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Pocket Folder Production (quick tips)

Here are a few things to remember when designing and producing a pocket folder.

Standard Design
If you design a pocket folder with a standard pocket configuration (height of pockets, build--or thicker than usual capacity--of pockets, shape of pockets), you can save hundreds of dollars by choosing a standard design. This is not to say that you can’t have complete freedom over the artwork, paper choice, coating, etc.  It just means that if the shape of the pockets (horizontal, vertical, curved or straight, 4” or whatever height) matches a pocket folder your print provider produces on a regular basis, then you will not need to pay a separate charge for a expensive custom die. Start with the inserts, take them to your print provider, and have him search for a pocket folder he already produces. t Folder

You are producing a pocket folder to hold a certain number of printed inserts. Whether you will include cards, brochures, envelopes, or promotional items, it is imperative that you or your designer actually create a mock-up of the pocket folder and insert mock-ups of these elements into the pocket folder. In this way you will see how thick the stack of inserted elements will be, and you can decide how much of a build (if any) you will need to add to the pocket. More often than not, inserts tend to take up more room than you think they will. Keep in mind that depending on how they are created, the pockets can be designed to hold a fixed number of inserts or they can be expansion pockets, allowing you to add a few more pieces to the stack.

Dieline
A dieline is a blueprint of the pocket folder created for you by the printer.

If you were to take a printed pocket folder and disassemble it, removing the glue from the flaps, and flattening the sheet out, you would get a much larger, die-cut piece of printing stock. A dieline is essentially a tracing or outline of this piece. When you design your printed job, you must follow this dieline (“blueprint”) exactly.  In this way, you will ensure that your print provider can print the flat sheet and then die-cut the pockets, and glue and attach the flaps, and then have all design elements align exactly (on the pockets, front, and back of the folder) as you had planned when you handed off the print-ready files. The dieline will take into account the thickness of the printing sheet you have chosen as well as all of the folds.

Flaps and Gluing
Remember that the flaps will be glued to create the pockets in the pocket folder. In most cases, this glue will not adhere properly to printing ink. Therefore, it is important that your print provider leave the flaps unprinted: no ink and no varnish, nothing but bare paper stock.

Matching Colors on the Front and Back of the Sheet
This can be problematic. If your design requires that the printing on the pockets matches the printing on the inside of the pocket folder, remember the following. The inside of the pocket folder is on the opposite side of the printing sheet from the fold-up pockets. That is, when you look at the inside of a pocket folder, you are actually looking at both sides of the printing sheet (the pockets are one side, and the paper behind the fold-up pockets is the other side).

Due to the normal variations of color in offset printing, a prudent solution that would avoid colors that almost—but don’t quite--match would be to specify ink colors that go together but do not match exactly. These two colors could be different hues or different tints or shades of the same color.

Paper Grain
To begin with, your pocket folder must be scored by your print provider before it is folded. Paper folds best when scored and folded parallel to the grain of the printing sheet. This means that, particularly if it is coated with a heavy solid layer of ink, the fold (or spine or build) of the pocket folder will show cracking at the fold if it is scored and then folded against the grain (and, conversely, the sheet will show less cracking of ink or surface coating if it is folded parallel to the grain).

However, another rule of thumb that contradicts the first rule is that paper folded with the grain is less strong (i.e., more likely to tear) than paper folded against the grain. If you think about it, this makes sense: When you fold and crease a piece of paper, you can tear it in half very easily.  For a pocket folder, particularly one that will need to withstand heavy use, it would be prudent to discuss with your printer the trade-off between potential ink cracking and durability of the pocket folder. In this way, you can help him decide whether to print the job with the grain or against the grain.


[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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