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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) 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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Archive for the ‘Book Printing’ Category

Custom Book Printing Made Convenient

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Digital prints have become more popular than traditional prints over the years. The entire printing process today also takes much lesser time than earlier. Every company that ties up with a reputed print vendor stands to benefit over time. Printing books has become much easier due to the work by book printing companies.
There may be plenty of book printing companies in the market, but only a few will help grow businesses. Printing companies with a favorable reputation in the market must only be chosen. Every organization deserves the best printing services, and it works out to be very affordable if the job is outsourced.

Who Buys Custom Books?

A custom book is one that belongs to a specific niche only, and is often used for branding purposes. Types of individuals and organizations who would require such books include:

Printing Companies
Self-Publishers
Marketing and Advertising Firms
General Public
Small Businesses
Graphic Design Firms

Receive Printing Quotes

B2B print customers are eligible to get print quotes. Such quotes are provided free of cost and are most suitable in case of bulk orders. Since most print companies are available online, they can be contacted 24/7, on all days of the week.

Several marketing materials such as brochures and catalogs would be required on long term basis, and so these should be purchased in bulk. Brochures are important for showcasing the beauty of products and services, with all the elements being available in compact and beautiful form.

Use of High Quality Paper

All printed material, whether for brochures, custom books, or anything else, must be of high quality. It must be possible for B2B customers to customize print according to their requirements. For instance, unless catalogs and brochures of a school are made using high quality paper, they will never be able to create positive impressions.

How Budding Authors Can Succeed

A lot of new writers look for affordable ways to make their stories public. One such way is to get in touch with a well known print company that charges reasonable rates. Submitting pages over the Internet is no problem at all since all the print businesses have now become online. In this way, budding authors will be able to create waves through their storytelling, without having to worry about book printing costs.

Switch to Digital Prints

It is true that digital prints are a lot faster and more convenient than traditional prints, as a result of which they are more in demand. Technology is clearly going to show the way forward in the printing industry and so customers must look for various technology-driven options.
Digital marketing primarily makes use of social media and other aspects of the Internet to promote products. The use of digital prints creates a perfect amalgamation to show where businesses are today.
Customers Have Options
Digital print gives customers several options, especially in terms of paper usage and margin sizes. A minimum order quantity is usually specified on most websites. The degree to which print is now customizable has never been possible in the past.

Three Factors to Consider While Selecting Book Printing Online Services

Monday, June 28th, 2021

Publishing a book is a complex task. Writing a book itself might feel overwhelming but the next and more important thing is the printing. Printing plays an important role in publishing any marketing content or books and novels that will communicate well with the audience. There is a reason why people spend their time searching for different color printing online companies as the main goal is to have an outcome that is completely perfect and aligns with the expectations of the publishers. When it comes to books and novels, the first thing that readers notice is how clear and perfectly the words are printed in the book. Generally, books include visuals and graphics in a large amount. The visuals are a great way for readers to relate to the story and interact with the characters. Regardless of how amazing the graphics are, printing is always more important.

Factors to Consider While Selecting Printing Services

Amongst the factors that contribute the most in increasing the value of a publisher, printing quality tops the list. In the course of publishing a book, the most important task is to find the best color printing online services. Finding the best service takes a lot of consideration. There are several essential factors that one needs to consider while choosing professionals to get the best value from the printing company. These guiding factors will result in achieving the best value return on your investment. Let us discuss these factors in detail:

Favorable Rates

The whole process of publishing a book is set on strict budget and most importantly the budget for the printing process of books needs to be maintained. If you do not want to go out of budget you should ask for the printing rates from the company as the first thing. The quotes vary from company to company and it gives you an idea of whether the services come under your budget or not. It is recommended to know the printing quotes of more than one printing company as there are chances that some of them will offer the same service at different prices.

Experienced Professionals

Hiring printing services that have years of experience has higher chances of bringing quality results. Experience provides you a wider view of the profession and you know the nitty-gritty of it inside out. Experienced professionals have faced every kind of challenge in their long journey and know how to master all kinds of printing requirements. They understand your needs and preferences better. Experience of the printing company will directly be visible in the output.

Latest Equipment

The biggest factor that determines the quality of printing services and the result is the printing equipment. The printing industry has evolved in terms of several advancements in technologies and equipment to provide the best quality printing. However, it is your job make sure that the printing services you choose are using the latest printing equipment as it will naturally bring the best quality printing to your books.

Print quality reflects the brand image and value. The poor-quality print looks highly unprofessional.

Book Printing: Choosing Sheetfed Offset or Web Offset

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

I mentioned in a prior PIE Blog article that a print brokering client of mine (a husband-and-wife publishing team) needed a shorter schedule for one of their books. This client’s publishing house has hard deadlines for final book delivery. If a printer misses a deadline for delivery to the print book distributor, my client’s books get rejected. Ouch.

Needless to say, crafting a production schedule with ample lead time to absorb anything bad that may happen (from multiple corrections at proof stage, to shipping final books through a snowstorm, to delays due to holiday schedules) must be addressed early. There’s no room for error.

That said, the book printer that had been manufacturing books for my client (a number of titles each year) first moved the projected schedule for a web offset perfect-bound book from five weeks to eight weeks (from proof approval to shipping) and then also moved the sheetfed printing schedule from five weeks to eight weeks. In both cases this was presumably due to smaller staffs (possibly due to Covid-19) or to prior commitments to other, larger clients.

How Does This Relate to Web Offset and Sheetfed Offset?

First of all, what is the difference between sheetfed and web-fed offset lithography?

Printers load stacks of press sheets (let’s say 25” x 38” sheets, even though there are any number of press sheet sizes) into their presses for sheetfed work. Unless their press is a “perfecting press” (which prints both sides of the press sheet at once), the stack of press sheets (having been printed on one side) first must be dried. Then the stack of press sheets must be flipped over and loaded back into the press so the other side of the sheet can be printed.

After printing, the press sheets can be folded, trimmed, and bound on separate, post-press (or finishing) equipment.

If you have a long press run (let’s say 60,000 copies of a textbook instead of my client’s 1,500 copies of a literary print book of poems or short stories), you may instead opt for a web offset press (and in the process save a lot of money).

