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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 ‘Business Cards’ Category

Glossy Or Matte: What Should I Know About Each Type Of Coated Paper

Monday, August 10th, 2020

When creating print media for your business, you often have the option to choose from three different types of paper. Most commonly you will want regular stock paper, but for publications that are made to impress audiences, you can also choose one of two types of coated paper; either matte paper or glossy paper.

Both matte and glossy paper are appealing in their own ways and are used for business cards, brochures, postcards, catalogs, calendars, stationary, and more. If you are gravitating towards using a coated paper for your materials but aren’t sure which one to pick, here are the key differences you would notice when printing with each from online printing websites.

Color

Both types of coated paper handle colors and pictures differently, and when it comes to using coated paper in general, the colors will be slightly different from the digital images that you are looking to use. This is important to keep in mind.

If displaying vibrant colors is what you are after, it would be wise to choose glossy. The sheen of glossy paper makes colors more saturated than actual, which is ideal if you are looking to draw attention with your graphics. Glossy paper is also great for images and graphics that are of high quality, as it is capable of displaying visuals with sharpness and clarity.

Matte on the other hand can work in subtle ways, as it’s smooth nature can highlight minor details better than glossy paper can, such as textures, accents, and more. Matte paper is ideal for photos and other graphics where lots of detail is required. Believe it or not, but it is matte paper that absorbs more ink than glossy paper does.

Text

When considering coated paper for print media, the use of text should not be overlooked. Words, sentences, and paragraphs all need to be easy-to-read, and the coating of your paper can actually play a part in the legibility of text.

If you want the short answer of which generally makes text more legible, the answer is matte. Matte paper has little to no sheen to it, so there will be no glare for those that want to read a publication in a lit room or in daylight. Matte coating also is not as easy to smudge as glossy coating, so you can also choose matte paper if you want text to remain clear and readable in that regard.

There is one scenario in which companies might choose glossy paper if they have readable copy, and that is if their text is light and their background is dark in color. This would actually make their text more clear and brighter compared to matte paper.

Manufacturing And Costs

Both coated paper types are made from the same chemical coating. The difference lies in how much coating is on each type of paper. Matte paper will have enough coating to make a paper look smooth, but not enough to be reflective. Glossy paper will have a thicker coating that makes it shine, but it can definitely cause smudges, fingerprints, and oil-based stains.

As mentioned before, matte paper will use more ink over glossy paper, so printing costs will generally be higher for materials that use matte paper. Typically, though, if businesses choose a paper based on low costs, they will choose an uncoated paper.

Summary

Alternatives to regular paper for printing include glossy and matte paper. They both handle ink differently and contain different properties to make them either shiny or smooth. We do not consider one coated paper to be generally better than the other.

Business Card Color Tips for First-Time Businesses

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Business Card

Designing business cards for your company can be fun, but it also involves making many important decisions. While some business owners don’t find the appearance of business cards a priority, it is actually more important than many might think. Not only is what information on the card is vital, but also the colors.

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Business Card Printing: Paper Color and Texture Choices

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

I’ve been revising a client’s logo and corporate identity package over the last several weeks. Each time I send her PDF proofs of concepts and potential uses for her new logo, I take some time to walk away from the process and take a break, so I can come back with fresh eyes and new ideas.

To put this in context, let me describe the project. First of all, I created a logo using a screen printed image of my client’s face, with her head leaning on her hand and her hair vignetted to disappear around the edges of the logo image. My client wanted the logo to have a bit of a sophisticated, film noir feel. The rectangular screen print image rests above my client’s name (first, middle, last), which is set in a classic sans serif face, centered over the name of her company in a modern sans serif face. A thin rule line separates the two lines of type.

The most recent version of the prototype business card uses a vertical orientation with her logo above her contact information. On her initial letterhead proof, I positioned the logo at the bottom right of the page, with the screen printed image to the left of the logotype instead of above it.

As noted, the overall goal (that is, the tone my client wants to project for her business) is to capture an air of high-born glamour.

The Next Step

When I sent my client these two pieces of her corporate identity system, I also asked her to consider how she wanted to use color in her work. So while she gives thought to that question, I have started answering it for myself as well. These are my first few thoughts on the process.

First of all, I suggested that she consider an uncoated, cream paper stock.

