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Archive for the ‘Pocket Folder Printing’ Category

Custom Pocket Folders: Options for an Interior Brochure

Monday, December 7th, 2015

I have never been one to take “no” for an answer. Regarding a recent print brokering job of a custom pocket folder containing a brochure insert, I thought it would be economical to print a long run of the pocket folder and short, digital runs of the interior brochure to allow for easy content updates.

Specs for the Pocket Folder/Brochure Job

I’ve written a few blog postings about my client’s job recently. To step back a bit, this is an oblong, 12” x 9” pocket folder with either a horizontal or vertical pocket on the back cover to be used for laser printed inserts. Inside, my client wants to saddle stitch a four- or eight-page brochure with a short fold (for a step-down, or tabbed, appearance). The major problem that has arisen is the press run for the job. It is extremely short: 100 to 250 copies.

I received initial estimates from about five printers, and even a 1,000-copy option of both the pocket folder and inserts would cost only about $1,000 more than either a 100-copy or 250-copy press run. The greater percentage of the cost will apply to the diecutting (and the cutting die), embossing (and the embossing die), and offset printing make-ready.

Sometimes You Just Don’t Need That Many Copies

Sometimes you just don’t need 1,000 copies of a job. So for both a press run more in line with my client’s client’s needs (my client is a designer; her client is the end-user), I suggested the following: Print 1,000 copies of the outer pocket folder via offset lithography, and print 100 or 250 interior brochures via digital printing (HP Indigo high-quality laser printing).

The idea appealed to all five vendors, but we hit a wall: the Indigo 7000 digital press only accepts a maximum sheet size of 13” x 19”. Nevertheless, we may have a plan.

First of All, Why Hybrid Printing Would Be Ideal

In marketing, there is a concept of “evergreen” copy. This is information that will always be relevant. For my client, it might be a description of her client’s business goals and history. This could go on the outer custom pocket folder, which could be economically printed in bulk via offset lithography.

The opposite of evergreen material is dated material, such as information about current projects. My client would ideally change this every 100 or 250 copies. For this portion of the job, digital printing would be ideal.

Moreover, there could be a further benefit of optional selective binding. The end-user client (for which my client is designing this piece) could actually do some market research and then tailor the interior brochure to the specific customer (or to a group of customers). This is the beauty of variable data marketing, for which digital printing is perfectly suited.

Back to the Problem of the Maximum Indigo Press Sheet Size

So size is a problem. If I could find someone with an HP Indigo 10000 (which accepts slightly larger than a 20” x 29” sheet), I’d have to trust a completely new printer with a critical job. That would be risky. If my client were to design an interior brochure that extended all the way out to the trim size of the surrounding pocket folder (24” x 9” flat or 12” x 9” folded), the 24” wide press sheet would not fit in the HP Indigo 7000 (due to its 13” x 19” maximum sheet capability).

Now the step-down nature of the stitched-in brochure would shave off a half inch or an inch (for the short fold), but this would still require a 23”, not a 19”, page. But it’s closer.

Unwilling to give up entirely and produce the whole job via offset lithography (i.e., in the less economical manner), I considered options for including a slightly smaller brochure in a slightly larger pocket folder. Perhaps, if the outer custom pocket folder were printed on the inside (that is, on both the pocket and the interior front and back covers of the folder), then a smaller stitched-in brochure might not look too small. Just a thought.

Now if we were to fold a 13” x 19” press sheet (with an 18.26” x 12.48” image area), it would have approximately a 2.5” to 3” space between the end of the interior brochure press sheet and the trim of the oblong pocket folder. With more stepped down pages in the stitched-in brochure (eight rather than four), the distance could be reduced to about a 1.5” space between the end of the interior brochure press sheet and the trim of the oblong pocket folder.

Normally, I’d suggest making the custom pocket folder smaller. However, the inserts will be 8.5” x 11”, so a 9” x 12” size for the front and back of the pocket folder is essential. Producing a smaller, stitched-in brochure (jogging to the top or bottom of the pocket folder or floating in the center), might just be a viable option. It will all depend on my client’s approach to the design.

Or, she might choose to make the pocket folder vertical rather than oblong (horizontal). Or, she might choose the fall-back position of offset lithography (economical or not).

What You Can Learn From This Case Study

This design and custom printing process is ever-changing. Fortunately my client approached me for options before even starting the design of the pocket folder/brochure. And I approached five printers for feedback. So I would encourage you to do the same. Here are some rules of thumb:

  1. Rule #1 is to start early and involve the printer, the client, and the designer, when there’s time to explore options and costs. At this point you can recover from dead-ends.
  2. Ask for paper dummies. In my case, printers are already offering them. If my client, the designer, wants even more control, she can visit an arts and crafts shop, buy some poster board, and make several mock-ups of the pocket folder on her own, just to try out multiple options. To these she can add stitched-in brochure pages made from laser printer paper.
  3. Consider using more than one printing technology. If part of the job will be needed for a long, long time, but part of the job will quickly go out of date, consider using both offset lithography and some form of digital printing (inkjet or laser). Just make sure you’re not trying to match output from the two technologies exactly. Alter the design a little to minimize any differences in appearance between the offset and digital components.
  4. If the technology limits you (like the maximum sheet size of the HP Indigo limits my client), consider adjusting the design to make it work. Maybe my client will like the option I’ve suggested; maybe she won’t. At least she has options.
  5. Ask for cost estimates for the various options. In my client’s case, adjusting the design to fit the technology may look a lot more appealing if it saves $500 or $1,000. We won’t know until the estimates come back, but at least it’s worth considering.

