The Print Process and Knowing What you Don’t Know

October 15, 2010 at 3:22 pm (graphic design, marketing, pantone, printing)

If you only retain one piece of information from this blog post, it should be: Call your printer first!

Print shops have a technical vocabulary all their own, and unless you’re working with a professional graphic design house on your project, you’re probably at risk for making some critical mistakes.

First, consider layout. Is your print collateral a custom size—something other than 8.5 x 11? Is there die cutting involved, such as a pocket folder in the back or business card slits? Could a slight size variation allow you to print and/or mail at a cheaper rate? Tell your printer what your plans for the document are and ask them if they have advice or even a Die Catalog, templates you can use to guide you through the initial layout process.

Next, consider paper stock. Selecting a paper can be very confusing because it comes in multiple varieties of finish, weight, opacity and brightness. This article, Print & Graphic Design Projects – Selecting Paper, has a good overview. It is important to know that paper may also affect how your colors and images appear. Again, it’s best to talk to your printer first, go in and feel paper options prior to the job, and discuss how selected papers will affect the end result.

Finally, consider color. If you or your client has specific expectations regarding color, it’s important to share this with your printer in advance. Color is discussed in terms of Pantone, an industry color guide, and pantones can be converted to CMYK densities (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key Black). Colors can also be described in RGB (Red, Green, Blue) densities, or Hex, or html colors (used on the web). If you have a very specific [green] that is your brand’s official color, say Pantone 362, it’s important to talk with your printer about the importance of accuracy. Your Green will appear very different on coated, glossy paper than it will appear on matte. And, if you print a proof at your office on your desktop laser jet, you can’t expect that the colors will match exactly once they come off the press at the print house. The print house has standards for accuracy and will have the true pantone match. Ask your printer for color swatches, and make sure you pick a color that meets your expectations.

These three considerations just scratch the surface of what you need to discuss with your printer. But, again, the best recommendation I can give is START by calling your printer and discussing your plan prior to layout.

If you’re in Massachusetts, I have a great printer Account Rep for you to meet.

Please share your thoughts.



  1. Linda Odineca said,

    Is this from personal experience? 😉

  2. Susan Heffron said,

    While I totally agree with everything you have said, I believe the best solution is to have the agency/graphic design team directly involved with the printer. At The Marketing Studio, we ask all of the design consideration questions (PMS colors, usage and size considerations) before we even start the design process. And, to ensure that the job is printed to the designer’s specifications, the proofs should be seen by the designer as well as the client. That way everyone signs off and knows exactly what the final piece will look like, and there will not be any surprises.

    • fullyfamished said,

      Thanks for the reply Susan. It is always preferred to have the graphic design team directly involved with the printer, however, we do not always have the luxury of working with an experienced, professional agency on collateral projects. Print houses would agree with you too, but they’ll still welcome business from less experienced, in-house marketing personnel who lack extensive design experience (i.e. me).

  3. Gretje Ferguson said,

    Yes, call the printer! Another consideration is the photos you plan to use for your collateral. Just because a photo looks great on your monitor does not mean it will translate well into print. Work with your photographer to get a photo file that is well exposed, sharp, and large enough for print. Again, the printer can advise you about photo specs.

  4. Robert Rebholz said,

    Great article and very useful information.

    From the graphic design side of a project let your designer know if you plan to use any promotional products in your marketing/advertising campaign.

    As a promtional products vendor we often have to deal with logos and designs that, while they may look stunning in print, are next to impossible to reproduce on promotional products.
    Logos that are very long will often have the text and small elements fill in. Have your designer create a stacked version of the logo.

    Every additional color adds additional expense to putting your logo on a product. Have a version of your logo that can be done in one color.

    Lastly, speaking of color, a PMS coor match adds an extra cost. And please, don’t have your designer “tweak” a color. We’ve had several designs where the color was created specifically for the client and could not be accurately reproduced.

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