-ready final artwork for production.

Here’s a comparison of the same product with and without real-time preview.

2. Send it:

Allows distributed manufacturing for the customer to manage geographically or by product SKU.

See graphic below, or click on this link for the complete datasheet.

3. Ship it:

Integrates fulfillment providers with your front-end solution.
Communicates with front-end solution for improved customer service.

Why do I need CAPOW?

This may be easier to answer in the negative. Why don’t I need CAPOW?

  1. You sell your products offline and do not use an E-commerce platform.
  2. You believe real-time preview is nice but not necessary, or that it will not increase customer conversion.
  3. You want to create your artwork individually for each order.
  4. You produce most or all of your products internally.
  5. Your volume is too small to justify the investment.
  6. You already have a similar solution to CAPOW.

Why would I choose CAPOW over building my own personalization engine?

The answer to this question is complex. CAPOW is not for everyone. If a CAPOW configurator does not work well with your specific needs, you should probably invest in your own custom solution. Another reason to build your own is that you might be using a proprietary E-commerce platform which does not work with third party solutions.

The cost to build your own personalization preview and art creation engine is extremely expensive. In almost all cases that we have come across, the investment in a custom build is consistently 3-5 times the cost of CAPOW, and this cost only represents the absolute dollars invested. It does not take into consideration the time invested in researching, evaluating, scoping, and managing the custom development project.

CAPOW is built to handle most personalization needs with regard to stationery, gifts, books, and other similar products. Once implemented, it will save you tremendous amounts of time in the day-to-day tasks of creating artwork, reviewing artwork, proofing, creating orders, placing orders, and servicing customers. Depending on the user’s volume, the investment in CAPOW can be recouped in a very short time frame by the savings in labor. Other benefits include increased conversion from live preview and the increase of sales and marketing efforts currently lost in supporting the daily tasks of operating without an automated platform.

How much does CAPOW cost?

This is a tough one to answer because each deployment is a little different. Some of the factors that determine the cost of a CAPOW integration include:

  • The E-commerce platform you use
  • The number of modules you need (show it, send it, ship it)
  • The number of templates and products you want to offer
  • The complexity of the products (ie. 20 page storybook vs. greeting card)
  • The number of production sources you want to integrate with
  • The number of concurrent users on CAPOW

Most of the costs are one-time charges and can be paid up-front. We also have a pay-as-you go, month to month option with smaller up-front investment. In either case, there will be some monthly maintenance to ensure uptime, throughput, and scalability.

Once our sales and development teams have a chance to better understand your specific needs, we can scope the project and give you an accurate cost. We do know that compared to building it yourself, CAPOW will save you a lot of time and money and will give you more flexibility to grow in the future.

How long does it take to complete a CAPOW integration?

Excellent question. Again, tough to answer without a project scope. On average, the time frame from project approval to completion is 2-3 months. This does not include the pre-sales process and project scope. The time frame can vary dramatically based on all the factors listed above in the cost answer.

Can you show me an example of a CAPOW solution?

Of course we can. Please see the next question.

How do I get started in the evaluation process?

Simply contact any of our sales team members or send an email to We will be happy to discuss your situation to see if a CAPOW integration makes sense for you.

Prepare Your Files for Custom Digital Printing

We receive a lot of questions from our customers regarding how to properly prepare and upload files to StationeryHQ to take full advantage of our digital printing services. Whether you’re creating custom note cards, customized greeting cards, digital letterpress stationery, wedding invitations or other personalized printed items, we can help you create high-quality products with your perfect design touch.

You can use our easy templates and online ordering system to create your own personalized designs. Want even more creative control over your custom stationery project? Not a problem. We can work with your unique designs, including die cutting, digital letterpress and more.

Whichever production option you choose, just follow these five simple tips as you prepare your files for digital printing to ensure your personalized paper goods are printed exactly the way you want them—every time.


1. Sizing your artwork for digital printing. Make sure your file includes a bleed area on all sides. StationeryHQ requires at least 0.05 inches of bleed (0.125 inches is preferred) on each side to allow for trimming. Even if your project design is unprinted on all four edges, your production file should still include a bleed area.

2. Setting colors for proper printing. Convert all colors to CMYK—including PMS, spot colors and RGB—and make sure your document mode is set to CMYK. Please specify flat black (C=0, M=0, Y=0, B=100) instead of rich black. Any heavily saturated color should be under a combined CMYK value of 240.

3. Including your fonts. To ensure that your custom stationery project prints perfectly on our digital presses, please embed or outline all fonts.

4. Preparing file set-up. Don’t add “printer’s marks” such as crop marks, bleed marks or color bars. These will increase the document size, and you will not be able to upload your file, or your project will print incorrectly.

5. Saving a document for digital printing. Always save your document as PDF/ X-1A. This will flatten all the file layers correctly for our presses.

Our customer service team is available to help if you have any questions about preparing your project files for digital printing. Please contact for assistance.

How to convert your files to CMYK – #1 in our tutorial series

Today, we’re kicking off a series of short videos that we hope will make some of your lives just a little bit easier. Many of you are new to the world of digital printing, having come to us from various other related backgrounds including letterpress and photography, and we even have some self-taught designers. So for some of you, setting up files which will print exactly the way you want has been rather challenging.

Let’s start off by tackling the most common problem you’ve brought to our attention:

“My colors looked perfect on my screen, but when I received my order from StationeryHQ, the colors were wrong.”

99% of the time, this is because the file was submitted in RGB mode and/or used PMS colors (also known as Pantone or spot colors). Your files should be uploaded in CMYK format. So, you ask:

“How do I convert my spot and RGB colors to CMYK?”

Great question! Here’s how to do exactly that in any version of Photoshop or Illustrator:

“What’s the difference between RGB, PMS and CMYK anyway?”

Letterpress uses PMS and spot colors, which are pre-mixed ink colors. Your computer screen displays RGB colors, which are a combination of red, green, and blue light. Printing presses use CMYK inks – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (also know as 4 color process) – to create all colors, but some RGB and PMS colors just can’t be reproduced in CMYK inks (these colors are known as “out of gamut”). When you convert your files to CMYK, you will see a shift in some colors. The ones which shift are out of gamut. Once you see this on your screen, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the file is going to look like when it prints, so you can make adjustments to those colors if necessary.

To avoid these kinds of surprises and the need to convert your files later, you can simply start your design in CMYK mode whenever you are creating a file which needs to be printed.

(This is a quick and dirty explanation – it’s worth a Google for more thorough info.)

Have any questions about this topic, or any suggestions for future topics? Please post them in the comments!

SHQ Video Series: Welcome Walkthrough

I would like to personally extend a warm welcome to all of our visitors here at StationeryHQ. I know that with a new website comes some growing pains and confusion, so here is the first walkthrough in our new video series to help clear them away.

In this video, I guide you through the new site layout, covering product location, logging in, and help outlets.

Again, welcome to StationeryHQ!