Pocket Folder Printing: Pocket Folder/Brochure Update

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

They say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and a recent creative solution provided by a print brokering client of mine exemplifies this approach–totally.

She has been working on a custom pocket folder with either four or eight interior pages as well as the pocket. To make the piece stand out, she has chosen a 12” x 9” oblong format over the traditional, upright, 9” x 12” version. The folder will have a pocket on the inside back cover into which her client will insert about six or eight laser printed, 8.5” x 11” sheets. This pocket will be vertical rather than horizontal, open on the left rather than at the top. That is, the pages will slip into the pocket on their sides. To keep them from falling out, my client is considering a diecut tab to hold the exposed, short edge of the inserted sheets.

We have discussed using a 130# cover stock for the custom pocket folder and 100# text for the interior pages. To add visual interest, my client plans to stagger the interior pages. That is, they will be stepped down, with each successive leaf (two pages) being 1” longer than the preceding leaf. All interior pages will be saddle stitched into the center of the pocket folder.

A Perfect Hybrid Printing Project

Since my client’s client only wants 100 copies of the product, I initially suggested having the job digitally produced. Unfortunately, the vendors I approached said the pocket folder was too large to fit on the 13” x 19” HP Indigo digital press sheet and would therefore need to be produced on an offset press (an expensive proposition).

More than anything, this was due to the oblong nature of the project. Had the pocket folder been vertical (rather than oblong), it would have just fit on an Indigo press sheet (although the printer would have needed to produce the pocket separately and glue it onto the folder).

In short, the HP Indigo 7000 series’ 13” x 19” format was limiting. Going to the larger format (approximately 20” x 29”) used on an Indigo 10000 and above might have been a good idea, but I didn’t know anybody with one. And by “know,” I mean “trust”—deeply. I’m a firm believer in not starting out a new custom printing supplier with a complex job.

So the preferred option came to be the following: Print the interior brochure sheets digitally, and print the exterior custom pocket folder traditionally on an offset press.

Such a hybrid job would play to the strengths of both offset and digital technology. The exterior pocket folder would contain “evergreen” information (that would presumably be accurate and useful for years). My client’s client could print 1,000 (rather than 100) of these and then store and use them as needed. (This would be more economical on a per-unit cost-basis.) The interior pages would be printed digitally in batches of 100. Their text material could be updated with each custom printing run, and the pages could contain the dated material relevant to my client’s client.

Problems with Paper Size Begin to Occur

All of this seemed to work well as a concept, but the 13” x 19” Indigo format still provided challenges. If the custom pocket folder contained four stepped-down pages, the folded and stitched pages would fall several inches from the edge of the 12” x 9” pocket folder (its face margin). The interior brochure would look very small inside a big pocket folder. Adding eight stepped-down pages would make for a more substantial interior brochure. (Assuming each successive, stepped-down leaf were 1” longer than the preceding leaf, the final page would fall much closer to the trim.)

A Solution to the Problem

What I found both intriguing and encouraging was my client’s solution: a pocket folder with a short-fold front cover.

The front cover would be 8” wide rather than 12”. The back cover would still be 12”. This would afford a 9” high and 8” wide area inside for the brochure pages, while the pocket would be visible to the right of the 8” wide front cover. Depending on how my client handled the overall design, this would break up the booklet into a brochure with cover on the left, and a pocket folder containing the six or so pages laser printed by her client on the right.

The physical design of the piece would group (or separate) the various components. As long as the visible portion of the back interior cover included a design that was integrated with the rest of the job (rather than just looking “uncovered”), this could actually be a more interesting piece than initially conceived.

In addition, the widest stepped-down pages (flat, before being saddle-stitched) would be no larger than 16” x 9” (small enough to fit comfortably on the 13” x 19” maximum HP Indigo 7000 press sheet).

In fact, there would be even more room if my client continued with her approach to staggering (or stepping down) the interior text pages.

The only question now is where to put the business card slots?

What You Can Learn

Here are some thoughts:

  1. When you’re totally stumped by the physical limitations of a job, think creatively (sleep on it, if necessary). My client created a more interesting overall design when she couldn’t fit her desired brochure pages on the 13” x 19” Indigo press sheet. You can do the same. Granted, it requires sweat, insight, and good luck.
  2. As noted in the prior blog posting about this job, consider blending technologies. If you need to do an ultra-short press run, perhaps you can justify doing part of the job offset (and printing more than you need, to be spread over multiple years) and part of the job digitally (and then updating this section as needed).

Pocket Folder Printing: Some Paper Considerations

Monday, September 21st, 2015

It helps to learn to think like a printer or, more specifically, to think like a printing press.

