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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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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Archive for March, 2011

Custom Envelope Printing Services: Knowledge Is Powerful

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Your envelope printing service can better help you if you understand these basics. Here are some terms you might find useful when specifying envelopes for your custom envelope printers.

Glues Used in Envelope Printing

The glue that holds the seams together is called pattern gluing or spot gluing. It is permanent. Once you break the seal, the glue cannot be reused.

The glue you lick to make the seal on the envelope is called “remoistenable glue.” That means you add water to activate the glue before sealing. (The glue is remoistenable because it was liquid when first applied to the press sheet.) Once you make the seal, the bond is permanent. If you break the bond, it will no longer stick.

“Peel-and-stick” (also known as peel & seal) is a name for envelope glue you don’t need to moisten with saliva. The glue on peel-and-stick envelopes is covered with an extra sheet of glossy paper. When you’re ready to seal the envelope, you remove the paper and press the flap down on the envelope. This is a permanent bond.

Latex glue, on the other hand, can be opened and closed numerous times. When you get a currency envelope at the bank (also called a coin envelope), you will see a rubber-cement like substance on the flap. You can close the flap, open the flap, etc., numerous times. You will notice the glue on both the flap and the body of the envelope.

Booklet vs. Catalog Envelopes

In many cases you will want to choose envelopes that open either on the end (short side of the envelope) or the side (long end of the envelope). These are referred to in two ways: “booklet” or “open side” envelopes, and “catalog” or “open end” envelopes.

Which Paper Weight to Choose?

Most envelopes come in the following weights: 20#, 24#, 28#. These would roughly correspond to 50#, 60#, and 70# text paper. (Their weight is just determined from a different sized parent sheet than the customary 25” x 38” text size.)

A good hefty sheet for an invitation envelope or a durable catalog envelope would be 28#. The usual weight for a regular envelope would be 24#. And if you just need cheap envelopes, you might go to a stationery store for 20# security envelopes (with an interior pattern to hide the contents).

A safe bet is to choose a heavier paper stock for an important printed product or if you need a durable envelope for a heavy product that might tear a thinner envelope.

Envelope Size

Ask your printer for a chart of envelope sizes, and design your enclosure to fit (not the other way around). Make sure to leave 1/4” to 1/8” minimum clearance on all sides. Leave more if your envelope will contain multiple enclosures.

It pays to be knowledgeable when approaching commercial envelope printers). You may also find that a printer that does one thing—print envelopes–will be more economical than a regular commercial printer.

Five Ways to Spice Up Your Custom Brochure Printing by Coating the Press Sheet

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Once in a while a custom brochure printing project comes up that provides the opportunity and budget for a stellar piece that will make the reader stop short. Or maybe you have been asked to create an annual report, and you are seeking highly skilled book printing and publishing companies. In either case, consider asking your brochure print service or book printers book printers about new advances in paper coating.

Coating your press sheet can add depth and dimension to an otherwise flat piece of paper. Think of the various coatings—varnish, UV, and aqueous—as a way to make certain parts of the brochure jump out at the reader and other parts sit back in a more subdued manner. Then play these two options against one another within a single brochure to accent one element and downplay another. Here are five suggestions:

  1. On a black background, perhaps a divider page in a book, create a type-only design, including a number of key words related to the content of the book. Use an attractive typeface, or a few typefaces, in a large point size. Overlap the words in various places. Make some of the words slightly lighter than the black background (maybe 80 percent black). Coat some of the words with gloss varnish and some of the words with dull varnish. Even consider using black foil stamping to print a few of the words. The end result will be a divider page in which some of the words seem to float in front of the others, some closer to you, some further away. (Ask your printer for help—early in the process–and expect to pay extra for the black ink, dull varnish, gloss varnish, and foil stamping.)
  2. Print a background photo of a tree, and add sandpaper UV coating to accentuate the texture of the bark. When you rub the page between your fingers, you will experience the simulated roughness of the wood. A similar sensation, although slightly more rubbery than sandpaper UV, can be achieved with soft-touch aqueous coating. In both cases, you feel like you are touching a physical object, not a glossy photograph.
  3. Start with a photograph of a glass or metal object (such as silverware or fine crystal). Add a high-sheen UV gloss coating. The smooth texture will reinforce the reflectivity and hardness of the glass or metal.
  4. Expand upon the prior example (the photo of glass or metal) in the following way. Wherever you have not highlighted the metal or glass with UV gloss coating, add a dull UV varnish. The contrast between the dull background and the glossy metal or glass objects will make the glass or metal objects appear to come toward the viewer while the dull UV coating will make the background recede. (It’s a little like experiencing a 3-D movie.)
  5. If your brochure highlights food, consider the texture of the food. Maybe it’s comfort food with a rough texture, like bakery delectables. Perhaps a textured coating will help the viewer subconsciously imagine the rough texture of bread or pastry. Or if you’re trying for a more upscale, high-styled look, use a gloss UV coating. This would be particularly powerful if the food you are showcasing in your brochure is coated with a sauce or some other moist surface that naturally reflects the light.