Most of the time (in my experience), paper is bright white (often called solar white or blue-white). A blue-white press sheet does not draw attention to itself, but it does reflect light back to the viewer very well and faithfully (without changing the color of the inks or toners). This is usually desirable.

However, in some cases you do want to draw attention to the paper, and in my client’s case, since her image has an antique feel to it, I thought a cream stock (also known as a yellow-white or natural white) might be ideal. In fact, I thought it might give the vignetted image (with its feathered edges) the feel of a brown sepia tone print.

Another benefit of the uncoated cream stock, particularly when you consider the simplicity of the card, is that it would add color to the business card without adding color to the type or image. Presumably the screen print image of my client (the logomark) plus the logotype and my client’s contact information would be printed in black ink, and the only additional color would be the cream background.

Another option would be to print the logo and contact information in a dark brown to continue the sepia toned image approach. (That is, everything would have a brown tint.) My only concern would be whether this would require the use of excessive laser toner for the brown color build (a problem that could be avoided with offset printing by creating a PMS color rather than a 4-color build).

Finally, I suggested that my client consider any textures and/or perhaps speckles in the paper she chose. Particularly for a business card, thinking in terms of tactile impressions is wise, since the hand receives the card (and absorbs its feel and surface texture) long before the eyes are aware of its text and images.

In my client’s case, a textured, uncoated stock would resonate with the older, glamorous image of the business, predating the Internet and other digital communication. The cream color of the paper, plus its rough texture, would make reading the card a more personal experience than reviewing the information on a gloss-coated, bright-white paper. And any speckles in a cream business card stock would draw further attention to the card’s being a physical product.

Thoughts and Potential Concerns

Let’s say you were trying to achieve a similar effect in your own commercial printing design work. Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure your success:

    1. Uncoated paper absorbs ink. It’s important to make sure you provide an image (text, logo, etc.) that has defined highlights and shadows. In my own case, I changed the tone curve of my client’s vignetted portrait image in Photoshop. I opened up the shadows slightly, and I also made sure there would be bright whites in the image. I knew that any potential overinking would make the image look muddy and flat. And the uncoated press sheet would be less forgiving than a bright-white coated sheet.

 

    1. In my own case, I liked the simplicity of the design. Not adding a separate color (like a red or brown color build) to highlight my client’s name or logo image would make all art and text hang together (i.e., all black ink or toner), creating a sense of unity. In your own work, make sure your design and paper choices reflect the marketing goal of the business card (i.e., what you’re saying about the company’s image and values). Make sure the client’s brand, the visual design treatment of the card, the color and texture of the paper, and the reproduction technology you have chosen (digital or offset) support one another.

 

    1. Keep in mind that offset printing more often than not provides a superior product (compared to digital toner printing). Show your business card art to your commercial printing sales rep and ask for her/his advice. If she/he thinks the images will plug up using digital laser printing, ask about offset lithography (which will usually cost more). When in doubt, request samples. Custom printing issues of this sort are usually more evident in halftones than in line art or type.

 

    1. If possible, get samples of the paper you have chosen, and print out your mock-ups directly on the printing stock. Although you can simulate color printing on a computer screen, I have really found no better way to simulate the look of custom printing on a colored paper (even just a cream stock) than printing on the paper itself. If your artwork will be printed in black, you can make a prototype easily on a laser printer. If you want to add color as well (let’s say you have some type in red and you want to print on an uncoated cream stock), you’ll have to use an inkjet printer.

 

  1. Remember that the paper substrate changes the perceived ink color. If you’re printing black ink on cream stock, that usually will not present a problem. But if you’re printing any other color (let’s say skin tones on a cream stock), this could make for unappealing color shifts. This is another good reason to produce digital color proofs on the actual custom printing stock.

Tips on how to design an appealing business card

Friday, July 10th, 2020

Many businesses and companies struggle to come up with features that they should include in their business cards. Do you also find yourself struggling about what to add on your business card? Don’t worry, we have made a list of important tips that you can use to make your business card more appealing and eye-catching.

Here is the list of things you need to consider before you hire online printing companies for your business cards:

  1. Your Name

This allows your client in knowing exactly who to contact. This allows your client to know you in person. Along with the name, you should also add your designation as well. You should add your credentials in such a way that it removes any kind of confusion as they read the content displayed on your business card. Also, make sure that the font is neither too small or big to read.