I had been working with a print brokering client to conceptualize a custom pocket folder with a brochure saddle stitched into its center fold. I had been thinking of sheet sizes appropriate for the digital printing I had suggested for the interior pages, but I really had not given much thought to the pocket folder paper stock, other than to tell my client I thought she should consider 110#, 120# or 130# cover stock weight.

Taking Press Requirements into Account

To begin, since my client wants a 12” x 9” pocket folder (oblong) instead of a 9” x 12” pocket folder (upright), and since she wants a 6” vertical pocket on the back cover of the pocket folder, I stopped and did some math.

The flat size for such an offset printed product would be 30” wide (12” + 12” + 6” pocket) plus bleeds, plus gripper margin (the part of the printing press that pulls the press sheet through the equipment) and any printer’s marks, color bars, etc.

I know that press widths go all the way up to 50”+ (or probably more). I also know that press sheets come in various sizes. However, now it was time to get more specific.

Since I already had received five bids on the job, I needed to look closely at each printer’s press equipment. It so happened that the lowest bidder had an offset press that could accept a maximum 30” press sheet. The second lowest bid was from a printer with a 40” press. In this case the pocket folder flat size would not be a problem, but the first printer could not handle a 30” unfolded pocket folder on their maximum sized press sheet.

At this point—fortunately–my client is considering an 8” wide front cover and 12” wide back cover for the pocket folder. (The job is morphing as she considers design options and pricing for the custom pocket folders.) This option would fit on the first printer’s 30” press (8” + 12” + a 6” pocket = 26”).

But What About the Paper?

Having the proper press doesn’t necessarily mean having the proper paper. The weight of cover stock (I had suggested 110#, 120#, or 130# cover stock) is the weight of 500 sheets (one ream) of paper at the basic cover size of 20” x 26”.

(Text stock has a different “basic size,” which is 25” x 38”. This is actually why you can measure sheets of 100# cover stock and 100# text stock with a caliper, and the cover stock will be much thicker than the text stock. It is because the basis weight of the cover stock and text stock are determined using different press sheet sizes.)

That said, a 20” x 26” sheet would not be large enough for the flat, unconverted custom pocket folder my client wants (even with the short fold on the front cover). You’d still need room for bleeds, gripper margin, printer’s marks, color bars, etc. What to do?

Fortunately, even though paper is weighed at the basic size (“basis weight” at the “basic size”), you can still buy paper that is of different dimensions. For instance, if you’re a printer, you can buy 25” x 38” text stock, or you can buy 28” x 40” text stock, depending on the size of your press.

But what sizes of cover stock can you buy? I wanted to check and make absolutely sure. Furthermore, cover stock comes “coated one side” (C1S) or “coated two sides” (C2S). More specifically, you would be more likely to find a cover stock measured in “points” (thousandths of an inch) that would only be coated on one side (such as 12pt C1S). For paper that is coated on two sides, you would be more likely to select a 120# white gloss cover stock, for instance (which would normally come coated two sides).

So how is this relevant? If my client wants to print on both the inside and outside of her custom pocket folder, she will need a C2S sheet (the printing would look different on the two sides of a C1S sheet). Now in many cases, you wouldn’t print on the inside of a pocket folder. You’d leave it white. After all, the pockets are on the same side of the press sheet as the front and back covers until you convert the job (fold up and glue the pockets).

More Paper Choices to Consider

So I had to find out my client’s plans. Did she want to print 4-color on one side or two sides?

To be safe I went to two websites:

  1. First I went to a paper comparison website that listed paper weights side by side for bond, cover, text, ledger, etc. (all weighed at different basic sizes). The website even included point sizes, allowing you to compare one sheet to another (on an approximate basis, since paper thickness still varies from one paper brand to another). So, for instance, you can see that 120# cover stock is roughly the same as 15pt. C1S paper. This will be very useful information depending on whether my client will need to print on one or two sides of the custom pocket folder press sheet.
  2. With this information in hand, I wanted to make sure the proper press sheet sizes existed. So I went to the International Paper website. (I looked for Carolina Coated cover since I know it is a good C1S sheet.) Fortunately it comes in 23” x 39” and 25” x 38” (for the first printer’s 30” press, he can just cut down the sheet, but for the second printer’s 40” press he can use the sheet as is). So paper size and press size need not be deal breakers, depending on which of the two printers my client prefers. For the C2S option, for now I picked a paper at random: Kallima cover. The website noted custom pocket folders as a good use for the paper. Fortunately, it also noted availability in 24” x 36” sheets. Again, although this is too large for the first printer’s 30” press, he can cut the sheet down to size. It’s always better to cut down a large sheet than to not have a large enough sheet in the first place.

What You Can Learn from this Case Study

  1. Think in terms of the flat size of a commercial printing product. How large must the press sheet be, and how many copies of a job can you fit on a sheet?
  2. Also think about the size of your printer’s press and the maximum sheet size it will accommodate. Your printer probably has an equipment list with this information on his website.
  3. Check paper websites to make sure the proper sized press sheet exists, and then leave it to your printer to buy as much paper stock as he needs for your job.

