Planning a Print Project
Choosing your paper
There is a bewildering selection of papers, but the key variations come down to the finishes. When paper is produced in a mill, it can be left plain or it can be coated with a fine porcelain mix that is then polished.
The three main finishes are:
Uncoated - plain, used for photocopying and most letterheads and forms.
Silk or Satin - when the paper has a matt coating with a smooth surface
Gloss - when the coating is polished to a shine.
Please note: we can print in full colour onto an uncoated or gloss paper, but using a SILK paper can lead to the ink smudging. For this reason, it is advisable that colour jobs on silk paper are sealed whilst printing, so printing onto a silk paper can be a little more expensive.
Recycled or part recycled papers are also worth considering. As well as environmental and ethical advantages, these papers have much improved in recent years and can provide great results, without necessarily increasing costs.
You may want to select a specific colour for your item, especially if you have set company colours. You can choose special colours from the 'Pantone Matching System(PMS)', which is like having a paint swatch of all colours available.
Pantone colours are identified by a number (eg. PMS 247), giving an industry standard for designers and printers.
Usually, if you are printing letterheads or plainer literature, it is cheaper to use just 1 or 2 colours, which you can choose from the Pantone range. This saves having to print your item on a 4 colour press, and you only need to pay for 1 or 2 plates.
One important point to remember is that even a Pantone colour can vary on different papers or presses, so if you are concerned about exact matching, do ask for advice.
4 colours or full colour or 4 colour process?
'4 colour' or '4 colour process' is print speak for a full colour job. On a printing press, all colours are created by mixing four main colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (or Key).
If your job needs more than 3 separate colours, you can simply go to CMYK, which means you can use all the colours available, should you wish. It is usually cheaper to print 4 colour process than 3 special or separate colours
A 'special colour'
When printing in CMYK, certain colours may not appear as you would like, and need to be printed separately as 'special colours' for the best result. In other words, using a chosen Pantone colour as well as 4 colour process.
The small business will need to balance the importance of having the exact colour against the price of a 'special colour' - and the extra plate cost.
The other option is to choose the colour you prefer, and ask the designer or printer how closely they can match it using 4 colour process.
Apple Macs, not PCs
Although most businesses are now using PCs, the printing world relies upon Apple Macs (Macs). Macs are particularly good at producing graphic work and pictures, so they are favoured by printers and designers.
The main cost of printing lies in getting the job ready to print. It often costs just a few pounds more to 'run-on' to an extra hundred or even thousand copies whilst the job is on press. Do ask what the 'run-on cost' would be for so many extra copies - you may be surprised at how small it is!
You may want to include drawings or colour photographs in your job. These need to be scanned, which is similar to photocopying a picture and translating it into a digital format ready to be used in digital artwork.
Many photographs are now supplied digitally straight from the camera. Please be aware that e-mailing the pictures may make the pictures smaller to make the email process quicker - this will make the picture too small for printing so always use the option 'keep my pictures the same size'.
Please note: when supplying images of any kind to your designer or printer, ensure that you either own the copyright to the image, or that you have permission to use it.
Hints and Tips
- If you choose to commission a designer, check exactly what costs you can expect at any stage, and if they charge per hour for corrections or meetings.
- If using pictures, always provide the best quality (highest resolution) that you can.
- When preparing an item for print, try to get everything as near-perfect as possible before you hand it over. Corrections or changing your mind can cost a lot at later stages, and will also take time.
- When you receive your proofs, ask how close they are to what you can expect for the final printed version, especially if you're using a lesser quality proof to save on cost - it is not always easy to get the colours exactly right on proofs.
- VAT in printing is a grey area, but as a broad rule, items designed to be written on will incur VAT. To be certain, always ask your designer or printer to confirm this early on.