It’s that time of year again!

Yep! Sorry everyone, but if you’re thinking of having personalised Christmas cards, Christmas gifts or brochures etc for early 2017, you really need to be putting orders in in the next few weeks… November and December are very busy for printers and so normal turn-around times get stretched by demand.

So, if you’ve had an idea, but not done anything with it, please don’t leave it too much longer… and if it’s anything we can help with, please just give us a call.

Looking ahead

Well, we’re nearly half way through the Autumn term and Christmas is looming… (Sorry for the reminder, but if you’re thinking of digital or corporate Christmas cards, now is the time to be working on them…).

printing_press
A printing press!

This post is not just about thinking about Christmas cards though! When we meet clients about an upcoming project, we like to try to help plan ahead. It’s not because we want to ‘get more business’; it’s because a little bit of planning can save clients a lot of money and frustration…

If a marketing push is something you’re thinking of for next year, please read this example below of how a bit of joined up thinking and planning managed to save a client thousands of pounds. I should point out, that this principle applies to litho printing which is what we use for higher quality projects, print runs over 1000 and special finishes. Digital printing prices are more consistent and best for smaller print runs.

We had a briefing meeting for a large retail client’s 56 page in-store training manual. As employment law changes twice yearly, we recommended that instead of a booklet that could need to be binned every six months, it would be a good idea to have an A4 ring binder printed and laminated, with 8 sections containing the information needed on loose sheets. These could then be updated when necessary, but the bulk of the content could be kept.

When in a different part of the office for a staff newsletter editorial meeting, we just happened to be having a conversation with another representative of that company who was also looking to produce a manual, a couple of months down the line. With a bit of digging, we worked out that what they really needed was a similar folder with inserts. So, we all got together and hatched a plan!

To get the best prices on these folders there are order thresholds. We asked very nicely and a binder printer agreed to print 100 of 2 kinds of folder outer, but class them as one 200 run job on the binder-assembly bit. A threshold was reached, so unit price fell dramatically and our client was able to save thousands of pounds. As a larger business with annual budgets, they didn’t have the small business concern of having the money in the bank. But the principles are the same and perhaps the impact (and relief) is greater when it’s a sole trader who wants to print a series of leaflets.

Is this sort of planning something that could help you save money or raise the spec of your next print job?

What’s the best way of folding my leaflet?

So you’ve asked us to create a new leaflet for you and you want it folded for maximum impact. Luckily, there are a few different ways of folding a leaflet and if you get it right, you can really get your message across.

Your content will be the principal guide, but it’s useful to know a few of the more familiar fold types. They generally fall into the following types: simple; short; accordion (sometimes known as ‘Z’ folds), roll (or barrel), gate, French and parallel. Pop ups and other more creative folds allow for a bit more fun. You can see some of them below.

This shows the most common types of folds for leaflets
The most common types of Folds

How does this affect me?

Each fold has different uses and the fold we choose depends on the purpose of the publication. For example, we would advise using a roll fold if you want to reveal information in a linear, storytelling-type way, or a gate fold if you have information that would benefit from a large, cinema-screen type presentation in the centre.

What can I do in future?

Before starting any project of this type, we would need to see the content first, to assess what would be the best type of fold to use. The placement of the content can then be planned accordingly before the design is created. As with most things, the more complex the materials, the more they are likely to cost, but careful planning can sometimes bring these costs back into the realms of possibility, so it’s always worth chatting it through.

What was that paper size again?

An illustration of the A series of paper sizes
The most common sizes of paper in Europe

Most of the time, when we do a print job, we work out the specifications based on the size of the finished job (A4, A3, A6 etc.). The reason for this is that paper is measured in standard sizes so everyone in the production process will know what they are working towards. When using, say an A5 reference, the printer knows to order the exact amount of paper to run a job without creating too much waste. Of course, you can have any sized job you like, but you may end up paying more for it.

How does this affect me?

Well, the vast majority of all printed materials are produced in one of the sizes above. The sheets of paper that run through the presses are in these proportions, so using a standard size minimises waste and makes it easier for a printer to plan the jobs on the press. This keeps the cost down and is much better for the environment too.

What can I do in future?

If you ask us to work on a print job for you, we can chat through your options and help you plan the job most effectively. We’ll also take into account things you may not have thought of, such as whether you want to keep your materials smaller than the ‘large letter’ format to save on postage, and best types of paper stock for the particular project you want to do.

An illustration of common envelope sizes
Common envelope sizes

What’s the difference between vector and raster images?

There are two ways of creating images on a computer, vector and raster, and there’s a knack to knowing the difference.

A Raster image of a butterfly
A raster image of the butterfly. In the zoom circle, you can see that the image is made up of square ‘dots’ called pixels

Continuous tone images like photographs are usually raster. Images with large areas of ‘flat’ colour or those created using mathematical equations to define the image are more likely to be vector. Fonts on a computer are also made from vectors.

