Educational Programs

Print Buyers Guide

1st Thing

  1. Have a meeting! Common sense isnt common, its a gift.
  2. Meet with the designer, the printer, the finisher (bindery, foil, laminating, etc.) the mail house, the fulfillment. Whoever will have a part in the job. Make sure everyone knows what the other is doing, get your timetables together and keep to that timetable.
  3. Plan for the time you will have the proof. If it will take 3-5 days to approve the proof, put that in your schedule. This time cant always be made up at the end. Holding the finisher responsible for the time delays can result in disasters.
  4. Review the quote now that everyone has met, have the printer quote the job. Meeting before quoting will help make sure nothing has been left.
  5. Be responsible
    • Make sure the files you give the printer are ready, all artwork, fonts, screens, etc. When the printer has to fix a file that isnt ready and it holds up your timetable. Make sure your designer works closely with the printer to create a ready to go to print job.
    • Dont make changes in the production after its in production once it starts.
    • Dont assume anything. Ask any question, double check.

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Bindery & Finishing

Finishing includes mounting, diecutting, coating, laminating, embossing, punching, gluing, and marbleizing. Binding is the work required to convert printed sheets into books, magazines, catalogs, and folders. Following are the steps of the finishing process.

Heavy stocks or those requiring precise folding should be scored prior to folding. Generally, this is a separate operation on letterpress equipment. But, some scoring may be done in-line on offset equipment for certain jobs.

Once a piece is printed, trimming is usually done to clean up the sheets. Since trimming cannot be 100% accurate from sheet to sheet, certain tolerances must be taken into account. A common mistake that is made is not allowing overwork for images intended to bleed off the edges of the page or sheet. Normally this overwork should be no less than 1/4".

Embossing results in a dimensional image on a sheet. The embossing may be single-level or sculptured (referred to as multilevel). Single-level dies are least expensive and may be mechanically prepared. Multilevel dies are made in much the same way a sculptor executes a work of art and are therefore more expensive. Embossing may be either blind (applied without any printed image), foil (applied with foil at the same time as embossing) or printed (embossed over a previously printed image).

Application of a flat surface of foil can add much to a printed piece. Foils are not only metallic, but may be holographic, tints or pigmented. Pigmented foils, including white, are usually opaque and are used frequently to imprint a light image or type on dark stocks, thus reducing multiple passes required in lithographic or letterpress printing processes to achieve the same degree of opacity.

Folding is a relatively imprecise operation, so you must leave room for variations in the folds. Remember also that each fold is affected by the variation in the previous fold and the selection of paper. Prepare a paper dummy of the folds before you go to press, and remember to allow adequate trim for the bindery operation.

When planning your job, you need to decide if it will be bound and how. Discuss the bindery requirements with your printer or trade binder before going into production. Following are some common bindings and their definitions.

Signatures inserted into each other and stapled through the spine. Requirements: At least 1/4" lip on back of the signature. Head trims and foot trims should be 1/8".

Side Stitching
Stapled through stack, parallel to spine.

Perfect Binding
Individual leaves are glued at the spine to form the book. Ask your bindery for special preparation instructions.

Spiral Binding
Wire spiral inserted through holes punched in bindery edge of leaves. Requirements: Minimum trim of 1/8" on head, spine, foot, and front more desired. Binding margin is 1/2".

Comb Binding
Plastic comb binding inserted through holes punched in bindery edge of leaves.

All finishing processes require special planning before the job is printed. In addition to the processes listed above, printed pieces may be diecut, coated or laminated. Many laminates and coatings will react with certain inks and discolor them. Be sure you and your printer are fully aware of the printing requirements that are affected by the finishing processes.

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Choosing a designer who can work efficiently and effectively in the digital environment can result in achieving some of the time and money savings that software vendors have been promising and customers now demand. Communication has become an absolute requirement between the print buyer, the designer, and the printer to ensure smooth handling of the many steps leading to a successfully produced final piece.