Custom Pocket Folders: Think About the Press Sheet Size

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Sometimes you just don’t think, or at least I don’t. I am pricing out an extremely short press run of a pocket folder (100 to 250 copies) with a 4-page or 8-page insert for a brokering client. I had mentioned this before in the PIE Blog.

The pocket folder will be oblong. That is, instead of being 9” x 12” it will be 12” x 9”. This is an important distinction, since a flat commercial printing sheet for such a pocket folder will be 24” wide by 9” high before converting, as opposed to 12” x 18”. Of course, to this you would add the pockets (perhaps a 4” extra bit on the bottom (horizontal pocket) or side (vertical pocket) plus any bleeds and room for the press gripper and printer’s marks.

Either way the custom pocket folders will not fit on my printer’s HP Indigo, which would otherwise be ideal for a press run of 100 to 250 copies. (This particular model of the Indigo accepts only a 13” x 19” press sheet.)

Produced via offset lithography, this custom pocket folder will be almost as expensive for a 100- or 250-copy press run as it would be for a 1,000-copy press run (maybe $1,000 less for the total cost, not the unit cost). This is because all the money will go into fabricating embossing and cutting dies for the pocket folder cover and pockets, as well as doing set up (or make-ready) for the commercial printing job.

To save money, I had suggested to both my client and the printer that the interior sheets (the 4-page or 8-page brochure stitched into the pocket folder) be produced on the Indigo. (As a side benefit, the client could economically print 1,000 pocket folders and then only 100 or 250 sets of interior pages, updating the interior text and printing more copies as needed.) I had assumed that for such a short run this would be ideal.

And it would have been, if I had thought about the dimensions of the press sheet (13” x 19”). Even with the short fold (my client plans to have each sheet be 1/2” shorter than the following sheet), the overall sheet size for the insert would still exceed the Indigo maximum (i.e., it would need to be 9” x 24” plus bleeds).

If, on the other hand, my client decides to make the pocket folder upright rather than oblong (which is unlikely but possible), the flat size of the interior press signatures could potentially fit on a 13” x 19” press sheet.

Options with the Newer HP Indigo Presses

Now, I don’t have a vendor I know and trust who has one of these, but in various print shops across the country, the newest HP Indigo presses (such as the Indigo 30000) accept a 29” x 20” (actually slightly larger) maximum sheet size (called a B2 sheet). Such a press size would actually accommodate the oblong custom pocket folder (if the pockets were horizontal, requiring a 24” x 13” image size plus bleeds). For vertical pockets (added to the ends of the 24” x 9” flat press sheet (before conversion into a pocket folder), you’d probably still need 32”. Since this is larger than the maximum sized press sheet, you would need to print and glue the pockets to the folder separately (as opposed to having them be part of the press sheet).

What Can You Learn from This Case Study

  1. Even with the best intentions, we all make mistakes. It helps to work with trusted commercial printing vendors who are partners with you. In my case, one pointed out that he would have to price the entire job (custom pocket folder and interior pages) on an offset press due to its flat size as an oblong product. A good printer will point out things like this.
  2. Keep abreast of new commercial printing technology developments. In my case, some day I will have access to the HP Indigo 10000 or 30000 (with the larger press sheet size) through a current or perhaps future professional relationship. Knowing about the new technology opens doors to using the new technology.
  3. Some printers will actually switch a digital job to an offset press if it doesn’t fit the digital press sheet. The printer with the lowest bid on this pocket folder job did this, but he didn’t tell me. He wanted the business, and he priced the job aggressively. As much as I would have liked to know up front (he did tell me when I asked), I will get a slightly better product this way for a very low price. In your case, it might be prudent to ask your printer about the equipment he will be using. It’s also smart to know what equipment the handful of printers you frequent have on their pressroom floors. Reading equipment lists may not be exciting, but once you have a handle on who has an HP Indigo, perhaps a Kodak NexPress, a large-format ink-jet press, and a multi-unit (and perhaps perfecting) offset press, you can start to identify specific printers to approach for specialty work.
  4. Be open to your printer’s advice. He knows more about what he’s doing than you do, and he might have some suggestions you hadn’t thought of. All the better if you and he have cultivated a mutually supportive professional relationship.
  5. Think like a printer. Envision your converted box or poster or custom pocket folder as a flat sheet on an offset press. How large will the press and press sheet need to be for all of the flaps and glue tabs to fit on the sheet? In fact, this is a good approach even for flat sheet work that requires no conversion. For instance, as you’re designing a poster job, think about how many copies will fit on a 25” x 38” or 28” x 40” press sheet. Does your printer have such a press (you can ask)? Will your job be economical the way you’re planning it? (Will it fit on a press sheet without having undue waste? After all, you pay for all that scrap paper your printer recycles.)

Just some thoughts to keep you thinking like a printer.

Custom Pocket Folders: Multiple Copies on a Single Page

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

It is unusual for a printer to print only one copy of your brochure, poster, custom pocket folder, or print book signatures on a press sheet when he produces your job via sheetfed offset lithography. This would not be efficient. Nor would it be economical.

