Ten FAQs people ask about buying print.
- I just need a new brochure and a couple of posters. Does it matter which type of printer I use?
- How do I get my catalogue or leaflets designed?
- What do I need to bear in mind when ordering print?
- Does the quality or type of paper I choose make much difference?
- I only need a box or two of brochures. Will keeping the numbers down keep a lid on the costs?
- Where can I get the photographs I need?
- Will colour prints reproduce adequately?
- If my prices or other vital information must be altered, how late in the process can I make changes?
- Who's responsible for proof-reading and making sure there are no mistakes in the finished job?
- What happens if I am not satisfied with the quality of the work?
1. I just need a new brochure and a couple of posters. Does it matter which type of printer I use?
Some printers specialise in particular printing methods. With the advent of digital techniques it's likely that your local high-street business print and copy shop can offer a service for both posters and brochures, but this will depend on the quantity you require and the exact specification. Ask to see copies of similar print jobs first to ensure they can meet your quality requirements. The quality of colour printing in particular can vary.
All printing requires some degree of design and the production of original artwork. Not all printers have a design facility so check first. If you're serious about a premium quality design and print job, where the focus is on the content rather than the production, it might be best to avoid high-street print shops and look for a marketing or communications agency or a large, full service printer.
2. How do I get my catalogue or leaflets designed?
Although some printers offer a design service, in general it's better to go to independent graphic designers. They will have more flair and know where best to place the work, according to the quality required and the budget available. Graphic designers are good at producing eye-catching designs, but will not generally write copy. You can do this yourself, use a freelance copywriter or go to a marketing agency - which will employ professional wordsmiths, but charge you professional rates, too.
Once the printer has the necessary artwork, your print job should not usually take more than a week, depending on the complexity of the work and the size of the print run required.
3. What do I need to bear in mind when ordering print?
Don't order print without being absolutely clear what it is for. Match the quality to your target market and the positioning of your product or service. Order enough copies - it's cheaper to order a longer run while the job is on the machine than to go back for more later.
If you're not used to buying print, you can save yourself time and money by thinking ahead and checking everything thoroughly. Particular points to watch are:
- Make sure your leaflet or brochure has all the necessary contact information.
- Provide clear, written instructions to the printer.
- Use professional photographs. No printer will be able to rescue an amateurish shot.
- Insist on seeing a proof before giving the go-ahead to print.
- Check proofs away from the printer's premises. Don't be hurried. Get someone else to read and check every word as well.
- Double-check every name, phone number, web and email address, price and product code.
4. Does the quality or type of paper I choose make much difference?
The paper quality can make a huge difference to the look of the finished job - as well as to the price. Coated art papers are most expensive but provide a polished feel to the finished job. The options, if you include laminates, gloss and matt finishes, varnishes, and so on, can be confusing. Ask the printer to show you some samples.
Try not to skimp on the cost of paper; it can make an enormous difference to the look, the feel and the overall image of the material that represents your organisation.
5. I only need a box or two of brochures. Will keeping the numbers down keep a lid on the costs?
Strangely enough, the answer is no. The greater the quantity you print, the more the set-up cost is diminished, and the cheaper the unit cost becomes. Err on the side of ordering more than you need. Short runs are uneconomical.
That said, there is no point in printing a large quantity if you cannot use them. This is where digital printing comes into its own. Ideally suited to smaller runs, digital printing is more akin to the photocopying process than a traditional wet ink printing process. You might find the quality and colour-matching capabilities of digital are less than perfect, but it does nevertheless provide a viable solution. Ask to see samples first to check quality. Alternatively contact one of the large desk-top printer manufacturers and ask if they can help you with in-house marketing equipment.
6. Where can I get the photographs I need
Always use professionally taken photographs - the difference shows. Be careful about choosing a photographer. Don't commission the local wedding photographer to shoot factory interiors or pack shots of your products. Don't be shy about telling the photographer exactly what you are trying to achieve - and take along a rough copy of the brochure as a guide.
Alternatively you can buy professional shots from a stock image library. Royalty-free images are ones you can use without limits after purchasing. Rights-managed images require you to specify exactly how and where you will be using them.
7. Will colour prints reproduce adequately?
There are two key points to remember. If an image is poor at the outset (for example, if it is blurred or too dark) it won't improve when reproduced. You get out only what you put in. However, you'll be amazed at what's possible with computer image enhancement and retouching. Seek advice from a graphic designer or your chosen printer.
Different printing processes produce different quality results, so make sure that you tell the printer what your requirements are. Check the proofs to make sure they meet your expectations.
8. If my prices or other vital information must be altered, how late in the process can I make changes?
When designing any brochure, try to put all the information that is likely to change in a separate insert. Your colour brochure could have a life of three years, but a price list - which may change every six months - can be run off as a simple text document. Your printer will probably give you an acceptance form to sign, at the proof-reading stage, to say that any changes after that will be at your expense. If your proofing is careless, it could be costly.
9. Who's responsible for proof-reading and making sure there are no mistakes in the finished job?
Ultimately, you are. Keep photocopies of the work to check against the proofs you are given. Make all your alterations clearly in red ink and, if the changes are significant, say you want to see revised proofs before giving the go-ahead for printing. Check these proofs carefully.
Be clear about the priorities underlying proof-reading. If potential customers can't contact you because a phone number or an email address is wrong, you'll lose business. If prices are missing or incorrect, you may miss out on sales. If there are general errors or spelling mistakes, you risk damaging your reputation. All these difficulties can be avoided by careful, concentrated work at the proofing stage. But remember, whatever mistakes the printer had made up to this point, they become your problem once you sign off the proofs.
10. What happens if I am not satisfied with the quality of the work?
To minimise problems, go to a good quality printer from the outset. A quality supplier will be concerned if you are not happy and will try hard to find a solution. Before you start, ask what will happen if it goes wrong. If the response is evasive, you may have the wrong printer.
Difficulties usually arise in the grey area between high expectations, imprecise technology and poor workmanship. If in doubt, pay as little as possible in advance in case of a dispute later. If the job is wrong, providing you have a back-up copy of the artwork you can go elsewhere.