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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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Brochure Printing: Scrutinize Specs for Recurring Jobs

“The specs will be the same as last year’s job.”

As a printing broker, I love recurring publications, anything from book printing to brochure printing jobs. However, I don’t like to make assumptions. So when I read these words recently in an email from a client, I carefully reviewed the specs from last year’s job.

What to Look For (Don’t Forget to Review Any New Post Office Requirements)


My client’s job is a 3-panel (6-page) brochure. Last year’s version was a Z-fold piece (like an accordion, with the panels folding back and forth in a “zigzag” manner). Since then, my client has sent a similar brochure to a commercial printing supplier I represent, but it had a barrel fold (also known as a wrap fold), with all panels folding in the same direction, end over end, without zigzagging. This is an important distinction–and a departure from last year’s job specifications–so I corrected the specification sheet.

Press Run

Last year the brochure printing run was 1,000 copies with two separate mailing lists of 500 each. This year the lists are shorter: 300 addresses each. I learned this from the email, so I again updated last year’s specification sheet.

Finished Size

The specifications note a finished size of 10.2” x 4.5”. This will stay the same as last year’s job. That said, I recently received a list of US Postal Services design requirements for self-mailers. Effective January 5, 2013, there were some changes in USPS requirements. The new maximum size for a self-mailer is 6” x 10.5”. Fortunately, my client’s job will meet this requirement. Nevertheless, it’s still important to stay abreast of USPS mail design requirements. A mistake in size could either trigger a postal surcharge or get the job rejected outright. (The lesson: Don’t assume that last year’s specification sheet meets this year’s postal regulations.)

Paper Weight

Like last year’s brochure, this year’s version will be a 4-color job printed on 80# white gloss cover stock. According to the update from the Post Office, self-mailers weighing up to 1 ounce must be printed on at least 70# text weight paper, and self-mailers weighing more than 1 ounce must be printed on at least 80# text weight paper. My client’s paper stock exceeds these regulations significantly, but again, it’s important to know that 20# and 24# bond (i.e., laser printing/photocopy paper) will not meet the USPS specifications.

Other Specifications

The Post Office has made changes in its requirements for self-mailers pertaining to tabbing, glue dots, finished size, paper weight, address-panel placement, placement of remittance envelopes, and placement of folds. Getting these specifications right will save money and prevent aggravation.

What You Can Learn from This

  1. If your client says the custom printing job will be the same as last year, make that a starting point for a completely new specification sheet. Then determine what actually will change and update the specification sheet accordingly.
  2. Stay current with postal regulations (size, formatting, tabbing, etc.). You can get this information online or from the bulk mailing specialist at the Post Office. If you have any doubt whatsoever as to the accuracy of your design, go to the Post Office and show a physical mock-up of the job to a bulk mail specialist.
  3. Keep in mind that the specification sheet is a contract with your commercial printing supplier (and probably the best reminder of what actually will change from year to year in a recurring print job).
  4. Consider all aspects of the project, from prepress (the format in which the job goes to press), to custom printing, to finishing (folding, binding), to mailshop, fulfillment, and distribution. Make and update checklists as needed to help yourself review all aspects of the job.
  5. Once you have updated last year’s specification sheet, check everything again. It’s easy to miss something. Then save a copy of the completed form for reference next year (by which time you may have forgotten the detailed changes from this year’s version).
  6. Make sure the printer and your client (or boss) agree with all information in the specification sheet. The document may remind them of things they have forgotten to address as well.
  7. Finally, maintaining a specification sheet of recurring publications will help you see whether prices from commercial printing vendors are competitive and accurate from year to year. If something looks odd (such as a dramatic price increase year over year), ask your custom printing supplier to explain why.

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