Instead, he usually lays out a number of pages (on a computer in the digital prepress component of custom printing) in a certain order on the press sheet so they will fall in the right position when the large press sheet has been folded and trimmed.

What exactly does this look like? What do you see on a printed but untrimmed press sheet?

Sheetwise vs. Work and Turn vs. Work and Tumble

Let’s say you’re printing a 9” x 12” custom pocket folder with a 4” pocket. Prior to converting, this job is a four-page, 18” x 16” product (plus any build for the spine, plus any glue flaps and/or bleeds). The 18” dimension would include two 9” pages, and the 16” dimension would include the 12” side plus the open (unfolded) 4” pocket.

Your custom printing supplier can get two of these on a 25” x 38” press sheet. If your press run is 5,000 copies, this would only require him to print and convert 2,500 sheets. This will save him time and money. To do this he has a number of options.

Sheetwise

Your printer can lay out these two pocket folders side by side on a 38” wide by 25” high press sheet. (Picture two completely unfolded pocket folders, one on the left and one on the right, standing on their 16” sides). The printer can first print one side (the exterior front and back, for instance). After these 2,500 printed sheets have dried, he can turn them over and print the other side: the interior pockets. However, he must first clean the press and hang new plates. (This is called a wash-up. It takes time and costs money.)

Work and Turn and Work and Tumble

If your printer flips over one of the pocket folders on the press sheet, so the front of the sheet includes one custom pocket folder’s front and back covers and one pocket folder’s interior two pockets, he can print one side of the sheet, wait for it to dry, and then print the other side of the press sheet without washing up and rehanging new plates. (That is, the same plates are used for both sides of the press sheet.) Depending on how he turns the press sheet, this approach is called either work and turn or work and tumble.

Specifically, work and turn involves keeping the gripper edge of the press sheet (the leading edge) the same when the printer turns over the sheet (from side to side). In contrast, work and tumble involves turning the press sheet in a tumbling (end over end, rather than side over side) manner. The gripper edge changes from the front of the sheet to the back of the sheet and the side guide stays the same.

Of course, all this happens after the sheet has dried. If the ink is wet, it will offset onto other pages.

When to Use Sheetwise vs. Work and Turn/Work and Tumble

Let’s say your pocket folder has heavy ink coverage on the exterior covers (front and back), but nothing inside. Once the open pockets have been folded up and the glue tabs have been folded over and attached, the interior of the pocket folder would appear to have some interior color. It will just have been printed on one side of the press sheet prior to folding. (That is, the interior pockets would have initially been printed as part of the exterior of the folder.)

In this case it would be prudent to print the job sheetwise, since only one side would need to be printed. Flipping one of the pocket folders over on the press sheet prior to printing would gain nothing and necessitate two print runs, one for either side of the press sheet. In this case, having both images side by side in this “two-up” sheetwise imposition would be ideal.

Or, if the printer needed to print heavy ink coverage on the exterior covers of the pocket folder and light ink coverage on the interior, he might also choose a sheetwise imposition to avoid overinking the interior pages.

In other cases, he would probably choose work and turn or work and tumble imposition, depending on how he wanted the images to fall on the final press sheet (again, this might have a lot to do with the amount of ink coverage). Once he has imposed the images (in this case, the custom pocket folders) on the press sheet, he can choose whether to turn the sheet from side to side or end over end, after the ink has dried.

Remember, the same holds true whether your printer is producing two pocket folders on a sheet, four brochures on a sheet, or a sixteen-page print book signature (eight pages on each side of the press sheet). The printer must determine the most efficient and economical way to position the pages on the final press sheet to avoid overinking the printed product and make sure the folded piece allows each page to fall in the proper position.

Commercial Printing: Keeping Diecutting Costs Down

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

My fiancee and I just installed a standee for 300: Rise of an Empire. It was large, complex, and surprisingly reminiscent of another large format print standee we had recently installed for The Hobbit. Not that the graphics were in any way similar. Rather, it was the structure of the standee that gave me a deja vu.

I looked up the photos for the two standees in our iPhoto database. Both consisted of side-by-side graphic panels of movie characters. In the case of both 300: Rise of an Empire and The Hobbit, there was a central panel, then two panels (one on either side) set back about a foot, then two more panels (one on either side) set back another foot.

Working from the center outward to the left and right, both standees were symmetrical. In each case, the left and right panel for each tier was set back an equal distance, creating a staircase effect, with the center panel closest to the viewer and the rest of the panels recessed further and further back.

Why Is This Relevant?

Right away I saw that the structure of the 300: Rise of an Empire standee was exactly the same as that of The Hobbit standee. I surmised that the film studio had designed the standees in such a way as to use one set of diecutting dies for both in order to save money.

I have mentioned before that making a cutting die for custom pocket folders or any other diecutting job is expensive. In fact, I just gave a print brokering client of mine an estimate for 1,000 8.5” x 11” print booklet covers (front and back cover sets). The job requires two separate dies that will cost more than half the total printing price (about $550.00 of the approximately $900.00 total).