  1. Business Card Title

It is important to develop an attractive title that is easy to remember for your clients. It should evoke the feeling of subscribing to the products and services you provide. The title of your business cards should make your clients feel that you are the best alternative they have.

  1. Business Logo

It is best to place your logo top center of a business card as it will then catch any eye instantly. People usually look at the logo first then they read the name of the business. Your clients will remember you by looking at your logo. It is best to keep it in the center of the business card so that it catches the eye instantly.

Don’t make the mistake of printing the logo on the back of your business card. Most people don’t even look at the backside of a business card. Try to put little to no information on the backside of the card.

  1. Contact Details

Contact details and address allows your client to contact you when they need your services. It is important to include the following details

  • Physical address
    • Email address
    • Phone number (both office and mobile)
    • Website address.
  • You can also add your LinkedIn (Correct Name to correct) or any other media links as alternate communication avenues.

You can also add your linked name, which makes it easy for your clients to connect with you on social media.

  1. Products and Services

The aim of a business card is to inform your clients about your product and services. You can either use small images or graphics, which makes it easier for your clients to understand what you do.

  1. Color and Templates

Color choices are also important when it comes to any business card. The color choices should complement logo colors and business themes. Understand how important it is in choosing colors that are easily read. In creating a dark screen in using dark colored ink words will be quite difficult in reading. Thes same words reversed in white, will read much better.

A business card is an essential tool and you should only use relevant information. So, next time when you decide to make new business cards, remember the above-mentioned points.

Commercial Printing: Enlarging Low-Resolution Photos

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

A print consulting client of mine recently asked a question on Facebook regarding the best software package to enlarge photos that were not of sufficient resolution. I responded, voicing my concern that she might not like the results.

First, to give this some background, my client is laying out a print book for her father-in-law. She herself is a writer, and her background is somewhat spotty in graphic design and printing. Her print book is 220 pages plus cover, 6”x9” in format, perfect bound, with black-only text and a 4-color cover. It will contain a number of halftones, so her question on Facebook pertains to these photos.

With this in mind, here’s the response I posted on Facebook. I noted that all photos should have a resolution of twice the printed halftone line screen. That is, if the photo halftone line screen in her final print book will be 150 lines per inch, then she should make sure all of her photos are 300 dpi. In a pinch, however, I noted that 266 dpi would still yield a good halftone image.

That said, I told her that the resolution needs to be computed at the final printed size of the image, since, for instance, a 300 dpi image that is then enlarged (let’s say doubled in size) would otherwise have a resolution of half the original or 150 dpi. At this size the pixels would be visible. There would be a squarish, moasic-like pattern across the image, which would be the visible picture elements that make up the photo. At a smaller size, let’s say 300 dpi at 100 percent of the size to be printed, these pixels would be below the threshold of visibility.

Both enlarging and increasing the resolution of a low-resolution image, however, could cause problems. As noted above, just enlarging the photo would make the pixels visible. However, also resampling it (called upsampling when the enlargement of the image is combined with an increase in its resolution) actually creates picture information that is not in the original image. It fabricates color or black-and-white hues and tones based on averages of the pixels that are actually present, and this can cause visible irregularities, noise, and artifacts. So for important images, it’s usually not a good idea to upsample.

Options for My Client

As with anything else, rules are meant to be broken. It just helps to have some knowledge and to know what problems might occur.

Here’s one work-around I have used. I found this online.

If you open the bitmapped image (raster file) in Photoshop and then open the “Image Size” box, you can check the “Resample Image” option and then choose “Bicubic Smoother” from the menu to its right. According to the information I read, the next step is to change the document dimension pop-up menu to any value between 105 and 110 percent. (You can enter percentages in this dialog box as well as actual sizes.) Then you click OK, and you’re done. Each time you perform this operation, the image increases in size. Photoshop does add pixels (as I noted before), but there is very little image degradation.

I myself have tried this work-around and have been successful. However, if you attempt this, make sure you only increase the size in small steps of five to ten percent at a time. This will yield the best results. Online information I’ve read stresses this last point as well.

The one thing I would add, from my own experience, is to encourage you (and my client) to view the resulting image in Photoshop at various sizes, especially at 100 percent of the size to be printed but also at larger sizes, to make sure you see (and can live with) any image degradation that might occur. Based on my experience and the articles I have read, if you upsample the images in this way, there’s a good chance of success, but I just like to be safe. It’s better to see the results on your monitor, where corrections can be made for free, rather than in a printer’s proof (or the finished print book).