Webs are rolls (as opposed to sheets) of paper. They are usually cheaper for a given volume of paper than cut press sheets. However, preparing a web press for a print job is a huge endeavor. (Also, the presses themselves are very large, so most printers don’t have them on their pressroom floors.) Therefore, the only way to make web offset printing an economical choice is to produce a long-run, multiple-press-signature print book, magazine, or catalog. For these situations a web press is ideal.

Web presses are either heatset or non heatset (also referred to as coldset). Coldset web printing involves drying the ink by having the liquid part of the ink (its vehicle) absorbed into the paper. One-color jobs printed on uncoated paper with no halftones or area screens of ink are ideal for this kind of web press. (Interestingly enough, that’s just the kind of book printing my client needs.)

An alternative web-press configuration is the heatset web, which has a drying unit (after the inking units) to flash off the solvent from the ink after printing. This allows printers to use coated paper and print the books, magazines, or catalogs in 4-color process ink. The heat of the oven allows the ink to dry and sit up on the surface of the paper rather than seep deeply into the paper fibers (as is the case with coldset web printing).

Still, the quality is not quite as good as in sheetfed commercial printing. But for a periodical (or marketing catalog) that will be read and then discarded, that may not be a problem. And if the run length is long, the savings over sheetfed printing (the cost per unit printed) can be huge.

But, to go back to the sheetfed presses, you can run thicker press sheets and far more varied press papers (coated, uncoated, textured, thick, thin) through a sheetfed press than through a web press. You also have to rigidly adhere to sizes for press signatures on a web press (for instance, you would print an 8 1/2” x 10 7/8” book rather than an 8 1/2” x 11” book to fit a press signature exactly on the web paper roll).

So there are trade-offs in quality, paper choices, book dimensions, and so forth. But if you’re printing a long-run magazine every month, you will usually accept the compromise to save both money and pressroom time.

So Why Is My Client Considering a Web Press?

The short answer is, “I don’t know.” My client’s perfect-bound books are all the same format: 5.5” x 8.5” with French flaps. They range from about 64 pages to about 300 pages. Their press runs are 1,000 to 2,000 copies. So they should be printed on a sheetfed press.

Nevertheless, for my client’s more recent print book titles, the printer who has been producing the work has offered lower costs for web-fed offset printing than for sheetfed work (even for a shorter run length than should be the norm for web offset printing).

This flies in the face of reason, which leads me to believe the printer:

  1. would rather lose some money on a job than have a web press stand completely idle (bringing in no revenue)
  2. may be printing the text of the book on a coldset web press (since my client’s book text block is black-only ink on uncoated paper with no bleeds or tint screens)
  3. can print a 1,500-copy run in the blink of an eye (web presses run significantly faster than sheetfed presses)

Perhaps because of any one or more of these presuppositions (or others), the book printer initially offered my client an 8.5 week schedule for web-fed offset (at a discount) or a 5-week schedule (at a cost premium) for sheetfed.

Granted, the printer then rescinded the offer, lengthening the sheetfed press schedule to 8 weeks, effectively negating the reason to pay the higher cost for sheetfed offset.

Needless to say, I held back the client’s signed contract (which I had received online about an hour after learning of the new schedule). I then approached another sheetfed printer I trust completely. I asked him to be my client’s “white knight.” He said he could do the job in three to five weeks. He said the short run (1,500 copies) and 5.5” x 8.5” format were ideal for his presses. This may mean the price will be comparable to the first printer’s (the lowest I’ve seen of late). We’ll see.

What We Can Learn from This Case Study

There are actually a lot of object lessons here:

  1. This is why it pays to develop long-standing, mutually advantageous relationships with a few printers. They can sometimes help you out in a pinch. If not, they may suggest other printers you can approach.
  2. Learn the differences between sheetfed offset printing, heatset web offset printing, and coldset web offset printing. Learn the best formats (the ideal print book, magazine, or catalog dimensions), press runs, page counts, and papers for web-fed commercial printing. Be realistic about what you’re printing and the level of quality you need. For a periodical, a heatset web may be ideal (but maybe not for a high-profile annual report). Also, most people will still think a heatset-web-printed job produced on a nice coated stock is beautiful.
  3. Realize that even though the hourly cost to run a heatset web press is high, you can fold the publication inline and receive complete press signatures on the delivery end of the press. This means less post-press or finishing work. In fact, for paste binding, the press may actually deliver a finished product that needs no further binding.
  4. You can’t run every kind of paper on a web press. (For instance, you can’t print a pocket folder on a web press because the press won’t accept thick paper substrates.)
  5. If you want to add special coatings or perhaps special ink colors, you will need a sheetfed press rather than a web-fed press.
  6. If you need to print on super-thin paper (thin catalog paper for instance), you’ll need a web-fed press. Using paper from a roll allows the press to maintain tension on the paper to keep it flat as it travels through the press, even if it is thin. Using the same thin paper on a sheetfed press would just crumple up the sheet.

I realize that all of this probably makes your head spin. There are a lot of pros and cons to sheetfed, heatset web, and coldset web printing. Assume a periodical printer or book printer may have web presses in addition to sheetfed presses. Assume a commercial printer will only have sheetfed presses. But do make inquiries, and talk with the sales reps early in the process.

The best place to start is with the job specifications, particularly in terms of format, page count, press run, and paper selection. These few specifications will go a long way toward determining which kind of press you will need.

And you can always mix and match. For instance, in my client’s case, you could very well print the French flap covers on a sheetfed press (with special coating capabilities) and then print the text blocks for the books on a heatset (or perhaps even coldset) web press. Then you could bind the text blocks into the covers.

But keep in mind that if you’re producing an ultra-short run of an even shorter book than my client’s, you probably will want digital printing. For very small jobs, digital printing (inkjet or laser) is often an even better answer than any of these three offset lithographic options.

Book Printing: An Awesome Faux-Antique Spell Book

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

During Covid-19 my fiancee and I have spent a profoundly inordinate amount of time in our favorite thrift store keeping our spirits up when we’re not working. During this time she has brought to my attention, or actually bought, a number of unique books. And as is often the case when I see books with qualities that set them apart from digital-only products on the internet, I’d like to share one of these with you.

