Printing Tips

Successfully producing a printing job takes a lot of planning, careful coordination, and an extensive knowledge of the ever-changing technology of printing. We want to help you with this daunting task. We are happy to share our knowledge and resources with you.

Choosing the Right Ink

Choosing the right ink combinations can have a dramatic effect on your finished product. Use this handy ink guide to help you make the correct ink selection.

  • Black ink, as you might expect, is the most common and least expensive ink.
  • Spot colors and tints are printed with premixed inks. You can choose from among thousands of different spot-color inks. A spot color printed at 100% is a solid color and has no dot pattern. A tint is a lightened spot or process color and is created by printing smaller halftone dots of the base color.
  • Process colors are reproduced by printing overlapping dots (halftone screens) of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks. Since CMYK inks are translucent, they absorb some colors and reflect others. To create blue, for example, you combine cyan dots and magenta dots. Your eyes merge the cyan and magenta dots to perceive the color blue. Process (CMYK) printing gives us the ability to simulate photographic images using just four basic ink colors.
  • Metallic inks use metallic powders to give a pleasing metallic luster. Metallic inks can often add an extra sparkle or touch of class to your printing project.
  • Magnetic inks were developed to increase the speed and efficiency of handling bank checks. These inks are made with pigments which can be magnetized after printing, and the printed characters are later "recognized" by electronic reading equipment.
  • Fluorescent inks are naturally bright inks. They are used for jobs of a semi-permanent nature, such as labeling, packaging and direct mail.
  • Varnish is used as a coating over printing to protect the printing and increase gloss.

Here are some guidelines for specifying colors.

Use spot colors when
  • You need three or fewer colors and you will not be reproducing process-color photographs.
  • You want the limited color variety you get from one or two-spot colors and tints of those colors.
  • You want to print varnishes or special inks, such as metallic or fluorescent spot inks.
  • You want to print logos or other graphic elements that require precise color matching.

Use process colors when

  • You need more than three colors in your design. In general, printing with process inks costs less than printing with three or more spot inks.
  • You want to reproduce scanned color photographs or color artwork that can only be reproduced with process colors.

Choosing the Right Paper

Paper grade defines paper in terms of its use. Each grade serves a purpose, usually suggested by its grade name. Below are some of the most common classifications of printing papers.

  • Bond papers are commonly used for letters and business forms. They have surfaces which accept ink readily from a pen or typewriter and can be easily erased.
  • Coated papers are used when high printing quality is desired because of its greater surface smoothness and uniform ink receptivity. There are many kinds: cast coated, gloss coated, dull coated, machine coated, coated one- and two-sides, etc.
  • Text papers are noted for their interesting textures and attractive colors. They enjoy frequent use for announcements, booklets and brochures.
  • Offset papers are considered the most economical printing papers. Offset papers may be used for directories, newsletters, books, direct mail pieces with only a few photographs, and other printing products requiring average quality.
  • Cover papers complement coated and text papers in heavier weights and matching colors for use as covers on booklets, etc. Papers are also made for cover purposes only. Many special surface textures are available. Special characteristics of cover pages include dimensional stability, durability, uniform printing surface, good scoring, folding, embossing and die-cutting qualities. It is a useful rule of thumb that cover stock of the same basis weight as text paper has about twice the thickness.
  • Index papers have two outstanding characteristics - stiffness and receptivity to writing ink. Index is commonly used whenever an inexpensive stiff paper is required.
  • Tag is a heavy utility sheet. Tag board is sometimes tinted and colored on one or both sides. Tag stock has good bending or folding qualities, and a surface adaptable to printing, stamping, or writing.
  • Bristol is one of the board grades, with a softer surface than index or tag, making it ideal for high-speed folding, embossing, or stamping. It is very receptive to ink and has good snap and resilience.

If your printing project includes envelopes, there are many styles to choose from.

  • Commercial envelopes are used for business correspondence, either surface or airmail, and are available in all standard sizes.
  • Window envelopes are used primarily for statements, dividends and invoices. The window saves time and prevents an element of error by eliminating typing of an extra address. Window envelopes are made in all sizes and styles, from many types of paper.
  • Self-Sealing envelops have latex adhesive on upper and lower flaps that seal instantly without moisture when the flaps come together. These envelopes are a time saver in handling.
  • Booklet, Open-Side envelopes are ideal for direct mail. A concealed seam lends itself to overall printing in front and back.
  • Baronial envelopes are a more formal open-side envelope with a deep, pointed flap. They are often used for invitations, greeting cards, announcements, etc.
  • Clasp envelopes are sturdy and widely used for mailing bulky papers. Metal clasps are smooth and burrless. This type of envelope may be opened and closed many times.
  • Open-End envelopes are used for mailing catalogs, reports, booklets and magazines. Wide seams and heavy gummed flaps ensure maximum protection under rough handling conditions.

