Printing Processes tips and guidelines

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Digital: very cost effective for short run printing, it works directly from electronic data and print in four colour process. The quality is not quite on a par with lithography and you cannot use single Pantones® or metallic inks. Other uses for this process include large format posters & banners on paper or vinyl and transfers.

Litho: by far the most popular print process, a metal plate is treated so that the image area attracts the oil-based inks, while the wet non-image areas resist them. The process is more expensive than digital though and only starts to pay for itself on larger runs.

Paper Sizes

Double Crown, Foolscap, Quarto, all paper sizes that were in use in the UK over 20 years ago, but now we’ve adopted the standardised ISO ‘A’ sizes used across Europe (yes, the US still have their own !).

A sizes.

A7 – 74.25mm x 105mm
A6 – 105mm x 148.5mm
A5 – 148.5mm x 210mm
A4 – 210mm x 297mm
A3 – 297mm x 420mm
A2 – 420mm x 594mm
A1 – 594mm x 841mm

Here are some standard sizes for stationery;

Business Cards – 90mm x 55mm or 85mm x 55mm
Letterheads – A4 – 210 x 297mm

Design & Printing Terms

Bleed is the part of a printed document that is outside of the final size of the piece. It is used to make sure images and other design elements print all the way to the edge of the paper. The accepted standard is 3mm, outside the size of the brochure or leaflet. When placing objects in a page that must go all the way to the edge, make sure they extend to at least 3mm outside of the trim.

The body of a layout (also called copy or body copy) is the main text.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, the colors a printer works with, as opposed to RGB. This is also known as process color.

The process of an algorithm making file sizes smaller by combining similar data. Most of the time this is used for sending files quicker by email for example, but it can also cause loss of quality, especially in regards to images.

Refers to the effect of movement of copy, within say stitched brochures with a large pagination. The volume of paper pushes out the inner pages to the fore-edge, and along with it any copy so when trimmed, the copy is nearer to the edge. It is important to allow for this for any folios that may appear in the corner of a page.

Images and/or text running across two or more pages. Look to see that they line up when you go to a press check.

Dots per inch is the more exact way to define the resolution for a file that is to be printed.

EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript. A common file format for exporting Illustrator files, it contains a bitmap preview of the image as well as instructions written in the PostScript language that describe how the object is to be printed. An EPS file is usually a vector.

This is basically a page number or mark that that defines which page is which within a brochure or leaflet.

Technically, a font is the complete collection of characters, including numbers, symbols, accented characters, punctuation marks, etc. in a given typeface design. A font also includes the design in various weights, such as bold or italic; it is more comprehensive and complicated to design than a typeface.

Freehand is the Macromedia equivalent of Adobe Illustrator.

Also known as screening back, it is where an image is made transparent so that the background shows through. Sometimes this can be an undesired effect in the printing process due to too little ink being transfered to the paper. Be sure to check for unwanted ghosting on the press check.

The point where two pages meet in the middle (as opposed to the edges which are margins).
On a wire stitched brochure, they generally meet very close to each other so there’s no problems with copy or pictures disappearing, but with Perfect Bound brochures, you must allow for some loss of copy etc into the spine.

A proprietary file format from CompuServe. It is used in web graphics and is best for images that are made of solid colors, like logos. GIFs support transparency (however, pixels are either transparent or opaque, nothing in between) and they can be animated. GIFs are also considered a lossless format—meaning they do not suffer compression artifacts—as long as they do not exceed 256 colors.

A gradient is a fade from one color to another. There are many shapes a gradient can take, but generally it is either linear (straight) or radial (round, where it fades from the center outwards). Gradients can also be highly customized with many different color patterns so that it is difficult to tell if an object actually has a gradient. Generally gradients are used to add depth, or sometimes a shiny or metallic look, to a design element, but they can also be used simply to color an object.

Yes, this is a real term in graphic design! Hickeys happen when foreign matter like dust, blobs of ink or bits of paper make marks on a print piece. You should look for them at the press check.

