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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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Commercial Printing: Thoughts on a Printed Calendar

I have recently been designing a calendar for a client of mine. She is a professional photographer. She takes photos of beautiful flowers. In preparing the files and reviewing digital proofs today, I addressed a number of issues I thought you might find useful in your own design and custom printing work.

Backing Up the Press Sheet

The calendar will have a limited distribution, so the job will be printed on an Indigo digital press. The commercial printing vendor sent my client a final PDF for approval prior to proceeding, and my client came back to me with an interesting question. All of the calendar pages were upright, and all of the floral images were upside down. Why?

I knew this was a press imposition issue, but I didn’t immediately realize the obvious. When you look at a calendar that has been spiral bound, with a calendar page on the bottom and a photograph on the top, the photograph must be upside down on the press sheet. Otherwise it will be upside down on the final printed calendar.

Try it yourself. Check out a commercial, spiral bound calendar with the binding running horizontally between the upper photograph and the calendar grid. All photographic images will have been printed upside down on the back of the calendar pages.

Another Example: A Fold-Over Card

Here’s another example of how the obvious can trip you up. Imagine a horizontal fold-over card with an image on the front and text (perhaps a credit for the photo) on the back. When you lay out this card in InDesign, you will create a flat, two-page spread (one page above the other) for the inside of the card and another two-page spread for the outside of the card. (For instance, for a 5” x 7” card you would create a template 7” wide and 10” tall. This would then fold over horizontally to create the finished 5” x 7” card.)

The inside of the card might have a quotation on the bottom panel, and the top panel might be blank. There’s nothing complicated in that.

However, the outside of the card will have the photograph upright, taking up the bottom half of the 7” x 10” two-page panel (one page over the other to create the back and front of the card). The key to not making a bad mistake here is to flip over the photo credit (and whatever else goes on the back of the card) in InDesign and position it on the top half of this 7” x 10” panel.


Once the commercial printing supplier has printed, trimmed, and folded the card, all type will appear in the proper orientation—just like my client’s calendar pages. But unless you do this counter-intuitive step of flipping the type over, the finished, folded card will have upside down type on the back of the card.

What Does This Really Mean to You?

It means you have to be alert and think of the final, printed item as an object, not just a design. If you take a little time to make a physical mock up of a job like a calendar or fold-over card, you can see how the final, printed piece will operate in physical space. On the computer, something may make perfect sense but be entirely wrong.

One More Useful Step

My client found four typos in the proof (not photo coloration problems at this point, just typographic errors). Granted, this was the best time to find them, prior to the custom printing work. However, since only four text pages and no photo pages were involved, I elected to only distill PDF pages of the four affected pages to resend to the commercial printing vendor. I started to distill the entire document as a new, press-ready PDF, but I stopped short and changed my mind.

Here’s why.

  1. My client had already approved all other pages of a hard-copy proof provided by the custom printing supplier. The printer had already imposed the job for the press. Starting over with a complete file would have only added time and trouble to the process (and the potential for error).
  2. Since my client had approved (in writing) all other pages, matching these pages on press was now the printer’s responsibility. At this point, my client was only responsible for the four new type-only pages. Again, there was less room for error.

(After all, a new file may have inadvertently included new errors in one or more of the photo pages or other calendar pages. Accidents happen. We knew for sure that the printer’s copies of all other pages were absolutely correct, so it was prudent to only submit the four new pages.)

So when you get to this final proofing opportunity, my personal opinion is that it’s best to only provide individual press-ready pages in PDF format. Just a thought.

2 Responses to “Commercial Printing: Thoughts on a Printed Calendar”

  1. I own a printing company that was founded in South FL and uses similar technics. Good post! I will share with Family & workers.

    Greatly Appreciated
    Preston Fisher

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found this blog post helpful.

      Keep checking back, or set up an RSS feed to get automatic notifications of the blog.


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