What Print Specs Should I Have Before Placing an Order?
Probably the most important thing you need to do before you even begin to consider printing is be aware of what you need. Printing as a whole tends to be made to the needs of the customer rather than there being standardized sizes like clothing. Size, material, turnaround, and everything else you can imagine are important to know not just to make sure your needs are met but to make sure you’re getting the best price. Here are just a few examples of important elements of printing.
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While there are standard sizes those tend to be commonly used sizes rather than the only choice. For example, 4x6 postcards are quite common because they tend to be both the right size for your needs and fit easily into the most commonly produced envelope size. However for the vast majority of printing you are not having printing done on pre-sized material but instead there is printing on a large sheet of material that is then cut down.
Your print order must match the size of your art especially for items that have very specific requirements. If you are printing labels for a bottle you need to know the exact dimensions of the bottle and make sure your artwork matches those dimensions. It is important to measure and be accurate. Otherwise you risk wasting money on an item you would be unhappy with. Likewise for something like a banner you want to make sure you have the most accurate size possible to assure it can be placed where you need it.
It is absolutely important to know when you need your items in hand by. Generally with printing the longer of a turnaround you have the cheaper it will be for you, while if you have a shorter turnaround it’s very important to set your needs properly to assure no delays or misunderstandings. There are hard limits on the production of certain kinds of material and it’s important to know beforehand how much time you need to set aside.
The most important thing is to be clear. Vague terms like “ASAP” tend to make it hard to gauge what is needed and usually end up just requiring back and forth until a more concise due date is confirmed. Likewise it’s important to make sure both date and time are specified. If you have a hard deadline please try to make it as clear as possible so there is no risk or confusion.
Material is one of those items that can be more complex than it seems. Most printers have a specific set of materials they use in the majority of their orders. M3 Printing for example tends to default to 14pt cardstock, 100# text and 100# cover. In terms of being the most cost effective option it will almost always be cheapest to order one of those three materials. We do have a selection of other materials that are outside of those, such as heavier cardstocks (16pt, 32pt) or more specialized material like suede or silk.
If you are looking for something fast or cost effective you want to try to use one of the common materials. If you need something special, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are looking for. Some materials need to be ordered from paper suppliers or require longer to professionally print and dry.
It is uncommon for printers to use materials provided by customers as machines are carefully calibrated for each paper weight. Since paper is purchased at wholesale from paper suppliers we can almost always get a better price for you than if you provided your own material.
Quantity is the single largest factor in cost for any item ordered, but it isn’t always as simple as smaller amounts being cheaper. Printing is done in large layouts that consist of multiple jobs and those jobs are laid out together based on quantity. That is why many of our options have set amounts (i.e. 25, 50, 100, 250, 500, etc.) Because we can lay out jobs of the same quantities together we make the most efficient use of paper and can offer the best pricing, with larger price breaks for higher quantities.
That however does mean that anything that falls between those quantities ends up being less cost effective and can sometimes even end up more expensive to print than a larger quantity would.
Likewise it’s very important to consider the amount you will need in the future. It’s cheaper in the short term to buy 50 over 100 of something but if you end up needing 100 then it’s significantly more expensive to buy 50 twice than to buy 100 once. Forethought and planning can save you a ton on printing costs.
A connected element of this is that any quantity is only for a single piece of artwork. As artwork is laid out for printing it is bunched together based on that single piece of artwork. Any change, even just a color change or single letter change, is an entirely new piece of artwork and must be ordered separately, as they need to be put on different layouts. If you need 50 business cards for five people that is 5 orders of 50 instead of 250. It is important to consider this cost when planning what to print.
Having at least these four things together when preparing to quote out a job will make things much quicker. Using our online calculator you can usually get instant pricing on almost any common order. If you need to get a custom quote then having all of the accurate information above allows for a quick and accurate price for your job. We are always glad to offer advice but at the end of the day it is up to you to decide what works for your needs.
Thanks for reading!