Mal’s Spell Book

This is a Disney product, presented in a similar vein to the J.K. Rowlings Henry Potter print book franchise. It is a magical spell book (Mal’s Spell Book, adapted by Tina McLeef, from the Disney film).

In its own right, beyond the arcane glyphs, hands with eyes in their palms, and references to bat’s wings, there is a running commentary in another hand (perhaps several) about the contents of the print book. From the tone, it appears that the daughter of a witch has acquired her mother’s spell book, and is commenting on its contents. So it’s like a witches spell book overlaid with a teenager’s diary.

Regarding the design of this 7” x 9” casebound book, there are several qualities I’d like to highlight.

The text paper is thick, uncoated stock. It has a yellowish or cream hue, which goes along with the antiquated spell book tone of the base art. The graphic designer has made the interior paper seem even older by scanning the smudges and paper discolorations from another old book and including this mottled image as additional art on each page.

So the text pages look like they were stained, or have yellowed over the years. This mottling has been printed in a brown ink to give a sepia-toned look to the interior pages, and all of the witchy art, cartouches, and handwritten text are also printed in this brown ink. Moreover, the endsheets and flyleaves of this casebound book are a rich purple (an intense and saturated hue with the look of velvet), and the outer cover material is a rich brown stock with a luxury soft-touch matte film laminate coating. (I know because I always encourage my commercial printing clients to use this if they’re so inclined, because its tacky surface sort of grabs and holds onto your fingers.)

Also on the front cover are a gold, foil-stamped dragon and a photo (ostensibly of the witch’s daughter and her friends) coated with a crisp gloss UV coating. This stands out nicely against the matte laminate that coats everything else on the cover.

The title of the book is printed (and handwritten) in fuchsia ink (perhaps 100 percent magenta) for contrast with Mal’s mother’s (Maleficent’s) more subdued and earthy, witchy tones. There’s also some blue, orange, and white handwriting, presumably from the other three teenagers in the cover snapshot (a small 4-color image taped to the faux leather cover with printed white tape). (BTW, this is called “trompe l’oeil,” which means “deceive the eye” and which is a fine arts approach to making flat art—like an image on a book cover—look like it is a real photograph actually taped to the print book.)

Now, as I noted before, when you open the book, you see bold handwriting, like graffiti. This is scrawled in the margins and all around the ornate text of the spells that pertain to lunar cycles, various herbs, and such. This spell-focused material is printed in ornate, yet controlled, handwriting. (Apparently you have to hand write your own spellbook to make it truly yours.)

But what makes the print book hang together graphically is the contrast between the style of the bold and colorful commentary by the four kids and Mal’s mother’s witchy text. This starts on the cover of the book, and it consistently carries throughout the text. Visually, you can immediately identify who has written each block of handwritten copy. If you need information on spells, you read the sepia-toned text. If you want to see when to boil a newt (presumably), you read the sepia-toned text. If you want to see what the witch’s (Maleficent’s) daughter and her friends think, you look for the handwritten copy in fuchsia or blue ink. That’s good design. Consistent design. You’re never confused.

What You Can Learn from Mal’s Spell Book

  1. Good design starts on the cover and carries throughout the text. Among other methods, this can be achieved with consistent use of typefaces and consistent use of color (not just to look good, but to identify similar design elements and editorial elements).
  2. Consider the text paper weight. The text of the spell book could have been printed on a coated or even a thin, uncoated stock. But it wasn’t, because the paper wouldn’t have reinforced the feel of the book as a witch’s spellbook. (Particularly not the coated stock. After all, you can’t hand write spells on coated stock without the ink’s smearing.)
  3. Consider the text paper color. The cream stock works nicely with the dark brown ink. Moreover, this brown color scheme is echoed in the brown faux leather cover. Form follows function. The text paper and cover paper colors reinforce the tone and message of the book. They make it look old and mysterious.
  4. Consider the cover coating. A soft-touch matte film laminate feels good, but it also grabs the fingers with its rubbery texture. Other coatings do other things. Make sure your choices reinforce the message of the print book.
  5. Use foil stamping wisely. Disney Press has money. That’s good, because foil stamping requires metal dies. But even for regular people with regular budgets, the foil stamping would have been a good design decision because the (faux) metal attachments in the corners of the print book cover, and the gold dragon in the center of the cover, reinforce the message. This looks like an old book. Again, form follows function.
  6. Contrast is a useful design tool. On the brown cover, the gold foil and especially the fuchsia handwriting in bold capital letters stand out, which is both good and effective because they’re important (plus, the contrast between the fuchsia handwriting and the brown and gold background reflects the different generations: the older witch and the younger preppie). The contrast reinforces this difference. The same goes for the ultra-high-gloss UV coating on the prep-school photo of the four teenagers.
  7. Contrast can be achieved in simple ways. In the spellbook, the teenagers’ handwriting is often written on a slant, like you might hand-write a note in a yearbook. In contrast, the spellbook contents are laid out (still by hand) in a more restrained manner. This creates a more solemn tone for the spells and reinforces the brash tone of the teenagers’ notes.
  8. Details count. The book has headbands and footbands. These are the little pieces of fabric that are glued in such a way as to cover the folds in the press signatures closest to the spine of the book. The gold headbands and footbands (even at this small size) add to the gravitas of the book.
  9. If you need antique images, you might check out Dover books. I’ve seen many Dover books with images, cartouches, and drawings that are royalty free. That means you can reprint them without paying anything and without being sued. Usually that is because they are very old images, so they won’t be useful for every publication. But it’s worth a look. Presumably, this royalty-free art can also be accessed online.

(A disclaimer: I have not seen the movie. I have just perused the print book. So I will apologize in advance for any misstatements I have made out of ignorance. And also because I want to avoid being turned into a toad. Or a newt.)

3 Effective Tips for Magazine Printing

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Magazines are a great way of sharing new creative ideas or concepts on a weekly or monthly basis. Magazines have the potential to hook readers and turn them into regular customers. A magazine has so many elements such as content, images, design, etc. that adds up to the quality. Before you dive into the results and benefits that magazines can bring to your brand, there are many other things to consider during the magazine printing that will make it worth reading.

