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Make your print budget go further

24th May 2013

3-minutes read

As a marketing manager or business owner outside the print/design industry, you might think you don’t need an in-depth knowledge of modern print processes. But learning a few basics in print production can help your budget go further.

Here are seven practical tips you can use to reduce printing costs in your organisation.

Keep to standard paper sizes

Commercial print presses work most economically with standard sized pages, such as A3, A4 and DL. That’s why certain sizes of leaflets are the norm.  Although the most common page size may not be everyone’s cup of tea, sticking with convention can save you a lot of money.  Always check with your printer if the page size you requested is the most economical.

How many do you need?

Because there’s always a set-up cost, irrespective of print quantity, the unit cost for printing reduces significantly when you order more. When you get a quote for your printing, you may add very little to the price by increasing print numbers. This is particularly true for items with fewer pages. However, there’s no point ordering a large print run just so you can feel good about achieving a low unit cost.  If you’re never going to use your printing, you’ve wasted your money.

Digital printing is your friend

Digital print has been around for many years and has only recently started to attain the right level of quality.  Digital is great because it doesn’t need any set up, it’s charged per copy and the unit cost doesn’t vary anywhere near as much with quantity.  It’s ideal for variable data too, such as postal addresses, so targeted messages are a doddle.

A commercial digital printer isn’t anything like the colour photocopier you have in your office. Commercial printing companies invest huge money in digital printers and the very best results look as good as litho.  The majority of suppliers are happy to provide you with samples of their digital printing before you send a live job to print.

Order similar products together

If two items share the same technical spec, try to get them printed together.  This keeps colours consistent and it means you only have to cover the set-up cost once.

The "stationery pack” deals that many suppliers offer reflects this: they can print compliment slips and letterheads together as they both require the same type of paper, the same inks and the same finish. Make the best use of the paper as you can. If you don’t need compliment slips, what else could you use that comp slip sized paper for? A sales flyer? Magazine insert? If the press is running your job anyway, try to optimise what you get from it.

Your logo needs to be adaptable

A properly designed logo should be legible in black and white as well as colour; if yours isn’t, ask your designer why not!  A logo that works in black and white (or single colour) as well as full colour makes financial sense because it gives you freedom when planning your print.  For example, delivery notes, NCR pads and appointment cards are usually only required as black and white documents, so why increase your print costs by adding a colour logo?

Keep troublesome colours in check

Full colour print is achieved by printing in four ink colours - cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). Because of the limitations of CMYK, certain colours are difficult to achieve.  Most notably, orange and purple are difficult to produce without appearing muddy and dull.  To get a vibrant, true orange/purple, your printer will need to mix special Pantone inks, which adds to your printing costs.

But don’t feel that you must avoid these colours in your design - after all, we used purple for our corporate colour - but do be aware that if you have orange and/or purple in your colour scheme, you will need Pantone inks to guarantee a consistent result and your printing costs may be more expensive as a consequence.

Reduce your office print costs

Even if you never have a need for commercial printing, there are still ways to save money when using office printers.

Recent studies have shown that you can save you up to 31% on your office printing costs by using the Century Gothic font. The research showed that Century Gothic is the most efficient font with 3.45% ink coverage, compared to the so called Ecofont at 3.47% and Arial at 4.97%.  Changing your default font to Century Gothic could save you up to £50 on running costs per printer every year.*

But it is perhaps Microsoft who have the last word on this by explaining their choice of using Calibri as the default font in many Microsoft products. According to Simon Daniels, Program Manager at Microsoft Corp, "The more pleasing a font looks on the screen, the less tempted someone will be to print it. This will save both ink and paper.”

So maybe this is proof in itself that it’s good design that really does save money in the long run...

*Based on a business user printing 250 pages a week. Source Printer.com.

Mark Wilde

Mark Wilde

Creative Director

Mark Wilde

About the author

This article was written in May 2013 by Mark Wilde, Creative Director at Rubiqa.

Having worked in the design industry since 2000, Mark understands that creativity is as much about achieving tangible business results as it is about generating original creative ideas. His work always has a strong commercial focus and in the years of being a Creative Director at Rubiqa, he knows how to achieve the best results from our clients' investments. Mark's expertise crosses many disciplines including digital, brand development, editorial, advertising, and packaging design. Away from work, he's interested in electronic music production, travelling and learning piano.

Connect with Mark Wilde on LinkedIn

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