A vector program often used by designers to create logos and work with or manipulate type.

The process of setting up pages in their correct order for print.

An abbreviation for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the committee that created this file type. It is best used for photographs or images that have gradients.

A close-to-reality rendition of a project. This is often used in packaging design to show how a proposed design would look on a box or other type of package. It is used to give the client/stakeholders a better idea of the final product. It can also be used in web design to show a rough approximation of what the final website would look like in a screen shot of a browser.

Portable Document Format. This file type is often used to send complete artwork to print.
Many printers favour this now as it suites their workflow software. Some will take them as Designer Spreads, some as individual pages. It’s always good to check well before the artwork is ready to send.

When ink is too sticky, it can take bits of the paper with it as the paper travels through the press.

Picture element. It is the basic digital component that makes up a raster/bitmap image.

Pass on Press
A press check is where one goes to the printers while the job is being set up to print. The printer will give you a press sheet to look at and this is the final time to check color and print quality, not the time to check for typos; that should be done with the proofs! When you go to a press check, in addition to accurate color, look for crossovers, slurring, picking, ink smearing, hickeys, and registration.

The order and amount of pages within a brochure or leaflet

Printer Spreads
The order in which the printing company will lay out pages, generally for a multiple page pagination. The pages are not printed in the order that they appear in the final book. For example, in a 16 page book—assuming the front cover is page 1 and the back cover is page 16—page 2 and page 15 would be printed on the same sheet of paper next to each other. Pages 3 and 14 would be on the next sheet, on the other side of that same sheet goes pages 4 and 13, etc, so that when the pages are nested in the final book, they appear in the correct order. The process of setting pages up in this order is called imposition.

Process Color
Also known as CMYK

A design program used to manipulate raster (bitmap) images.

A raster or bitmap image is made out of pixels. Raster images are typically photos, but they can also be illustrations that have been turned from vectors into pixels.

Reader or Designer Spreads
The pages of a composition set up in the order a reader would see them, page 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Compare this to Printer Spreads.

Not to be confused with a ‘run on’. A reprint is where you’ve had say a brochure printed in the past, you’ve run out, so ordered some more.

The number of pixels in each unit of measure. There are two main ways to discuss resolution: you can talk about resolution in terms of image size: “The document is 5×7 inches at 300 dpi,” or you can talk about resolution as dimensions: “The document is 1500×2100 pixels. In reality, these are all just different ways of talking about the same thing: the amount of image information. So if someone asks you the resolution of an image and you merely reply, “300 ppi,” you’re not telling the whole story.

Red, Green and Blue are a monitor’s color space, so cannot be used in the printing process.

Run on
Not to be confused with ‘Reprint. This is a quantity run on from the initial quantity at the same time. So, if you were quoted for say 1,000 leaflets, with a 500 run on you’d have ordered 1,500 leaflets to be printed at the same time.

If ink has a low “stickiness,” it can create a soft or blurry look. Look for slurring, which is the opposite of picking, on press checks.

Spot Color
Inks that are not mixed from the four process colors. They are used for items, like logos, that need to be a consistent color no matter how or where they are printed. Any time you add an extra ink to a print job, it increases the price. Metallic inks are also spot colors.

The raster version of EPS.

To View
The number of the same item on a printed sheet. For example, you can have 8 A5 leaflets to view on an A2 sheet.

A typeface is simply a design or look of letters and maybe numbers. It does not include character variations or weights like bold, and may not even include numbers or upper or lower case letters.

Vectors can most readily be recognized as illustrations, particularly from programs like Illustrator or Freehand. But not all illustrations are necessarily vector-based. Vectors work by defining points and what fills the space between those points in a document and they are stored as mathematical formulas. Vector files (like Illustrator files) are fractions the size of raster files because there is less data needed to create the images.

Tips – Don’t go over the edge!

When designing anything for print, there are tolerances and limitations to take into account, whether it be how close to the edge you can place an image, or replicating a specific colour.Here are a few things that will help you design and produce a great piece of print. (Cross reference this with
‘Printing Processes’).

