The Ins and Outs of Catalogue Printing
Choosing the right printing company for your catalogue print production can save you a great deal of money. There are a great many printers, and they will have certain types of projects that they specialise in, and their equipment is geared up for.
There are several variables that need to be considered before choosing the right company for your catalogue printing.
You need to consider approximately how many pages your printed catalogue will become and does this include the cover. Some small pagination catalogues may have just a small handful of pages whereas large directory size catalogues can have more than 1,000 pages.
Multiples of 4/8/16/32 Pages
The most economical page counts depend on the catalogue printing machine that the catalogue printing will be undertaken on. A small A2 print machine, for example, will print eight sides of A4 catalogue print pages at a time. Therefore, the most economical page count for that machine would be multiples of eight.
At the other end of the catalogue printing machine industry there are web catalogue printing machines that can print 72 A4 pages at a time and in some cases more. Therefore, the most economical page counts for this 72-page machine are multiples of 72. However, if a catalogue was to be, for example 324 pages and 10,000 copies, the machine can print 10,000 72-page sections giving 288 pages. Then for the additional 32 pages that are required the balance of the pages can be printed two up on the 72-page sheet, but as there are two of each page on a sheet a print run of only 5,000 is required to generate the 10,000 catalogue print pages that are required.
Printing can be done using flat colours that are mixed like paint, or by using the four-colour process. A computer screens or televisions use red, green, and blue, or RGB as it is shortened too. This generates the full spectrum of colours. The four-colour printing process on the other hand, uses cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black or CMYK. These colours are printed in dots, the larger the dot the more of that colour is printed onto the paper. Therefore, a colour picture of a clear sky would use a lot of cyan (blue) and very little of the other three colours, magenta (red), yellow and black. There would be some of these other colours used to maybe add shadows in a cloud for example.
Types of Machines
Sheet Fed Machines
At the small end of the scale there are printing presses that can print a single A4 sheet in one colour, however, for catalogue printing the very smallest a company would use would be A3. An A3 press would allow four pages of A4 to be printed in one pass. That is two sheets of A4, printed both sides. Most of these presses would print four process colours in one pass, however, presses are available that can print five colours in one pass. This allows for a special flat colour that needs to be an exact colour and not mixed from the four colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black. This would be the kind of thing a company would insist on if they have a logo that they want printed in an exact colour rather than blended from the four colours. Alternatively, the fifth printing unit can be used to apply a machine varnish to the paper instead of a colour.
The next size press is A2 which would allow eight A4 pages to be printed in one pass. Or in other words four sheets of double sided A4. This press can print four colours in one pass or in some cases five or six.
The next size press is A1 which would allow 16 A4 pages to be printed in one pass. Or in other words eight sheets of double sided A4. This press can also print four colours in one pass or in some cases five or six.
There are also A1 presses that print both sides of the paper in one pass. These catalogue printing presses apply ink to both sides of a sheet of paper in one single pass through the press. These tend to be 10 or 12 colour machines
We Presses are much larger than sheet fed catalogue printing presses and instead of printing onto sheets of paper, web presses print using large reels of paper. These speeds up printing time, but the set up takes longer. Therefore, web presses tend to be used when their catalogue print run is high.
As with the sheet fed presses, web presses are also available in various sizes that print onto different sheet sizes. The smallest size is a mini web which will print 16 pages at a time. They are additional variations on the sheet size as machines get bigger, but they tend to be 16-page, 32-page, 48-page, and 72-page. As a rough estimate a mini web would be used for catalogue printing when a minimum of around 5,000 copies are required. At the other end of the scale, a 72-page web catalogue print press would be used when there is a minimum of around.
Another consideration for both web and sheet fed press choice is the number of pages in a catalogue.
Types of Paper
There are a vast range of paper finishes and weights. These range from very thin light papers to thicker quality papers. The lightest paper for catalogue printing would possibly be about 45gsm whereas the thickest would maybe be about 170gsm.
Along with the thickness of the paper there are also variations on the finish. The three main finishes being gloss, matt, and silk. There are also uncoated papers that have none of these finishes but tend not to be used for multi-page catalogue printing
The main sizes used for catalogue printing tend to be A sizes. Predominantly A4 but also A5. This is because most catalogue print presses are based around A sizes. However, on some of the larger pagination sheet and web presses smaller page sizes can be accommodated that allow for more pages to be printed per pass.
If you are looking for a more unusual catalogue, it is possible to print pretty much any size you choose, but this can result in some of the paper being wasted.
The two main types of binding are stitched and perfect bound. Stitched is basically stapled and perfect bound is when the pages are glued like with a book. PUR biding is a type of perfect binding, but with a stronger glue. Perfect/PUR binding tends to be a little more expensive than stitched catalogues.
Stitched catalogues tend not to be possible with more than around 70 pages and in turn perfect bound catalogues tend not to be possible with less than around 70 pages.
Catalogue Cover Finishes
Catalogues can be left with the paper on the outer cover as it is, or with a finish. This not only adds to the appearance of the catalogue, but it also protects the catalogue. Options for outer cover finishes are:
Machine Gloss Varnish
This is the cheapest option and involves the printing press applying a layer of varnish onto the paper during or after the printing process.
This can be done with a gloss, matte, or a soft touch matt finish. This process involves a machine applying a layer of film to the surface of the paper.
Spot UV or Foil Blocking
To create a unique look these processes can also be utilised.