Printing decisions – Essentials explained


25 March 2012

Essentials Explained is designed to help you understand the fundamentals of marketing your business and the related areas. This time we will be breaking down your choices when printing, to help you get the best printed material. Another Essentials Explained that may be of use is Printing (link unknown).

Getting your marketing material printed is a vital step in reaching your customers. Knowing what options are available to you can help you make the best printing decision, and ensure you are reaching your customer with quality material.

What printing method?

There are two main types of printing, digital and offset.

Digital printing
Digital printing is done on laser or ink jet printers, like your office printer, only to a much higher quality.
Digital printing has the advantage of a shorter turn around time but has a higher cost per page.

Offset printing
In offset printing the image is etched onto metal plates, the metal plates are then inked and the inked image is transferred to a rubber sheet or blanket. It is this rubber sheet that has contact with the paper and creates the printed image.

There are two types of offset printing, web offset and sheet-fed offset, and these types differ in the way that the paper is added to the machine. In sheet-fed offset, the paper is feed sheet by sheet into the machine, like your office printer. Web offset uses great rolls of paper, that are printed on before being trimmed down to size.

Offset printing includes the cost for creating the metal plates, so it can be too expensive for small quantities, however it is very cost effective for large print runs.

Knowing about the printing methods is important for when you are making printing decision. You will need to consider the number of copies you will require, and how quickly you require your printing.

What type of paper?

There is a huge range of paper available, and choosing the right paper for your printing job often comes down to whom you are trying to reach and your budget. Let’s look at the different options.

Paper weight
Paper weight refers to the thickness, or the density, of the paper. Standard office paper is around 80 gsm (grams per square meter) and card board is around 400 gsm.

The paper weight impacts the overall quality of the printing, paper with a higher paper weight feels more prestigious. The average paper weight for brochures and flyers is between 120 and 170 gsm.

Coated verses uncoated paper
Paper is coated to give a smooth finished result, this is achieved by filling in the gaps in the paper fibre.

Coated paper generally has a heavier weight and produces a sharper, brighter image, as light is being reflected off the paper back to the viewer’s eyes. It also holds the ink better and is less absorbent, meaning the printing can have finer details.

Coated paper is glossier than uncoated paper and also comes in different levels of glossiness. In descending order, these levels are gloss, dull and matte. The higher the gloss the sharper the image, however higher gloss is more difficult to read for a long period of time, so is not desirable for large amounts of writing.

Uncoated paper usually has a rougher feel and less glare, which makes it easier to read. Newspapers are generally printed on uncoated paper.

Uncoated paper is generally less expensive than coated paper, however coated paper generally gives the impression of a better quality. Therefore it is important to consider the audience and the purpose of your printed material before deciding on coated or uncoated paper.

Recycled paper
Using recycled paper is a great way to show that your company is concerned about the environment. Recycled paper is available at the same quality as brand new paper, and can be found for the same price. To be even more environmentally friendly use the recycled paper in conjunction with vegetable based inks. This makes it even easier to recycle the paper again.

What about colours?

For printing, the artwork must use colours in the CMYK colour mode.  CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. These are the four colours used in full colour printing, and are mixed together to create all of the colours you see on paper.

This colour mode is different from the colour mode you see on a computer screen, RGB. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue and works by red, green and blue light being added together to form different colours. So to reiterate, RGB is used for websites and other online forms and CMYK is used for print.

While CMYK are the standard colours for printing, they are not the only colours. For an additional cost you can have the printers use a spot colour.

A spot colour is any print colour that cannot be made using the basic CMYK colours. For this reason, it is more expensive to have a spot colour included in your print job. The most common spot colours used are Pantone colours.

Pantone Colours

Pantone is a company based in the United States. They have created a colour management system where thirteen ink pigments are used to match the ink to the exact colour shown on sample cards (like paint chips). Colours are assigned individual numbers to make reference easy.

This means that you can match an exact colour when printing or can ensure that a certain colour, like you logo, will always appear in the right shade. For example Cadbury, the chocolate company, use the purple colour Pantone 2865c 1, to ensure their purple is always the ‘Cadbury purple’.

Metallic colours are also included in Pantone’s range and can be a striking inclusion to your printing.

Once again, it is important to keep your audience in mind and what colours they will best respond to.


What other effects are possible?

There are a range of other effects that your printer may provide, including the following.

Varnish is an additional coating to the finished printed piece. It adds a shine, which can make images appear more vibrant, and can also protect the print work. Varnish is available in gloss, matte, satin or silk, and UV. UV varnish is the premium varnish and can even have a textured finish.

UV varnish is available as an all over varnish or as a spot varnish, which is just on selected areas. Spot UV varnish can be the solution to paper selection problems (see the paper section above). If you have images you want printed on coated paper and large amounts of text you want printed on uncoated paper, you can get an effective result by printing on uncoated paper and spot varnishing the images.

Embossing is where areas of paper in the printed work are raised. Embossing can be blind, where there is no printing on the raised area; or colour register, where there is printing on the raised area.

Debossing is the opposite of embossing and is where areas of the printed work are indented. Again, debossing can be blind or colour registered.

Also called foil stamping, foiling is the processes of adding a layer of metallic or textured paper to the printed work. Foiling can be used in conjunction with embossing and debossing.

Die cutting
Die cutting, in relation to printing, is the cutting of an unusual shape in your printed work. For example, having the front fold of your brochure cut to have the appearance of a cloud, instead of a the usual straight edges.

All of these effects can add impact to your printed work, if used correctly.

What binding should I use?

When you have a multi-page document, like a booklet or annual report, you will need some way to bind the pages together. These are some of the more common options.

Perfect binding
Perfect binding is the process used to create soft cover books and most magazines. The process starts with a signature; which is a collection of pages, printed front and back on a larger sheet of paper. These signatures are folded and stacked in the order of the book. Their edge is ground and they are glued to a paper cover and trimmed. The finished result has a front and back cover and a spine that can be printed on.

In saddle-stitching, the process is to nestle the signatures (instead of stacking them) and to stitch in the middle through the fold of these signatures. This stitching is usually done with a thin wire, that can appear like staples. The finished result does not have a spine that can be printed on and the size of the booklet is limited to 80 pages. Calendars are often created with saddle-stitching.

Plastic or wire coil binding
The results of plastic or wire coil binding are similar to the binding of display folders or spiral bound notebooks. Plastic or wire coils are fed through holes that have been punched in the printed pages.

Ring bind folders
A more cost effective way to bind your document may be to use a ring bind folder and punch the holes and collate the document yourself. Ring bind folders allow you to change the order of the pages, include and remove pages and also, to reuse the folder after the document is no longer required.

These are only some of the decisions that you will be required to make when having material printed. As with most things, if you are in any doubt it may prove much more cost effective to consult an expert. Italic Creative is experienced in the creation of marketing material, and printing. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss how we can help your business in these areas.

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