As digital content soars in popularity and print becomes less prevalent, fewer people outside the graphic design studio know how to communicate with printers. This ignorance can lead to botched jobs, higher costs and ruined business relationships. Good specs result in good pricing.

Here are 12 things printers need to know to estimate your job:

  • Contact – Provide contact information for the person requesting the estimate.
  • Job Name – Use a short name for the piece that makes sense to your organization.
  • Description – A phrase describing the piece (ex: six-panel rack brochure).
  • Quantity – How many finished pieces do you want? A printer's estimating software can generate prices for three quantities. Depending on the size and complexity of the piece, quantity breaks should be 500 or more to show a meaningful price difference. The paper generally isn't the highest cost.
  • Size – What is the finished size of the piece (width by height; in inches)? Provide both flat size and finished size. How many pages?
  • Ink – How many colors does the piece include (black only, two colors, four colors)? Is the ink applied front and back? Does the ink bleed?
  • Stock – What paper do you want? Your printer can help you decide and usually can provide a sample before you choose. You need to specify paper color, weight, text or card/cover, coated/uncoated and finish (matte, silk, gloss). Also, specify the paper brand or advise the printer that a house sheet is acceptable.
  • Folding – This detail can be provided in the size spec. For example, a booklet might be 11 x 8.5 inches folded to 5.5 x 8.5. A brochure might require a barrel fold or z-fold.
  • Bindery – Pieces that have multiple pages need to be bound together. A piece with few pages might be saddle-stitched (with staples); a publication with many pages might be perfect-bound (with glue). Printers also can wire bind or provide plastic coil binding.
  • Prepress - Printers prefer to receive press-ready PDF files uploaded to the printer's ftp site or delivered by email if the file is small enough.  Advise on what type of proofing system you want the printer to provide. Options include low-end inkjet and high end Matchprints. Inkjet proofs are not color accurate, but allow the client to review for content, trim, etc. Matchprints are color accurate and can be used for press match.
  • Delivery – Where and when do you want the piece delivered? Do you need a split shipment?
  • Billing – To whom should the printer provide the invoice? Include a Purchase Order number if your business requires one.

Printers are some of the most helpful people on the planet. If you want to learn how to keep your printing costs down, they can advise you during your learning curve. For complex pieces, bring your printer in early to discuss specifications with you and your graphic designer.

Contact us for help with the content, creative and printing specs on your next project.

Thanks to Coastal Printing Inc. for technical review on this post.