Another Option

Another visitor to my client’s Facebook page suggested a different approach: using PhotoZoom Pro 7. I have not used this software package myself, but interestingly enough, an earlier version was referenced in the same article from which I learned the trick regarding the 105 to 110 percent successive enlargements. So I’d suggest that you research this software if you need to enlarge lower-res images.

That said, I still would encourage you not to take a 72 dpi image from the Internet and try to upsample it and make it usable for digital or offset printing. After all, it is important to remember that you are still creating picture elements (pixels) that were not originally in the image, so the final result will be less than optimal.

To give you some background on PhotoZoom Pro 7 (from the BenVista website), the software is for both enlarging and reducing the size of images, and it works both as stand-alone software and as a plug-in for Adobe products (Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom) as well as Corel products (such as PHOTO-PAINT and PaintShop Pro).

PhotoZoom Pro 7 is optimized both for final printed output and also for on-screen viewing (such as websites).

To quote from the product information: “PhotoZoom Pro 7 is equipped with S-Spline Max, a unique, award-winning image resize technology which excels at preserving clean edges, sharpness, and fine details.” It allows you to avoid the noise and JPEG compression artifacts that usually appear when upsampling images.

Furthermore, PhotoZoom Pro 7 automates many of the image manipulation options, so once you have tweaked the photo to your liking, you can batch process your other images using the same settings. (In the case of my client’s print book for her father-in-law, this would be most useful, given the potential number of photos the 220-page book will contain.)

In addition, PhotoZoom Pro 7 includes multi-processor support, 64-bit support, and GPU (graphics processor unit) acceleration. (All of this speeds up image processing time.)

So, as with everything else, rules were meant to be broken. Just understand the potential pitfalls and break them wisely.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

If you are a graphic designer, all of this information will not be new to you. The rules of resolution your book printer or commercial printer requires will still apply, but fortunately there is a work-around (or in this case actually two work-arounds) if you ever need to use a lower-resolution image. Also, fortunately, the flaws that usually crop up (artifacts, noise, blurry images, loss of fine details, and jagged edges that should be clean and crisp) can often be successfully avoided.

Beyond this, it does help to understand why the printer (digital or offset) wants you to submit the crispest possible images at the proper resolution and why upsampling is generally a risk yielding disappointing results.

My assumption is that in addition to PhotoZoom Pro 7 and the work-around I found (involving successive small increases in image size from 105 percent to 110 percent), there are more image processing software packages in the market that now do this sort of thing. Since I know nothing about them, I’d invite you to do careful research on your own before taking the leap.

Custom Printing: An Example of Functional Printing

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

I’ve been brokering a functional printing job for one of my clients. It’s a color swatch book, much like a PMS swatch book but for the arena of fashion design rather than graphic design.

What makes this interesting to me is how different its purpose is from most of the material for which I either provide design or print brokering services.

It is a product, an object. The goal is not to inform or persuade, as might be the case with a print book or brochure. It is a functional piece. In essence, the graphic designer and I are doing product design.

Description of the Color Swatch Book

As I have mentioned in prior blog articles, this color swatch book is a series of rectangular cards digitally printed on a Kodak NexPress, drilled for a screw-and-post assembly, round cornered (diecut), and assembled. There are almost twenty versions of this product, each containing different colors.

The Approach: Very Different from Commercial Printing

As I help the designer and client conceptualize the job, create a template and mock-up, and coordinate the final production of the multiple color swatch books, I’m noticing how the difference in the goal (functional rather than commercial printing) affects many of the design and production choices. Here are a few examples:

  1. In a commercial printing job, the paper is important. It has to make the colors look their best. In this functional printing job, the paper substrate must be a bright enough white sheet to showcase the colors in their most vivid nature. However, the whiteness of the sheet is more important. It must be neutral. It cannot alter the colors of the swatches. Their CMYK values must be maintained for the product to be useful.
  2. In a commercial printing job, the coating used on a cover of a book or a brochure is often added for its decorative qualities. It may also be applied for the durability it provides (if a print book cover will sustain heavy use). But in this functional printing job, the color swatch book will need to last a long time and not be damaged by fingerprints or fingernails. Durability is essential to the usability of this functional design job.
  3. A binding method for a book often depends on its length. For instance, an 80-page book might be saddle stitched, and a 160-page book would most probably be perfect bound (for aesthetic reasons and to keep the pages from falling out). However, in the case of the color swatch book, the drilled pages and metal screw-and-post binding serve a more practical purpose. They allow the book to be disassembled, so pages can be added or removed depending on the color needs of the end user. This capability will make the book more functional.
  4. The final and most complex of the characteristics of functionality in this particular job is its variable data nature. The multiple versions of the book will involve database work, or at least a focus on creating multiple products with certain common colors and certain unique colors. Having the right colors in the right order is essential. So accurate assembly is a huge part of the job. This is what makes the printed product a useful fashion design tool to those who pay a premium to own it.

In all of these cases, the common element is functionality, not aesthetics. In addition, the product does not need to persuade or educate.

What Are Other Examples of Functional Printing?

Inkjet printing in particular has opened many avenues for functional or industrial printing. For example, an inkjet printer can use a conductive material in lieu of aqueous ink to print circuit boards for electronic products.

In addition, three-dimensional printing of everything from jewelry and shoes to bodily organs and food (depending on the substance used in the digital inkjet equipment) would also qualify as functional printing.

How You Can Apply this to Your Own Work

Staying relevant as a designer or a commercial printing vendor involves being aware of trends in the industry. In the wake of the “death of printing” meme, I’m seeing a very different future materializing. From my reading, I’m seeing the growth of labels; folding cartons and flexible packaging; large format printing; and functional or industrial printing, to name a few. All of these provide opportunities for savvy designers and printers. None of these products will migrate to the Web.

Business Card Printing: Ganging Up Jobs to Save Money

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

A client of mine is buying some business cards, a brochure, a table runner, and a retractable banner stand for an upcoming convention.

I gave her prices for the items, suggesting an alternate paper stock to bring down the cost, and I think we were both pleased with the results. In fact, a simple paper substitution brought the price of 1,000 business cards two dollars below the prior cost of 500 business cards.

In addition, I provided pricing for 250 and 500 brochures. My client had thought these prices were a bit high.

Background on the Jobs

To give a little background on the two jobs, the brochure is a two-color, 8.5” x 11” piece wrap folded to 3.66” x 8.5” on 100# Finch Fine text, and the business cards are the standard size, printed on both sides on 130# Finch cover, with a bleed on the back of the card.

Both jobs had started out with short runs (50 copies of the brochure and 500 copies of one business card). Therefore, they were initially bid as digitally printed jobs to be produced on the commercial printing vendor’s HP Indigo. Although the viewer would perceive them to be two-color jobs, the business cards and brochures would really be printed in 4-color process liquid toner. In prepress, the printer would convert the PMS colors to their nearest process color builds, and then the jobs would be run as process color work. (If I understand correctly, the color conversion may even be made on the fly in the HP Indigo press.)

A New Wrinkle in the Jobs

My client wanted options and good prices. Who could blame her? She also didn’t want to buy more than she needed. Therefore, my client asked if instead of 1,000 business cards (with one name), she could have two sets of 500 cards (with two names). Presumably for the same price.

I said this was not possible. On a digital press, the jobs could not be ganged. I was wrong (and partially right, regarding price).

When I asked the custom printing supplier about this option, he said that he could in fact gang up the jobs, which would save money. However, the two jobs together would still cost more than one 1,000-copy press run because of the extra prepress work involved. (This last part is what I was expecting, but I was pleased that there would be a discount for printing both 500-copy sets of business cards simultaneously.) I knew ganging was possible on offset equipment, but I assumed the smaller format of digital printing would not allow this. I was pleased to be wrong. So was my print brokering client.

Still Another Wrinkle in the Jobs

The best price I could get on the brochures was about a dollar a piece for digital custom printing. The press run at both 250 copies and 500 copies was too small to move the job to an offset press. It would have not yet reached the point at which the unit cost would have been cheaper for offset than for digital.

My client asked about printing 250 or 500 copies of the brochure in English and 50 copies in Spanish. I said this would be two press runs, and the 50-copy press run would be expensive on a unit-cost basis.