Like any other marketing collateral, magazines are also an essential part of any brand. They not only connect readers to your brand but also establishes your brand personality in the market. To make sure the quality of your magazine turns out to be the best, it is important to consider few tips at the magazine printing stage. Let us discuss some of them.

 Define the Layout

The very first step is to decide the layout of the magazine. Planning is the key to success and the key to design a beautiful magazine. Defining the layout refers to creating grids and frames. Grids with specific tags puts a raw visual of the magazine in front of you that can be easily edited and planned. It also consists of page numbering, fonts, texts, and styles. There should be a consistency in the layout of your magazine.

A Great Cover Photo

The first thing a reader gets to see as soon as they pick up a magazine is the cover photo. Most of the time, visually appealing cover photos become the deciding factor for buyers to buy the magazine. Considering the importance of the cover photo, it is essential to design a cover photo that makes a lasting impression on every reader. A great magazine cover photo can boost sales. Besides that, make sure the cover photo is related to the content of your magazine. It should reflect the strongest story of your magazine well. It is also important to choose a photo that is high quality in resolution and rests pleasant colours. Headlines of the front page is the second thing that grabs the attention of readers after cover photo. Headlines of your magazine should stand out from the background. As most magazine editors suggest, you must avoid green, black, and white in magazine headlines.

Perfect your Content Page

Right after the readers open magazines, content page will be the one that gets attention. Mainly, the quality of magazine depends on the quality of content that it provides. The content design of a magazine should be highly creative, functional, and most importantly allow the readers to find articles easily. Do not try to stuff your magazine as it might confuse the reader. If the content part of the magazine is going to be large, spread it into full two-page without restricting it. The content should be aligned well with perfect headers and interesting images to complement it.

Apart from all these factors, paper quality that the magazine will be printed on, its size, the inks used, and the glue that binds it together, play a very important role in deciding the final quality of a magazine.

Why You Should Outsource Online Flyer Printing

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

Flyers are small but good looking printed materials that are very useful in printing businesses. Although they can be printed online, they are used on a physical basis. Handing these over to newspaper and magazine vendors is extremely helpful in carrying out marketing promotions. There are many companies which can carry out online flyer printing in bulk, and their contacts are available online. However, to be able to get through to a wide variety of companies, it would be suitable to look for a reliable print coordinator first, who can make the necessary links.

How Does The Print Coordinator Work?

The Print Coordinator has a specific network for all the online flyer printing companies present in different parts of the world. Print Buyers do not have to pay them for searches, as the member companies already pay them. These printing services are part of win-win propositions for all since Print Buyers get good quality work done at reasonable rates and print companies receive repeat business. Since printing is an integral part of several businesses, many of them are able to provide print designs as well.

There are very few companies that will provide only flyer printing services. In addition to these, they will have solutions for printing cards, posters, and more. Clients need to check the profiles of different companies before choosing one, but the best bet would be to check the coordinator’s suggestions and choose accordingly. Most often than not, a balance between price, quality and service is very important.

Using Flyers

Flyers can be beautifully printed and used for the following purposes:

  • Showcasing new price lists
  • Product sheet preparation
  • Preparing marketing collaterals
  • Printing different kinds of data sheets
  • Providing handouts at trade shows
  • Giving home descriptions to clients
  • Latest car schemes
  • Preparation of Media Kits
  • Printing new takeaway restaurant menus for localities

The text present in a flyer is always composed by copywriters. Content is put down in a way such that is grasps customers’ attentions easily in a short period of time. Those interested to know more will read further to find relevant information about products or services. It takes 5-10 seconds for a customer on an average to decide whether he or she will proceed or not.

How Should Flyers be Designed?

Certain tips are necessary to ensure that companies are able to gain maximum advantage from flyers. They are as follows:

  • Do not forget to put the company’s brand logo on the flyer. It is a symbol for the customer to link products and services.
  • The use of color images is likely to create a greater impact than black and white images. Therefore, a suitable budget must be available for this print.
  • Catchy messages are absolutely necessary in the flyers, motivating customers to pick them up. At the same time, there should not be any spelling errors. Even a small spelling error is likely to create a negative impression of the company in question.

Outsourcing print jobs to another company is most helpful since it frees up time for other jobs.

A Commercial Printing Match Made in Heaven

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

A professional relationship with your key custom printing suppliers can and should be like a marriage, a non-zero-sum game in which both partners win (rather than having one win at the expense of the other).

Checking the Bill for a Direct Reprint of My Client’s Print Book

Here’s an example of a good vendor relationship. I recently received an invoice for a print brokering client’s job for approval prior to my forwarding it to her for payment. She and her husband, a publishing team, had just completed a 1,500-copy run of a print book and had immediately ordered a direct reprint of the text with an updated cover. It’s a 5.5” x 8.5” book of poetry, perfect bound with French flaps. She and her husband had ordered 500 more digital copies.

As is my habit, I checked the base price on the bill, about $2,100 for 500 copies, or $4.20 each. That part was correct, along with the 5 percent overage at the same per-unit rate. The unit cost was about $.50 higher than in the first print run, but that didn’t surprise me. After all, the preparation work amortized over a 500-copy press run vs. the initial 1,500-copy press run would explain the higher unit cost.

The overage didn’t surprise me either, since I know that up to 10 percent is industry standard, so I thought that 5 percent (or 25 extra copies) was very reasonable.

However, the next line item confused me. There was a $145.00 line item for cover corrections. Now I knew that my client had uploaded a revised cover for this print book, but it seemed that this cost would have been included in the quoted base price. Why? Because when asking for the initial reprint cost, I had stated that the text would be a direct reprint and the cover would have one alteration. So seeing a separate line item for the cover made me wonder.

In addition, the shipping cost on the bill noted a single delivery to my client’s print book distributor. That made sense, but the bill also noted that 895 copies would be shipped to the book distributor, and the total press run for the reprint was only 500 copies (plus or minus overage/underage). My assumption was that the printer had used the invoice from the original book print run (as a template) and had typed in changes for the reprint of the same book, forgetting to update the number of copies shipped. Furthermore, I assumed the $180.00 for shipping 895 copies of the first run and the same total of $180.00 for shipping 525 copies of the second (reprinted) run just reflected a minimum shipping/handling cost.

