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Specifications for Printing Quotations

When you have designed and produced electronic mechanicals for your print job, how do you describe your job to your printer to get an accurate price quotation? What specifications should you include?

First of all, don't wait until the job is ready for press. Involve your printer early in the design process unless the job is very simple.

Other than your contact information and the name of your organization, your request for quotation should include the schedule for the job: when it will be ready for press and when you will need it delivered. You need to tell the printer whether it is a new job or a reprint, and if it is a reprint whether any changes must be made.

You need to note how the job will be provided: mechanicals, disk, or film, and what kind of prepress work you expect to be done. For example, if you are providing FPO's (for position only) of photos you want the printer to scan, let the printer know this.

Note the number of copies you want printed, the size of the job (flat and folded), and whether the job will bleed (this last specification can determine whether a smaller press sheet will be adequate or whether you will need access to a larger press to print a larger press sheet). Also note the number of pages, or panels if the job is a brochure. Remember to count both sides of the pages in a book and both sides of a brochure when determining the number of panels. If you are requesting a bid on a book, note whether it is a self-cover book (no extra cover) or whether it has a cover of a thicker stock.

Tell the printer the level of quality you expect: basic, good, premium, or showcase.

Note separately what colors the text pages will print and what colors the cover will print, specifying whether the colors are process (full color) or 1 PMS (1 color).

For example, a cover that prints 2/0 (PMS + K(black) / 0) prints as a flat sheet with a PMS color and black on covers #1 and #4 and no printing on covers #2 and #3. A four color process cover or text would be specified as 4CP (color process). When describing the ink coverage, note whether it is heavy or light, and remember to specify the ink for any inserts as well as for the text and cover. If your publication will include any coatings, such as UV, aqueous, or varnish, tell the printer whether they will be flood or spot (placement) and whether they will be dull or gloss (surface).

Any extra services should also be noted, such as embossing/debossing, die cutting, or foil stamping.

In specifying the paper stock on which your job will print, note the weight, grade, color, finish, and any other information you have. If you want the printer to suggest cheaper, alternate stocks, note this as well. Remember to specify cover and text stocks separately.

Don't forget post-press work: finishing and binding. If you want your job trimmed and folded to a specific size, note this on your request for quotation, and include the type of fold (wrap fold, accordion, double-parallel, etc.).

At this point you could request scoring, perforating, laminating, crash numbering, three-hole drilling, etc.

If your project is a book, specify the type of binding, including saddle-stitch or side-stitch, perfect binding (and burst perfect binding), GBC or plastic comb, spiral wire or plastic spiral (or wire-O), or case binding. Tell the printer also what side will be bound, and note any lamination (film or liquid lamination, lay-flat lamination) you will need.

If your job is complex and includes hand inserting, pockets with builds, etc., make a paper dummy for the printer. It's always easier to communicate your printing needs when you can hand the printer a three-dimensional sample showing exactly what the finished product
should look like.

Finally, specify packaging and delivery. Tell the printer if you will need any samples, if the job will deliver to a mail house or a warehouse, or if you expect the printer to enter the finished job into the mail stream. Labeling, ink-jetting of address information, etc., would be included in the specifications at this point. Bulk packing, shrink-wrapping, and maximum carton weight should also be noted.

This is a lot to include, but the more specific you are, the less likely you will be to receive additional, unexpected charges on your bill.

Avoiding Jagged Edge Quark Picture Boxes

Usually you will save your photos in a TIFF format after adjusting them in Photoshop. If you are working with silhouettes or duotones, you will save them as EPS files. To avoid jagged photo edges in Quark picture boxes, set the background of the picture box to either "0 percent black" or "white" when importing TIFF's. Only set the background to "none" when you are importing the silhouettes and duotones you saved as EPS files.


[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.]

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