Map Printing: 7 Things to Consider when Printing a Custom Map

Custom-printed maps are used by a variety of enterprises, including businesses, tourist attractions, recreational complexes, park departments, schools, event and project planners, utility companies, government agencies and many others.

If you have an upcoming map project, below are seven tips to consider…

1) If possible, choose a size that can be produced on a standard printing press

Most maps are relatively large documents, but your best value will be attained by not going excessively large. Preferably, try to design your maps to fit on a standard-size printing press. If in doubt, check with your printer before finalizing the size of your artwork. Then you will know which map sizes they can print (and fold) in the most cost-effective manner.

2) Consider synthetic paper for maps used in damp or rugged conditions

Unlike traditional paper which is made from wood pulp, most synthetic papers are made from polypropylene resin. This creates a long-lasting map that is tear-resistant and completely waterproof. It can also be folded like a paper map and has a smooth surface that can be wiped clean. Because synthetic paper, like Yupo, is more expensive than traditional paper, it is better suited for longer production runs of 2,000 maps or more.

3) Incorporate the Accordion folding method for less bulk and easier opening

If your map is to be folded, the accordion folding method is a popular choice. Unlike many other folding techniques, accordion folding uses a series of alternating folds. In other words, each subsequent fold is made in the opposite direction of the fold preceding it. This helps minimize the bulk of the finished piece and allows it to fold compactly. Also, maps folded accordion style will open with minimal resistance.

4) On folded maps, it helps to make a mock-up to check size and function

To visualize how your map will appear when folded, it is recommended that you create a physical mock-up prior to submitting your artwork for production. A mock-up will confirm that all of the map’s panels appear in the proper place when folded. It will also ensure that the map’s overall dimensions can actually fold down to the desired size. For example, a 22” x 20” layout will not fold efficiently to a finished size of 4” x 9”. However, a 24” x 18” layout will fold neatly to 4” x 9”.

5) Laminate is better suited for wall maps or small maps that do not fold

A clear plastic laminate can enhance the appearance and durability of a paper map. However, because the laminate adds thickness and rigidity to the paper substrate, it makes the map difficult to fold. The more folds the map has, the more difficult it becomes. So the laminate option is usually only feasible for wall maps or smaller maps that do not fold. Folded maps that require protection against moisture or dirt should be printed on synthetic paper.

6) Tear-off pads are a convenient way to store and distribute printed maps

The tear-off format is very economical, making it particularly well-suited for maps that will see limited use, such as those distributed at visitor centers or tourist attractions. Tear-off map pads are created by applying a flexible adhesive along one edge of a stack of same-sized maps. The adhesive secures the printed maps as a unit, but allows the topmost map to be easily removed when needed. The tear-off adhesive works best for maps with a non-glossy finish. Also, tear-off map pads can be produced in just about any handy size but usually measure 17” x 11” or smaller.

7) Always review your artwork file to make sure it is print-ready

Before submitting your artwork, it is important to make sure your artwork file is set up properly. The file should have high-resolution images (minimum 300 dpi) and be set to print in CMYK (not RGB). Also, be sure to extend any bleed areas 1/8” past the finished map dimensions and to include crop marks. As far as the type of file to submit, a high-resolution PDF is generally preferred by most printers. If you have any questions, it is best to ask your printer prior to submitting any files. Corrections and multiple rounds of proofs not only cause delays, they can add to the cost of the project.

If you need custom-printed maps, get in touch with Formax Printing. Though we don’t print one-offs or extremely small quantities, we can help with most map projects of 250 pieces or more. Just give us a call at 866-367-6221. Or, if you already know your specs, click here to access our easy quote request form. We look forward to working with you!

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 full-color printing, all types of softcover books, laminated printing, plus fulfillment and 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 314-434-5500 or 866-367-6221. Keith and Formax have been providing worry-free printing and related services for over 30 years.

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