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3 Reasons You Should Always Give Your Printer Visuals with Your Print Specs

Dean Petrulakis     LinkedIn     Twitter

Senior Vice President, Business Development

Rider Dickerson

We’ve all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, right? Well, when it comes to submitting specs to your printer for an estimate, a picture could be worth a thousand dollars—by that I mean saving you that thousand dollars or more! Let me explain.

When you send specs to your printer and ask for an estimate, my guess is you are expecting an estimate that you can count on being accurate and that you will hold your printer to that estimate assuming you change nothing on your end. It may be a project for you if you are an end user or it could be for your client if you are an agency. Either way, experience tells me that you want that estimate to be a binding contract for the project. I’m here to say I agree with you, but only if 2 criteria are met: the specs don’t change after the original estimate and you supplied visuals with the estimate.

When I refer to a visual I simply mean a working PDF to show the layout, ink coverage and page count (if it’s a multiple page brochure). This PDF doesn’t have to be the final document in terms of the copy, but it should be accurate for the 3 elements I just referenced. Now, here’s why these 3 elements are important and can save you that thousand (or thousands) dollar mistake!

  1. Layout
  • When you supply the basic layout your printer can gauge if there are crossovers (which could affect the binding). If you don’t know what a crossover is it’s when an image crosses over the binding gutter from one page to the next in a spread.
  • If you have a lot of body type that is built in 4C process your printer should be wise enough to caution you against this. This can pose major registration issues on press. That type should be printed as black or a 5th color if you want a grey type or something other than black. That adds more money for the 5th color—see below for more on that.
  • If you have page numbers, other type or images too close to the edge of the page your printer can advise you to move those elements in a bit so they don’t get trimmed off due to standard bindery creep.
  1. Ink Coverage
  • Here’s where the big cost factors come into play. When you spec 4C process and you have tons of saturation and large areas of heavy coverage of a particular color that could be a problem—especially if that color is a corporate brand color. For better quality that color should print as a spot color so it can be controlled independently of the other 4 colors on press. This is more expensive (more plates, make ready time and ink) but in the end it will allow your printer to produce a higher quality brochure.
  • Maybe you requested a dull coated or silk sheet and your specs are 4C process but no protective coating. If there is anything above light ink coverage you really should request an overall satin aqueous coating to seal those inks and prevent scuffing. If you fail to supply visuals and don’t spec aqueous, your printer would be well within their right to have a conversation about charging you for the aqueous before they move into production. Depending on your relationship with your printer, maybe you can work out a fair solution to this.
  • Ink coverage can also play a factor into the paper selection. For example, maybe you are requesting a nice textured sheet with lots of tooth but you have ink from corner to corner on every page. This may not be the best use of that textured paper, and you may not get the type of ink laydown you were expecting. By supplying the visuals to your printer you can have this conversation and make sure you are both on the same page about expectations for the final look and feel of the piece.
  1. Page Count
  • Do I really have to say much here? If you spec a 16 page brochure and it’s actually 16 pages plus a 4p cover that’s a big problem come production time. Depending on the quantity of the piece that could be several thousand dollars of a discrepancy and could put you and your printer in a really tough spot. Supplying the PDF in the estimating phase allows your printer to confirm the page count and discuss any differences between what your specs say and what your file actually shows.

So, do yourself and your printer both a favor and always supply visuals with your print specs. If you can’t because no visuals exist yet then please come to an agreement with your printer that the estimate is only for initial budget purposes and that the printer can provide a final estimate upon reviewing the art. This will prevent ugly misunderstandings and keep you and your printer in a happy place and ultimately ensure your final printed piece turns out just as you envisioned in the concept phase.

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