commercial printing tips for magazines, catalogs and books

Printing “Tips”

1- Use full signatures. Large commercial presses print either as a single web 16 page signature (also known as a press form) or as a double web 32 page signature. Some like our book press, print 48 page signatures. When you use a complete signature, even if it means dropping four pages from your publication, you are swimming downstream and working with printing press efficiency in your favor.

2- Do not use Pantone colors in addition to CMYK inks. With the exception of a bright red, bright orange, fluorescent and metallic inks, the process CMYK inks can reproduce all other colors reasonably well.

3- Downgrade your paper on the run. The paper companies have become outrageous in their pricing, with increases regularly as well as actual paper allotments to the presses. If you drop your paper weight, (if 80# go to 70#, if 60 to 45 etc.) and drop the grade if your product permits. Papers come in grades. Grade 3 being standard, 2 being used by Tiffany Jewelers, 1 for art books and 4 or 5’s for catalog printing and mass circulation magazine printing. Grades 4 and 5 have ground wood in them making them somewhat less bright and white.

4- Stick with a self cover if you can. Running a separate cover is also a separate signature to be run on press and can add a hefty amount to your job.

5- Make sure your printer has the correct equipment in order to print your work. A high page count, and high volume job will cost more on a press that can only print 16 page signatures, while one that can print double 16’s or better will be more efficient. Also the newer presses have the latest bells and whistles. A press that can handle plate changes, as ours, in 10 minutes, will be more cost effective than one that takes one to two hours for the same task.

6- Pre flight your files early. Don’t wait until the job is in and you are running out of time to deliver it. It is best if you forward a few pages so pre press can verify if you are making any mistakes or not, thus leaving you adequate time to self correct. If your files are not adequate you will pick up additional costs at pre press.

7- Provide the printing press with clarity, so that all understand what is to be done. Don not send files that include files NOT to be printed. Provide a hard copy with your work and provide your work as a PDF. Large presses charge more to output from native files. Include a “style sheet” with your files detailing what is there and also it is a good idea to have notes provided for pre press where necessary.

8- Plan your job with intelligence. Plan it from the finished piece first along with a print out dummy that is folded as you expect the final version to look. Make sure you understand how a job folds and what happens to dimensions for various panels when they fold (called “creep”) or if a periodical with lots of pages, understand that inner pages in a folded stack stick out a bit more than the outer ones. If printing a book, then you may want to make sure your margins allow for the gutter where the spine is glued. The bottom line is, without planning, you may wind up printing something that you are not happy with and may have to reprint. OK if you have the big bucks, but not many do.

9- Plan for the contingencies by being redundant. Clearly, redundancy is your best friend when printing. Do not “skate” over details. Go over everything with a fine tooth comb. It is a far better investment to spend the time in the early stages than to try and “fix it on press”, which, as the old song went “ain’t necessarily so”. It is about as good a fall back as when they say in the music business, “we’ll fix it in the mix”. I can tell you as a veteran of that business, that rarely happened. Do it right, do it right at the beginning and you will save lots of money over trying to repair or reprint in the end.

10- Use a printer that understands your needs. Many printers take your specifications, the job comes in, they print your job and are about as helpful with your ancillary needs as an automaton. Find someone who can understand and appreciate what you are doing and can be helpful to you in pointing out the pitfalls both in advance and even if you don’t ask for help. It is a bonus if you can find someone who can understand your business model and what you are trying to accomplish who can make suggestions or corrections to your approach that may not only save you money, give you a better ROI (return on investment) and help you grow your business.

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