Whether you’re new to buying print or a print procurement expert, there’s lots of things to think about when requesting an estimate. Not only is it very easy to forget that vital piece of information that can mean the difference between a high or a low price, but if you’re new to print, you can sometimes feel that you’re talking a different language from the printer on the other end of the phone.
We’re always trying to debunk and demystify print for buyers – so here we look at some of the terms they’ll use, what they mean, and a few of the issues surrounding the key areas.
We've also produced an A4 print specification form for you to grab. Use it to make sure you've covered off all the basics.
Click the picture to grab a copy
In printing, the term ‘page’ or ‘pages’ doesn’t refer to each paper ‘leaf’. It refers to a single printed side. Think of it in the same way you do when looking up an article in an index – the index will refer to a particular numbered page. Printers do the same.
They abbreviate it when they write it down. So an A4 sized magazine with 40 leaves and a cover will be annotated to something like A4 80pp text + 4pp cover, meaning there’s 80 sides for the internal pages with 4 sides for the cover paper.
When getting an estimate and you don’t know the precise quantity, it’s worth giving the quantity range for estimating purposes. That way, you know the range or prices to expect. We can also give ‘run on’ and ‘run back’ prices. Where you need a larger or smaller quantity than estimated, it gives you an idea of the price per unit. We give these because with non-digital presses, there’s a ‘setup cost’ of preparing the printing plates and presses, after which the cost per item is reduced – so if you want more or fewer, you know the price you’ll pay.
There’s a huge range of paper available, and like anything, there are some brands that are better known than others. You may decide you want a particular named stock, or a particular weight (specified in gsm or grammes per square metre) but if you’re flexible, you may find savings by using a lighter weight of paper or unbranded stock (which is often just as suitable). And remember, you have the opportunity to use environmentally-sustainable paper by stipulating FSC or PEFC paper. Read here for an example of how it’s possible to print green and save money.
Finishing refers to anything that’s done to the printed sheet once it’s been printed. Most finishing, such as trimming, is pretty straightforward and will be included in your estimate. But if you need any special coatings or other more complex or creative finishing, such as varnishing, folding or die stamping, it needs defining early on. if you’re not aware of your finishing options, you might find this guide useful. Note also that you need to specify your binding too – the most common being stitching (stapling), perfect binding, PUR binding and wiro binding. We’ll be creating a guide to binding options in the not too distant future.
It’s important to be clear on when you need your project completing as this is a key determinant for any printer giving you an estimate. Printers look at how full their presses are to decide on how to price any given job – so you need to let them know when you need your project to print. Also, if you’re flexible on the date and can fit in with where a printer has spare, unfilled capacity, you can make savings. To see the impact of capacity on the price you’ll receive, have a look at our analysis of the price of printing a brochure.
Once you have committed to placing your project with a printer, they will book out the press space and time needed to print your job. They rely on you providing your artwork when you say you will before the job is due to begin. So if you have problems hitting that date, it’s important to let your printer know as soon as you can. That way, they can try and move jobs around on the press. If you let them know too late, you may be penalised as they have the press and staff ready and waiting to complete your job. Good, clear and timely communication here are the key.