Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…first in a series of tips on how to save money on printing.

Tip 1: Choose an efficient flat size

With paper costs accounting for 25% or more of a print job’s cost, it pays to be smart about paper.

You will always get a better deal on printing when your piece fits on the printing paper with little off-cut, the part of the sheet trimmed away and tossed directly into the recycling bin.

Right relationship of press sheet size to flat size

The size of paper a printer runs through his press depends on the press size and other factors. Here are some of the common sizes:

  • 17 x 22 inches
  • 19 x 25 inches
  • 20 x 26 inches
  • 23 x 35 inches
  • 25 x 38 inches
  • 28 x 34 inches
  • 26 x 40 inches

When you consider format sizes to fit these press sheets, think in terms of the flat size, the dimensions of the entire unfolded piece.

Regardless of the press sheet size to be used, keep in mind that your design can’t fill every square inch of it. Room must be left for grip, the edge of the sheet that the equipment grabs to pull it through the press. Room must be left for color bars, too.

If your design has solid ink areas running right up to the edge, the printer will also need  at least 1/8-inch of extra room around each page to accommodate these bleeds.

Infamous and Famous Flat Sizes

Legal size (8-1/2 x 14 inches) is infamously wasteful. That’s because it leaves behind a lot of waste when the unused paper is off-cut from common-sized press sheets. See the diagram at left. It’s not to scale, but it illustrates my point.

As the second diagram illustrates, 6 x 9- inch pages (a 12 x 9-inch flat size) fit very well, leaving very little waste on the press sheet.

This layout is a money-saver for small 16-page, self-cover booklets printed on a 28-inch press.

Similarly, eight 8 x 10-inch pages (a 10 x 16-inch flat size) fit very efficiently on the size of press sheet used on a 40-inch press.

This efficient format for a 16-page, self-cover book will yield savings, especially when compared to an oddly sized one.

Disaster Avoidance Tip

Once you have a specific design format or size in mind, show a quick sketch or PDF to the printer you’re thinking of using.

If you follow his or her suggestions and adjust one or both page dimensions—sometimes by as little as half an inch—you are likely to enjoy significant savings.