Trim: Always allow +/- 2mm around the edge of a page for trimming. This is very important with multi page booklets & brochure for instance. There will be some slight movement when a section is folded. Add 3mm ‘bleed’ to the outer edges, and make sure that any ‘copy’ be it a ‘folio’ or ‘text’ is at least 5mm from the edge, more would be better on larger booklets to allow for ‘creep’. This will ensure that it isn’t trimmed off, or too close to the edge. Of course, you may want to ‘bleed’ an ‘image’ or ‘tint’ off the edge. In this case make sure that you add the 3mm ‘bleed’ so that no white will show when trimmed.

Gutter: With multi page booklets & brochures, especially if they are ‘perfect bound’, the more pages there are, the more you will have to allow for ‘images’ and ‘copy’ disappearing into the ‘gutter’. This does vary, but allow for at least 5mm either side of the ‘gutter’. In this way, ‘text’, ‘headings’ and ‘images’ should still be legible. If you want ‘headings’ to go across a ‘spread’, try to position them so that the ‘gutter’ falls between words, rather than between letters, and space them further apart. If an ‘image’ goes across a ‘spread’ then ensure that the area that would go into the ‘gutter’ is not too important, i.e. a face or product.

Folded Leaflets: When designing or producing ‘artwork’ for a ‘roll fold’ leaflet, it is important to allow for the pages to fold into each other. As a general rule of thumb, make the innermost page 2mm shorter in width than the one next to it. So for example, on a ‘6pp’ ‘1/3rd A4’, looking at the artwork unfolded, (that is ‘flat’), with the outer front cover at the right you will have 3 pages ‘to view’. From left to right the page sizes will be; 97mm/99mm/99mm. If it were an ‘8pp’ ‘1/3rd A4’ the page sizes would be 95mm/97mm/99mm/99mm. Do remember though, that when viewing the inside of the leaflet, the measurements will be the other way around!

Economies of scale. When budgeting for a print project that has more than 1 similar item, be it a set of Stationery, Business Cards, Poster or Leaflet, it’s size can be important, not only for it’s use but especially the cost.

Try and stick to ‘A’ sizes, as this is how most presses are configured, generally to print A3, A2 or A1 finished sizes. As a rule of thumb, the higher the quantity required, the bigger the press will be used. The bigger the press, the higher the initial ‘set up’ cost. Set up will include printers proofs, plate making, and ‘making ready’, (see also ‘Pass on press’).

So, if you want some A4 Letterheads, together with 1/3rd A4 (or DL) Compliment Slips, and they are to be printed on the same stock paper in the same colours, ask if they can be run together. You may end up with more of one item than you needed, but it will be more cost effective than having them printed separately. For example, if you wanted 500 Letterheads you’d get 3,000 Compliment Slips (1 Letterhead ‘to view’, 3 Comp’ Slips ‘to view’) if run on an A3 press. For larger stationery runs, you may go up to a bigger A2 press. On this you could have all sorts of combinations. For example, 3 A4 Letterheads & 3 DL Comp’ Slips ‘to view’, and if the printer ran 1,000 sheets, you would have 3,000 of each, or you could run a Continuation Sheet in place of a Letterhead, and have 2,000 Letterheads, 1,000 Continuations & 3,000 Compliment Slips.

Use this method on Leaflets as well. You can print eight A5 Leaflets on an A2 sheet, so there’s quite a few quantity variations you could have from 1 version to 8 different kinds.

At the end of the day, the more you have will bring the unit cost down, and sometimes there’s not a lot of difference between a few more hundred, than another 1,000.

Always get a ‘run on’ cost, so if you think say you want 2,500 Leaflets, get another cost for 1,000 as well, and even double the quantity as it may not be that much more.

The easiest solution though is to let DXG help you with all your print requirements, and we’ll cost and produce it in the most cost efficient way, keeping an eye on quality.