OK, so you need to print your message and are confused on where to start the process. The first thing of course is to choose the type of printed piece that best can convey your message or idea(s). It could be a simple postcard, to a complex magazine or book printing. This of course is more of a marketing decision than a printing issue, and once you have decided upon it, the question again is; What is my starting point.

Simple postcards aside, if your piece contains any form of bindery, from an extensive document to a complex fold or die cutting, you are always best served working “from the last stop on the train, backwards. In other words you start with the very last process for your printed piece. In this case, the caboose drives the train. You would be very unhappy if you printed your item and then found out when it goes to bindery, that it either cannot be bound or at best bound with an inferior look or bind. I have witnessed this and it does not make for a happy customer. Therefore, you must figure out what you want the final product to be and look like and plan from that backwards in the process.

In order to insure that you wind up with the finished product you seek, you will want to draft out your art with the accurate width, height and in accordance with the finished, folded style you are after. You will want to make sure, especially in full color printing, that you have all printer marks, for cropping and folding and being sure that these same marks are not in your image area, but above them and out of the way. You will also want to adjust for “creep” which is what you lose or gain in panel dimensions as your piece folds. In the final analysis your panels, done correctly, are never all the same size, but are adjusted in size so that your fold is perfect and you end up with the finished size you anticipated and not some bloated and oversized version of your idea, with art from one section crossing over into the next due to a poor fold.

If you are producing a perfect bound book, consider slightly offsetting each page away from the binding edge, thus avoiding copy being tucked into the bind area. If spiral binding is being used, make sure your copy or design is not going to have holes punched through them. If you are considering any form of die cutting, or complex folds, request that your files are sent to the die cutter or bindery first for review as well as the pre press department and in advance of submitting your “print ready file” to the printer. Lastly, the best piece of advice I can offer you when starting your job is: DO IT ON PAPER FIRST! Construct a pencil drawing of your layout on paper as that can give you the quick visual concept you will need to work from in planning your printing job.

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