Cheap Graphic Design for Print and Colour Copying Services

by Matt on June 28, 2009


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Find out ways to save yourself money the next time you go on over to the print shop to get one of your graphic design projects printed out. The more you can do in house before sending a project to a printer, the more money you can save on the printing cost. Below I have shared some secret tips with you to save some of your precious money at the commercial printers.

1) Complete the project. In other words, get the project camera-ready so all the printer has to do is shoot a negative, burn a plate, load the press and print. (See Chapter Printing Problems for an explanation of these.) If the printer has to make any adjustments to your file, you can expect to pay for these.

2) Shoot your own negatives. Not everyone has the huge camera needed to make printing negatives. Still if you plan to make a living doing graphic design, investing in a graphic arts large-frame camera and darkroom could be a wise idea. By large-frame camera, I mean one capable of holding a negative about a yard long. You’ll also have to have a darkroom, chemicals and developing trays.

3) Burn your own plates. (See Chapter Printing Problems for definition of burning plates). However, you’ll need to be sure your plate is the size the printer needs. If the plate is too big, it can be trimmed. If the plate is too small, it will have to be junked. Also, if you burn your own plates, leave them completely flat. Let the printer make his own crimps in the plate to attach it to the press. Come plates can be burned on a large-frame camera. Some plates require a specialized plates-only camera because of lighting requirements.

4) Use standard-stock paper. This generally means white paper cut to letter or legal size in the US or country-standard size elsewhere on the globe. Use standard envelopes, postcards, business card stock for these projects. Every time you order a special color of paper, you increase the price. Every time you order a different trim on the paper, say 7 inches by 9 inches, you increase the price because the printer will have to cut these sheets. Understand also that the thicker a paper is, the more it will cost per sheet.

#5 If there are photos in the document, do they need to be retouched?

One of the most common image changes I make in Photoshop is to adjust the ‘levels’ of an image. This is to make sure that white areas are bright white and black is actually black. This really helps with image contrast (in the image menu, select ‘adjustments’, then ‘levels’). Also, colour prints tend to get darker after scanning, and large reductions can make shadow areas heavier. Your designer will be able to help out here.

If you don’t realise just how much a photo can be manipulated, I suggest checking out this article, ‘The twisted reality of fashion advertising‘.
#6 Is the paper opacity sufficient or will there be any see-through?

If you hold a newspaper up to the light, you can read the text and see the images on the other side of the paper. This might be fine in the newspaper industry, where paper costs are astronomical, but you obviously don’t want your corporate annual report to have the same effect. By choosing a good weight of paper stock (approx. 150gsm) you’ll not only prevent this from happening, but your colours will print more brilliantly too.
#7 What about the texture of the paper?

Cheap paper feels cheap to touch. Is this the impression you want to give? When receiving a quote, why not factor in a few different weights of paper? You might be surprised at how little extra you need to pay for a higher quality paper.
#8 Can we substitute our choice of paper for a stock that is less expensive, while still looking as good?

Again, your printer will help here, and one factor this depends on is the amount of ink you’re going to use. For instance, if you have large areas of black to be printed, you’ll need a decent paper stock to prevent the paper going out of shape.
#9 Will ink colours change when printed on a particular type of paper?

Printing inks are transparent and will change depending on the brightness or “yellowness” of a white paper. Remember, paper critically affects the colour of your printed product.
#10 Does the printed sheet need a varnish?

If your print job is to be stacked and packaged, you have to be careful that the ink doesn’t transfer from one brochure / poster / business card to another during storage and transit (this is called offsetting). Varnishing can be a useful preventative. You can also consider aqueous coating to guard against fingermarking and scratching. Most printing presses will apply anti-offset powder, which is a fine powder lightly sprayed over the printed surface of coated paper as sheets leave a press. This is normally sufficient to prevent ink offset, but if in doubt, ask.
#11 Can we print four colours on one side of the sheet and black on the reverse to give the illusion of a “four colour process” job?

If you want to use colour, but find that it’s too expensive, you can always print one side of the paper using full colour with the reverse in black only. Newspaper companies use this technique to give the appearance of full colour printing. What you’ll find however, is that a lot of the time only one side of a newspaper page shows colour, whereas the reverse of that page is in black only. This saves money, yet keeps a higher quality appearance.
#12 Can we combo-run any of the elements for a cost-savings?

Always ask the printer if there’s any space left on the printing plates for extra work. You could, perhaps, print some extra business cards on the same printing plate as a batch of brochures, saving you money.

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