THE PRINTING PROCESS
Understanding Four Color Printing
and Your Options for Producing Full Color Marketing Material.
Four color printing options have been growing for some time. But for most conventional printing processes, the costs are still quite high.
Especially on a small business budget. But digital printing has improved so much over the past five years that it's given you an option for creating beautiful, high-quality four color work without having to spend as much as you used to.
But just so you understand how your work will be printed and how you should think about working with business, commercial printers, here's a breakdown of your options:
Conventional lithographic "sheetfed" printing:
Sheet-fed printing is, right now, the highest quality print process you can use today. And the better presses take into account digital technology and allow you faster turnaround and cheaper prices.
However, neither one has really taken affect, because with a faster press and quicker process comes expensive equipment and upgraded technology.
Within the last five years, we've seen presses that can print up to twelve colors on each side of the paper. That means you get the four color printing inks (Cyan Magenta Yellow and K -- Black) plus 8 more distinct inks you can print with.
But for the sake of time and the length of this article, we'll stick to discussing four color printing. (By the way, four color printing uses, as I menioned, the four process colors that make up a full color image. A typical photograph is reproduced using CMYK -- the four colors.)
If you've never been to a large commercial printing plant -- it's something I recommend. Calling up a sales person and asking for a tour is a piece of cake. In fact, if you plan to be printing a lot in the future, you may even get a free lunch!
Litho printing is not inexpensive and can often be quite wasteful for a small business owner printing a few hundred copies of a brochure.
Just to get a press running can cost anywhere from $800 to $1200 -- and that's before any paper gets run through!
A web is an actual "web" of paper that runs through a press from a roll. This process is typically used for high volume printing, such as magazines and booklets (i.e. Annual Reports). The quality is not as sharp as a litho sheet-fed press, but the technology is bringing it much closer all the time.
Unless you have huge quantities or you're producing booklets (also in high quantity) it's very unlikely you'll use a web press.
So How Can You Afford to Print Anything? Ah ha. That's the question I was waiting for.
Five years ago, if you had asked me about using a digital press for four color printing, I would have said "not yet."
But I knew the quality was on its way. And today, the difference in quality is not enough to affect the appearance of your brochure or any printed piece. To clarify, the quality is not as high as a litho press. But when thinking of your return on investment (as you always should), the cost savings you'll see with digital printing makes up for the quality limitations.
(Note, in direct mail, the words you use make up for 10% of the number of people who "answer" your direct mail. The list makes up almost 65%. That leaves the offer to take up 15% and only another 10% for the design. That means the "quality" of your printed piece will have little affect on the response.)
What's nice about digital printing is that you can print any quantity you need at the time. So if you only need 200 brochures, it could cost up to $800 on a litho press.
The same brochures on a four color digital press may only cost $300-$400!
The benefits of digital printing add up. Personalizing each piece comes to mind (You can have the person's name printed right on the brochure -- into the copy!)
Digital printing, in my opinion, is the wave of the future and the best choice for a small business entrepreneur.
Another term for digital printing is called "On-Demand Printing." It works well with the way our world works today -- we always want it "on-demand!"
A lot of four color printing services you'll find on the internet are digital based, although not all of them.
And if it isn't explained clearly what process they're using, you should at least find out what type of printing process they use. You may also run into a lot of brokers who don't even own their own presses, but use a resource of printers to offer you more products and, often, better pricing.
(Primer on four color printing)