Saving money by reusing dies is smart. My guess is that even though The Hobbit has seven panels and 300: Rise of an Empire has only five, the five panels that the two standees have in common may well have been cut using the same dies. I’m not absolutely sure. All I know is that it would have been a great way to save money.

But what about the sixth and seventh panel of The Hobbit, which were not included in 300: Rise of an Empire (which was only a five-panel standee)? (Keep in mind that I’m only speaking of the background elements—top, bottom, left, right, and back panels that go together to create boxes supporting the flat graphic panel for each level.) Well, at least it would have been cheaper to create dies for two additional panels (plus the five panels both standees have in common) than to create all twelve from scratch with all different dies.

Applying This Diecutting Concept to Your Work

If this seems unduly complex, let’s simplify it and apply it to custom pocket folders. On the simplest level, if you choose a standard format, you will use a pre-made die that the printer keeps on hand for such jobs, and you will save $300.00 to $500.00 on your project. This is a significant savings.

Granted, you will need to choose a standard size, standard pocket shape, standard placement for business cards, etc. But this need not be a problem if you create sufficiently distinctive artwork to set your custom pocket folders apart from everyone else’s.

Nevertheless, in some cases, depending on your intended use, this won’t be practical. Maybe you will need a “build” in one pocket so the folder can hold a larger number of inserts than usual. In this case, you would need to pay for the printer to create a custom die. At least this would be yours to use again for subsequent jobs.

To expand upon this concept a bit, let’s say you were to diecut the cards you plan to insert in the pockets of the folder. In this case it would save you money to approach the design as a unit and perhaps create a diecut pattern that could be repeated for the various step-down cards. You might ask the printer to reposition the same metal cutting die as needed to diecut the cards. If you use the same general outline, you can make one die and just move it as needed. Again, this would save money.

General Rules of the Diecutting Trade

Printing companies that produce a lot of custom pocket folders will probably have a variety of standard dies from which you can choose. You’re essentially using someone else’s die in this case, or, more specifically, you’re using one die from the printer’s common pool of dies.

If someone else has a custom die made for their project, however, you cannot use it for your job. Conversely, although the steel cutting die that was custom made for your project will remain at your printer’s place of business, he cannot use it for anything but your work.

Conclusion: Plan Ahead for Diecuts

So the smartest thing you can do is plan ahead, group die cutting tasks together to minimize the number of dies needed, and use standard dies where possible. If you can use the same die the following year for the updated version of your annual project, even better. Forethought will save you a lot of money.

Pocket Folder Printing: Upgrade Your Pocket Folders

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Here are a few things to consider when designing customized pocket folders. Some of these ideas will save you money while providing a quality product. Others will work subconsciously on your clients and prospects to give a sense of luxury and expense to your custom pocket folders.

Paper Choices for Your Pocket Folder

The paper you choose for your pocket folder will exert a subconscious influence on those who pick up and use your product. Thicker paper stocks will be perceived as more authoritative, credible, even luxurious. In contrast, thinner paper stocks may suggest weakness or lack of attention to quality. Ask your commercial printing supplier for samples, but consider specifying 130# cover stock (or thicker) to give substance to a custom pocket folder.

Also give thought to texture when you specify paper for a pocket folder. Custom printing is a tactile medium. A client who picks up your pocket folder may notice unconsciously that it has a “tooth,” that it is rough and substantial if you have chosen a felt weave paper stock, for instance. Your options include the usual gloss, matte, and silk coated press sheets, but also consider linen, felt, laid, and vellum for their rougher surface.

Some stationery paper manufacturers such as Crane will offer paper stocks that complement one another for business cards, letterhead, second sheets, envelopes, and pocket folders, so you may want to approach all of these items as a set, not only in terms of design but also in terms of paper choices. This may save you money. At the very least, this will ensure a common look and feel among all elements of your identity package.

Ink Choices for Your Pocket Folder

One way to save money when producing pocket folders is to print on only one side of the press sheet.

If you print a solid ink, a screen of a color, or text on the interior flaps of the pockets, and then fold them inward and glue them down (which is called converting, or making a pocket folder out of a flat press sheet), the interior printed pockets will appear to be part of the interior printing of the custom pocket folder. Actually this is an illusion, since the printed side of the flaps is really part of the exterior of the pocket folder. That said, it will add color to the interior of your pocket folder for no extra cost.

As an alternative, you may want to “paint” both sides of the press sheet. This means printing the white sheet with a heavy solid coating of ink. Depending on the color choice, this can be quite dramatic. However, keep in mind that once you trim the press sheet, you will see the interior white color of the paper (up against the solid orange, or blue, or whatever other color coats the rest of the custom pocket folder). The edges of the paper will still be white, since you’re only printing the exterior of the press sheet. If you diecut a window on the front of the pocket folder, the white edges of the cutout might be objectionable. To avoid this, you would need to specify a colored paper stock.

Using Colored Paper Stocks

You may want to choose a colored paper for your pocket folder. This is a wonderful choice, perhaps a navy felt stock. However, you need to keep in mind that inks will not behave in the same way on a colored sheet as on a white stock. Even a thick coating of silver ink, for instance, on the blue background may lose its brilliance, or the blue background may actually show through the silver ink.

