Choose Your Paper Size Wisely and Save
Paper can account for thirty percent
of the total cost of a job (or even more for longer-run,
large-page-count publications). Therefore, to save money
printing your piece, always consider the most efficient
use of the press sheet early in the design process.
How do you do this?
First, remember that your
printer(s) have presses (sheetfed presses in this case)
that will accommodate certain cut-size sheets most efficiently.
These sizes are also noted in paper sample books you can
get from your paper manufacturer. Since the sample books
note many more sheet sizes than most presses can accommodate,
make sure to discuss sheet size with your printer once you
have chosen your paper stock.
Usually the sizes of sheetfed paper
are based on multiples of a standard 8.5" x 11"
format with room for bleeds, color bars, etc. Different
kinds of paper come in different standard sizes. For instance,
the commonly available sizes for coated book paper might
include 19" x 25", 23" x 35", and 25"
x 38". Other kinds of paper include bond, cover, board,
uncoated book, and text. Each of these categories comes
in a variety of standard sizes. Some will fit your printer's
presses; some won't.
If you are designing a brochure (for
instance), the next step would be to lay it out flat (opened
to its unfolded size) on a diagram of a press sheet. Note
the placement of the panels, and leave room for bleeds (1/8").
If you can get two or even four copies of your brochure
on a press sheet (leaving room for bleeds and trim, as per
your printers' requirements), all the better. If you are
willing to reduce the size of your brochure by half an inch
in some cases, you will be able to lay out more copies of
the brochure on the press sheet with less wasted space.
This is the ideal case. Remember that you will still pay
for whatever paper is trimmed away and thrown in the trash;
therefore, maximize the number of copies of your brochure
that you can print on a standard-sized sheet.
What about multiple-page publications?
Do the same thing. With your printer's help, make a fold-up
paper dummy of one signature of your book. Unfold it, and
you will know how many pages you can get on a sheet. Then
adjust the length and width of the individual pages so together
their dimensions add up to the total area of the sheet your
printer's press will accommodate.
What about web presses? Web presses
use rolls, which are of a set width (20" or 35"
for instance) and which have a set cut-off (let's say 22.75").
With this information, you can draw out on paper a comparable
"sheet size" just as you did for the sheetfed
In all of this, your goal is to avoid
waste. Also, your goal should be to use standard sizes that
need not be specially ordered, since they cost more and
take longer for your printer to acquire.
And as an added incentive, keep
in mind that smaller publications (even smaller by only
half an inch) often cost less to mail.
Keep the Post Office in the Design
AIt is easy to design beautiful printed
pieces that even fit economically on your printer's presses
and then get a rude awakening when the US Postal Service
either refuses to mail them or charges you a premium for
When you are determining the size,
format, paper choice, and placement (and content) of type
on a reply postcard, show either a hard-copy or a faxed
copy to your local (USPS) business reply mail center. Postal
representatives of this unit can provide you with books
showing acceptable dimensions, requirements for contrast
between paper and ink, textual requirements for a business
reply card or envelope, and placement of all the elements
on such a reply piece.
Save yourself time, money, and
heartache. Share your design with the USPS before
you pay to have it printed.
This is somewhat belated information
to share with you, but I think it is nevertheless quite
useful for anyone who produces direct mail and/or periodicals.
On April 23, 2003, President Bush signed
into law the Postal Civil Service Retirement System Funding
Reform Act of 2003. This act will forestall postal rate
increases until 2006. The new law was passed to allow the
Postal Service to lower pension contributions to the Civil
Service Retirement System since this system had been over-funded.
I would encourage those of you
who mail printed pieces to do some research into how this
act will benefit your budgets.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]