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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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Custom Printing for a Die-cut Invitation: A Case Study

A client of mine recently needed custom printing services for a six-page invitation (three on one side and three on the other) for an upcoming promotional event. The vendor in question was a small-format printer with digital capabilities as well as offset equipment. He specialized in brochure printing, on demand book printing, and other small jobs.

I thought the production of this job might illustrate a number of design and printing decisions that would be of interest to PIE Blog readers.


The unfolded invitation comprised three panels on one side and three on the other. The right-most panel folded over the center panel, and the left-most panel folded over the other two, yielding a 5” x 7” piece. The top panel (when folded) had a die-cut rectangle that allowed the text below to show through. The vendor printed 200 copies on an offset press in metallic silver and black.

Decision #1: Printing Technology Chosen

In most cases a printer would produce a job this small on a digital press (perhaps an HP Indigo). However, silver ink is not available for the Indigo. (HP does offer selected additional inks along with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—just not metallic silver.) Therefore, the job had to be printed on an offset press.

Decision #2: Number of Inks Used

Initially, the job was to be printed primarily in silver ink. There was a lot of small text in the interior of the invitation, so I suggested adding black ink for the small text. The silver might have looked good in a PMS swatch book as a solid square, but when used to reproduce small text with fine lines and serifs, the type would have been unreadable. The contrast of black ink on white paper improved the legibility of the type. The client still used silver for large, flat solids and larger, display type.

Decision #3: Paper Stock Specified

Initially the job comprised two panels, front and back, rather than three. The client had specified 100# cover stock, a nice, substantial weight for an invitation. When the additional panel was added, the client moved to a thinner, 80# cover stock. This reduced the bulk of the entire folded invitation to a manageable thickness and potentially lowered the cost of postage (lighter items cost less to mail).

Decision #4: Schedule

Die-cutting takes time and extra expense. The die has to be made by an outside vendor (usually not your printer), and the die-cutting has to be done on a letterpress after the printing is dry (sometimes not by your printer, depending on his equipment). The client, who needed the job fast, had to be alerted that the die-cutting step added two to three days to the schedule.

Decision #5: Flat Size of Invitation

When the job was initially a four-page invitation, rather than a six-page invitation, both panels could be 5” x 7” for a total flat size of 10” x 7”. When the extra panel was added to the design (three panels, six pages), the innermost panel needed to be 1/8” shorter than the others to fold in without buckling.

Business printing is not a commodity, as this example of an actual job illustrates. It requires skill and knowledge. The job noted above proceeded smoothly through printing and finishing operations because the client made wise choices with the help of a knowledgeable custom printing service.

6 Responses to “Custom Printing for a Die-cut Invitation: A Case Study”

  1. Awesome things here. I’m very happy to see your post. Thanks so much.

  2. Hey there. I discovered your blog using MSN. That is a very well-written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to learn more. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.


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