Based on the printer’s stated ability to gang up digital jobs (business cards), I do wonder about ganging up the English and Spanish versions of the brochures. However, for 50 recipients of the Spanish version, my client opted to move this portion of the job to the Internet.

Since she still wanted to pay less than a dollar a brochure, I suggested that I request pricing for 250, 500, and 750 copies. This would allow my client to compare total costs and unit costs. At the 750-copy level, the job might even be more economically printed via offset lithography. I will leave that to the custom printing vendor to determine.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

Here are some things to consider:

  1. If you have received a printer’s price for 1,000 copies of one version of a job, changing the job and providing art for two separate versions will not cost the same total amount as the cost for one. This is because there is more prepress work involved, even if there’s space to gang up both jobs on one press sheet.
  2. Nevertheless, it’s worth asking about ganging up multiple elements of a job. This may still save you money.
  3. Printing 500 copies of a brochure in one language and then 50 in another yields two jobs, not one, even if the art (photos, design, etc.) is the same in both. This will be reflected in the price, but, again, there may still be a savings for ganging up the jobs. However, if your jobs will print digitally, remember that the maximum press sheet size is often much smaller on a digital press than on an offset press (approximately 13” x 19” vs. 25” x 38” depending on the digital and offset equipment). Particularly if your job will bleed, there may not be room on the press sheet to gang up the jobs.
  4. Always ask your printer about options. You might even suggest moving from digital equipment to offset equipment (or vice versa) to ensure the most economical custom printing process.
  5. If you’re splitting the components of your job between digital and offset equipment, remember that the former operates in a 4-color environment and the latter in a 4-color and/or PMS match color environment. If you produce a portion of your work using one process and the balance in the other, the two components may not match.

Business Card Printing: Digital vs. Offset Case Study

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

I received a business card to price a few days ago. My print brokering client wanted 500 copies of one version of a two sided card.

I had printed a business card for my client a few years prior, so I asked about the paper stock. I asked whether she had liked the last version of her card, and also whether the inks on this digitally printed card had been sufficiently rub resistant.

I had wondered about the durability of the business card since it had been printed on an Indigo digital press using liquid toner on an uncoated paper stock. I knew this would have been slightly less durable than a comparably designed business card offset printed on an uncoated paper stock. After all, digital toner particles sit up on the surface of the paper, while offset printed inks seep into the paper fibers. From a user’s perspective, the digitally printed business cards would therefore be more likely to lose toner particles to rough use and fingerprints than would the offset printed business cards.

Reviewing the Specs and Art, and Choosing the Appropriate Printing Technology

My client wanted 500 business cards printed on both sides. The front of her business card art included type and a logo printed in blue and type printed in black, but there was no abutting of colors (therefore no trapping). This would make printing easier.

I looked closely at the business card sample she had given me using my printer’s loupe. I could not see any halftone dots in the blue type; therefore, I knew the job had been offset printed. Had the sample been printed on digital custom printing equipment, the blue color would have been a process color build. There would have been overlapping screens of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black creating the illusion of blue type.

I wanted to make sure the commercial printing vendor could hold register on the Indigo digital press and produce a crisp version of the blue type and logo, so I emailed him a copy of the art file. I also wanted to make sure he could determine the correct percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black comprising the blue type by preflighting the PDF I sent him. Would the color build match the blue PMS color on the offset printed cards? He suggested that I send him a printed business card to use as a target to ensure color fidelity.

More Business Card Printing on the Way

My client seemed to be happy with the pricing I sent her the next day, because she then sent me three business card fronts (three names) and one business card back as high-res PDFs.

Having three business cards to work with might change things. I still consider offset printing to be superior to digital, even if by a small margin. Digital print pricing for my client’s prior business card printing job seemed to be about a third of the cost of offset for a run of 500 copies printed on one side.

So I asked the printer to bid the three business cards digitally and also as a ganged offset job, with all three versions on one press sheet. I knew this would effectively spread the cost of custom printing (set up, printing, finishing) over three jobs, making each business card effectively less expensive than one business card printed alone.

Now a Brochure As Well

I was even happier when my client added a brochure to the mix. The first iteration was a press run of 50 copies, so it would need to be a digitally printed job to be cost effective.

The brochure, an 11” x 8.5” six panel job wrap folded to fit in a No. 10 envelope, also had a two-color motif (blue and black). Of course, as a digital job the blue color would need to be a build of process toners. Therefore, I was concerned about registration. Would the colors used to build the blue be in register, or would they not be precisely aligned and therefore look a little fuzzy?

