4 Tips to Save Money on Printing

Melissa Team | Article, Copy/Design, Direct Mail | , ,
By Nani Paape, independent project facilitator

Money Saving Tip #1: Choose an efficient flat size
With paper costs accounting for 25 percent or more of a print job’s cost, it pays to be smart about paper.

You will always get a better deal on printing when your piece fits on the printing paper with little off-cut, the part of the sheet trimmed away and tossed directly into the recycling bin.

Right relationship of press sheet size to flat size
The size of paper a printer runs through his press depends on the press size and other factors. Here are some of the common sizes:

  • 17 x 22 inches
  • 19 x 25 inches
  • 20 x 26 inches
  • 23 x 35 inches
  • 25 x 38 inches
  • 28 x 34 inches
  • 26 x 40 inches

When you consider format sizes to fit these press sheets, think in terms of the flat size, the dimensions of the entire unfolded piece.

Regardless of the press sheet size to be used, keep in mind that your design can’t fill every square inch of it. Room must be left for grip, the edge of the sheet that the equipment grabs to pull it through the press. Room must be left for color bars, too.

If your design has solid ink areas running right up to the edge, the printer will also need at least 1/8-inch of extra room around each page to accommodate these bleeds.

Infamous and Famous Flat Sizes

Legal size (8-1/2 x 14 inches) is infamously wasteful. That’s because it leaves behind a lot of waste when the unused paper is off-cut from common-sized press sheets. See the diagram below. It’s not to scale, but it illustrates my point.
As the second diagram illustrates, 6 x 9- inch pages (a 12 x 9-inch flat size) fit very well, leaving very little waste on the press sheet.

This layout is a money-saver for small, 16-page, self-cover booklets printed on a 28-inch press.

Similarly, eight, 8 x 10-inch pages (a 10 x 16-inch flat size) fit very efficiently on the size of press sheet used on a 40-inch press.

This efficient format for a 16-page, self-cover book will yield savings, especially when compared to an oddly sized one.

Disaster Avoidance Tip
Once you have a specific design format or size in mind, show a quick sketch or PDF to the printer you’re thinking of using.

If you follow his or her suggestions and adjust one or both page dimensions–sometimes by as little as half an inch–you are likely to enjoy significant savings.

Money Saving Tip #2: Ask the paper mill for a discount
To calculate paper costs for a print job, a print estimator either looks up the book price or calls their paper merchant to get deviated or discounted pricing. 
Book prices are the standard, published prices a paper merchant has set for the papers they carry.

Talk with the paper mill rep
There’s another way to get deviated paper pricing: If you have a specific paper stock in mind for a large project, take the time to get in touch with that paper company’s mill rep. For example, if you specified Environment, you would contact a Neenah Paper mill rep.

If your print project involves a large paper purchase, the mill rep may offer you a promotional price deviation. Why is this? Like every other business, paper mills really want your business. I don’t advise asking mill reps for paper deals on every little print job, but if you’re printing 10,000, 48-page booklets, the mill may be quite willing to sweeten the deal to win your order.

Refer to the mill’s Web site, or call a paper merchant (such as Unisource or West Coast Paper) for the regional mill rep’s contact information.

Disaster Avoidance Tips
At the time that you request print estimates, be sure to alert the bidding printers that the mill has offered a price deviation, and ask them to instruct their paper merchant to contact the mill for the special pricing.

If a printer skips this step, you will not get the paper discount the mill rep offered you. Also, if one bidding printer’s prices reflect the discount, but another’s do not, you won’t be comparing apples to apples, and may not get the lowest possible price.

Some printers buy a big volume of paper from one merchant, so they also get a volume discount from that merchant. A paper mill’s promotional price deviation may or may not be a better deal than your printer’s volume discount, but it’s definitely worth asking!

Money Saving Tip #3: Ask for series pricing
Customers who share with their printer their plans to print a project again within a few months’ time usually save money on that entire printing series.