Graphics Software Monitor (Updates and Reviews)

Graphics Software

Adobe Acrobat
Current Version: 8.0 (Windows and Macintosh)
Information about Adobe Acrobat can be found at:
Adobe Acrobat has been reviewed at:

Adobe Illustrator
Current Version: CS3 (Windows and Macintosh)
Information about Adobe Illustrator can be found at:
Adobe Illustrator has been reviewed at:

Adobe InDesign
Current Version: CS3 (Windows and Macintosh)
Information about Adobe InDesign can be found at:
Adobe InDesign has been reviewed at:

Adobe PhotoShop
Current Version: CS3 (Windows and Macintosh)
Information about Adobe PhotoShop can be found at:
Adobe PhotoShop has been reviewed at:

Adobe PhotoShop Elements
Current Version: 5.0 (Windows) 4.0 (Macintosh)
Information about Adobe PhotoShop Elements can be found at: Windows | Macintosh
Adobe PhotoShop Elements has been reviewed at:

Current Version: Graphics Suite X3 (Windows)
Information about CorelDRAW can be found at:
has been reviewed at:

Microsoft Publisher
Current Version: 2007 (Windows)
Information about Microsoft Publisher can be found at:
Microsoft Publisher has been reviewed at:

Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Freehand
Current Version: MX (Windows and Macintosh)
Information about Freehand can be found at:
Freehand has been reviewed at:

Current Version: 7.0 (Windows and Macintosh)
Information about QuarkXPress can be found at:
QuarkXPress has been reviewed at:

Planning a Printing Project

Every printed project requires you to balance cost, schedule, and quality. You can save money printing a publication by planning early, and by accurately estimating which tasks you can accomplish, and which tasks you would prefer to have us handle. Here is a list of some specific items that you may want to keep in mind when developing your project:
  • Your project budget may be a determining factor in the selection of certain options such as paper, ink, and bindery. Imagine your project at both extremes - the minimum requirement and the maximum impact - and we'll help you tailor your project to fit within the budget you've allowed.
  • Your schedule will play an important part in completing your project. We realize that schedules don't always follow an ideal plan. Our production team is prepared to accommodate even the most demanding schedule.
  • Do you know how many copies you plan to print? When running a job through our high-speed copy department, each sheet costs just about the same, no matter how many sheets are run through the machine. However, for jobs running on the press, you might be surprised to know that ordering a few more copies generally does not add a lot of cost to your job.
  • The dimensions of your publication may have an impact on which equipment is used to produce your printing project. Once you finalize your product's dimensions, we can begin to finalize our production process.
  • The colors you plan to specify can have a huge impact on the production of your final piece. In most cases, avoid specifying colors based on the way they appear on your monitor. Instead, for the most predictable results, let us help you choose colors from a color-matching system.
  • Determine who will be performing pre-press tasks. Accomplishing pre-press tasks can be easy with professional-quality software, but acquiring the skill and experience to do them takes time. If you are new to preparing printing projects, it may be worthwhile to leave the responsibility of pre-press tasks to our experienced pre-press team. As you gain experience, you may wish to consider investing in training and equipment to do more pre-press work yourself.
  • Your use of bleeds can have an effect on the production process. Bleeds (graphics that print past the trimmed edge of the page) must be accommodated through special handling and setup. Please allow an extra 1/8 inch for any graphics that bleed.
  • The graphics in your publication need to be prepared to printer-friendly specifications. Please see our Short Answers to Digital Questions section to become familiar with some of the basic requirements for preparing graphics.
  • Your choice of finishing and binding (if any) will complete the job. Many customers are not aware that we can help you complete your project with our full-service bindery. Finishing and bindery services consist of more than just cutting and folding. You might be surprised at the variety of options available that can add value to your project!
As your project develops, please contact us. We will help you coordinate all aspects of your job.

Short Answers to Digital Questions

Q: What is the difference between vector graphics and bitmap graphics?
A: A vector graphic is defined in a mathematical nature which makes it resolution-independent. A vector graphic can be printed clearly at any size. A bitmap image is formed by a rectangular grid of small squares, known as pixels. Each pixel contains data that describes whether it is black, white, or a level of color. Bitmap graphics are resolution-dependent they can appear jagged and lose detail if they are created at a low resolution and then enlarged or printed at a higher resolution.

Q: Where do vector graphics come from?
A: Vector graphics are typically created by illustration software such as Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand.

Q: Where do bitmap graphics come from?
A: Bitmap graphics are typically created by pixel-based image editing software such as Adobe PhotoShop. Additionally, bitmap graphics are generated from digital cameras and scanners.

Q: Can bitmap graphics be converted to vector graphics, and vice versa?
A: Yes. Software such as Adobe Streamline can convert bitmap images to vector images. Vector images can be converted to bitmap images by opening them with Adobe PhotoShop. Please note that converting a vector image to a bitmap image is rarely necessary, removes the resolution-independence of vector graphics, and should only be done if you have a very specific reason to convert the graphic.

Q: What are the different types of bitmap graphics?
A: A one-bit image refers to an image that is a solid color, with no shades of that color. A continuous tone image refers to photographic images, whether they are full color, black-and-white images with shades of gray (grayscale), or single-color images with shades of that color.

Q: What guidelines do you have for bitmap graphics resolution?
A: One-bit images require 600 pixels per inch. Full-color continuous tone images require 300 pixels per inch. Grayscale and single-color continuous tone images require 200 pixels per inch.