When I looked at the PDF, I noticed that the type in blue was set in a sans serif typeface, and it was not overly small. I felt better. There were no small, finely drawn serifs in the letterforms to break up or to show any misregistration. I also felt that the blue was probably only built with two of the four colors, probably only cyan and black. After all, it’s easier to get two colors in perfect alignment than four.

Increasing the Number of Brochures

Within 24 hours the press run for the brochures had increased from 50 copies to 250 to 500. I’m not sure where the break-even point will be for shifting from digital custom printing to offset, so I have asked the commercial printing supplier to provide pricing for both.

I even suggested ganging up the business cards and brochures on a larger press sheet (for offset printing). Again, this would distribute the make-ready cost among three business cards and one brochure.

It is true that the business cards will be on 130# stock and the brochures will be on a much lighter press sheet. However, given the short press run it seems that even throwing away some brochures and some business cards (extras printed on the wrong paper) would be cheaper than changing plates on the press. One press run, lots of waste, but overall only a minimal amount of paper. We’ll see what he says and how the pricing looks.

What You Can Learn

This case study reflects one particular print job. However, it also suggests ways to approach many other custom printing jobs. Here are a few things to consider for your own work:

  1. Will your press run be short enough for a digital press? Your printer can answer this based on the trim size, number of pages, and press run.
  2. If so, consider how the colors will be produced: i.e., four-color builds rather than the PMS colors used in offset printing.
  3. Will the type be too small or too intricate if produced with screens of the process colors?
  4. How will the liquid toners behave on an uncoated sheet or a coated sheet? Will they be rub resistant? Ask your printer.
  5. If you produce part of the overall job on digital equipment and part on offset equipment, will the two printed pieces (let’s say a brochure printed digitally and a set of business cards produced via offset lithography) look alike?

Custom Printing: An Approach to Integrated Marketing

Monday, April 14th, 2014

A few weeks ago while visiting with a book printing client of mine, I made a few suggestions about promoting three new titles this small publisher was about to produce with my help. He and his wife had a website and some marketing postcards, and they had asked my opinion of how to approach the promotion of these new print books.

I was excited about the helping this couple, so I closely reviewed this publisher’s printed and online materials to get a sense of their current marketing strategy and hopefully help improve it.

My Approach to Their Website

First of all, the three print books I have helped him and his wife produce have been glorious, with French Flaps, deckled edged cream paper, and a heavy cover stock. They epitomize the tactile qualities that only a good print book can provide.

I reviewed the publisher’s website and made these suggestions:

  1. He and his wife should have a goal in mind. The website should be more than an online brochure. It should reflect the visual branding of their books, and it should invite the reader to contact the publisher and order more books, sign up for a mailing list, or whatever else my client wants the reader to do. But it needs to encourage the reader to actually do something.
  2. The website should be simple and easily navigable, with links to print book descriptions, a publisher’s contact page that can accept reader address information, and perhaps a calendar of the book launches and other promotional events the publisher hosts periodically. These links should be immediately visible at the top of the web page, and should perhaps be accompanied by a large image that reflects the tenor of his and his wife’s publishing house. I don’t think the website needs a lot of pages. Only a few, with immediately visible contact information, will do nicely.

My Approach to Their Postcard

The publisher suggested that we create a marketing postcard that would ask for information about the reader to create a book sales list and a subscription newsletter. I encouraged him and his wife to also link electronically back to their website, perhaps using PURLs (personalized landing pages), which would give a consistent look to the promotional campaign.

The postcards could be inserted into the books, so readers could immediately get back in touch with the publisher, get on a mailing list, and continue a dialogue about the book. I thought that a tie between a print book presence, a marketing postcard, and an online presence would reinforce each of the three marketing initiatives. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to not only insert the marketing postcard into the books but to also send it to a select list of prospective buyers.

My Approach to The PURLs

My client could add a web link to the postcard text that the recipient of the postcard could type into his or her browser to connect to the publisher’s website. Or the publisher could include a 2-D barcode (known as a QR, or Quick Response, code that the reader could capture with his or her smartphone). This could send the reader to the publisher’s website. If my client wanted to go further, image recognition software now exists that would allow the reader to point his or her smartphone camera at a photographic image on the postcard (not a QR code) and be linked to the publisher’s website.

