The Six Secrets of No-Surprise Printing

The Six Secrets of No-Surprise Printing

Even When Using Digital Printing… it pays to plan.


Successful print jobs are all about planning and communication. If you plan carefully and communicate exactly what you want, it is unlikely that you will need an expensive do over by a problem or disappointment later.

Number One.

The first step is to have a rational idea of the physical piece you want to create. That means determining the size, shape, folds, and other characteristics. For anything more complicated than a flat sheet, it is wise to create a dummy or mock-up to make sure that pages and folds are where you want them to be.

Number Two.

If you are printing for a mailing, a mock-up helps to ensure that the individual pieces will fit in the envelope properly. It can also help determine the type of printing equipment, such as die cutting or masking that will be a much-needed impact. Simple steps now could lead to savings to make the printing process more efficient. Changing the dimensions, for example, could allow a piece to be printed on a smaller press to save money. Check with the post office or your direct mailer. Non-Traditional size and shape mailers may require a special rate.

Number Three.

Proofing is also important. It is often tempting to rush when you are working under a deadline, but it is always better (and much cheaper) to correct a mistake before printing begins. Show your last design to several people, include those who have not worked on the project. Their input will be fresh and objective. Look for the usual spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Carefully check the headline and subheads. Most important, be sure that all vital information is correct, including phone number, return address, postal indicia, and bar codes. 

Number Four.

One common mistake is to include photos that look good on a computer screen, but which do not print well on a press. For most, you will need photos or graphics with 300 dpi resolution. Always use stock or vector images from a reputable company. If the budget permits, hire a photographer, designer, or direct marketing mail copyrighter. Make sure they sign off the rights of their property to your firm.

Number Five.

When submitting your design file for printing, you must include not only the file but all the attached files, including fonts, photos, graphics, and logos. Check early on with your printer what they need to get what you want to achieve. Just because it is digital, printers need to follow a protocol to get the best-looking printed material.

Number Six.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that printing involves putting ink onto paper. The ink and paper you use will affect the last look. You cannot rely on how a design appears on a computer screen. Paper can come in various colors, thicknesses, and textures which affect the last appearance of printing. When in doubt, ask for samples before you begin the design and writing process.

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