Q: Can I resize bitmap graphics in a page layout application?
A: These guidelines are for bitmap images that are used at their actual size. If the image is enlarged in a page layout application, the requirements enlarge by the same amount. For example, enlarging a full-color continuous tone image 225% in QuarkXPress would require a resolution of 675 pixels per inch (the original requirement of 300 pixels per inch multiplied by the enlargement of 225%). It is best to avoid performing scaling in a page layout application, as these programs have no ability to change the actual pixels in an image.

Q: Can I resize bitmap graphics in PhotoShop?
A: PhotoShop can increase the resolution of a low-resolution image, but increasing the resolution of an image scanned or created at a lower resolution only spreads the original pixel information across a greater number of pixels and rarely improves image quality.

Q: I've heard Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) mentioned in the context of both vector graphics and bitmap graphics. How can it be both?
A: EPS files act as a container for transferring graphic information. When an illustration software such as Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand creates an EPS file, it is a vector EPS. When a pixel-based image editing software such as Adobe PhotoShop creates an EPS file, it is a bitmap EPS.

Q: Can I copy a graphic and paste it into my document?
A: While copy-and-paste is supported by most software, you will have much more predictable results by creating a link to your graphic. The graphic then remains outside of your document and is referenced as needed. Please refer to your software's documentation for full details about creating links to your graphics.

Q: What is a PDF file?
A: Documents in Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) preserve the exact look and content of the originals, complete with fonts and graphics, and can be printed, distributed by e-mail, and shared and stored on network systems (including the internet) for others to use and view. When properly created, PDF files have proven to be an excellent method for generating quality printing.

Q: Where can I find my fonts?
A: On a Windows-based computer, fonts can be located in two different places. First, check Start Menu>Settings>Control Panels>Fonts. Additionally, you may have a folder names psfonts (typically on the C: drive).

Fonts in the psfonts folder are PostScript fonts and require two separate files to accurately define a font's appearance. The first file, found in the psfonts folder, ends with a .pfb extension. The second matching file is found in the psfonts>pfm folder and ends with a .pfm extension. The font name can be accurately determined by double-clicking the .pfb or .pfm file.

On a Macintosh computer fonts are found in the System Folder>Library>Fonts. In many cases, an alias of the Library folder can be found on the root level of your hard drive, as well. In that case, the path is simply Library>Fonts.

If you use a font management utility on either platform, fonts are found in a location specified by the utility.

Software Downloads

There is a lot of software available for downloading on the internet, and it often becomes difficult to sort out what is useful, and what is better left untouched. We have compiled a list of downloads that we feel will be a valuable addition to your software collection. Please help yourself!

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is made available by Adobe at no charge. Acrobat Reader is used to read Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as those used on our web site for proofing. Get more information about Acrobat, and download the most recent version of Acrobat Reader from Adobe's web site by clicking here: Adobe Acrobat

Printer Software
If you find that you need to reinstall your PostScript printer software, and your original software is nowhere to be seen, you can get what you need on Adobe's web site by clicking the links below. Additionally, if you are preparing files for us to output, you will get a more consistent product by using the same printing software as we use on our output device.

File Compression Software
It is always a good idea to compress your files when they are sent across the internet. There are a significant number of compression technologies - here are links to several of the most common file compression software products. Stuffit Deluxe (Windows and Macintosh)
ZipIt (Macintosh)
WinZip (Windows)
PKZip (Windows)

Fonts and Typography
Are you looking to purchase a standard font? Or do you need to find a somewhat odd font? Here are some of the best places to check for commercial, shareware, and free fonts and typography resources. Adobe Type
Larabie Fonts
Font Bureau

Internet Software
If you are reading this page on your computer, you are already using internet software. Nevertheless, if you feel the craving for more internet software, or want something a little different, click on one of the following links to see other options for internet browsers and email software: Microsoft Internet Explorer (Windows)
Apple Safari (Macintosh)
Netscape Communicator with integrated email (Windows and Macintosh)
Eudora (Windows and Macintosh)
Opera (Windows and Macintosh)
Icab (Macintosh)
OmniWeb (Macintosh)

Successfully Printing a Digital File

There are really only three elements you need to provide for us to successfully print from your digital files:
  • Your page layout document
  • The fonts used in your document
  • Any graphics used in your document
Page layout software includes QuarkXPress, Adobe PageMaker, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, and CorelDRAW. Other software such as Microsoft Word can be used for simple one-color print jobs however, most print jobs benefit from the control and consistency provided by page layout software.

Please include all fonts used in your documents. We may have fonts of the same name, but fonts from different manufacturers may not have the same characteristics even if they share the same name. These inconsistencies can produce unexpected output. The only way to guarantee correct output is for us to use the same fonts as you did, so please include your fonts!

Please include any artwork or graphics used in your page layout software. There are many graphic file formats available, and each format was developed for a specific use. The file formats developed for use in the printing industry are the Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) and Encapsulated PostScript (EPS). Graphics in other formats will need to be converted to TIF or EPS.

Please see the Short Answers to Digital Questions section of our website for more details on properly preparing page layout files, fonts, and graphics.
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