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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: The Color Swatch Book Revisited

A print brokering client of mine is producing a color swatch book for fashion purposes. I have written about her color book before, and after a year of preparation, we’re almost ready for file submission.

The Specifications for the Project

As a recap, let me describe the job. It is a series of 22 print books, each containing over 100 pages. On the fronts of the pages are CMYK builds of colors to be matched in choosing clothing colors (and I assume make-up as well) based on one’s complexion. The pages will have rounded corners and will be joined in the bottom left with a metal screw-and-post assembly.

History of the Color Book Printings

In writing about this ongoing project, I don’t believe I’ve told you about the prior series of color books. They were printed overseas, and they did not meet my client’s expectations. It seems that proofing was incomplete, resulting in poorly printed colors that did not match my client’s intent.

Avoiding Past Problems

Throughout the process, I have therefore encouraged my client to break down the project into little steps, proofing often to ensure color fidelity. For instance, she is now reviewing a single-page document I asked her to create for the HP Indigo press. This single sheet includes a ganged-up selection of color swatch pages, a few text-only pages (describing the color choices), and a few cover images (logos, fashion photos, and such). All of the smaller print book pages were cobbled together on a larger sheet for this test (since printing one sheet costs less than printing many).

The goal of this process is multi-fold:

  1. I want my client to see the actual paper on which the job will be run, along with the UV cover coating that will protect all color swatches from fingerprint oil and abrasion. This coating may change the colors slightly, so my client needs to see this and decide whether it is acceptable (varnish would change the color slightly as well).
  2. Part of the reason for her seeing the paper that will be used will be to ensure that it is thick enough. I spoke with my client’s boyfriend, who had opened the delivery envelope prior to sending the sample on to my client. He said the single-sheet test page had been creased in transit. Even though the test page is much larger than the color swatch book pages (8.5” x 11” vs. approximately 1.5” x 2.5”) and therefore more susceptible to being bent, the paper choice for the print book pages may need to go up from 12pt. to 14pt. to ensure the book’s durability. After all, it is a design tool (like a PMS book) that needs to last. So my client’s boyfriend’s response that the single-page test sheet had been damaged was actually quite useful information.
  3. I want my client to see whether the HP Indigo will match her expectations for the CMYK color builds she applied to her color book pages. Fortunately, she had selected color builds based on their own hues and not on their resemblance to specific PMS colors (which in some cases might not be accurate).

Where to Go From Here

Tonight my client emailed me and asked how much the next step would cost: printing one copy of an entire color book (the first of 22 originals) as a proof.

This is a good question. The printer had provided a breakdown of the number of copies of each book my client could print for her total budget of approximately $5,200.00. Granted, a single proof of each of the 22 books is included in this price, but the payment schedule will be important to negotiate as well (even if all this testing is included in the price).

One of the printers I work with requires 110 percent of the total cost up front for those who choose to pay cash (instead of going through a credit check and securing a line of credit with the printer). The extra cost protects the printer against the liability of overage (extra print books produced during the book production process).

Another printer requires an up-front payment of 50 percent of the job, with final payment before shipping. Again, a credit check for securing a line of credit with the printer would be an alternative.

So my client’s question bears discussion with the printer. What I will probably do (as part of being a printing broker) is arrange “terms” with the printer (perhaps 50 percent up front and 50 percent prior to shipping, since my client would like to pay by Visa). Nevertheless, there will probably be a premium for using a credit card (often a 3.25 percent surcharge to cover Visa’s surcharge to the printer).

Whether this commercial printing vendor will agree to these terms (or will want to adjust them) will depend entirely on the printer’s policies and desire to work with me and my client. Every printer will be different.

The Benefit of the Single-Page Test and Full-Book Proof

By slowing down the process, creating a single-page test file, and then producing the full proof of the first book, my client will be able to do the following:

  1. See the paper, cover coating, and color accuracy of the upcoming 22 books.
  2. Catch any errors in the color choices early. Many of the colors will be common to multiple print books. Any errors caught in the first proof can be fixed in all master files before my client submits the remaining 21 books to the printer.
  3. Save money. The printer will do less work to ensure the accuracy of the project, so when the multiple copies of the final 22 books are running on press, there will be far more likelihood of their accuracy (and my client’s satisfaction) without any reprinting costs


2 Responses to “Custom Printing: The Color Swatch Book Revisited”

  1. Hailey Renee says:

    That is nice that when going to a printing service they are able to print more successfully, because of experience. That is smart to help your clients to see how your print shop runs smoothly, so they keep coming back. I like your idea of running a single page test to ensure the printing project will turn out.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comment. I think the intangibles are very important. Good customer service, experience in all aspects of printing, a dedication to quality–these may raise the price a bit but they ensure success in the final product. Regarding the proofing, I think it’s worthwhile to proof a job at various stages in the process whenever there’s uncertainty as to the outcome.


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