My Approach to Their Signage

My client and his wife also attend trade shows. As a small print book publisher, they can expand the visual identity reflected in their books, marketing postcards, and website by choosing from a number of trade show graphic devices.

They could cover their trade show table with a table-throw, which could have their logo and identity information emblazoned on the side facing the show attendees.

They could also produce banner stands (large format print graphics that could completely surround their space at the booth), or smaller collapsible graphic stands.

Some of the banner stands are miniature, and would go nicely on the top of the table. Others are larger, and could be placed on the floor for a more dynamic look (one at a time or three or more side by side). And the most dramatic large format print graphics would completely surround the back of the booth, providing a startling view of the color, imagery, and tone of my client’s publishing house.

Business Card Printing: Design with Printing Limitations in Mind

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

I had mentioned in my last blog posting that I was designing and purchasing the custom printing for three new jobs: a business card, an oversized postcard, and a large format print banner. I’d like to share a few things that have happened along the way because they may help you in your own design and print buying work.

Keep “Live Matter” Art Away from the Trim

I had saved a copy of the business card file in PDF format. This had eliminated all visible InDesign rule lines and grids, making the job look exactly like the final printed business card would look. Sometimes InDesign’s measurement tools and grid lines can make it hard to see the underlying design. Making a PDF will solve this problem while preserving the InDesign measurement notations. You can turn off the measurements in InDesign, but sometimes it’s nice to have both the InDesign file with the measurements and grids and a PDF copy of your file open at the same time.

The Problem

On the back of the business card, I noticed that the small text was close to the trim. I was concerned, so I reduced the leading between paragraphs slightly.

The Lesson

In your own design work, keep all “live matter” text at least 3/8” from the trim. Assume that there will be some variance in the custom printing vendor’s trimming equipment. After all, trimming is a physical process which by its very nature can be imprecise. An error here can make type look uncomfortably close to the edge of your business card.

Be Mindful of Legibility with Light Ink Colors

The Problem

My client’s business card looked huge on my monitor, even though it was only a 2” x 3.5” standard card. Therefore, the type size was misleading as I was designing the job.

The Lesson

In your own work, never rely on the computer monitor for a digital or offset custom printing job. It’s always prudent to print a hard copy of the job. This way you can actually hold in your hand a facsimile of the printed product your client will distribute. Handing out business cards is a physical, or analog, process. Check your card mock up in a physical medium, and make sure all information is readable.

Another Problem

I had set some type on the back of the card: a list of tips provided by my client. (In marketing parlance, this is “content” that will establish my client as a “thought leader.” In reality, it’s helpful information for those receiving the business cards.)

I had made the 11pt. “Quick Tips” headline blue, using the accent color from my client’s logo. I had also made the 9pt. “Bonus Tip” in-line headline blue. They looked great enlarged on the monitor.

I had used a bold sans serif typeface in both cases (less problematic for registering the halftone dots of a 4-color build).

The color composition of the blue type was c77m19y14k0. There were only two predominant colors: cyan and magenta. The yellow would have been light enough to have been invisible had the type been out of register. Mostly it was cyan ink. But at such a small size–9pt. and 11pt.–it would have been a challenge for the commercial printing supplier to hold the color register throughout the press run.

To compound matters, when I reduced the screen image of the business card to its actual size, the blue type was almost unreadable. I realized that black type would be much more legible. So I changed the design, putting readability and printing limitations ahead of my aesthetic “wish list.”

The Lesson

  1. Consider the composition of a color build used for type. Remember that it will be made up of halftone dots. If you’re screening type that’s of a small size, the halftone dots will be larger relative to the size of the type letterforms. Within a small type size, these 4-color dots laid over one another may impede readability. If they’re out of register, they will also look fuzzy. For a color build, try to use only two process colors, unless one is yellow, which is light enough to be forgiving. And expect the printer to not hold perfect color register.
  2. Consider readability. Text printed in a light colored ink is harder to read than text printed in black ink. Since type letterforms are not a solid block of ink, the PMS chip (or 4-color chip) from which you have chosen the color (prior to conversion to 4-color process ink) will look darker than the actual type. After all, the chip is a solid square of ink, and the type is made up of lighter strokes and curves.
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