A vector image of a butterfly
This is a vector image of a butterfly. You can see how the image is made in the zoom circle underneath. The red line is called the path, and the control handles—which control the curve of the path—are also visible.

How does this affect me?

Most of the time, you won’t need to know if an image is vector or raster, but occasionally it can be helpful to know. If you have an image like a logo that needs to be used at a range of different sizes, from say small on a business card, to enormous on a building’s signage, vector formats are best. This is because they can be scaled up or down without losing any definition. Photographic images really don’t look great as vector images though.

What can I do in future?

If we’re creating or sourcing the images for you, you shouldn’t need to worry. If however, you need to supply us with an image, say your logo or a photo for an ad, you will need to know what to send us. We’re always happy to help, so if you’re unsure, please feel free to give us a call and chat it through.

Bleed! Urgh! What’s that all about then?

A image with crop marks
A diagram showing how artwork that is to go to bleed is prepared for the printing press.

OK, so you’d like an A4 leaflet with a picture that goes right to the edge of the paper. To make that happen, the picture needs to go beyond where the paper will be trimmed (ie, a bit larger than A4). This means that when the paper is cut to size, the ink will go right to the edge. Content (image, text or simply colour) can be ‘bled’ off one or more edges.

How does this affect me?

If you were to ask us to create some artwork for you, and we are not organising the print on your behalf, we may ask you what the bleed and trim sizes are.

The trim size is the actual finished size (eg 210 x 297mm for an A4 job). The bleed size is the trim size plus the recommended bleed amount. If your printer has asked for a 5mm bleed, then the artwork will need to be 220 x 307mm to allow an extra 5mm on each edge.

What can I do in future?

If you are supplying images to us that you would like to bleed off the edge, please bear in mind that a few millimetres of that picture will be trimmed away. If you are sourcing your own print, we’ll need to know what bleed and trim size your printer requires.

If you’re asking us to provide you with artwork that you will print in your office or at home, please be aware that only specialist printers, or printers for home computers that are sold with ‘print to bleed’ capabilities are able to print to the edge of the page. If you don’t have one of these printers, it means that you will have an unprinted margin at the edge of every page, so we would need to make sure that the artwork was created with this in mind. We’re always happy to show you examples or chat it through over the phone if it’s something you’d like a better idea about.

How do I get my colours to stay the same?

Pantone swatches
This is a page from a Pantone swatch book. Designers and printers live by these books.

Traditional printing presses normally mix percentages of colours on 4 separate plates called CMYK (we’ve previously written a blog post about these) to arrive at the final colour. For most jobs, they are sufficient to produce enough accuracy in the final materials. However, where specific colours are a necessity, we suggest using a spot (or match) colour.

A spot colour is simply a specific ink that is premixed to a recipe, and that can be used either alone or in conjunction with other spot colours or CMYK inks. The print industry standard for pre-mixed inks is the Pantone Matching System (PMS) and there are over 1100 colours to choose from, including metallics like gold and bronze. Another use for spot inks is for adding special effects like UV varnishes or fluorescents.

How does this affect me?

Spot colours give you greater accuracy if specific colours are a must. Please bear in mind, however, that the addition of each spot colour may increase the overall cost of your job. Most clients limit spots to 2 or 3 colours, which are usually enough to accurately portray their company’s identity.

What can I do in future?

If you want to use spot inks for any reason, or have specific Pantone numbers from a previous job, it’s always a good idea to chat through how it will look and how other factors such as paper stock, matt or gloss lamination etc will affect it. We’re always happy to give our thoughts if you’d like to get in touch.

Why do colours change when I print?

RGB, CMYK and visible colour gamuts
The differences in the colours the human eye can see vs. the CMYK (print) and RGB (screens) colour gamuts

Firstly, you need to understand the difference between RGB and CMYK. RGB (Red-Green-Blue) is the colour system used on computer monitors, TV screens and digital cameras. It has the ability to show exactly 16,777,216 colours and as it is lit from behind, each colour is bright and vibrant. CMYK is used on printed material (a magazine or leaflet for example). Cyan (blue), Magenta (pink), Yellow and Black (the K stands for K colour) are used in varying quantities and can accurately portray anything from flesh tones to landscapes. CMYK has a far more limited colour gamut (range) than RGB.

How does this affect me?

You may find that the colours look different on a PDF proof that you have printed out to what you see on screen. There are many reasons for this, but the fundamental point is that the colours on screen will be much brighter and more vivid due to the difference between RGB and CMYK. In addition, the types of ink used in desktop printers may vary between manufacturers and are vastly different from the inks used on a printing press. Different papers and finishes will also change the way colours will look.

What can I do in future?

We always recommend a proof from the printer for any job where colour is an important factor. There are various types of proofs for colour matching and we will be writing a blog post on these in the near future. If you would like to chat through the differences and how they might affect you, we’re always on hand, even if you don’t have a definite project in mind.