From the Mouth of a Printer (How to make sure your printed piece looks great… )

Article from Specialty Food Merchandising Magazine

by Judith S. Lederman

Not all of us use a graphic designer to interface with a printer. Whether it’s a new menu or brochure, a monthly newsletter to your store’s regular customers, or print advertising, you want to ensure that your printing job looks its very best. So how do we choose a printer and once we’ve chosen one, what is the best way to communicate with our printer?

I recently had at chat with Michael Kitt from M-Tech Printing in Nanuet, NY and he offered me some sound advice:

How to find a printer

Find a printer who has a degree in printing management from a technical institute. Ask your printer what printed products he or she specializes in. Some are experts in four-color labels, others may excel at point-of-purchase displays.

Look for a printer who is willing to take the time to listen to you and understand your needs. Too many printing projects result in disappointment because of a communication problem that began with a printer who didn’t take the time to understand your needs.

Ask your printer to help you visualize what the end result will look like by providing you with your paper samples and by showing you exact colors before the job is finalized.

Do your homework

Do your homework before you bring your job to the printer. Provide your printer with copy that is “camera-ready.” In other words, provide files that are ready for your printer to work with. With today’s advent of desktop publishing programs, it’s easy to create camera-ready copy right from the computer. A hi-res pdf is usually best. Remember that what you give the printer in terms of “camera-ready” copy is what you’ll get.

If your printed material is going to have a photograph, make sure that you give your printer a good quality file. A jpeg or tif file of hi resolution with good contrast works well.

Do you want a border or a “bleed?” A border is white space (about ¼”) around the edge of the paper. A bleed is when the color comes right to the edge of the paper. Keep in mind that a bleed may cost more because it needs to be trimmed. Most desktop publishing programs can be set for a bleed automatically. You need 1/8” all around as a minimum.

To print with ink or digitally

Digital technology has become much more sophisticated in its quality over the years. If you are using color and you’re doing less than 500 copies, it’s usually more cost-effective to print your job digitally. Many printers today offer digital as well as conventional printing.

Another factor that comes into play is the type of color you use. PMS – Pantone Matching System colors – which are the “designer” colors of the printing industry, can be done on conventional equipment but not on digital printers. There is a tremendous spectrum of PMS colors, and if you have a particular color in mind, you can bring your printer a sample so he or she can match it. Most PMS colors can be created out of CMYK, the 4 color process used in both conventional and digital printing, but there can be variances.

Time is of the essence

According to Michael Kitt, the biggest mistake a company or organization can make is not leaving enough time for the printer to complete a job. He points out that ink drying on a page takes time, as does creating the final press-ready files. When the pressure is on, Murphy’s Law tends to kick in, and because there are so many things that can go wrong, you would be wise to leave your job with the printer well in advance of when you need it. Keep in mind that “rush” jobs can also add to the overall printing cost.

 

The Paper

When choosing your paper, ask your printer to give you samples, so you can evaluate which paper is right for your job. There are two major paper categories: coated and uncoated. Coated is what most magazines are printed on. Uncoated is similar to what you would get from a copy machine and is generally referred to as offset.

Coated reproduces photographs better. If there’s a lot of reading to be done, however, coated can produce a glare than can create eyestrain. A matte or dull-coated is in between coated and offset, and while it costs more, may be a good solution for someone who has a photo and lots of copy on a page.

If you’re only printing on one side, you can get away with a thinner paper, but two-sided printing requires heavier stock.

Paper is measured in pounds. Your basic paper is a 50-lb. offset. Your basic “bond” is 20-lb. bond. Interestingly, these two paper types are identical because paper weights are measure on a basis size of 1,000 sheets. The basis size of offset measures 17.5” X 22.5” and basis size of bond is 11” X 17,” which accounts for the discrepancy in weight.

Cover stock or “card” stock is very different from text stock. Although they both may weigh 80 lbs., the basis size is different, so be sure to tell your printer if you want the paper for cover or text.

More or less

You will notice that when ordering larger quantities (or a “longer run” – as it’s called in printing) the price doesn’t seem to increase dramatically, as compared to when ordering less. That is because much of what you are paying for is the set-up cost.

If you do a 12-page booklet, it can actually cost more than doing a 16-page booklet. Because booklets are bound in four or eight-page units called “signatures,” your 16-page booklet is a perfect 2/8. A 12-page booklet will require an eight and a four, so your printer will, in all likelihood, charge you for the extra four pages.

According to Kitt, so many obstacles can be avoided by advanced planning that it is essential that you spend time with your printer discussing every aspect of your printing job. So, plan carefully and use your newfound knowledge to create fabulous materials.

 

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