Print Technology Jargon Buster

Getting A Print Quote

Get the most accurate price for your job by answering the right questions for your printer.

» Why it pays to give detailed information when getting a print quote

If you are new to getting prices for printing, you could be missing a trick. By giving the right information, it's much more likely that you will get a better price, as well as saving yourself lots of time when shopping round for a price.

Here are some of the things you need to tell your printer, with explanations why:

  • Quantity : How many do you need?
  • Colours : How many colours does your item print?
  • Paper : What kind of paper would you like?
  • Size : How big is your finished printed piece?
  • Pages : How many pages do you need?
  • Finishing : How do you want it to end up?

Quantity : How many do you need?

The number of printed items you want to end up with can alter the cost of your job enormously. Traditional litho printing has a lot of up-front setup costs and these factor into the price whether you have 10 or 10,000.

Unit costs can come down dramatically as your quantities increase because the machine just needs to keep on running. For example, the price between 500 and 1000 may not be that great, depending on other factors such as finishing.

Colours : How many colours does your item print?

Basically, there are two colours systems for printing:

  1. Spot Colour: This is for exact matching of colours using the Pantone colour matching system. Many companies have set Pantone colours for their logo, for instance, to keep it consistent. Also, if you do not have coloured photographs in your design (say a brochure), you can sometimes print in one/two or three spot colours to keep the costs down.
  2. Process Colour: This is another method of colour printing that uses four colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to make all other colours up and is used for general colour work, such as brochures and newsletters, etc. Although all colours can be made from process colours, some do not match exactly. Therefore, if you wanted a four colour brochure with photographs, and you wanted your logo to match exact Pantone colours, you would need four process colours + two spot colours: Effectively a six-colour print run.

It's also worth noting that white (the paper colour) is not counted as one of the colours.

So, when asking for a print quote, how many colours do you need? Each one is potentially a different plate on the printing press, which adds to the set up costs.

Paper : What kind of paper would you like?

In the print industry, paper is often referred to as stock or board and comes in all different thicknesses and finishes.

  • Paper thickness (or paper weight) is measure in gsm (grams per square metre). As a rough guide, photocopier paper is 80gsm; letterhead paper is 100gsm; business cards are usually around 300gsm. Leaflets and flyers are printed on a range of different papers.
  • There are many different brands of paper if you have a specific paper you need to match. Some of these are more expensive than others. Within them, there are two basic styles of paper:
    • Coated: available in Gloss, Silk or Matt - usually used for brochures, flyers and leaflets.
    • Uncoated: Usually used for business stationery.

Size : How big is your finished printed piece?

The physical size of your piece is important as it is the base material for your printing. When a printing company print items, they will see how many they can get out of a standard sheet of paper or board.

For instance, if you require an A4 letterhead, the chances are we would use an SRA3 sheet of paper and print it two at a time (2 to view). If 1,000 are required, it means we only need to print 500 sheets and then cut them in half. Business cards will get printed at 10 to view, so from a cost point of view, it's good to get more than one name done at a time.

If you have more than one or two sides to your printed item, we would always ask for the finished size. So, you may have a 4 page A4, meaning A3 folded in half to create a four page booklet.

Pages : How many pages do you need?

This may seem obvious, but a printer needs to know how many pages you require. If it's a leaflet, is it single sided or double-sided?

Multiple page documents tend to go up in fours - 4 pages, 8 pages, 12 pages, etc. Some multi-page documents have a different weight of paper for the cover. This is sometimes phrased as follows: Eg. 12 page document - Cover is on 250gsm (outside 4 pages), 8 "text" pages on 150gsm.

Finishing : How do you want it to end up?

When an item has been printed, there are many finishing options and these can sometimes add significant costs to a print job. Examples of finishing include:

  • Folding: Required for a brochure or any multiple-page document.
  • Scoring: For folding on paper weights over 170gsm, scoring may be required before folding so that paper does not crack.
  • Stitched: This is where a multi-paged document is stapled.
  • Drilling: For folder or binder inserts, holes can be pre-drilled.
  • Machine Sealed: Some print jobs required a seal to keep the ink in.
  • Varnish: Matt or gloss, to have extra hold and a finish.
  • Lamination: a thin layer of plastic is applied to the printed piece (gloss or matt)
  • Spot UV Varnish: Areas of the design are left with a gloss finish to make them stand out.
  • Cutter guides: Some printed items need to be cut to shape, eg. Folders.

» Friendly questions to help you get it right

As you may see from this list, ordering print can bring up quite a few questions. Sometimes, like-for-like pricing may not be so like-for-like when you weight up the specifications of the job.

That's why we always like to talk to people and advise in a friendly 'plain english' way. So, if you are looking to get a print price, why not contact us by email or telephone us on 01256 814 144 for a friendly chat?