Why? Because every company appreciates repeat business, and printers are no exception. Most businesses know that it costs less to retain an existing customer than to land a new one.

So, for example, if you print 10,000 magazines each quarter in 2010, and award the printing for the entire series to one printer, that printer is likely to give you a great price.

Disaster Avoidance Tips

  • You may be tempted to have your printer purchase all of the paper for the entire series at once to save more money. However, this is not always wise, given how quickly a company’s quantity needs can change. Once you buy that paper, you own it, whether you use it or not. Owning cartons of unused paper is a big pain! (Where will you store it? Under your bed?)
  • Re-bid your print series once a year. Getting bids from more than one printer will give you a negotiating advantage, even if you hope to stick with the same printer.
  • Ask the printer to alert you when a paper price increase is on the horizon, so that you can lock in the lower paper price for the next issue.
  • Remember, the most expensive jobs are one-off, hair-on-fire ones, handed to the printer at the last minute. This is especially true for printing that needs to be completed in three days flat. It never fails that these are the jobs that contain errors that require a re-do scramble for which you have allowed no time!

Planning ahead saves both money and aggravation, while increasing the odds that your printed products will be error-free.

Money Saving Tip #4: Be buttoned up
Back in my ad agency days, one of the highest compliments you could pay someone was to call them buttoned up. Buttoned-up people are organized. Together. On top of things. No missed details. No “oops!” moments.

You will save money on printing by being buttoned up–both when you place your printing order and at every stage of the print production cycle.

Buttoned-up jobs go more smoothly than disorganized, scattered ones. And printers like jobs to go smoothly just as much as you do!

Button up your print job with these Disaster Avoidance Tips

When you release the job:

  • Review your initial written specifications and bring them up-to-date. Be sure the quantity has been confirmed.
  • Supply these specs to the printer along with the job. No, everything the printer needs is NOT “in the file!” Include the shipping information, too. Few people do this, but it eliminates last-minute panic calls: “Hey, we are ready to ship your order today, where are these going?”
  • Spell check one last time, after those last, tiny text edits are made. That’s when errors tend to sneak by everyone.
  • Release clean and complete files to up the chances that your job will proof without a hitch: Remove unused fonts and colors. Re-check your measurements. Be sure colors and special effects have been applied consistently throughout the document. Include all links and be sure that they are up-to-date.
  • If you’ve manipulated any images significantly, be sure to supply th
    e camera raw or original PSD files. That way, they will be close at hand if needed. (Some designers manipulate their files right out of sufficient data without realizing it–until they see a disappointing proof).
  • Supply a folding dummy that shows exactly how you want the final to look when it’s trimmed and finished. Many a revise will be avoided with this step.

When you review proofs and press check:

  • Allow sufficient time to review color image proofs thoroughly without rushing. If you spot every change you want to make during your first viewing, you’ll save money. Whenever possible, discuss image proofs with your rep as you mark them up, so he or she will be able to interpret your wishes to the prepress operator back at the shop.
  • When reviewing composed proofs and bluelines, again, do not rush. Be sure that everyone who needs to approve them sees the proofs and signs off on them before they go back to the printer. I can guarantee that the one person you leave out of the routing will be the one who insists on a crucial last-minute change–the kind that costs money.
  • Show up for press checks on time. Then once you’re press-side, review everything carefully, but don’t dally indecisively. Time really is money.
  • Approve a printed, finished sample before your client sees it.

If you do all of these things, chances are good that your clients will receive their printed products on time and as expected. They may even say, “Boy, you are so buttoned up!”

And here’s the bonus: The next time you ask that same printer for a bid, he is likely to recall that working with you was painless–and give you a price without (as one friend calls it) the pain-and-boredom surcharge.

—Source: Nani Paape is an independent project facilitator who provides print production management, marketing writing, and creative project planning to design firms and creative companies. Read more about Nani’s print management philosophy on her blog, Printing Disasters–and How to Avoid Them, at NaniPrints.wordpress.com. © 2010