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Print-it-yourself Brochures

by Tod Snodgrass

Internally designed (a.k.a. "design-it-yourself") marketing material, created on relatively inexpensive desk top publishing (DTP) systems, has become the norm within more and more organizations. The relatively low cost of most DTP systems is one reason for their popularity; ease of use is another.

Closely paralleling this "design-it-yourself" trend is another phenomenon: print-it-yourself. If you need to produce a few color brochures, almost nothing can touch the combination of an inexpensive inkjet color printer coupled with a DTP system.

However, what many managers don't realize is that just about the only thing low cost about inkjet printing is the initial cost of the printer itself. Four-color inkjet printing can cost anywhere from $.25-$1.00 per (8-1/2 x 11 inch) sheet, depending on whether the coverage is light or heavy, one side or two, etc. But this does not include labor (which can cost as much or more than the inkjet printing itself), paper, etc.

And laser color printers are not much better (than inkjets) on a cost-per-printed-sheet basis. Plus they cost thousands of dollars to boot. Further, most inkjet 4-color printing doesn't look as professional as conventional 4-color process printing, despite a real potential cost of more than $1.00 per 2-sided sheet.

Compared to inkjets, 4 color process printing looks better (to most observers), and in quantities of 1,000 sheets or more, it usually costs less. Next time you need to obtain color literature, process printing may offer the better value, everything considered.

From Concept To Finished Product: Anatomy of a Printing Job

Print buying can be a complex, confusing and daunting task, especially in light of the numerous advances in printing technology that have occurred over the past few years. There are more choices for buyers of printing to consider than ever before.

However, new options can be a two-edged sword: They can help you or hurt you, depending on how they are used. So, to help "de-mystify" this subject area, we thought we would walk you through a printing job—in this case a multi-page, four-color catalog—from beginning to end.

What follows is a checklist; it includes much of what you need to know.

First, you need to create initial job specifications, i.e.: 4-color process printed on 100 lb. C2S (Coated 2 Sides) matte book for interior sheets, 14 color photos, etc. See b) below for additional specs pertaining to this job. Next, there are four important steps involved in a printing job like this: pre-film (our term), pre-press, printing and bindery.


(A & B below)

  1. Product & people shots

    1. Shoot and get prints developed for those pictures you want to see in the catalog.

    2. Have color transparencies made (from the same negatives used to make the prints).

    3. Give your printer the transparencies so they can be drum scanned into digital files.

  2. Eventually you and your printer need to agree upon final job specifications, including:

    1. Final page count for the catalog (i.e. eight)

    2. Page-by-page placement of graphics, photos & type

    3. Typestyle(s) determination: fonts, type sizes and styles, etc.

    4. Cover stock weight (heavier than interior sheets): 80 lb. 2CS matte cover

    5. Finished size: 8-1/2 x 11 inches, overall

    6. What the text copy will be (word processing)

    7. Total quantity of catalogs to be ordered


Once graphics, photos & type are turned into digital form by the printer, the result should be a flight-checked disk: used first to create proofs, then film.

  1. To ensure the accuracy of the specs, request that your printer provide black & white, laser-output proofs from the disk—1 for each of the 8 pages (or 1/8)—for your approval.

  2. Next, request (1/8) IRIS proofs (95% true-color digital output). Once the IRIS are approved, the disk is used to create composed film, unless your vendor is using a film-less, computer to plate (CPT) method.

Composed Film

Once film is outputted, your printer should provide you with Matchprint (99% true-color) or color key proofs—1/8—for your approval.

Printing & Bindery

  1. After Matchprint proofs are approved, lithographic printing plates are created and the job can go to press.

  2. Once printed, the job goes to the bindery to be: final trimmed, collated, saddle-stitched (stapled) and shrink-wrapped.

Glossary Of Terms Used In This Article

Composite (composed) film: Complete color separations ready for printing

Disk, "flight-checked": ensures that all type styles, fonts, etc. are properly called out according to specifications.

Drum-scan: High-resolution reproduction, from transparencies into digital format, using a very high speed electronic drum scanner

Match print: negative color proofing system that simulates process ink hues and densities

Pre-press: Prep work done before printing commences.

Process color printing: uses cyan (process blue), magenta (process red), yellow, and black inks, which are combined in varying amounts to produce the complete color spectrum. They are applied, in varying intensities of the 4 process colors, to produce full color printing.

IRIS: Color calibrated digital proof that provides a realistic portrayal of what the final (process) printed colors will actually look like before going to film.

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About the Author:

This article was created and is copyrighted by Business Printing International. It has been reprinted with permission.

You can get hold of them at:

Business Printing International
2464 Rue Le Charlene
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
888 303-5515 Toll Free
(310) 831-2770 LA Area
(310) 548-0845 Fax web site email

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