As you can see, these are all upscale images (food, fashion, luxury goods, etc.), and hence require more help from your printer and are more expensive. But once in a while the perfect project comes up for which the budget is available and these coating techniques are indispensable. Talk with your brochure print service and book printers early in the process.

Four Examples of Times to Request Paper Samples from Your Printer or Paper Merchant

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

It is well within industry custom for you, as a print buyer, to request paper samples, and there are some good times to do this to save yourself trouble and expense. Maybe you’re working with a brochure printing vendor (brochure printers), a custom book printer service (book printers), or a smaller printer for letterhead stationery printing (stationery printers), and you need to get a really good idea of exactly what to expect of the final printed job. Here are some scenarios:

  1. Let’s say you are designing a brochure with a complex fold. Maybe you will include a gatefold, or maybe an accordion fold (zig zag). Since it will be particularly useful for you and your client to see just how the piece will look on the final paper stock, request a “folding dummy.” Since the final weight of the piece will affect postage costs, and since the size and format may not adhere to postal regulations, or not fit well into a particular size of envelope, a folding dummy provided by you to the US Post Office for their approval would be doubly prudent in this case.
  2. Another scenario might be if you were designing a perfect-bound book on 60# Finch opaque stock, and your printer suggested printing it on 50# opaque paper to save on paper costs and reduce your postage expense. Subscribers to your publication might not want to pay the same price as last year for a book that is significantly thinner (a shift from 60# to 50# stock, at the same page count, would yield a thinner book, since the 50# paper stock is thinner than 60# stock–the technical term is “bulk” or “caliper”). Requesting a paper dummy of the book would be wise in this case.
  3. Maybe you have chosen an off-white stock for a booklet and you want to see exactly how a particular ink color will look on this stock. After all, many printing inks are transparent and are therefore altered somewhat by the color of the paper. Even if the ink is not transparent, the color of the surrounding paper will affect the viewer’s perception of the ink color. Requesting sample sheets of your chosen paper stock, and then asking your printer to do an ink “draw-down” (using an ink knife to smear ink of a particular PMS color on the actual stock) would give you a better idea of what to expect when the printed piece arrives.
  4. Or maybe you are having problems feeding a particular printing stock through your laser printer. Maybe you want to start using a felt stock of a particular weight, maybe 80# text, for your letterhead, and you want to make sure the paper will feed consistently through your office printer. Requesting paper samples to test on your laser printer can save you time and heartache later on when you’re on deadline.

Now the big question is, who do you ask? Your offset printer can give you the names of the paper suppliers from which he buys his paper, and you can ask their sample departments directly for whatever you need. It is their job to send samples to you, and they will be happy to do so. Or you can just ask your printer to request that samples be sent to you. This is a prudent choice when working with any of your print vendors, be they brochure printers, book printers, or letterhead printing services.

Keep in Close Touch with Your Printer’s Customer Service Representative During All Aspects of Your Print Job

Friday, March 18th, 2011

The following is a true story used to illustrate the importance of regular contact with your printer’s CSR (customer service representative). This particular incident is an especially pertinent object lesson if you are working with magazine printers (magazine printers), catalog printers (catalog printers), or book printing and publishing companies (book printers). In all three cases, you may be adding an additional vendor to the mix, a mailshop separate from (but under the direction of) your printing company.

