Getting it printed, hiring a commercial printer, what you need to know

As registered nutrition and dietetic practitioners, we are always trying to come up with a better way to inform and educate our audience. Even though the internet and social media are a must if you’re in business, most of us understand the best way to reach people is still face-to-face. So, it’s not at all unusual for an RD, RDN or DTR to have a stack of handouts. If you’re starting your own practice, at some point you’ll need print materials that are designed to promote your business. At the very least you’ll need a business card. Where will you have materials printed? If this is your first time working directly with a commercial printer, there are things you should know that can help the process run smoother, while staying within your price range. It’s best to always keep in mind your project from beginning to end throughout the process. Don’t get ahead of yourself or the results can become disappointing if your project isn’t carefully planned. What you’ll need to consider are getting initial quotes, setting up digital files for printer and quality control before and after the final print.

Before getting quotes for your project, write down a description of what you want. For starters, printers will want to know what you want to be printed, what you want it printed on, in what color, how many, and when you need it done. Plan to give them as much information as you can about your project so they can provide accurate quotes. When you are ready, contact at least three printing facilities. This way you’ll get a range of pricing, and it will give you a chance to learn about each establishment and their capabilities. Always visit a printer’s website for additional information.

Depending on your needs, you can contact printers directly in your area or work with a printer that offers online services. If you decide to work with a local printer, a face-to-face meeting with a print rep is a must. Print reps are essentially your “print concierge,” and are extremely helpful especially if you’re new to ordering anything in print. They are always more than happy to share advice and go over the different selections of paper and/or other materials that you can have your item printed on. Printers can print on almost anything and they are the experts at narrowing down choices to meet your goals.

If you decide that an online printer can meet your needs, they usually will have a step-by-step guide with detailed information on their website. But you’ll need to take the time to read and understand it. Most online printers have a customer service department available to answer your questions. But it has its limitations in comparison to a face-to-face meeting. If you’ve never had a project printed before, the “how to guides” or DIY design can quickly become overwhelming. Before you start any project with an online printer, take the time to access your knowledge with design and print to be sure this is right for you.

Before sending or uploading any files to a printer, it’s always best to consult your print rep first regarding file format before designing your project. Which software package is appropriate for your design? Even though Word can be used to design a flyer, the design templates can lull you into a false sense of believing that your project will be a “piece of cake.” Don’t fall for it. Your little inkjet printer may zip out one or two flyers at a moment’s notice, but if you’re going to have hundreds of these produced on a commercial press, it’s time to get serious.

Use software as it is intended, so you’ll avoid additional pre-press labor costs for rebuilding your files in a format they can use. Microsoft Word is a great word processor, and is great for office documents, but has many limitations for graphic design. PowerPoint is for overhead slide presentations but doesn’t have the capability to produce files suited for a printing press. If your project is a single page or small booklet, Microsoft Publisher is more appropriate. At the very least, it has templates for projects that can be printed, and you’ll be able to save your file as a high-resolution PDF “ready to print.” Before you start anything, consult your print rep.

There are many online printers that allow access to templates for download. For single page projects, this can be ideal if you have the software to use them. Some common ones are business cards, flyers, or note cards. There are also online printers that will allow you to design your project right on their website. Designing a t-shirt this way is very popular. You’ll still need to access your skills before taking this on. Online print websites are notorious for enticing visitors to attempt DIY projects with a false sense of “saving time and money.”

In the print world, Software such as Adobe InDesign and Illustrator are the industry standard for high-end production. If you’re not experienced with using this kind of software, consider hiring a graphic designer who can make your design look spectacular. This is especially important if you plan on spending a chunk of your budget printing a large quantity that will last you a while. They are also experts when it comes to branding a look to promote your company.

Photography is a wonderful way to convey a message that can be successful on so many levels if planned beforehand. But, if you aren’t skilled in using composition and proper image exposure, it will show. An experienced photographer will know how to capture an image at the best angle to tell your story and provide high-resolution images suitable for printing. Are you going to include portraits? Hire a portrait photographer to make sure people will look their best. They’ll appreciate you for it.

Another option is to purchase royalty free images from an online source. You can find a lot of bargains online and images come in the numerous sizes and resolutions. Please don’t get into the habit of copying and pasting images directly from a Google search. Internet images are usually not appropriate for commercial printing, but most importantly you could be unknowingly infringing on the owner’s copyright. Do a search on “public domain” for more information about this, or read my blog post Show appreciation for an artist’s work. You might even be able to contact the artist to ask for permission to use their photography or artwork. If you’re not-for-profit, they might be willing to support a worthy cause.

Cameras on smart phones have come along way with innovative technologies, but they aren’t yet savvy enough to make up for someone lacking an eye for composition. If you must use your phone for pictures, make sure to change your phone’s settings to the largest photo possible. Bigger is better in this case. It’s better to scale down a photo in your layout rather than scaling it up. Most people fail to understand how digital files translate to a print medium. If you’re not familiar with the terms “low resolution” and “high resolution” digital photos, do an internet search. High resolution is at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) for traditional printing. If your digital image size is smaller, you run the risk of it looking blurry in the final print. Talk to your print rep before using any images from your smart phone.

Before handing any files over to the printer, it’s important to read all the text and look over images and/or artwork on your project. Print it out, don’t just look at it on the screen. This can’t be stressed enough. It’s human nature to see a mistake after everything is done. An overlooked typo can be a costly mistake, especially when there are 1000 pieces printed with the incorrect phone number. Consider putting your project aside for one day, then come back to it with fresh eyes. Then have someone else look at it too.

So, now have your beautiful marketing piece ready to go to print. What happens to your file once it gets to the printer’s pre-press department? Your file will go through a preflight process. The pre-press department checks for a variety of things including making sure images are at least 300 dpi and that all the fonts load properly in your document.

Once the file is ready, pre-press will create a proof of your project for your approval and sign off before going on press. This proof will be nearly identical to your final print. Some printers are even able to produce a proof on the exact medium you’ll be using. This is the stage where you also want to scrutinize every detail and make any changes — and yes, again look for typos. Take a pen and mark it up. If you ask for changes, insist on getting another proof.

Once pre-press had determined your file to be in good working order, and you’ve signed off on your proof, they will then RIP your file. RIP stands for “raster image processing.” This process turns your files into a language of bits and pixels that the printing press understands to reproduce your project on your chosen medium.

When your project is done printing and delivered, be sure to open the boxes to check your product. You don’t want to be looking at your product for the first time when you’re already sitting at your booth during a conference. What if you ordered t-shirts to hand out at a nutrition conference and found out you have the Village Bowling shirts by mistake?

Quality control of your print project from beginning to end will help you ensure accuracy and quality throughout the entire process. Successful marketing pieces also involve building relationships with everyone involved. Stay in contact and communicate in a timely manner. Remember the level of professionalism will be reflected in anything you print to promote your practice. Make sure it’s the best impression that it can be within a budget that you can afford.

For more information click on the links below:

Preparing files for print

Learn about Public Domain images and artwork