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Prepare a publication for commercial printing

1-3 Which method

Is four-color press or quick copy the best choice for printing your publication? Here are a few of the questions you need to ask:
  • What kind of quality do you need?
  • How many copies of the final publication do you require?
  • Are there special colors that need to be printed, such as metallic colors?
  • Will the publication be archived in some way? (Photocopier inks are not as durable as inks used on a press.)

Quick copy print shops use high-quality black and white or color photocopiers to produce printed documents. For many types of print jobs, this may be your best option.

Typically, you can use quick copy to print publications that you only need in small amounts. For example, if you need color handouts of a 24-page business presentation for an audience of less than 100 people, you may find it cheaper and easier to use a quick copy service. The cost for setting up an offset printing press for such a small number of pages would be prohibitive—unless the type of presentation required that you have the highest quality printed materials.

Offset printing uses a printing press that indirectly applies ink from the press plate to the paper using a hard rubber roller, called a blanket, that takes the ink from the plate and then makes the impression on the paper.

When deciding whether to have your job printed on an offset press or to use a quick copy service, you should think about the cost per unit of finished product. Quick copy costs are typically a flat rate per page, which won't change regardless of the number of pages printed.

Offset press costs are based on the amount of work needed to set up the job. For every page you print on the press there is the cost for imaging the film and making the press plates for each ink used on the pages. There is also the cost for setting up the press, which is also based on the number of inks needed for the job. Once you determine the cost, you can divide it by the number of copies you need. The more copies you print, the lower the cost per copy. For some large jobs, the cost per copy for printing on an offset press may be less than the cost for quick copy.

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