But since I don’t believe in making assumptions, I queried all of these concerns.

Now this particular printer has become a go-to vendor over the past several years, so I knew the representative I contacted would research every question and provide an explanation. He did exactly that, and removed the cost for the revised cover. He is still checking into the shipping information and cost. He stepped up.

This is an example of why it pays to nurture a good working partnership with one’s commercial printing vendors.

Interestingly enough, in spite of my client’s having requested a direct reprint of the text, with no text proof needed, the printer sent a PDF copy of the art file from which the first printing of the book had been done. My client actually did find one minor text correction on one page. My client’s book designer uploaded a revised PDF file of the book page, and all was good. Had the printer not provided a text proof, even for this direct reprint, my client would have missed the opportunity to correct an error.

So, again, it doesn’t hurt to have a printer who looks out for a client’s best interest, and this comes from repeat jobs over time. As with a successful marriage, mutual trust develops gradually.

What Can We Learn From This Case Study?

There are a number of object lessons within this simple interaction:

  1. Of course, the largest one is the benefit of developing mutually advantageous working relationships with a handful of vendors who produce the kind of print jobs you need.
  2. Trust, but verify. Look closely at the invoice. If anything looks the least bit odd, ask your printer about it.
  3. Pay particular attention to shipping addresses and costs. Compare these to the printer’s estimates and even consider comparing them to freight estimates from prior, similar jobs.
  4. It’s usually wise to review a proof even for a direct reprint. You want to make sure the printer is working from the most recent, most accurate version of your art files.
  5. As you can see, if you develop a working relationship with your print vendors, they will look out for your best interests as well as their own. A good printer can often bring to your attention something you would have otherwise missed.

Round Two: Another Example with the Same Book Printer

Immediately after this particular print brokering client had taken delivery of the first printing of the book I described and had ordered the 500-copy reprint, they (the husband and wife publishing team) requested pricing and a schedule for a new print book. The specifications were to be the same (a 5.5” x 8.5” perfect-bound book with French flaps) except for the page count and press run (longer book; longer press run).

Due to their book distributor’s schedule and the date the books would need to be delivered to the fulfillment house, the schedule was as important as the price and quality of the new print book.

The printer provided pricing that was commensurate with prior book estimates (as a baseline, I compared the total costs and unit costs to other, similar books my clients had produced with similar press runs and page counts). These new books were to be produced via web-offset lithography.

That said, the printer did not confirm the schedule I had requested. So I asked again. A few weeks passed, and the projected deadline for submitting the art files was approaching (I had drafted my own projected schedule based on the 5-week print window for the most recent book printing).

When I finally heard back from the printer, I learned that due to the increased workload (and Covid-19), the 5-week schedule had increased to 8.5 weeks. I knew this would create problems for my client, since their book distributor had strict requirements for delivery schedules.

Again, based on this particular printer’s long-standing professional relationship with my client, he offered a potential solution: printing the book via sheetfed offset lithography rather than web-fed offset lithography. He also provided prices for sheetfed work. They were higher than for web-based offset, but the printer could meet the schedule. Moreover, they were still better prices than any of the other printers I work with could offer.

Now my clients have two book printing options from which to choose (sheetfed vs. web-fed offset), and they understand the pricing ramifications. I even asked my client whether the schedule for delivery to the print book distributor could be renegotiated or whether the art file could be uploaded earlier. My client is considering these options as well.

What Can We Learn From This Case Study?

Here are a few more object lessons:

  1. Don’t make assumptions about print schedules. The date the custom printing project will be delivered is as important as the price and quality of the job. Tell the printer your required delivery date early, preferably when you request a bid for the print job. You can also provide your own projected schedule (based on prior work with the same vendor) and ask for feedback. However, don’t assume a printer will be busier or less busy than before (as in my client’s case of 5 weeks vs. 8.5 weeks).
  2. Consider sheetfed vs. web-fed offset lithography. Depending on the equipment your printer has on the pressroom floor, the schedules might well be different. Sheetfed usually provides better quality. It may also be more expensive. So don’t make assumptions, but do ask your printer about these options and their pricing and scheduling ramifications.
  3. All of this works better when you have developed a good working relationship with your print vendor over time. Your supplier will be far more likely to suggest alternatives.

A good printer seeks to understand your commercial printing needs, quality expectations, budget, and scheduling requirements, and to help you get exactly what you want and expect. This kind of working relationship develops over time. A printer like this is a “keeper.”

Book Printing: Play to the Strengths of the Print Book

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

On one of our almost daily trips to our favorite thrift store, my fiancee found a print book she liked about “chalk paint.” It is called Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook. I didn’t look at the book closely at first, but over the next few days at her suggestion I delved deeply into its content and production values. The book designer and publisher had included multiple design and production qualities and techniques that set this do-it-yourself text far beyond any presentation a digital book could offer.

Overview of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook

First of all, what is Chalk Paint? Chalk Paint is a brand of ultra-matte paint created by Annie Sloan. It is ideal for giving a chalky appearance and feel to furniture, and it can be easily distressed (intentionally beaten up to provide an aged, bohemian look to the furniture).

The print book itself is presented in an 8” x 10” hard-cover format. Moreover, it is Wire-O bound within the case binding. That is, the endsheets are punched, inside the book at the spine, to accept the rungs of the wire hoops. The book is “quarter-bound” (the brown, uncoated stock extends beyond the spine about an inch onto the front and back covers, and the remainder of the front and back covers consists of multi-level, somewhat Victorian-looking photos reminiscent of scrapbook pages).

The cover photo includes bits of handwriting (the author’s name), distressed type (a chalky appearance to the title in a bold, sans serif typeface), hand drawings, painted areas, and scraps of fabric. The background of the photo is a textured and mottled press sheet, which appears to be a photo of watercolor paper, with all of these drawn, painted, and photographed images on top. Across the bottom of the print book is a banner, with faux torn edges and a description of the book printed in red across the banner. All of this provides a unified collage with a very shallow depth.

(The artistic term for this collage treatment is “trompe l’oeil,” which means “to fool the eye.” You can find a lot of paintings like this online. They look incredibly real. Often they include stamps or postcards pinned to a background that appears to be right below the surface of the painting.)

