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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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The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

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Printing Bid Accuracy Dependent On Complete Printing Job Specs

Whether you are working with catalog printing companies, brochure printers, book printers, or business card printing services, all jobs have one thing in common: the job specification sheet.

Beyond the actual print job files themselves, the printing specification sheet is one of the most important documents to send to your printer (both for the estimate and along with the final job). Think of it as a contract between you and your supplier. It lists all expectations for both you and your vendor, from pricing and scheduling to submission of art files, prepress, proofing, printing, finishing, delivery and mailing.

Here are three items it’s easy to forget when providing a print job specification sheet. There are myriad other items to note, but these illustrate job components that are easily miscommunicated or not communicated at all. Overlooking them can significantly increase the overall price of the job:


Does the ink on your brochure, large-format print, print catalog, or other job extend off the page? If so, a larger press sheet size may be needed, and in some cases the larger sheet may require a larger press. Printing press costs are based on an hourly rate for each piece of equipment (and its operators). A larger press carries a higher hourly cost. If you forget to note that a job will bleed (and then actually submit a job with bleeds at press time), the price may be the same or it may be considerably higher than you had expected.


Your job may be bulk packed in cartons, in bumper-end mailers within cartons (for later mailing directly to customers), or in any number of other ways. Maybe you need the job shrink-wrapped in 100’s, or put in cartons with a slip sheet between each group of 100 items.

All of these operations require labor and materials costs, and this will be reflected in the total bill. If you want to save money, request the simpler operations. For instance, if you’re printing books, consider not shrink-wrapping them. Or maybe skip the bumper-end mailers and just carton-pack the books. Regardless, you need to describe all packaging operations on your specification sheet.


When do you expect to submit the final files? How will you submit them (as native InDesign files or press-ready PDF’s)? Work backward from when you will need the job to enter the mailstream. Consider all operations: prepress, proofing, printing, binding, packaging, delivery of samples, delivery to the mailhouse (plus all mailshop activities such as mail list maintenance, address inkjetting, etc.).

How long will you need for your responsibilities (proofing the job, for instance)? Will you need a hard-copy proof, or will a PDF proof suffice? Ask the printer how long he will need for each of his responsibilities, and construct a day-by-day print production schedule including all operations. When you send the job to press, include the schedule, the list of job specifications, and the prices quoted for all aspects of the job. If you need a shorter schedule, this could easily raise the price of the job.

This is probably only a tenth of the items you will need to include on your specification sheet, but attention to these details will save you money. Make it a professional challenge to craft a flexible specification sheet that can be altered to reflect each type of job you produce. Update it regularly as you learn more and produce more jobs. This is a good investment of your time when you’re communicating with any and all custom printing companies.

2 Responses to “Printing Bid Accuracy Dependent On Complete Printing Job Specs”

  1. I’ve been keeping up on your blog – great work! I read every post thanks to the RSS feed.

    • admin says:

      It’s great to hear this. I’m glad you find the blog postings useful. Please feel free to comment whenever you like: share your own experience, ask questions, bring up new issues, or challenge a point of view.


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