Beyond the designer's talent and electronic skills, attention should be given to the wide spectrum of papers available today, as well as potentially creative production techniques such as folding, embossing, and coating. All of these and more can contribute to the effectiveness of print as a media that gets results in the marketplace.

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The Digital Universe

Digital copy preparation is now virtually universal. Its application to typesetting, the creation of art, image capture, and page makeup have replaced the traditional forms to such an extent that the mechanical "board" is by far the exception rather than the rule.

However, the contents of the traditional "mechanical" that were considered absolute requirements still exist today. They simply live on in a different form. While software has provided designers with a fantastic array of new tools, the significance of communications between the printer and the originator has not lessened. If anything, the need for clear and even earlier communication and collaboration has increased in importance.

And, with the shifting of certain responsibilities from the prepress provider to the customer, the functions previously performed by that provider must now be better understood since they are now being implemented by the designer/creator of the file.

Now, the file preparer is being compelled to comprehend how the work performed on the computer must accurately represent the ink-on-paper product which is the final goal. If faithful reproduction, cost savings and quicker turnaround time, among the many other mutually shared goals of the originator and printer, are to be realized, the need for well prepared, accurate materials for use by the prepress provider and/or printer has never been greater.

Included in this section are prepress and printing basics to guide you in this effort.

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Getting to Plate

In most situations, plates are prepared from film negatives which are output from imagesetters or, less frequently today, from exposure on a graphic arts camera (a practice from which we got the term "camera ready," describing traditional artwork at its final stage of preparation). Now there are even plates prepared directly from computer files without the use of any film. In any case, correct copy preparation for the plate is paramount. If changes are made or mistakes are caught after this plating setup, additional costs rise rapidly.

Jobs generated from computer files must meet all the printing production requirements that the final composited traditional film used in the making of plates once contained. Those who prepare files for plate-ready film must include spreads and chokes (called "traps" or "trapping" in printing terms), bleed overwork, trim and center mark indications, all of which were formerly accomplished by the image assembler (or "stripper") at the printer. Today, printers with electronic prepress capabilities frequently offer file manipulation services that cover things like trapping, low-resolution image replacement, and more, preferring to handle these critical production details in-house to assure proper preparation for their particular press and finishing lines.

The importance of accurate proofs from digital files or plate film has increased because of today's speed of production and the opportunities to rapidly incur expensive remake costs at the plate stage.

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How To Solicit Comparable Estimates

To solicit accurate and consistent estimates, each participating printer should have a complete set of specifications and a mock-up of your design. Request written estimates. If you change a specification for one printer (for example, paper) be sure to advise all other bidders of this change. Otherwise, your estimates won't be comparable. Be aware that most estimates will be valid for a limited period, usually 30 days.

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Quick Turnarounds

Scheduling quick turnaround is the rule, but it requires intelligent coordination. Begin with your target or distribution date and work backwards with the representative of your selected printer. Stick to your schedule as much as possible, and alert your rep in advance if there are unavoidable delays. Also, advise your rep that you expect to be informed if there are delays on the printer's end. If you are separately contracting various production tasks, make certain to account for the time that each vendor needs, including delivery between these vendors.

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Selecting A Printer

There are literally thousands of printers, so how do you choose? First, start with local printers. Take tours of their plants and note their specialties. Get to know a variety of printing salespeople and start a file of printing samples for comparison. Ask friends or associates for references. When all other things are equal, it may be best to go with the company that will provide value-added services that fit the needs of your business, whether that's full coordination of projects, design services, or distribution. Establishing an ongoing relationship enables your printer to know your various requirements and expectations, and offer suggestions that can save time and money.

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"Specing" the Job

Detailed, accurate specifications are the key to success with any printing job. Your printer must have complete information to fulfill your expectations. In this section you'll find a checklist for writing printing specifications which will help you organize all the details. You can even use our "spec sheet" to help fill out a request for quotation and for issuing a purchase order.

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