So this is how the covers are laid out. They are also coated with a soft-touch, matte film laminate, and they are slightly padded under the printed litho paper that is glued to the heavier than usual binder boards.

Here is why all of this is relevant:

The matte coating and distressed sans serif book title, along with the cream (as opposed to bright white) background paper provide a textured, natural, “crunchy-granola” feel to the print book from the onset, beginning with the front cover. This is congruent with both the matte “feel” of Chalk Paint and the bohemian ethos of do-it-yourself furniture embellishment. Another way to say this is that the design (the visuals and the print production values) is congruent with the book’s subject matter.

Let’s Go Inside

An overall print book design, unlike a painting or any other flat work of art, implies the passage of time. You see and respond to the front cover. Then you turn the pages to absorb a progression of ideas, over time, from the images and the text.

In this particular book, when you open the cover to read the text, you immediately see a continuation of the front cover’s paper color and finish. The text sheet is an uncoated matte stock. Handwriting is used throughout the book for headlines and for fill-in-the-blank journal pages. (This is an artist’s sketchbook of sorts, for practicing images you plan to later paint directly on the furniture.) The handwriting is also balanced against small drawings (appearing as pen and watercolor art) that enhance the overall do-it-yourself tone of the book.

In addition to the descriptive text (a simple serif typeface for introductions paired with a simple sans serif typeface for accompanying lists) and handwritten sections inviting the reader to add her/his own notes and drawings, the text includes sketches, color swatches that look like brush strokes, and 4-color photos.

One of the things that I appreciate, in particular, is that in spite of being printed on an absorbent, uncoated yellow-white (natural) press sheet, the photos are crisp and unmuddied. The printer held the detail in the highlights, midtones, and shadows. This reflects his skill, and it also contributes to the artistic quality of the print book. Its purpose may be to teach people to use Chalk Paint, but it treats the whole process (both the learning and the practice) with an eye towards beauty and nuance.

I had mentioned earlier that the book is a case-bound, Wire-O product. Wire-O binding, unlike spiral binding (both metal and plastic), allows facing pages to lie exactly side by side. (Given the nature of a spiral, facing pages of a spiral-bound book are slightly mismatched.) In addition to allowing the book to lie completely flat when open (a boon for crafters who need both hands to do their work), the slightly off-white metal spiral goes nicely with the natural paper tone. This balance is enhanced by the full-bleed images scattered throughout the text.

More specifically, these full-bleed photos are most often used for the divider pages, which are printed on a heavy uncoated cover stock and are folded over into pockets. The reader can slip photos, notes, or anything else into these pockets. Furthermore, a portion of each divider is diecut out of the paper, creating somewhat of an “L” shape in the pocket and exposing its contents. Finally, a thumb tab is diecut and then folded out of each divider page.

Book Structure

All six of these divider pages (breaking the book into multiple sections and thereby giving the print book a formal structure) are printed on “faux-duplex” paper. In addition to being thicker than the text paper (because of the base cover stock and folded-over nature of the pockets), they are also quite intriguing, with one side of the sheet printed in one color and the reverse side printed in another. Throughout the book all of these colors change (two each for six dividers or twelve colors total). All of the tones of the background screens are somewhat muted, given the uncoated, absorbent nature of the paper. And this enhances the understated, artistic tone of the print book.

At the end of the book Annie Sloan included a series of note pages with copious space for reader drawings and notes.

Finally, around the back cover of the case-bound Wire-O book is a belly band (vertical, though, as opposed to the customarily horizontal orientation of most belly bands). It is about three inches wide, and it wraps vertically around the back cover (increasing the already thick feel of the binder’s board). The band is printed to look like uncoated kraft paper, although closer examination with a 12x printer’s loupe shows this to be white paper tinted brown with ink. The simple drawings and text on the belly band (with extra leading to make the text appear light and airy) echo the natural feel of the cover paper (which, interestingly enough, upon closer inspection with a printer’s loupe, is also augmented with a light 4-color process screen to add visual texture).

Finally, the piece de resistance. There is a vertical elastic band, dyed a rich, deep purple, which goes vertically around the back cover (through two drill holes). This elastic band can be pulled up and across the front cover, binding both covers together and (presumably) keeping any reader-added inserts from falling out of the divider-page pockets. So this is a functional addition, and functionality is consistent with a do-it-yourself book.

What Can We Learn from This Book?

So what can we learn from Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook? What makes it so appealing? Here are some thoughts:

  1. All of the physical characteristics of the print book–the paper tints, weights, and textures, as well as the cover coating (and even the thickness and texture of the strategically placed divider pages)–appeal to the sense of touch as well as the eye. None of this could have been achieved with a digital book. The designer has played to the strengths of a physical, as opposed to virtual, book.
  2. The book has structure: everything from the diecut divider pages/pockets to the informational, vertical belly band and elastic closure. These physical book manufacturing elements break down the book into a manageable series of chunks for the reader to absorb.
  3. The book invites reader participation in response to the notes pages, pocket divider pages, and even the pen and ink drawings with the faux watercolor washes (simulated with printer’s ink). Again, form follows function.

When all design elements, from the paper stock to the binding choices (the lay-flat nature of a case-bound Wire-O book) reflect and enhance its intended use, and when these manufacturing choices extend into the visuals and even the text treatments (typeface choices, handwriting, drawings), then the overall design of a print book is supremely successful. Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook definitely meets all of these criteria.

Book Printing: A Captivating Print Book About Cleopatra

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

My fiancee and I were recently looking for new art projects for our art therapy work with the autistic. Since we had found a plastic mummy kit in the thrift store for educating kids in the religion, mythology, and embalming processes that ensured ancient Egyptians a safe passage to the next life, we decided to have our students build and decorate a cardboard sarcophagus (essentially a mummy case).

Along with our art projects for the autistic, we like to provide visual aids and background information to educate/interest the members, their aides, and their parents. In that light, I dug around in our stash of thrift store print books and found a beautiful book about Cleopatra to share along with the little plastic mummy kit.

And that is what I want to share with you, because the print book is gorgeous, and it reflects qualities and techniques you won’t see in an ebook.

