Posted by: AG | March 13, 2010

Stages of Production

The purpose of this section is to create a birds-eye view of the different stages of print production. Someone could, as part of their job, be involved in one or more of these stages. And of course, the person who oversees or in some way coordinates these various stages of the “print job” are often called “print production managers.”

Other terms which have been used synonymously to describe the job of “print production” are “graphic production,” “direct mail manager,” “print buyer,” and “printing coordinator.”  Therefore, in the print production realm you’ll often see many similar phrasings to describe what are usually “print production” functions. This is useful to realize when you’re dealing with print production personnel in different companies.

A print production job generally begins with the client – or customer. This “client” can be a book or magazine publisher or simply a businessperson needing to have brochures designed and printed. When a client or customer wants something printed is when it all begins.

Client specifications

At the other extreme in client size, a customer might be a person who designed a color brochure on their personal computer. If they took a copy of their file to a local printing company and placed an order for 5,000 copies, for example, they would also become a client.

Graphic Design

Graphic design is defined in “Getting it Printed”, by Kenly and Beach, as the “arrangement of type and visual elements along with specifications for paper, ink colors, and printing processes that, when combined, convey a visual message.” And unless they are working on their own project, they will receive clear specifications from their client of what the end product should look like.

The graphic art stage of print production may be handled by a single graphic designer working alone or as part of a graphic design or advertising firm. It could also be managed by a separate graphic design department within their own company.

Some of the work done in the graphic design stage might include page layout, typography, illustration, photography, color decisions, and producing a final computer file which would be given to a printing company. During the graphic design stage the client would generally review the artwork and approve the final art before it is considered complete and ready to be handed over to the printing company.


Prepress commonly refers to all the print production functions that take place from the time the printing company receives the artwork — from a graphic designer or customer — up until the actual printing takes place on the printing press. These functions normally include at least some of the following: receiving media files or downloading them from the web; creating a “proof” for client approval; making any changes requested by the client; creating negatives; and finally making the plates that will be used on the press.


Printing with regard to “print production” is the mechanical process of applying ink to paper using a printing press. The printing press is the most cost effective way of producing large volumes of printed materials due to its speed and the lower cost of paper. With the rapid improvement of office printing and high speed photocopying technology many companies will refer to the in-house production of large quantities of color copies or large-format prints as their “print production. “


After a job is printed it always goes to a bindery stage, sometimes called “finishing.” This stage can include one or many steps depending on the end product: cutting (also called “trimming,”) folding, laminating, scoring, perforating, stitching (with wires or staples for magazines,) perfect binding (for paperback books,) spiral or plastic comb binding, and hardback bookbinding. The final step in the bindery stage includes packaging for delivery. A small job might be shrink wrapped; stacks of magazines are often strapped together so an entire stack can be picked up easily; and larger jobs can be boxed or crated, generally requiring a forklift to move them from the delivery truck.


Here again we have a number of extremes. Some jobs will either be picked up by the customer or delivered by the printer. In other cases, such as periodicals, they may be delivered to a specialized mailing facility, with some larger printers also having their own in-house mailing services. In this stage the addressee labels are applied or computer-imprinted from the customer’s mailing list database. For sophisticated direct mail packages, the computer imprinting can also include the recipient’s name as part of the letter to give it a personalized touch, using a mail-merge software program.

The final destination for direct mail projects would be the post office. In the case of letters, the mailing service would have prepared pre-sorted (by zip code) bundles and counts of letters; periodicals generally have a 2nd-class indicia imprinted and are pre-sorted and weighed. The total postage is paid and from there on the postal service takes over until the materials are delivered.

Receiving and reviewing client specifications is the beginning of a print production job. The term “client specifications” refers to a wide range of so-called “clients.” In the case of a magazine publisher, for example, the publisher itself could be called the client with the goal of producing a specified quantity of magazine. Since most magazines have their own graphic design department, they would give that department the specifications and that department would begin the graphic design phase.

So what do these “print production” people do? You could say that their primary job function is usually managing “print jobs,” which also means they are managing all the stages required to produce a large volume of printed material. And depending on the type of printed material desired, these stages can include handling a number of different functions: graphic design, prepress operations, printing, bindery, packaging, or mailing.



  1. Print production seems to be a phase that is about to go out. However, I believe that in most cases this would remain a pivotal point in this industry. We still need labels, covers and booklets. The music industry alone has been utilizing CD / DVD printing and copiers.

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