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Printing a Catalog? Here's Six Things Your Printer Will Need to Know

Many companies print and distribute catalogs to showcase their company and offerings.

Well-designed catalogs, or catalogues, are easy to use and provide a systematic and aesthetically-pleasing arrangement of products and services. They also provide valuable information about the company as well as important contact and ordering information.

Printing a custom catalog is a big undertaking, so it is advisable to get your printer involved early in the process. As a catalog printer myself, I have compiled the following list to help guide you. These are the six main things you will need to relay to your printer so he/she can accurately quote and produce your catalog…

1) Quantity -

Knowing the desired quantity will help your printer make recommendations about what type of printing press is best suited for your particular catalog project. For example, if you only need 200 copies of your catalog, it might be more cost effective to produce your catalog on a digital printing press.

Conversely, if you need 50,000 catalogs, then a web offset press will likely be the most efficient production method. A mid-range quantity of catalogs - say 500 to 5,000 - will likely be better suited for a sheet fed offset press. Knowing the quantity will allow your printer to match your project to the press best suited for it.

2) Dimensions -

Some catalog dimensions - such as 8.5" x 11" - are more common and thus generally more economical to produce. Also, some printers can produce large, odd or custom size catalogs and some cannot. It all depends on the printer's production equipment.

Also, your printer may make size suggestions to help keep your production and distribution costs as low as possible. This is why it is advisable on new catalogs to consult your printer BEFORE getting too deep into the design and layout phases. A few subtle design changes upfront could translate to big savings later.

3) Page Count -

The page count of each catalog (along with the total quantity of catalogs needed) will help your printer determine how much paper is needed to produce your project. The page count will also help determine the proper Binding Style for your catalog (see #4 below).

Another important piece of information your printer will need to know about the pages is if they will be printed on both sides or just one side. Generally, pages with ink printed on both sides will need to be made from thicker paper stock in order to prevent ink from showing through to the other side.

4) Binding Style -

Catalogs with a low number of pages - say 64 pages or less - can generally be bound with the Saddle Stitch binding method. This economical method uses staples to secure the pages into book form.

Page counts too great for the Saddle Stitch binding method are usually bound with the Perfect Binding method. The Perfect Binding method uses glue to fasten the pages into the cover and can accommodate very thick catalogs. This method also produces a flat spine which can be printed upon.

Depending on your particular catalog, there may be other binding styles available to you, but in my experience the Saddle Stitch and Perfect Bound methods are the most frequently used binding methods for printed catalogs.

5) Ink Colors -

Will your catalog be produced with full-color pages and a full-color cover? Or will some of the elements be printed in black ink only? In some cases, black ink may be the more economical choice, but full-color is almost always recommended for the maximum impact…especially for sales and promotional catalogs.

Your printer may also ask if the ink coverage extends all the way to the edge of the pages (called a Bleed). Depending on the project, an ink bleed sometimes costs a little more because it requires printing on a larger sheet of paper and then trimming the paper down to the desired size.

6) Paper Characteristics -

The paper characteristics you select- such as thickness, texture and sheen level - largely depend on two factors. The first factor is the image you want your catalog to project. For example, a catalog made with a heavy, lustrous cover provides a higher image of quality than its thinner, duller counterpart. Logically, if you are promoting high-quality and expensive items then the construction of your catalog should reflect that.

The second factor is how durable you want your catalog to be. If you print a catalog infrequently, then you should consider using more durable paper with a protective clear finish or possibly a laminate. This will help it survive in circulation until the next printing. However, if you print a catalog rather often - like monthly or quarterly - then the thickness and sheen level of the cover and pages can generally be reduced, if you so choose.

Formax has 25 years of catalog printing experience. We can produce catalogs in just about any quantity, size, type, color or binding style your company may need. We'd be happy to quote on your next catalog project or answer any additional questions you may have about catalog printing.

Take care! Keith

About the Author

Keith Beaty is the owner of Formax Printing Solutions in St. Louis, MO. Formax provides a complete array of offset and digital printing services. Specialty areas include book printing, full-color printing, laminated printing, map printing, plus mailing services. If you ever have a printing question or project you would like to discuss, Keith is always happy to help. He can be reached at 866-367-6221. Keith and Formax have been providing worry-free printing and related services since 1985.

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