As I always say when addressing design issues in these PIE Blog articles, if you like a design, be able to articulate why it works. There’s no better way to learn design (which I consider a lifelong process). So taking my own advice, here is a description of the book about Cleopatra and my analysis of why its design is superb.

The Overall Print-Book Format

This is a perfect-bound book designed by the National Geographic Society as a companion to an exhibit on Cleopatra. It is 8” x 10”, printed on a dull, bright-white paper stock.

Unlike many other books, Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt has French flaps partially covering (and partially revealing) a full-bleed, gold Egyptian pattern on the inside front and back book covers. The gold coloration (metallic printing ink) along with the French flaps and the thick paper (probably 100# white gloss text) adds an air of opulence to the book. Clearly this is an appropriate tone, given the wealth and power Cleopatra commanded. (Again, as I always say in the PIE Blog articles, when you design anything, make sure the form reflects or supports the tone and content of the print book or any other printed product.)

Although the text paper is a bright, blue-white, dull stock, which makes reading easier, the designer has also gloss varnished the images. This is particularly effective in creating contrast (i.e., making the photos “pop”).

The backgrounds of many of the pages are black, with full-color images of Egyptian coins and statuary and captions set in reverse type in a simple, easy-to-read-at-any size, sans serif type. These pages are often facing other pages with white backgrounds and black text for captions. This shift from black to white to black sets up a nice visual rhythm. So the print book is comfortable (the book’s size and format–as well as its light weight–plus the qualities of the paper stock) and interesting to read. It would still be so even if I couldn’t read the language, simply because it is attractive and easy on the eyes.

Achieving a Visual Rhythm

All of the design niceties I have mentioned pertain more to the design of a page or page spread (and the readability of the type) than to the overall print book design.

However, what sets this book above most others is that the designer approached the organization of the book (as well as the “look” of the page spreads) as a design challenge. Between the two covers (and their opulent French flaps and gold-patterned printing), thought has gone into crafting a design grid that allows for the reader’s immediate recognition of what she/he is reading. This the designer achieved by using only a limited number of different page grids.

The chapter dividers include a large, all-caps treatment, sans-serif type that has been letter-spaced (spread out slightly). These are one- or a-few-word titles surrounded by a thin rule, above which is the chapter number spelled out (i.e., “CHAPTER FOUR”), again in all caps but in a contrasting serif typeface. The type on each divider-page spread is white, reversed out of the richly colored background photo. Even with the type’s thin letterforms, the all-cap headlines are graceful but powerful (perhaps a little like Cleopatra herself). Finally, there is a white border (about 3/4”) all the way around the double-page photo.

Over the course of the multiple chapters, these divider pages set up a rhythm, an expectation in the mind of the reader, which allows her/him to group the pages of the book into digestible chunks. Moreover, this visual “look” is also carried consistently through the four-page chapter introductions. These have one large column of text on each page, placed toward the center of the book with a “scholar’s margin” on the outside left and right.

Consistent with the divider pages, these chapter intros have a white border running around the perimeter of the double-page spread. In this case a dark brownish-red rule (the same thickness as the white rules on the divider pages) surrounds the text columns, crossing over from the left page to the right.

In line with the letter-spaced type on the divider pages, the headlines on the intro pages are also spread out slightly. They are set in the same sans-serif type as headlines on the divider pages, and the body copy is set in the same serif face as the all-caps chapter numbers on the divider pages.

The wide columns of body copy in the intros have extra leading (space between lines), which makes reading them easier. In addition, setting the heads in thin, letter-spaced type while also spreading out the leading between lines of type adds to the sense of luxury and opulence in the book. This is fully consistent with the character of the book’s subject, Cleopatra.

To begin the initial paragraph in each chapter introduction, there is also a drop-capital letter, in gray, extending five lines deep.

To highlight the headlines (both main heads and subheads), the designer printed these in the same brownish red color, which goes nicely with the rich gold and black tones throughout the print book. This brown is also used for the large pull-quotes, which are set in italics and nestled into mortises cut out of the single text column on these intro pages. (These quotations also extend into the scholars’ margins.)

Maintaining the Visual Rhythm

The long and short of this is that the designer has set up a visual rhythm. This fosters the reader’s expectation of what is to come and shows how each element relates to everything else.

Good visual rhythm works best when it has a counterpoint every so often, something to contrast what could otherwise become visually monotonous. In this case, there are the pages following the introductions that include a catalog of images (everything from coins to silhouettes of small statues).

There’s a lot of varnished gold ink on these pages, which, as noted before, alternate between having a white or black background. Occasionally, there are also “text” pages reversed out of a black background along with a silhouetted full-color image. These have three-line drop caps, printed in red, as well as a thin vertical line (in red ink) running the length of the text block between the two narrow columns (for consistency with the thin rules on the divider pages and intro pages).

Of course, the interior of the print book is sandwiched between front matter (table of contents and such) and back matter (index and such), followed by the interior back cover page with its opulent gold pattern slightly covered by a French flap.

All of this is like a frame, presenting the lush imagery inside the book as well as the content of the text. A frame should never detract from the painting it showcases, but a structured scaffolding, if you will, of thoughtful design, can make reading a print book a more fluid and enjoyable experience.

In this case, the designer knew how to use the elements of design to highlight and showcase the substance of the book.

What We Can Learn

Here are some quick thoughts:

  1. Good design breaks an otherwise undifferentiated mass of content (photos and words) into manageable chunks of information, which can be seen as related to one another in a particular way and a particular order of importance.
  2. Good design (as evidenced in the designer’s use of color, typeface, column grids, etc.) should reflect the tone and content of the book.
  3. Good design should structure the content without calling attention to itself. The frame is not more important than the picture.
  4. Readability is the prime goal. Every element of design should guide the reader through the reading experience. If the reader gets tired or loses interest, you’ve lost your audience.

Book Printing: But There’s Only One Bleed in the Book

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

To be perfectly fair, my book printing client did know enough to ask me about the potential cost increase for bleeding a halftone off an interior page of the print book she was designing.

We had discussed pricing for her client’s book for about six months, and all of the estimates I had requested from the printer had specified no bleed for the text and full bleed for the cover.

