Posted by: AG | June 24, 2009

How to Cut Prices – part three

Another factor to consider when trying to keep your printing cost down is the page size. Sometimes a minor change in the design that allows for a different final size can make a large difference in cost.

If you read the previous articles covering paper sizes, you’ll remember that paper comes in standard sizes. Therefore, a printed sheet that allows for the least amount of wasted paper will be the most economical.

For instance, the most basic final sheet size for printed material is 8 ½ x 11 inches – the same as copy or office printer paper. We would call that size a “standard” size. And since paper manufacturers are well aware of that, you can be sure they produce printing papers that will allow for a specific number of that “standard” size to be printed on a single sheet. The final printed sheet is then cut to yield a certain number of cut sheets without waste. It also simplifies the cutting process itself.

Related to chosing a standard size paper is the fact that printing presses are designed to run those standard size original sheets. Because of that, most printing companies will order large bulk quantities of their ideal paper size in order to get volume discounts and take advantage of “specials.” So any job that comes in the door that is suitable for their in-house paper will get a good price. It also saves the printer time in not having to special order unique sizes to fit a job.

I also mentioned in another article on paper that the total cost of most sizable print jobs will be mostly for the paper alone. For instance, if you get a bill from the printer for $5,000 you can generally assume that about $2,500 of that was just for the paper.

So let’s now take the above facts and create a real world scenario of how this information can be used:

A standard paper size for most large printing companies is 22 ½” x 35″. This is a sheet size and refers to sheet-fed presses as opposed to web presses, where the paper is on a roll. We can assume that the printer will have tons of this paper size sitting on the floor ready to use. Then you, the printing buyer, come in with your artwork or files hoping to get the job printed at the most reasonable cost possible.

Let’s say that your final printed sheet size for your design happens to be 9″ x 12″. When the printer works up the price he will notice an interesting fact: if he wants to use the paper he has on the floor, the 22 ½” x 35″ size, he will only be able to print four of your pieces per sheet. The term used is “four out.” No matter which direction he prints the design, he will only be able to get four final pieces. And whatsmore, there will be about 45% wasted paper. It’s either that or go through the work of special ordering a different size – but either way you’ll be paying extra.

However, let’s say your design called for a final piece size of 8 ½” x 11″, which is 15% smaller in total area. In that case the printer will be able to get eight out of a sheet and will have a paper waste of only 5%! You will therefore save a bundle.

My experience is that printers will rarely suggest you alter a design to better fit their press or paper. They are not designers by trade as printing is more a manufacturing process. Nor would they risk offending the customer even if it might save them on the cost.

And likewise, few designers will consider the press size or standard paper sizes when creating the artwork. The common suggestion in order to have you, the client, save on the printing cost is to shop around and get bids. But this suggestion is easier said than done, especially when you have a printer you already know and prefer using.

Therefore, simply being aware of the above paper and press options when working with designers and printers is an easy way to manage costs. And if you’d like to manage costs and also gain the solid respect of your printer, remember to ask them whether your design and final size is a good fit for their press and available paper. You can even ask them “how many out” of a sheet will the design give you and whether any minor changes could be made to reduce waste. They’ll appreciate your understanding and willingness to reduce paper waste.


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