When ordering print materials there are many things to consider; things that may have never crossed your mind until your printer asks you what you prefer. Here are a few things that you should determine before asking for a quote from your printer.

    1. Quantity: Sounds like a no-brainer right? But you wouldn’t believe how many times a client requests a quote without giving specific quantities. Many people think, “Well, why does the quantity matter? I want to know the price before I decide on a quantity.” Quantity is important for an accurate quote because the higher the quantity the lower the price per unit. For example, if you plan on ordering brochures as you need them and you decide to order 250 today and then in a month order another 250, it would probably be a wise decision to order 500 the first time around because you will actually be saving money. If you are unsure about the exact quantity, give us a few different quantities to quote on (e.g. 100, 250, 500, and 1000).
    2. Ink Colors: This can be a bit confusing to some people who are not familiar with the printing process. First let’s talk about Full Color Process printing. Without getting too technical; process printing basically uses 4 inks to create all colors that your document uses. These ink colors are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. See the image below to see what I mean. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black mix together at different densities to create a full color image during full color printing.

      Process Printing is used when your document has full color imagery or has a variety of colors used throughout the artwork. Results may very slightly from project to project when using process printing. In contrast, spot color printing uses only the inks you specify, these inks are chosen from a swatch booklet called the Pantone Matching System (PMS). Pantone colors are premixed inks which will give you the same result every time they are used. Most companies assign pantone colors to their logos to keep a consistent color throughout all of their branding. Spot colors are often used on items such as business cards, letterhead and monotone artwork. Though you can use many spot colors on one piece, it is more cost effective to use either one or two spot colors when printing your pieces. If you have more than that, we suggest going to full color process printing.

    3. Flat Size vs. Finish Size: Many printed pieces such as brochures or greeting cards start off as one size (flat size) and then get folded to their final size (finish size). Here is an example: If you want to print a batch of standard, tri-fold brochures your flat vs. finish size specs might look like this “Flat Size: 8.5″ x 11″ Finish Size: 8.5″ x 3.66″” This lets them know that there will be some extra work after the piece is printed whether it be cutting, folding, etc. (in this case, folding only).
The flat size of a standard trifold brochure would be 8.5″x11″ and it’s finish size would be 8.5″x3.66″.
  1. Stock Color: In many cases your paper stock will just be white, but there are those times when you might want a different color for a special project or you might prefer to have your stationery and business cards on colored stock. Make sure you let them know what color you are looking for. Most printers have sample books that you can look through to get a better idea of what you are looking for, just stop by and ask if you can take a look. Also be aware that different stock manufacturing companies call their stock colors different things. For example, if your printer uses Neenah Paper, they might call a paper color “ivory” when Carnival Paper might call it “off white”. If you are unsure, ask for your printer to send you a sample or ask to look at their sample books.
  2. Stock Weight: This is where most people get a little lost, and by no fault of their own. If you are not familiar with the printing process, stock weight can be a little tricky to wrap your head around. There are many different weights of different types of paper, but we will just list the most common types used:
    • 20# Text – standard copy and flyer stock
    • 100# Text – standard brochure stock
    • 14 pt Cover – premium business card stock
    • 24# Text – standard letterhead stock
    • 100# Cover – standard cover stock
  3. Stock Finish: There are a couple options when your stock is finished. You can either leave it uncoated (for items such as copies and letterhead) or you can have them put a coating over the piece. If you decide to coat your printed items, you can either request an Aqueous Coating or a UV Coating. Aqueous coating is a water-based coating that protects the piece from things such as smudging, fingerprints, etc. Aqueous coating gives you some gloss quality (offering a glossier finish on lesser grade papers), it will not yellow with age, and since it is water-based, it is environmentally friendly. If you want a high gloss piece, you will want to go with a UV Coating. Be aware that if you choose to go with a coating, you will not be able to write on the piece.
  4. Finishing Options: After your piece has been printed and coated, it might need more work depending on the type of project you’re printing. If you are ordering something like greeting cards, you will probably need to get them scored and folded. Scoring basically means that the printer will make an impression into the paper along the fold line to ensure accurate folding without the paper buckling. If you are ordering something like an 8 page booklet, you might need to get them saddle-stitched. This means that they will staple the pages together down the middle of the fold (similar to some CD booklets). Other finishing options include drilling holes, mounting, die cut, etc.
  5. Turnaround: Finally you will need to let your printer know when you need the piece completed by. Ask your printer what their normal turnaround time is to determine whether you will need to ask for a rush order or not. Be aware that rush fees can get a little pricey so a good rule of thumb to avoid this is to not wait until last minute!

Though there is so much more behind the printing process, these are the basic things you should be thinking about when you send a job to your printer (or graphic designer). If you do not know what you should do in regards to any of these printing specifications, you can always ask your printer or graphic designer for suggestions. Remember, developing a quote takes time. Try to give your printer at least 48 hours before you need the quote. We hope you found this article on printing specifications useful. Next time you request a quote or send a job to print, your printer will be impressed when you provide them with all of this information from the get-go.