book printing, magazine printing and catalogs

Many, but not all, of those who read this are simply not aware how a little bit of printing knowledge may save you money the next time you request a quote from your printing company. Generally speaking many commercial business printers will not take adequate time to work with you and assess your quote request and then provide you with alternatives in order to save you money. Here are some of the best ways you can save the next time you request a commercial printing quote.


Every Printing Press Is Not The Same:

All printing presses are not equal as generally speaking most are designed for a specific niche. You will be best served if you choose presses that are best suited to produce the type of item that you require as they will be the ones that most times will print it best and at all times printed for the least cost to you. If you are producing a book than a book printing press, which will either be a cold set web printing press, will be where you want to print due to the speed, utilizing the paper stocks you typical for books and providing you with the best cost. Magazine printing presses are usually heat set web presses and many will not bother to even run the uncoated paper stocks, but stick to the standard magazine gloss or dull coated stocks. For shorter runs, the iGen or Docutech will provide the best pricing with sheet Fed presses, not being typically price friendly for high page count books or magazines.

Your Print Files And Production:

The best thing I always recommend is to keep things simple. You risk the problem with complex files of creating problems on press. Overly large files can cause problems at the press RIP, low rez images will produce a poor image on press and atypical file formats may even make your job harder to produce if at all. When sizing your images for press, it is not a good thing to do so in the document program as you are NOT making your file size smaller you are just making it fit. If you have a large amount of images and they are left in an overly large size, and simply made to fit, you risk the chance of crashing the printer RIP and worst case scenario they may even default to 72 dpi low rez images.

A classic case of “design risk” as I like to call it is with book covers when they are printed with very differing cross over art. Cross over art is the entire art board as it pertains to the back cover, front cover and spine. If you have wildly differing art for each and you file and printer are not perfect you leave yourself without any latitude to make adjustments at press should anything be off, such as the thickness of the text. A similar bad choice is to leave die, fold or trim lines within the art to be printed as they always should be out of the print area or with die lines as a separate Pantone color to be deleted at press for printing or even as a separate file. These kind of mistakes will simply cost you money and if you can avoid them you will ultimately save.

Stick With The Press Niche:

As I mentioned atop the article all presses are not created equal and they are in fact created for specific niches. Always choose a press or a few presses if you are getting quotes that are producing on a regular basis the type of work you are requiring. Book printing should always be done on a cold set web printing press as they buy truckloads of the paper you require, their pricing will be lower than a heat set web press as well as most sheet fed presses. When the quantity for magazine printing is sufficient, and that can vary press to press, but on average 64 pages at 5,000 copies would require you to be on a heat set web printer’s press.

Signatures – Why You Need To Understand Them:

Every book you have ever read has blank pages at its rear. This is because the book printer has added them in order to round up the page count in order to fill a complete press signature (also called a form). Printers do this as it is more cost effective to add the blanks than to try and remove pages during bindery. If you find that you have a couple of pages that you could delete as they may not be germane to your book and you can combine any info there with another page, then to delete them will save you the cost of printing an entire signature and thereby lowering your overall book printing costs. An understanding of signatures is crucial to magazine producers as they rely on advertisements. Printing a partial signature of less than 16 pages skews the cost upwards on them so that maintain your normal cost for advertisements just went up which you may not be able to recoup when you sell the add. This additional cost and the fact that you are always well served when you tell a potential advertiser that you are “sold out” for this issue is always a great marketing technique as the next time they will be in much earlier with their adverts.


Paper is half the cost of your average web printing run. Therefore by controlling the cost of the paper you choose, you can either raise or lower your overall print costs. In addition if you are mailing your book, magazine or catalog you will be paying increased costs of postage the heavier your item is. High quantity national magazines run on as thin as 32 pound coated stock just for that reason. For the average niche magazine 40# may be the thinnest you would find.


On large run web jobs you may find that the additional spot color you think will help you will drop you off of the most cost effective web printer’s run as they may only possess a four color press plus coater for varnish etc. So consider carefully if you really, as most do not, need that fifth or sixth color. With digital printing, two color print is in no man’s land as you either would be precluded from utilizing the cost effective Docutech which only prints black or be forced onto a much more expensive large format ink press. In order to stay on a digital press, which is toner and not ink, you would need to move up to an IGen and run it as process color in place of the Pantone. Should you choose this, your price can increase up to 8-9 times.

Separate vs. Self cover:

Books of course must have a cover. However magazines and catalogs, while they will have a cover do not need to have a “separate cover”. What this means is that the cover will be produced on the magazine or catalog with the same paper stock and inks as the rest of the print job. The reason to have a cover on a magazine or catalog may be for mailing, so it travels with less wear and tear as it can also have a coating on it. Another may be due to a page count that requires a separate cover for perfect binding. However a cover is another form that must go through the press and as only four pages, less cost effective per page and thereby an additional expense that one would not have with a self cover magazine or catalog.

 The bottom line is that whenever you are producing a commercial business printing job you always want to be “swimming downstream” rather than to be bucking the tide and increasing your costs. Yes there are tradeoffs but they are usually minor and in a tight economy simply not worth worrying about.

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