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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.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

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Book Printing and Brochure Printing: Ask for a Paper Dummy

If you ask him (or her), your paper merchant or custom printing vendor will give you what’s called a “paper dummy” of your job. It is an unprinted version of your project on the exact paper stock you plan to use. It has been folded, bound, and trimmed to the exact dimensions of your custom printing job. It will weigh exactly what an individual copy of your brochure, book, or flyer will weigh. Your business printing service or paper merchant will provide this as a free service. Here are some situations in which you might want to request one.

Post Office requirements

The Post Office is tricky about size, weight, and formatting requirements. If you don’t comply, or are not aware of a particular requirement, you will pay a per-piece surcharge. This can add up to hundreds or potentially thousands of dollars in extra postage costs, depending on the size of your mailing.

Although an unprinted paper dummy will not show the placement of address information or barcodes, it will reflect the size and weight of the piece. If you hand off a paper dummy and a laser print of your job to a US Postal Service representative, you will get advice on anything that will be problematic (from the aspect ratio–the ratio of the width to the height of the piece–to where the folds should be). Adhering to USPS requirements will save you a lot of money.

Postage costs for your job

Your postal representative can also weigh your paper dummy and tell you exactly what the per-piece postage cost will be. If you want to pay bulk mailing rates, make sure to take the address database with you to the Post Office, since the overall postage for a mailing may depend on the number of copies you mail, their weight, and their destination (depending on the class of mail).

Folding concerns you may have

If your custom printing vendor prints an accordion fold, or a wrap fold (also called a barrel fold), brochure on printing paper that is too heavy, and your printer folds it too many times to its final size, you might be disappointed with the result. Your barrel fold piece (in which all panels wrap around one another) might not lie flat. Your accordion (or Z-fold) brochure might be much thicker than you expected. Maybe the paper thickness will cause the brochure to gusset (crease in unsightly ways due to the trapping of air between the folds) when folded too many times. Perhaps even the book that you asked your custom printing supplier to saddle stitch, because it was cheaper than perfect binding the book, will be too thick and not lie flat. All of these potential problems can be foreseen and therefore avoided by requesting a paper dummy from your business printing provider or paper merchant.

The color and feel of the paper

Printing is tactile and visual. This is true even before printing companies apply ink to paper. Your custom printing supplier can show you swatch books of various paper samples, but if you have any concerns about how the brochure, book, or flyer will feel in your hands (its weight, the tooth of the printing sheet, or the color of the paper), it would behoove you to request a paper dummy. You won’t see how the printing will look, but you will get a really good idea of what a copy of your print job will feel like when your reader picks it up for the first time.

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