Let’s design stunning stationery

Custom stationery speaks volumes about your client. As a designer, you have a lot of tools to bring their style to life. Here’s how to deliver a design they’ll love.
Your client just ordered stationery (score!) but you’ve got some questions. Have no fear, 99designs is here. Read on for specifications, design do’s & dont’s, and a glossary of design terms. It’s everything you’ll need to hand-off an awesome design.

Talk to your client first

Designing stationery is usually pretty standard, but there's still a few important questions you need to ask your client before getting started.

The pre-design checklist

  • Does your client have a brand or style guide?
    Talk to your client beforehand to see if they have a brand or style guide. This will help ensure you’re staying consistent with their company’s brand elements like logo, colors and typeface. 

  • Does your client want a specialty printing technique or finish?
    Ask if your client’s printing budget allows for advanced techniques like embossing, foil blocking or die-cutting before adding them into design.

  • Will this design be printed by a personal or a commercial printer?
    Ask client if they're printing themselves or at a commercial printer. Don’t use borders unless the letterhead will be professionally printed.
  • Will this design be printed on a special type of paper?
    If it is, you may need to adjust your design to work with that type of surface.

  • What type of stationery is it?
    Confirm size and specifications for each piece before you start designing (standard sizes are listed below)

Size and specifications

Yes, “sizes and shapes may vary,” but standard stationery can still stand out. The most common sizes are slightly different for printers in America and the rest of the world. 

Follow these specifications to ensure your letterhead and envelope designs print correctly. But if your client wants a special shape, you’ll need to request specifications directly from them.

US letterhead

Download a US letterhead template:

Non-US letterhead

Download a Non-US letterhead template: 

#10 US envelope

Download a #10 US envelope template:


#9 US envelope

Download a #9 US envelope template: 

Non-US envelope

Download a Non-US envelope template:

Finishing a stationery design

The post-design checklist

  • Is the client using a commercial printer?
    Remove any letterhead borders if your design will be professionally printed.

  • Did you leave room on your envelope?
    Don’t forget to leave space for stamp, return address and the back on envelopes.

  • Have you checked your bleed?
    Ensure all text is within the safety line and all imagery is stretched to the bleed. 



Once your client has approved the final design, send them all of the design files. Here’s what they need:
  • An editable version of the final design (AI, PSD, PDF, EPS or INDD)
  • All web preview images (JPEG or PNG)
  • A link to purchase any commercial fonts used in the design
For letterheads, some customers may request DOC files - learn how to convert your design into Word letterhead template.
Make sure all files are saved in the CMYK color mode and 300dpi resolution.


The dictionary of design

CMYK and RGB... droids from Star Wars, right? Design lingo can be a little tricky, but we can translate. Here are some design and printing terms you’ll need to know.

Color mode

The color mode is how to represent colors in your design. When designing for print, you should be sure to set up your document in CMYK mode.

  • CMYK: An ink-based mode used in print.
  • RGB: A light-based mode used for digital and web design.

Bleed area, trim & safety lines

To ensure proper printing, you must include a trim, bleed area and safety line in your design.

  • Trim line: Where the printer cuts your image.
  • Bleed area: The area beyond the trim line (typically an additional 0.125" on each side). You must extend your design out to the bleed area so none of your design is cut off.
  • Safety line: Inside the trim line (typically an additional 0.125" on each side). All important text and imagery should be kept inside this line.


Resolution is the amount of pixel detail in an image. When designing for print, you’ll need to create a high-resolution design at 300dpi.
  • High resolution: 300 dpi (dots per inch) keep image sharp.
  • Low resolution: Too little info will make image pixelated.

Printing techniques & finishes

Sometimes clients will want something extra special for their stationery. Here’s a few of the things they may ask for.
  • 4-color offset: Standard, full color printing process
  • 1- or 2-color: Limit color to accommodate limited budget
  • Foil ink: Special process using metallic foil, not ink
  • Spot color: Color generated by an ink (pure or mixed) printed using a single run.
  • Foil blocking: Stamp with metallic, foil finishes
  • Embossing: Raise the texture of printed material
  • Spot UV: Make certain areas of printed design glossier