A client’s job recently left the mailhouse and entered the mailstream two days later than agreed, and the printer wasn’t alerted, so the client found out late and was understandably distraught. What can we learn from this? First of all, here are some specifics regarding this actual print product:

  • The job was a directory for a local for-profit organization, and it was to be mailed in a polybag with a carrier sheet and a letter to subscribers. (The carrier sheet held postal indicia information and provided space for the subscriber addresses.) The mailshop had purchased 9” x 12” polybags for the job, but the book, carrier sheet, and subscriber letter comprised a large enough package that if a book had been inadvertently dropped while traveling through the mail, the polybag would have split open. The wrapped package was too tight. To remedy the problem, the mailshop ordered new 10” x 13” polybags, putting the job behind schedule.
  • The mailshop was not located within the offset printer’s building. Mailshop was a subcontracted component of the print job. This is not unusual. Many printers operate this way. But the mailshop neglected to inform the printer of the delay, so the printer assumed everything was ok and didn’t alert the client. The job, which could easily have had a critical mail deadline, went out late and the key players didn’t know.
  • The particular directory in question had a cover with a full bleed and heavy ink coverage. Although the cover had been coated at the printer (with film laminate), the mailshop did not want to send the job out covered with fingerprints. So they had all hand-workers wear cotton gloves while inserting the directory, carrier sheet, and letter into the polybags prior to sealing them. This small addition further slowed the process down.

Total time lost was two days, which could have been crucial. All decisions by the mailshop were valid and prudent—but they had not been communicated to the client.

What can we learn from this?

First of all, the intention is not to malign the mailshop. Supplies ordered (the 9” x 12” polybags) are sometimes not right. All aspects of printing are processes in which problems can and do arise. Vendors should always immediately communicate impending schedule changes to their clients, but sometimes this doesn’t happen.

But the bottom line is that as a print buyer, it behooves you to be proactive. This is particularly true when your print provider is subcontracting out the mailshop work for your job. Check in with your CSR regularly, perhaps even daily at the end of a job. Make sure all aspects of the job are completed accurately and on time. It is too easy to move on to your next job and not learn about a problem in the current job until it is too late. And this is doubly important when you have dated printed matter and are working with a printing company that may be subcontracting the polybagging and mailing of your time-sensitive material.

“Runnability” on a Digital Press: The Need to Mix the Right Technology with the Right Paper

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

When selecting brochure printing services (brochure printing), a digital on demand book printing vendor (digital on demand book printing), or a supplier for business stationery printing and envelopes (business stationery printing and envelope printing), consider the best mix of digital technology, paper, and toner for optimal “runnability.”

“Runnability” is a printing term referring to the ability of a press sheet to move easily through press and post-press operations, yielding a satisfactory product with a minimum of stress and strain. Although it refelcts the printer’s perspective of not wanting to fight with a particular paper stock, it affects you as well: in terms of price and results.

To most offset printers, adequate runnability usually is determined by the manufacturing of the paper (its consistency of formation), the conditioning of the paper before use (proper temperature and humidity to prevent curling and avoid multiple-sheet feeding), its preparation before use (trimming squarely to size with no frayed edges that might deposit paper lint into the process), ink formulation (to allow for quick ink drying), and tolerance for post-press operations (ease of folding and such).

With the advent of digital printing, however, marrying the right digital process to the right ink (or toner) and paper takes on a new dimension. Here are a few situations that illustrate problems with runnability on a digital press:

  • You have chosen a soft and textured uncoated sheet for an invitation. Your guest list is short; you only need three hundred copies, but they will all go to Fortune 500 company CEO’s, so they need to be of optimal quality. You want to run the job on an Indigo digital press because of the superior product it will produce, but the paper you have chosen is too soft to feed properly through the press. In addition, the surface is too rough to accept a uniform lay-down of toner.
  • The same situation occurs with your own HP LaserJet office printer. You have chosen a thicker than usual paper stock to give the perception of seriousness and quality. But the paper jams repeatedly in your laser printer.
  • Or you have preprinted your letterhead with thermographic printing of your logo and type (powder added to offset ink and then fused to the ink with heat and pressure to create raised type). When you feed this paper through your laser printer, the heat and pressure of the equipment cause the thermographic print to melt, streak, and lay down track marks on the letterhead.
  • Perhaps you have designed a book for digital printing. Your design incorporates heavy solids with bleeds. Your particular printer only has a lower-end digital press, and the heat, extra toner coverage, and roller pressure combine to melt the digital ink and fuse the sheets of paper together. Your printer only gets one usable sheet for every ten he prints.

