All three of the following relate to paper
in some way, whether as a printing substrate, a xerographic
substrate, or a post office automation consideration.
Tint Backgrounds Vs. Colored Paper Stock
Let's say you want to produce a large
press run brochure on a colored sheet. When you review the
bids, you realize a large portion of the cost will go toward
the colored paper stock. One way to save money in such a
case is to print a colored screen -- or even a texture --
on a cheaper, white stock. In effect, you are simulating
the more expensive, colored sheet on press. Granted, this
could increase the costs associated with the printing of
your piece, but in longer runs it may still save you money
and is therefore worth discussing with your printer.
Many years ago, when I was an art director,
a designer I worked with wanted to spec a very expensive
paper called Elephant Hide for an annual report she was
designing. In this case, to save money we simulated the
Elephant Hide by photographing one sample sheet (provided
for free by a paper mill) and reproducing this texture as
a background on each page of the annual report. The designer
moved the photo of the texture slightly on each page so
the patterning would not be in exactly the same place throughout
the book (which would have looked odd).
As with most other design elements,
this could have looked horrible if done improperly. We brought
the printer into the design process early and looked at
whether a coated or uncoated base sheet would be appropriate.
As with faux wood grain (which I think looks bad in part
because it is wood grain on a slick surface), faux Elephant
Hide worked best on a white, "toothy" (heavily
textured) sheet. The textured sheet provided a great base
for the "elephant skin" texture, and using the
white stock cost significantly less than printing every
annual report on Elephant Hide.
In a situation like this, I cannot
overemphasize the importance of talking to your printer
first to avoid a disaster. However, if done well, simulating
color or texture can be an attractive and economical option.
Xerographic Printing Paper Considerations
Most printing articles about paper
discuss the best papers for offset printing. What about
xerographic printing? When choosing a stock, keep in mind
that this technology uses heat and pressure to fuse toner
to your base sheet. A gloss stock might come to mind for
design reasons, but gloss sheets can cause major problems
in xerography since (unlike ink) the toner doesn't penetrate
the paper. This can cause glossy press sheets to stick together
or toner to flake off. Matte and dull sheets are better
choices, although an uncoated sheet is often the best choice.
Grain direction is an important consideration as well (talk
to the maker of your xerographic equipment). As with other
aspects of printing, experimentation is best. Buy a ream
of the sheet you intend to use and test it in your digital
press. Whether this is a color laser printer or a laser
copy machine (or even a printer's Docutech or Docucolor
equipment), you can work with the technology or against
it. And paper choice can make or break your final digital
Designing for Easy (Cheaper) Bulk Mailing
Here are a few quick tips to save you
money in designing direct mail pieces:
Size and Aspect Ratio
Catalogs should be between 3.5"
x 5" and 4.25" x 6" to qualify for the First
Class postcard rate. Letters can be up to 6.125" x
11.5". Anything larger is considered a "flat."
The aspect ratio (length divided by width) just be between
1.3 and 2.5 for the piece to be automated compatible and
to avoid surcharges.
Make sure the paper stock you
use is of adequate thickness, or the post office will add
a surcharge to your postage (or refuse to mail the piece
entirely). Catalogs (up to 4.25" x 6") must be
at least 7pt. in thickness. (For bulk mail, anything less
than 7pt. is not mailable). Anything larger must be 9pt.
or thicker. Check with your Post Office for specifics. With
a First Class stamp, however, you can mail anything of any
thickness, but keep in mind that mail thinner than 7pt.
might be inadvertantly shredded by the USPS machinery. (In
fact, none of these rules are arbitrary; rather they are
an attempt by the USPS to receive mail that will run smoothly
through their automated machinery and be accurately read
by their scanners.)
Design your self-mailer with the
fold at the bottom of the piece to qualify for automation
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]