To avoid this, consider foil stamping the paper instead of printing it, if you’re using a dark colored printing stock. You do have to pay for an additional process on a letterpress, and the foil stamping die will cost you approximately $500 (more or less), but depending on your budget and the marketing importance of the custom pocket folder, this may be worth it. (You may be able to skip the offset printing step completely, if your design is simple and you can use only the foil stamping for any text or images on the pocket folder.) Keep in mind that hot stamping foil comes in numerous colors now, including clear, white, and pearlescent shades.

Embossing Your Pocket Folder

Another option that showcases the tactile nature of printing is embossing. With an embossing die, you can create a raised image on your pocket folder (perhaps of the company logo). However, you will need to pay extra for this die as well as for any offset printing. Choosing a colored paper stock would be an economical approach in this case, as it would be with foil stamping. If you focus exclusively on embossing the design on your pocket folder, you can avoid offset printing the pocket folder entirely.

A Pocket Folder Makes a Marketing Statement

Keep in mind that a custom pocket folder is a marketing tool. It is also useful. Your client may use the pocket folder for a long time to carry business collateral or other papers, and each time he/she picks it up, your logo will be right there as a reminder. So even though it is an expense, you may also consider a well designed and well printed custom pocket folder to be an investment.

Printing Custom Pocket Folders

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Custom pocket folders are both functional and a good marketing tool. If you’ve ever received a pocket folder containing a stack of printed samples from a custom printing vendor, you appreciate the way everything stays together in the folder, allowing you to file it for future reference. Conversely, custom pocket folders present an image of the commercial printing provider as aesthetically savvy and technologically astute.

For your own design work, what do you need to consider when creating customized pocket folders for a client?

Choose an Appropriate Paper Stock

Your first consideration should be the kind of paper. A gloss coated sheet might be more appropriate to showcase photographs, whereas a matte, dull, or even satin press sheet might create a more subdued appearance that would facilitate reading large amounts of text. A third option would be an uncoated sheet. This might give a more environmentally-friendly tone to the design. You might even consider a textured paper such as linen or felt, with patterns embossed into the press sheet. After all, custom pocket folders engage not only your visual and aesthetic sensibility but also your sense of touch.

After you have chosen the paper coating, surface texture, color, etc., you need to consider the paper weight or thickness. I wouldn’t suggest going below 110# cover stock, but I have seen heavier stocks used successfully for custom pocket folders (up to 14 pt., or approximately 120# cover). This provides substantial heft to the piece. A heavy stock can lend an air of stability and seriousness to a pocket folder (and, by association, to the business, service, or company it represents).

Choose the Ink Colors for Printing the Custom Pocket Folders

As with any job of this sort, it’s important to consider whether you will print a simple one- or two-color piece or a more intricate 4-color job. Of particular importance will be where you place the color. When you dismantle a pocket folder (pull apart the glued edges), you will see that the pockets are actually on the same side of the press sheet as the front and back panels of the folder, whereas the interior of the pocket folder is printed on the opposite side of the press sheet.

If you print a 4-color process job and you create a process color build for the interior and exterior, the colors might not exactly match. After all, when you assemble the pocket folder, you will place the pockets (one side of the press sheet) next to the interior (the other side of the press sheet). Any color variance will be obvious. One way to avoid this is to either keep the interior of the pocket folder white (the color of the press sheet) or create two distinct process color builds (one for the interior and one for the exterior of the pocket folder).

When choosing a color scheme for the pocket folder and creating the design, consider any cover coating you may want to add, such as a varnish, aqueous coating, or UV coating. Your commercial printing supplier will knock out (i.e., not print) any cover coating where glue strips will hold together sections of the converted pocket folder. That said, you need to ask your printer to also omit the cover coating from any portion of the pocket folder on which you will want to write with ball-point pen.

The Physical Dimensions of the Pocket Folders

Physical dimensions start with the size of the folder. (The standard size is 9” x 12” for 8.5” x 11” inserts; however, other sizes can be produced as well.) Your printer will want to know the finished size (the final size once the pockets have been folded in and glued, and once the pocket folder has been closed).

Next you should consider the size and shape of the interior pockets. Some pockets are flat, or horizontal. Some are scalloped (curving inward; that is, high on the exterior left and right and sloping downward toward the center of the pocket folder).

You may also want to add business card slits on either the right or left interior pocket. This will help you personalize the pocket folder.

Finally, consider just how much material your pocket folder must hold. In fact, it’s wise to make a physical mock-up at this point and insert papers or brochures into the folder pockets. This will give you a sense of what the completed package will look like and how it will feel in your hands.

If your flat pockets won’t hold enough, you may need to add a “build” to the spine and pockets. For the spine, this just means that there will be two parallel folds (creating a thick spine) instead of one (creating a flat spine). A slightly thicker spine will allow the pocket folder to hold more enclosures. A build in the pocket is similar, with extra paper glued along the side and bottom of the pocket to give it depth (and thus more capacity).

