The first thing to say is that low cost doesn’t mean cheap and cheerful! It is often said that you get what you pay for and in most instances that is true. but there are ways and means of get more or better value from your purchasing and that is what we will be concentrating on.
Every business buys print at some point. Some see it as a necessary evil —a requirement to keep the wheels and systems of their business going — letterheads, business cards, order pads, inspection sheets etc, whilst others see print as a way of really promoting their business and presenting it in the best light — brochures, business cards (again), posters, exhibition stands etc. What is important though is that whatever you buy it is fit for purpose and does what it needs to.
At Print & Mail Runner we have set up a business that aims to provide great value print through price, quality and service. We work closely with our customers to make sure the products we supply meet their requirements without compromise and consult on specifications when and where needed.
We are also committed to minimising the impact on the environment and only use FSC certified materials, unless specified otherwise and use waste reduction production practices. Wherever possible we ‘batch’ similar jobs together, this streamlines the production process and ensures we run our machines in the most efficient way. The benefit of us maximising the effectiveness of the production process is that we can produce print in the most cost effective way.
The principles of the six simple. proven steps to low cost print solutions are relatively straight forward and are based on a common sense approach. If you consider each of these steps when planning your print requirement you cannot fail to save money without compromise on quality.
Although you can take each of the steps individually they are inextricably linked and in some instances cross over.
Before we get into the 6 simple, proven steps to low cost print solutions it is worth iust taking a couple of minutes to discuss the two main ways of printing, namely litho and digital.
With a wide range of printing in Newcastle techniques. machinery and print finish options on the market. choosing the right process for a particular project can often be a confusing process. Here we explain the key differences between the two main forms of printing — digital printing versus litho printing.
A digital printing press is basically a very big, fast. colour laser printer. A digital printer takes a file and prints a complete copy of that file. before starting the next.
- Cost effective and fast for smaller print runs
- No setup costs, you pay for what you use. Ideal for personalisation
- Limited stock paper and card weight
- Reduced range of ink and print finishing options
- Can only print up to A3 in size
Range of Stock
Most digital printers will cater for between 7ogsm to 35ogsm stock. up to A3 in size. For specialist stocks, printing lithographically is often cheaper and produces a higher quality finish.
Digital printers are suited to lower print quantities, typically between 1 to SOO off, but this is job-dependent. They are also extremely cost effective for printing in black and white, even at larger quantities.
Digital printing is widely accepted as being the faster printing option. A digital printer doesn’t need to be set up for every job or require plates to be produced, and the output is instant.
Traditionally considered to produce a lower quality print compared to litho printing, digital printers have come a long way in recent years. The average layman. in most cases would find it hard to tell the difference between a good quality digital and a litho print.
digital printers print in 4 colour CMYK. Although able to match some specific Pantone colours, their accuracy does not compare to a lithographic print. If a number of spot colours or specific Pantone is important then litho print may prove the better option.
for the unique personalisation of every printed copy. digital printing is the only way to go, without proving to be an expensive and time consuming process.
A lithographic printing press works by using a number of plates to press an inked image onto a piece of paper. All the copies of each plate are printed at once, and then the iob is collated.
- Superior printing quality and finish
- Cost effective for larger print quantities
- Flexible stock. Ink and print finishing options
- Time and cost associated with plate creation
- Expensive for short print run
- Longer turnaround times
Range of Stock
Lithographic printers can take a wide range of printing stock weights, textures. finishes and sizes up to A1. Litho printing is the cheapest option for specialist stocks.
Litho printing is ideal for medium to longer print quantities, typically over SOO copies. For black and white printing. digital may still be the most cost effective alternative. even at higher quantities.
Lithographic print has longer lead times than digital print. This is because plates are created specifically for each printing i° b. and the printer must be set up accordingly. However. it is the most efficient way to print larger quantities.
Lithographic printing gives a superior printing quality that is unrivalled by even the best digital printers.
Litho printers provide the greatest accuracy in colour matching and printing specific pantone or spot colours.
The use of many print finishing techniques, from embossing and foil blocking to metallic inks and UV varnishes is best associated with litho printing.
So now that we have set the scene and given some background information on the wonderful world of print here are the six simple proven steps to low cost print solutions – follow them and you won’t go far wrong……..
What do you need it for and to do? Consider carefully the purpose of the product – does it need to fulfil a practical service such as an order pad? In which case the main consideration is functionality and practicality. Less important is the quality of the material, colours and special finishes. On the other hand if it will need to present or promote your company such as a business card. letterhead. leaflet or exhibition stand etc. then greater consideration needs to be made about material and finish. but be careful of not ‘overdesigning’ a product. What this means is do not fall into the trap of getting seduced into adding on additional finishes or processes where they are not essential to the design or function. Spending time on this element of planning your print will bring dividends later by making some of the other steps much easier.
This seems to be total common sense, but setting a budget and deciding how much do you want to spend is very important. It helps put parameters on your order. This is especially important if you are getting someone else to do the design, either in- house or a third party. Well-designed business cards do not necessarily need to be embossed in gold to stand out and present your business in the right way!
A well thought out design using relevant images and succinct text often provides the most cost effective way of communicating your message. Another consideration is shelf life; the thing about print is that you can get some great savings with economies of scale. If you have an established brand and / or you are replenishing business necessary materials such as order pads and stationery try to order the maximum quantity you can within your budget because this can give some great savings in the long run. If you are trying something new or only require smaller quantities then consider printing it digitally rather than litho.
