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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

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Commercial Printing: A Few Identity-Package Paper Tips

A print brokering client of mine just landed a new account. The client is global in its reach, which is particularly exciting. Now my client’s client needs an identity package to project its image around the world.

The Specifications for the Identity Package

My client came to me with four items to print initially: letterhead, envelopes, business cards, and a note card with an A-7 envelope. She wanted 500 copies of each item (with 500 copies of four names for the business cards) just to get the identity package moving.

After receiving my client’s email, my initial goal was to flesh out the specifications for the custom printing supplier, so he could provide an estimate. For the business cards, my client specified “heavy matte stock” in her email. She said she thought the note cards could be slightly different, since they would be sent out individually, probably without a business card, letterhead, or #10 envelope. She wanted to consider a textured sheet for the note cards, perhaps one with a linen finish.

My Initial Contact with the Printer

I started the discussion with the commercial printing vendor by focusing on the paper for the four print jobs. It was pretty much a given that for a 500-copy press run, the best custom printing technology would be digital. All jobs were to print in 4-color process inks. Therefore, I had approached a printer with an HP Indigo digital press. I felt this press equipment would do the best job of showcasing my client’s client’s new professional image, at an economical price.

Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure both the paper and the toner would be durable. These were my concerns:

  1. I wanted to make sure that the toner would adhere evenly to the linen sheet. Since a linen texture has an uneven surface (hills and valleys, for the warp and woof of the linen pattern), I wanted to make sure the layer of toner would not have white spots where the toner did not adhere to the paper. The printer assured me that his suggested paper options, Neenah Classic Crest and Classic Linen, were both certified for the HP Indigo.
  2. I also wanted to make sure that my client’s client could run the letterhead or envelopes through a laser printer (for text imprinting, after the 4-color digital printing of the logo and address). Would an additional paper coating be needed, or would there be a risk of the toner particles’ melting in the heat of a laser printer?

The Overall Look of the Identity Package Items

My client was very precise, noting that she wanted a bright white press sheet. She also didn’t want to buy the most expensive paper for the job. She wanted to contain her client’s costs. This is what I found out from the printer:

  1. The Neenah Classic Crest and Classic Linen paper lines are not expensive sheets. Compared to other stationery papers (those provided in weights and finishes appropriate for a coordinated set of business cards, letterhead, and envelopes), they are quite affordable.
  2. I also wanted to confirm that the commercial printing supplier would not need to buy an entire carton of paper for this job (some papers have minimums; you need to buy the minimum order no matter how little paper you use). Since the jobs are small (500 copies of the letterhead, #10 envelopes, and note cards; plus 500 copies of each of four names for the business cards), this might have been an issue. The printer assured me it was not.
  3. For such a short run, I believed that the paper component of the job would be only a minimal amount of the total cost, no matter which paper was chosen. The printer assured me that this was true.

A Coordinated Look for the Identity Package

The reason I wanted to specify all paper from one dedicated stationery vendor was that I wanted to present a unified look for the new company’s identity materials. The Neenah paper lines included the multiple paper weights needed for all of the corporate identity elements (letterhead, business cards, and stationery), but it also provided the linen finish my client wanted for the note cards and A7 envelopes. My client felt the linen paper for the note cards would showcase the “hatched lines” of the logo, and I was confident that the paper’s brightness, whiteness, and surface formation would be consistent enough in both the Neenah Classic Crest and Classic Linen lines to still look like they were created for the same business firm.

Choosing Paper Weights for All Items

All that was left was to determine the weight of the paper. My client wanted a heavier than usual business card. The printer suggested a 120# cover stock (since 80# cover stock has often been the norm for business cards). This would give an appealing stiffness and snap to the card.

My client had specified 28# #10 envelopes. Usually 24# is the norm. Given the heavier than usual paper stock for the envelopes, I suggested a 70# (rather than 60#) text paper for the letterhead, again to give a sense of solidity and opulence to the client’s new business.

Finally, for the note cards the printer suggested a 100# cover stock. He felt this would be adequate. The cards didn’t need to be any thicker. These flat note cards would have no embossed panel around the edges. They would be flat, modern, and simple in design.

The printer felt all of this would provide a unified look for the new business and that the Indigo would present the best possible printed image (for the price) for the short-run jobs. My client agreed. Now, all we need to do is wait for pricing.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

All of the specifications in this sample identity package bear close review and consideration. Paper weight, surface texture, paper color and brightness—even before ink or toner hit the surface of the paper—all either promote or damage an image (yours and your client’s). Make sure your paper choices are congruent. The best way to do this is to choose paper for all elements of an identity package from a paper supplier such as Neenah. Crane and Strathmore are two more lines to investigate. And always involve your custom printing supplier in the decisions regarding paper runnability, availability, and cost.

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