Business Printing Companies: FAQs and Misconceptions
Many things about running a business are hard. Finding a suitable printing company shouldn’t be one of them, but due to the huge number of different companies out there it can seem a like a daunting and overwhelming task. Especially if you don’t really know what you’re looking for. To further complicate things, printing is another of those fields with a huge lexicon of (sometimes centuries-old) terms that are totally befuddling to the newcomer.
Litho or digital? Gloss or silk? Saddle stitch or perfect-bound? These are just some of the questions we attempt to help you answer with our newly compiled list of FAQs and common misconceptions about business printing companies.
What do I need to get printing quotes?
The cost of your print job will depend on several key factors:
- Paper quality, generally determined by thickness and measured in gsm, or grams per square meter. Standard writing paper is around 80-100gsm, a glossy leaflet around 130-150gsm and the cover of a glossy mag around 300gsm.
- Paper finish – matt finishes are the cheapest and are dull, allow ink to rub off but don’t reflect much light. Glossy finishes lock in the ink and provide a reflective sheen whereas silk/satin finishes lock in the ink without the reflectivity. A UV finish is the luxury version and provides a more noticeable gloss – this can be applied all over or in defined spots. A UV finish is the most expensive.
- Paper size – we’ll address that in the next question.
- Colours used – less important with digital printing.
- Number of distinct pages (i.e. pages with different designs) in your document.
- Binding – saddle stitch is where the pages are stapled together; perfect binding is for larger brochures/catalogues/books and involves gluing the pages together.
- Number of copies you require – a lot of the cost involved in a print job is due to the set up costs. This means that the more copies you have printed, the less you’ll be paying per copy. So you’ll want to think hard about whether you can afford to risk running out of copies and come back for a second print run.
Didn’t you mention something about paper sizes?
Ah yes. A printing company can print on paper of pretty much any size and can produce documents of bespoke sizes. However, we find that a lot of people are unsure of how the standard paper sizes work so here’s a quick rundown:
- A0 1189x841mm
- A1 841x594mm
- A2 594x420mm
- A3 420x297mm
- A4 297x210mm
- Legal 355.6x215.9mm
- A5 210x148mm
- A6 148x105mm
- A7 105x74mm
- A8 74x52mm
So A0 is a large poster, A6 is a postcard etc. A common size for leaflets is an A4 sheet folded into three (a ‘tri-fold’ leaflet).
Can a printing company also design my leaflets/flyers/brochures/business cards?
Most printing companies can offer basic design services which are fine for simple flyers and leaflets. If you want a truly bespoke and professional design however, or if you’re looking for full logo and branding design, you’ll need to employ a graphic designer or marketing design company.
In what file format do I have to supply my images?
Printing companies can accept pdf (Acrobat) files and file formats from most desktop publishing software such as Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress etc. If you can only supply Word or jpeg files you may need to pay an additional fee for the printers to ‘typeset’ the documents i.e. get them into a printing ready format.
What’s the difference between digital and litho printing?
Lithographic (or ‘litho’) printing involves delivering the ink to the paper via a metal, polyester or paper plate. Digital printing uses much larger, more expensive versions of laser printers which apply toner to the paper. The difference is in quality and cost. Digital printing has come much closer in quality to lithographic printing in recent years but because litho uses industry standard ‘Pantone’ inks, colour specificity and consistency is still higher. For small print runs though, digital always wins on cost. So, if maintaining consistent colours across all your brand materials is of primary importance, you’ll probably plump for lithographic over digital.
Can I get a deal for regular orders?
Most printing companies will offer to set up an account for repeat customers offering significant discounts. However, if your volumes are consistently high you may wish to look into a contract with a print management company. Print managers will continuously scout around for the best printing deal so you’re always paying the lowest price without compromising on quality.
Common Misconceptions about Business Printing Companies
- Two-colour printing is always cheaper than full-colour printing.
This isn’t the case. Because printers have lots of full-colour orders to fulfil they can batch these jobs together to reduce costs for all the customers involved whereas the chances that two separate companies will have an order for the same two Pantone colours are very low.
- I need a business printing company for my self-published paperback.
You’d be better off finding a specialist book printing company for this – for the same reasons as above – because they’re fulfilling lots of similar orders they can do this more cheaply.