All of these nightmare situations have something in common: runnability problems. That is, an incompatibility between the intended product use and/or goals of the designer, the paper, the ink or toner, the printing process, and the equipment. The result? Trouble in press and post-press operations.

Talk with your color brochure printer, your custom book printer, business card printing service, or other vendor early to determine the best mix of paper, ink, toner, and digital printing processes.

Letterpress: A Tactile Alternative to Offset Printing for Business Envelope and Stationery Printing

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The next time you’re looking for a business envelope printing company, or a vendor that can custom print business stationery, consider letterpress as an alternative to traditional offset printing.

Letterpress is not as commonplace these days as offset printing, digital printing, or large-format inkjet work. But it reflects the very quality that makes a printed piece more evocative than an Internet advertising campaign or even an interactive periodical. It is tactile. You want to pick it up and touch it.

Unlike offset printing, which relies on the incompatibility of ink and water to transfer a printed image from a flat plate to a press blanket and then to a printing sheet, letterpress is a “strike-on” process. That is, a raised, inked press plate strikes the paper and leaves a printed image. (This is actually the same kind of press used for diecutting work.)

Letterpress is superior for text and illustration. For instance, an invitation, card, or tag printed on a thick, textured stock, with lots of peaks and valleys in the paper, can be a very effective medium for promoting the opening of a new building. Imagine text on the top of the invitation and then the event date and place information, all superimposed over a line drawing of the building in another color. A classic, sophisticated graphic approach.

The card can be as thick as one of the old “coasters” used for drinks. When you close your eyes and run your finger over the surface of the printed card, you can feel all the indented lines of the building illustration, and the indentations of the type. The printing plate actually digs into the surface of the paper and crushes it. The result is reminiscent of “hot metal type” on a hand-operated printing press.

If you choose letterpress for your next invitation, card, or clothing tag, consider the following:

  • Very few printers do this kind of work. Ask around. A paper merchant might be a good person to approach for a referral.
  • A full-bleed solid color would be more appropriate for offset printing than for letterpress. To achieve a consistent flat layer of ink, the press would need to hit the paper very hard. It would crush the stock, and you would lose the contrast between the textured paper and the recessed type.
  • Letterpresses print flat colors, not tints. So if you produce the art file for an invitation in InDesign using dark green type and a screen of the same color for a light green background element, this file could not be printed on a letterpress. You would need to design your art file using one color for the dark green and then a separate, lighter green for the background.
  • This process can be more expensive than offset printing.

Letterhead stationery printing and card printing (whether business cards, invitations, or even clothing tags) via letterpress can provide a unique, more classic look than offset printing.

Printing Customs: Who Owns the Specialty Paper the Printer Bought for Your Job?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

When you are printing a book or any other long-run-, multiple-page-, multiple-signature-print job, it is prudent to consider the kind and amount of paper you buy (as well as the final page count and press run). This is true for books (book printing companies), print catalogs (catalog printers), magazine printing (magazine printers), and such.

If you have your printer buy specialty paper for a job and then change the length of the publication or the length of the print run, you may still be responsible for the paper. For example, let’s say you are printing 12,000 copies of a 56-page directory on 50# canary yellow offset stock. You bid out the job, receive quotes, choose the vendor, and ask your chosen printer to proceed with ordering paper.

As you are preparing the InDesign files for the job, your marketing department or editorial subscription department provides address database material, and you realize you will only need 11,000 copies of the publication, not 12,000. At the same time, the editorial department deletes some information from the directory, and the length of the book drops from 56-pages self-cover to 52-pages self cover.

The normal inclination of any print buyer would be to approach the printer for a revised estimate, expecting to save a lot of money (assuming that a job with a shorter press run and fewer pages will require less paper, fewer plates, etc.).

