Folding Style: Sleeve Mailer
Level: Basic
Uses: Direct Mail, Marketing, Event Promotion, Product Announcements, Custom Mailer

The Sleeve Mailer is one of the BEST mail formats you’re not using for your print marketing. The design of the format is based on a simple concept—an outer protective mailing sleeve with one open end that can hold an insert. In its most basic format, it’s a sleeve with a thumb pull and a single-sheet large card insert. However, there are lots of creative ways to “make it your own” by modifying the insert, and changing the shape of the thumb-pull and the sleeve itself.

Here’s a really nice example of a classic Sleeve Mailer with a card insert. Note the triangular thumb pull. Just a great little modification that really works with the graphics:

sleeve mailer print marketing

Sample: Sappi North America, creative direct mail, custom mailer

Sleeve Mailers can self-mail if properly tabbed for machinability through the USPS sorting equipment. You’ll need two tabs on the open edge of the sleeve, which should be the trailing edge (left edge) if you’re looking at the address panel of your artwork. This format usually self-mails because the sleeve is protective like an envelope, but it can also be sized to fit into an envelope. “Why would anyone do that,” you ask? Well, you might not want tabs on the outside of the sleeve, for example. If you watch my video of the Sleeve Mailers for Events, you’ll see that both designs mailed in envelopes. There’s no right or wrong—it comes down to design intent and budget.

The Sleeve Mailer is, at a minimum, a 2-piece mail format (sleeve + insert), but technically the sleeve can hold more than one insert. Here’s what the basic dieline for the sleeve component looks like:

sleeve mailer custom direct mail
Sleeve Mailer: custom direct mail

You can do some great things with the inserts on this format, and I think you’ll be inspired by the variety of insert solutions I’m sharing in the videos below.

Production Note: Insert dimensions are very important. For a single card insert, you should plan for it to be about one quarter of an inch shorter than the opening it’s going to slide into to give you room for the insertion process. You’ll want the insert to be about one eighth of an inch shorter than the length of the piece as well. The thicker your insert, the shorter it will need to be, because the bulk takes up space in the sleeve. Watch for thickness and weight of the piece as well at that point. Insertion will likely be by hand in smaller production quantities, and by machine on folder/gluer systems in runs of roughly 5,000+.

The Sleeve Mailer Done 8 Ways

The Sleeve Mailer is a versatile and useful format to use for custom direct mail, but you may be wondering where it can fit into your marketing mix. Below you’ll find 8 real-world creative ways to use the Sleeve Mailer across three categories, including a few examples of how to creatively modify the format to make it your own.

4 Sleeve Mailer Ideas for Announcements:

Samples #1 Maranda Steinmetz-Robey / #2 Sappi North America / #3 Daily Printing / #4 Patterson Dental with Enpointe

These four samples couldn’t be more different from each other—and that’s what I love about them. The first design by Maranda Steinmetz-Robey is a classic Sleeve Mailer with a simple insert and promotion. Then, Sappi North America takes the format a few steps further with special print effects and a “locked” insert that stops and then folds out. Daily Printing ups the game with a monster-themed sleeve mailer and custom-shaped thumb-pull, textured print effects and a Traveling Snake locked insert. Lastly, Patterson Dental / Enpointe modifies the sleeve to make it interactive with a zip-strip that reveals a message and a folded insert.

2 Sleeve Mailer Ideas for Sales:

Sample #1 Jeep / #2 Toyota with V3 Printing

Interestingly, both of these sales samples are from the automobile industry. The first is from Jeep—a self-mailer with a wrapped bookalog insert that provides a layered opening experience. The second is from Toyota / V3 Printing and it’s a pretty exciting sleeve with small die cut triangles that offer a peek of what’s inside. The insert is a 10-panel Accordion Fold with colorful imagery of the entire line of vehicles.

2 Sleeve Mailer Ideas for Events:

Sample #2: Miami City Ballet

Sleeve Mailers can also be a really stylish choice for events. The first sample was sent as an invitation to a Grand Opening. They used a navy-colored paper and added small circular die cuts to the sleeve, printing a colorful geometric design on the front of the insert that showed through the circles as it was pulled out of the sleeve. The second sample is from Miami City Ballet, and was a beautiful invitation to a fundraiser. It mailed in a gorgeous red envelope with gold foil. The cover panel of the mailing sleeve was modified to create soft curves that complement the dancers on the cover. The sleeve held a folded invitation, response card and envelope.

Love it? Make Your Own Sleeve Mailer

So, now that you’ve seen 8 creative ways to use this fold, would you like to try designing one for your own print marketing project? Good! Design and print your own Sleeve Mailer here—you can download the template for free and get instant pricing, too.