Digital Printing as an Option for Custom Pocket Folders

Digital presses are now accepting larger press sheets. A flat pocket folder is rather large, before the press sheet has been die cut and the pockets folded in and glued. If your final size is 9” x 12” and you have 4” pockets, then the flat press sheet would be at least 18” wide (for the front and back panels) and 16” deep (the interior height plus the 4” pockets). It would actually be larger than this if you account for bleeds and for any glue tabs needed to assemble the finished pocket folder.

An HP Indigo 10000 digital press will accept a 29.5” x 20.9″ sheet size with an image size of 29.1” x 20.1”. This is good news if you’re producing either a short press run of custom pocket folders or pocket folders containing variable data printing. Not long ago, the largest press sheet a digital press would accept was closer to 12” x 18”. This made it nearly impossible to print a flat (unconverted) folder with pockets and bleeds on a digital press. (However, some printers were able to circumvent the size limitations by printing the pockets separately and then gluing them to the front and back panels.)

But since digital presses now accept larger press sheets, you have printing options that didn’t exist a few years ago. You can digitally print the complete layout for the folder, the pockets, and the glue tabs at one time prior to die cutting and assembling the finished product.

An Interesting Note About Paper Grain in Custom Pocket Folders

Usually you would fold a paper cover of a perfect-bound book with the grain of the paper (that is, with the majority of paper fibers running parallel to the spine). However, for a pocket folder, you would score and fold the press sheet “against the grain,” or perpendicular to the paper grain, to create the spine of the folder. This will ensure the durability of the pocket folder spine (with or without a build), since the folder will be opened and closed numerous times and since paper tears more easily with the grain and is stronger against the grain.

Custom Pocket Folders: How to Choose a Printing Press

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

A client came to me recently with a question about custom pocket folder printing. She and I had been working with a local custom printing service with an HP Indigo digital press. My client had a short-run pocket folder (250 copies) to print, and she wanted to know whether the Indigo would be appropriate. The pocket folder dimensions were 9” x 12” plus a 4” pocket with no build. Could an Indigo print this short-run custom pocket folder job?

First Determine the Sheet Size

First of all, let’s look at this not as an individual job but rather as an approach to buying digital printing services. The first question would pertain to sheet size. How large a press sheet will an Indigo accept? I researched this on the Internet and was led to an HP Indigo monograph, which noted that the maximum sheet size slightly exceeded 12” x 18”. Would this be large enough for custom pocket folder printing?

I then turned to the dieline for the 9” x 12” custom pocket folders. (This is a drawing of the diecut pocket folder blank prior to folding and gluing). Although the finished size would be 9” x 12”, the unfolded pocket (prior to assembly) would require a larger-sized press sheet. Picture the pocket folder open on the table with the glue removed from the folded-up pockets and the pockets lying flat. You would have a printed, diecut paper form 18” wide (9” x 2, the front and back of the folder) by 16” deep (the 12” height of the folder plus the 4” unfolded pocket flaps). (Of course, you would also need to add room on the press sheet for the diecut glue tabs used to assemble the pocket folder, as well as space for bleeds and the gripper margin.)

Since the maximum HP Indigo sheet size is slightly larger than 12” x 18”, this digital press cannot accept a large enough press sheet to produce the pocket folder. Now for a 250-copy press run of almost anything, a digital press is ideal. Printing this few copies on an offset press can become expensive, not because of paper costs but due to make-ready (i.e., set-up costs for the offset press). All the money goes into preparing the press, which will only operate for a short time.

The Location of Your Printer, and Your Printer’s Equipment, Can Save You Money

The printer actually only bid about $600.00 for this job, which was surprising, since it was slightly more than half the next lowest vendor’s bid.

There are two reasons for the low price (and I did confirm with the custom printing vendor that the job would in fact be produced on an offset press). First of all, the printer was located in an area of the country with low overhead. (You can find cheap printing–low price, rather than low quality–in several parts of the US, including the Midwest, the Shenandoah Valley in the Northeast, Florida, etc. It will reward you to do some research.) The second reason was that the business printing service with the HP Indigo digital press also owned small-format offset equipment.

More specifically, you can print custom pocket folders with no build (i.e., the pockets are flat and have no depth) within approximately 16” x 18” of space on a press sheet (plus room for bleeds, gripper margin, color bars, etc.). And a small format press that will accommodate a 20” x 26” sheet (the basic size for cover stock) will be both a perfect fit and less expensive to run than a larger press (for example, a press that could print a 28” x 40” press sheet).

Lessons Learned: Use the Internet and Do the Research

So what do we learn from this? You can save a lot of money by doing a little research on the Internet. If you were doing this job, you might search the Web for printing companies in Michigan, Richmond, Florida, or the Shenandoah Valley with 4-color, 20” x 26” presses. Most custom printing services have equipment lists on their websites that will help you find these small-format presses.

Remember to ask the printing companies about shipping costs, since the cost to print and then ship the job to your office might exceed the total manufacturing and delivery cost of a locally printed job, depending on prices in your part of the country.

So start by determining the sheet size you will need, the number of copies you will print, and the number of ink colors the press must have. Then use the Internet to find this equipment. Once you have found it, you can get bids, samples, and references from the custom pocket folder printing companies that own these presses.

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