Also when you are looking at a cost for a particular requirement establish from the outset what is included in the price or quote. Does it include for example an artwork check and delivery? An initially cheap price can become expensive once you add on various unforeseen ‘extras’.
Whether you are designing something in-house or using a third party designer make sure you spend time on considering and writing a specification. with special regard to the first two steps — requirement and budget. Try to give as much detail as possible about what the purpose / requirement of the item is together with the budget.
Consider the message you want to covey. the use of pictures and graphics are very important. Google images are a great source. but be careful that you pick a high resolution image — iust because it looks OK on your screen does not mean that it is OK to print. A screen (computer. tablet or smartphone) displays at 72dpi (dots per inch) where commercial presses print to 3OOdpi. This is a different type of dpi compared to consumer printers! To see how a press would print your logo or picture, zoom in to 400%. or display the image four times as large as you would like it to appear when printed. This will give you an idea of how it would look when printed. For more information on resolution, please contact saleslaflpm-runner.co.uk and we will send you our FREE guide on Resolution & Bleed. If an image. graphic or text is low resolution it will look ‘fuzzy’ and pixelated when printed. This is especially true with larger sized items such as posters and pull up banners.
This being said — if you want something a bit quirky & off-the-wall — then go for it; iust make sure you have got the budget!
Another consideration is bleed. You may well ask – What is bleed and why is it required? Well when graphics and pictures continue to the edge of a sheet of paper bleed is required. This is because a commercial printing press cannot print to the edge of a sheet of paper. Instead multiple products are printed on much larger sheets of paper and then cut down to size. Because it is impossible to cut exactly to the edge of your design a little over print on each side is required.
This overprint is called ‘bleed’. Any document that is being professionally printed will require a bleed area and a safe zone providing the print runs to the edge of the document. The diagram below shows a correctly lined up leaflet with 3mm of bleed and crop marks. The crop marks show the line that the guillotines must cut to. The bleed is the area outside of these marks.
For more information on bleed, please contact us on 0191 580 2031 and we will send you our FREE guide on Resolution & Bleed.
This is a relatively short and straight forward section – make sure you specify and use the appropriate stock for what you want to print. There are many and varied stocks available. but the three standard ones are as follows: BOND or uncoated. which gives a matt finish ideal for letterheads & comp slips or anything that needs to be written on; SILK. which gives a ‘soft sheen’ finish ideal for leaflets, business cards, booklets & folders and GLOSS. which as the name suggests gives a ‘glossy’ finish ideal for leaflets, brochures & posters.
But depending upon your requirement. budget & design you may want to use a more exclusive material such as a textured stock, coloured paper or recycled stock.
An associated consideration when thinking about what material you want to use is where you want to add a particular finish to enhance your product. Again this depends mostly on what you want the product for or to do and your budget. For example putting lamination (matt. gloss etc.) on a business card will give added protection and durability. but is no good if you want to be able to write on them.
Other finishes you can consider to enhance your product are spot UV which is the addition of a glossy varnish on specified areas such as a logo, strap line or significant text; embossing which is the process of creating a raised relief image or design on paper and card against the background or foil blocking. which is the application of pigment or metallic foil. often gold or silver, but can also be various patterns or what is known as pastel foil which is a flat opaque colour or a white special film-backed material. to paper where a heated die is stamped onto the foil. making it adhere to the surface leaving the design of the die on the paper. Foil stamping can be combined with embossing to create a more striking 3D image.
The first thing to establish when considering timescales is – when do you need it? The most cost effective way to buy print is to give yourself enough time so you can use the longest production and delivery methods. This allows the printer to fit the production into their work flow in the most efficient way, allowing them to provide the most cost effective price. This goes the same for delivery. So the main point here is — PLAN AHEAD. Leaving things to the last minute is more likely to increase your stress levels. create issues and problems and of course — it invariably costs more!
The key to picking a good supplier is to look at their history, any testimonials or have one referred by a trusted friend, colleague or business associate. Picking one that is tried and trusted is always a good start as long as you have checked that they can do what you require. within your budget and timescale.
Ideally where you want to get to is the development of a true partnership where the principles of ‘Know. Like, Trust’ have been established and both parties understand fully the needs and requirements of the other.
Some printers may specialise in one type of print process such as digital, litho or large format, which is fine if your requirement fits in with what they specialise in producing, but if it doesn’t or you have different elements of a project that need different printing processes then using a standalone printer may mean that they try and fit the job onto machines that are not designed for it. This can increase the price or not give you the desired result. Their only other option is to outsource the printing or finishing to a third party, which is fine as long as you know that this is happening and that it will not impact on the cost. quality or timescale. Another option is to use a professional print manger — this is someone who understands print and can help manage the process from beginning to end, regardless of the requirement. They will have a range of vetted ‘preferred’ trade suppliers who specialise or are best suited to produce a particular form of print or product.
So in summary I think we can safely say that the main secret to getting low cost print is to plan ahead. Assess your requirement. set a budget, be clear on the design. consider your material. check out the supplier and be realistic about timescales!
We hope this information has been of use to you and that you can use it to improve your print buying or at least enable you to consider more carefully the processes involved in producing good value print — whatever the application!
For more information or to book a FREE 30 minute consultation to discuss your
printing needs and requirements, please do not hesitate to contact us.