Selecting a Printing Service
Clearly the printing service can make or break the success of your advertising and outreach materials. They can also make or break your savings too. In essence, you want a company that you don’t have to worry about. You don’t want to have to worry about the product they’ll supply you with nor the cost of service. As with any business decision, it’s important to weigh price against quality, but there are a few intangibles to consider as well that may better inform your decision.
There’s no question that price is a significant factor in selecting a printing service and rightfully so. A smart business owner is out to make money, not lose money, and this requires reducing needless expenditures. Similarly, those in charge of running non-profits or charity groups and rely strictly upon donations to survive need to be even more careful about spending too much on any aspect of their organization, especially printing costs. Everyone wants good service, but quality service should not be a high-priced luxury.
It’s critically important, therefore, to know your budget and to stay within the means of your organization. After all, printing is only meant to enhance your business, not drain it of resources.
Due to intense competition in all arenas of business, special attention is given to the quality of advertising. A smart campaign is a clear and tangible way to set yourself apart from your competitors and share part of the personality that makes your company unique. Printing plays a pivotal role in advertising, as an ad cannot be effective if it’s poorly printed. In fact, it can have an adverse effect if it’s especially poor. If you want your company to be associated with quality and excellence, it’s important to have a printer that can reflect that.
For some reason, good service seems like it is getting harder and harder to come by. With more business occurring exclusively through the Internet, it’s sometimes difficult to ask even the most basic questions or talk to an actual human being. Part of providing good service is listening to your customers, so find a printer that actually takes time to collect details and allows you to ask questions. It’s your advertising and your money, so you should have the right to ask your own questions. If a printer doesn’t have time to hear your needs, you don’t have time for them.
The printer is there to help you, so everything the printer does should be toward the goal of assisting you with your project. This includes simplifying things on your end, so dropping your materials off is as simple as putting a letter in the mailbox. Be sure the printer you use will create less busy work on your end, not more.
Another reason you seek a commercial printing service is for options, so be sure there are options available to you. You want to be able to pick and choose different colors, sizes, fonts, papers, and styles as well as bindings, covers, and order sizes and even distribution options. If you’re not getting options, you’re not really getting service, so make certain that the print shop you ultimately choose can accommodate all of your needs in a variety of ways.
The points listed above are not too much to ask for. Any print shop worth it’s salt should be able to offer you quality at a reasonable price and do so with convenience and a variety of options for you to choose, as well as be able to articulately and patiently assist you with your choice. Find a shop like this and you’ll have a secret weapon at your disposal that will benefit you for years to come.
Printing Paper – Size and Weight
The majority of printing paper used in the United States is actually from overseas. Because of this, there’s a bit of a conversion to be made between weights that are noted in the metric system and the US weight grades. Some international paper suppliers have already adopted US weight grades, but conversion charts (such as the one that follows) continue to be helpful when it comes to clarifying paper weights. While US weights may differ in grade classification, all international papers are measured by the same standard grade.
Consider the following chart for reference:
U.S. Basis Weights Grams / Sq. Meter
Bond or Copy Paper 20lb 75
Coated & Uncoated Offset 40lb 59
Coated & Uncoated Cover 50lb 135
Index 90lb 162
Vellum Bristol 67lb 147
Formula to Calculate - Basis Weight x 1406.5 = GSM
Basis Size Width x Length
Defining Whiteness and Brightness
Brightness has always played an important role in determining paper grade; typically the rule of thumb is the brighter the paper, the higher the grade. This is because a bright page better distinguishes between the page and the ink, leading to better readability and visual allure. As a result, paper with a high brightness grade is generally more expensive than lower grade papers. The brightness grade is deciphered by the G.E. Reflectance Scale, a scale that measures the amount of light that reflects off of a sheet of paper. The lowest grade of reflectance is 1—which would be a completely black page—and the highest is 100, for total reflectance. Due to advances in technology, many premium grades are very close to this maximum level of G.E. reflectance.
However, a new term has come into play as the influence of international paper increases. In addition to brightness, whiteness is now also referred to and is measured by CIE standards. While brightness measures the paper’s reflectance of light, it does not necessarily include the full color spectrum of the page. Whiteness grade has been designed to account for this, measuring the entire color range on a page and thus giving a much more complete interpretation of what our eye is actually seeing. For example, two separate sheets might have the same brightness grade, but due to slight differences in color that the brightness grade does not account for, they appear different to the eye. Sometimes paper that is ostensibly “white” will have light tones of blue or red. Whiteness solves this discrepancy and gives a much fuller account of the paper’s illumination. Because whiteness is the international standard, and as it offers a more complete description of paper quality, it’s important to be familiar with whiteness range and how it differs from brightness. Notice, for example, that while 100 is the maximum rating for brightness, the whiteness scale goes far beyond 100. This comparison is noted in the following chart:
Brightness Whiteness Range
84 94 - 98
92 138 - 148
96 148 - 155