Let’s just say this is the first time you stepped up from the printing work you have done in the past from the quick printer you had dealt with on your smaller printing runs. Or, maybe your boss just dumped this whole thingcommercial printing company in your lap and asked you to plan the job and get the printing quote. So now what do you do and more to the point what do you need to know about planning your commercial printing job?

These are the categories of commercial printing that you will need to have knowledge of as well as some tips and choices for them:

FILES:  As commercial printers no longer, except for single color line art, deal with hard copy “camera ready”  art, you will need to provide files that will be referred to in any printing quote you will receive as “output ready”. This means you supply the file and the printing company “RIPs” (Raster Image Processing – or processing your files to the printing pre press format for printing) them to plates. Your files should be created in graphic design software such as InDesign, Quark or Corel. Should you have used anything other than professional graphics software, you can count on the fact that the printing company will not have that software and will not be able to output your files.  If you did utilize non professional software, then you will at least have to create a PDF document to give the printer. Your document should be in a single page document tree and NOT in spreads, with any art that you want to go to the very edge extended at least 1/8” around all sides of the page where it “bleeds”. All images used will need to be a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch) to avoid poor resolution (fuzzy images).

PRINTING FORMAT: This is a choice that if you cannot make a professional printing press can advise you on. Based on the quantity of the run, size of the page, how many pages that you have will dictate where your best interests lie as to which format suits you best. The three basic choices are digital presses such as the iGen, which use toner that can look like ink, the sheet fed and the web printing presses.

QUANTITY: Unless you have a fixed quantity requirement, such as a specified mailing, never leave yourself short on the run nor print the same thing several times throughout the year. It is double the cost to print the same item twice and virtually pittance to print more of them once the job is running. Therefore when getting your quotes, ask the commercial printing company to give you at least three different quantities, so that you have a basis of understanding of your costs over the year.

PAPER STOCK: Paper is divided essentially into two classes: Coated and Uncoated. The coated stocks are gloss, matte and dull, with the latter being almost indistinguishable.  The reason for using coated stocks, which are not really coated but polished, is to allow for the ink to sit on top of the paper, rather than sink in as with uncoated “offset” stocks, is that the images will print crisper and cleaner when using coated paper stocks. Sometimes when a softer look is required, uncoated stocks may be your answer. The most import thing to know about paper right now is that on the longer web runs, paper is about half the cost of your job. This is why, when money is tight, we always recommend the lighter grades.

SIGNATURES: Commercial printing companies print on either large “parent sheets” or rolls that either sheet at the press end or fold into bindery ready signatures. It is important to understand the utilization of signatures, as when you “fill the signature” you are getting the best pricing per page. This is especially important for companies printing magazines or anything where you are selling add space, as your per page cost is higher on partial signatures than on full ones.

BINDERY: The basic bind for commercial printing is saddle stitching, with two staples going from the outside of the spine to the inside of the booklet. This sometimes can be one or even three depending upon the variables of the run. Perfect binding is more costly and is a glue-binding, such as your standard soft cover book. Other options include comb bind, which while not very attractive, allows for a lay-flat option when you require printing on the spine. Otherwise spiral or Wire-O is the more attractive alternative.

DIRECT MAIL: If your piece is going into the mail, it will need to be processed for the best rates. Understanding postal regulations is not only important so that your piece be accepted by the Post Office for mailing and not bounced as unacceptable, but also for the best rates. Bulk mail is the least expensive and bulk mail by carrier route even more so. The only requirement here is that you mail to an entire zip code and cannot cherry pick who receives your mailing and who does not. Providing your mailing is of a reasonably large quantity you may also be able to qualify for co-mailing where we can take your piece and amalgamate it with a million or more other pieces for the best rates available to the largest mailers.

This is just a small overview of what you will need to know about commercial printing and I do recommend that you take a look at some of my earlier blogs that may offer you more specifics closer to what you project may entail.  There is also a free booklet you can download from our web site chock full of commercial printing information.

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