To give you some context for this book, it is now a 5.5” x 8.5” perfect-bound book with a page count of 480 pages, a press run of 1,000 copies, and a 12pt. C2S (coated 2 sides) cover with 60# white offset text stock. The cover will be gloss film laminated, and there will be a press score parallel to the spine.

So it’s a straightforward treatment of a trade paperback with no special features. Anything spectacular in the print book design will depend on the cover art (which is actually quite dramatic).

Interestingly enough, the cover is so powerful that my client repeated the cover art inside on the title page (in black ink only as a gray halftone, which, like the cover image, bleeds on all sides). It’s a good design decision. It makes use of the dramatic cover photo twice, in two slightly different ways (4-color vs. black and white).

However, it may require a different approach than that reflected in the initial specifications, and this might affect the price.

A Potentially Higher Price

First of all, here’s why it might cost more. It’s easy to make design decisions without thinking about financial ramifications, so in your own print buying career or print book design career, you might do well to consider bleeds early in the design process.

Next, exactly what is a bleed? My client is producing a 5.5” x 8.5” perfect-bound book. Without a bleed, each page would be exactly this size. With a bleed, my client would need to add a 1/8” extension to the page in all directions to allow the press to print ink beyond the final trim size. My client’s dramatic image that bleeds on page 3 will extend beyond the trim size and then be trimmed down to the final format after printing. At that point it will look like the image extends off the page.

The same process is used for a full-bleed cover. However, my client’s full-bleed cover had already been factored into the (approved) price by the printer’s estimator.

Here’s why this change (for even one page) might be problematic: Because a print book is composed of press signatures (so many pages lined up–known as the “imposition” of the press signature—above or below each other on the press sheet). The same number of pages will be on the back of the press sheet. When the finishing equipment folds the press sheet, it delivers a “booklet” consisting of the number of pages within the particular signature (4, 8, 16, or 32, for instance). Once the head (top), foot (bottom), and face (opposite the bind edge) have been trimmed to size, you have a little booklet with the proper pages in the proper order held together at the spine. If you’re producing a saddle-stitched product, the press signatures are then nested, each inside the next. If you’re producing a perfect-bound book, the press signatures are then stacked (aligned side by side).

The actual process is mechanized, with the flat sheet being folded into a signature, then collected and inserted into the multiple pockets of the binder (one signature per pocket), then bound, and then finally trimmed to size.

Potentially, you could fit a 32-page signature (16 pages per side) onto a 25” x 38” press sheet when the book page size (or trim size, or format) is 5.5” x 8.5”. This is a common press sheet size (25” x 38”) of a ream of paper ordered by printers from paper mills. Presumably, such a press sheet could be printed on a 40” offset lithographic book printing press.

To get a picture of this in your minds eye, think of four 5.5” x 8.5” pages printed across the 25” dimension of the press sheet. Side by side they would equal 22” of the 25” available inches on the short side of the press sheet (assuming the paper grain is parallel to the long side of the sheet).

Going the other way (the 38” dimension), picture three more rows of four pages, each with a height of 8.5”. So you have four rows of four pages. The depth would be 4 x 8.5”, or 34”, out of a potential 38” dimension of the 25” x 38” press sheet.

So far, so good?

Sixteen pages on one side of the sheet. Sixteen pages on the other. That would make exactly 15 press signatures (15 x 32 pages) in the 480-page trade paperback. This is ideal. Only 15 press runs (compared to producing the print book with 16-page signatures, which would necessitate double the press runs).

However, here’s the rub. If you add a bleed to the text block of the book (even one page), you need more room around the pages to allow for the bleed image to extend past the edge of the page and then be trimmed off. (Actually, you also need room for printer’s marks and the gripper, which pulls the press sheet through the press.)

Why the Print Book Might Actually Cost the Same With or Without a Text Bleed

To recap our computations, if you look at the short dimension of the press sheet (25”), you can fit four 5.5” pages across within a space of 22”. That leaves 3” for printer’s marks and the 1/8” bleed on all sides.

And going the other direction (the 38” dimension), the four-rows down layout takes up only 34” of the 38” of available space. That leaves 4” in this direction for printer’s marks, gripper margin (since the leading edge of the page is where the gripper grabs the paper, and since presumably the 38” dimension of the paper would be entering the 40” press first).

So if you put aside the math for a moment, it looks to me like everything should work (i.e., fit on the press sheet), and there should be no upcharge. This will probably be the case with my client’s print book, but to be sure I have asked for the book printer’s confirmation (in writing, on a revised estimate).

What Would Happen If I’m Wrong?

Let’s say the printer needs more room or is doing things differently, has a smaller press, or whatever.

If the printer needs more room, the job might need to be produced on a larger press. A larger press usually is billed at a higher hourly rate (than whatever press you’re using before you add bleeds). So the overall price might go up.

Another thing that can happen is, if the printer doesn’t have a larger press (maybe a 50” press dedicated to printing long signatures of print book texts), your job will need to be produced on a smaller press. Instead of being composed of 15 32-page signatures, your book might now be composed of 30 16-page signatures. Even at a lower hourly rate (since it’s a smaller press), your increased number of press runs could raise the overall book printing cost significantly.

So What Can You Do?

My book printing client is pretty savvy. She told me that since she didn’t want the cost of the book to rise, if there was an upcharge (based on the explanation above), instead of bleeding the page she would end the screen (or photo) before the 5.5” x 8.5” trim. So the photo on page 3 would have an unprinted border all the way around. To me this looks like a work-around. It’s an inexpensive solution, granted. But the photo won’t have the expansive quality a full bleed provides (the photo looks so much larger than the page because it seems to extend in all directions). Moreover, if my client has to provide a .5” margin on all sides, the photo on page 3 will no longer have the same look or feel as the cover photo, which does bleed off the page.

We’ll have to wait and see. I look forward to reviewing the updated book printing estimate.

What Can You Learn From This Case Study?

The short answer is that you should plan ahead for bleeds. If you’re unsure of what you want to do with your design, ask the printer to bid on both a text-bleed version and a non-bleed version.

The prices may be the same (depending on your printer’s press size and the size of the press sheet you’re using). But if it’s more expensive to bleed the text pages, it’s better to know early in the process than to make a quick design decision at the end of the process.

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