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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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Custom Pocket Folders: Think About the Press Sheet Size

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.

2 Responses to “Custom Pocket Folders: Think About the Press Sheet Size”

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