Unfortunately, you may only save your company $100.00 or so, for the following reasons:

  • Canary yellow stock is a specialty item. Not many print buyers want to use it, so your printer most likely will charge you for all paper he bought for your job. This would be the opposite of a “house sheet,” which is kept on the printing floor in bulk because multiple clients want such a generic paper for their printing work. Therefore, although a shorter press run and fewer pages require less paper, you will still probably have to pay for all of it. That said, consider using the canary yellow stock for an additional job that might go along with the directory (a brochure or flyer, for instance).
  • The assumption that a shorter booklet will require fewer printing plates (and perhaps other consumables as well) will not be borne out in this case. This is because a 56-page book and a 52-page book are both composed of four signatures (3 16-page signatures plus an 8-page signature, or 3 16-page signatures plus a 4-page signature, respectively). So no time, effort, or materials will be saved. Therefore, you will receive only a minimal price reduction.

To actually save money on the preceding job, consider the following:

  • Choose a stock that can be used by another customer if you don’t use all of it (ask about the printer’s house sheet).
  • If you reduce the page count of a booklet, consider not only the number of pages but also the number of signatures. Your printer can help you figure this out. As a general rule of thumb, start out with multiples of 32, then 16, then 8, and then 4 pages. If, for example, you had reduced the page count on the aforementioned job from 56 pages to 48 pages, there would only be three 16-page press runs, fewer plates, less press time, fewer wash-ups, etc.

Whether you will be approaching catalog printing companies, magazine printers, hardcover book printers, or paperback book printers for your jobs, it is wise to discuss the ramifications of paper choice early in the process, as related to press run and book length.

Six Custom Book Printing Costs to Consider Before They Show Up on Your Bill

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

When working with book printing companies, you should be aware that your final invoice may include “extras.” These are not unreasonable charges; rather they are expenses you should consider and negotiate prior to sending your InDesign files to press, or you may be disturbed by the final bill.

  • Overs: Offset presses cannot be turned on and off instantly, printing the exact number of book copies you need. In addition, the processes following presswork (i.e., folding, trimming, perfect binding, and such) all inadvertently destroy some copies of your book. This is called spoilage. To compensate for this spoilage, your printer will usually produce more books than needed (referred to as “overage”). The industry standard is to produce up to ten percent more copies than the requested press run (charged back to you at the per-book unit cost). That said, you can usually negotiate a lower billable percentage with your custom book printer at the estimating stage of book production. (Keep in mind that it is also industry standard for your printer to supply up to ten percent fewer copies than requested, unless explicitly forbidden to do so. This is called “underage.” However, your not accepting underage allows the printer to deliver more than ten percent overage. All of this is negotiable.)
  • Freight: Freight is not included in the book printing price, so it is prudent to discuss how your printer will get the printed books to you and how much this will cost. Usually, the total freight estimate provided by your printer will be just that, an estimate (close but not exact).
  • Stamping Die: If your case-bound book includes a cloth cover imprinted with stamping foil, the dies for this operation will be an additional cost. Dies for a few words on the front cover, back cover, and spine may cost $440.00 or so.
  • Carton Printing Die: The same goes for the cutting die used to produce bumper-end mailers (if this is how you plan to pack the individual copies of your book that will be sent to your subscribers). If you print black ink (address information and logo) on your bumper-end mailers, the die for this operation will cost several hundred dollars extra as well.
  • UPS Costs for Mailing Proofs: Your printer will be sending you low-quality “position” proofs of your text pages and much higher quality color proofs of your color pages and book jacket, as well as a sample of your “case” (the cardboard and fabric binding materials with foil stamping, if the book will be case bound). All of this will incur UPS or FedEx charges that will be billed back to you. The same goes for any office copies you request. Paper is heavy, so this could add several hundred dollars to your invoice.
  • Author’s Alterations: If you make any editorial changes to the proofs (to fix your errors rather than the printer’s errors), this will cost extra. Even if you make the changes and resubmit the affected pages as corrected PDF files, you will still see an extra cost on your invoice.

When you’re working with custom book printer services (whether paperback book printers or hardcover book printers), it is prudent to discuss these potential extra costs early in the print buying process. They could add up to several thousand dollars on a $10,000 to $20,000 press run, so it’s best to avoid any surprises.


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