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Prudent Paper Purchasing

Printing paper accounts for 25 – 50 percent of a print project cost.

Here are 10 money-saving tips to help stretch your print budget:

  1. Have a good relationship with your paper provider. Find someone who knows more about paper and printing than you do, who cares about your projects and calls you after the projects are delivered to make sure everything went well. They can recommend stocks that deliver both value and results.
  2. Merchant’s Closeout List. Like an outlet store, good deals can be had on discontinued sheets or overstock. Closeout lists are updated quarterly and sales are made on a first come, first served basis.
    Savings can exceed 35 percent off the normal sheet price.
  3. Better Credit Terms. Most paper merchants offer a certain discount (usually 10 percent) if their invoice is paid in 10 days. See if your client is amenable to an extra “paper invoice” to be dealt with ahead of final job delivery.
  4. Consolidate your needs. If two or more projects from your company can run on the same sheet, try to coordinate deadlines and gang print them. In addition to actual savings on the larger paper purchase, you also save on overall print cost because you require fewer plates and less “makeready” time for one versus two print jobs.
  5. Know the standard price breaks. One carton is the basic paper price (size and quantity of sheets are listed in the mill stocking information). Four cartons amount to a savings of 5 – 15 percent per carton; 16 cartons results in a 15 – 60 percent cost reduction per carton. Broken cartons (a quantity less than a full carton/when available) are 15 – 60 percent ABOVE a onecarton price. The difference between what the printer has to buy, and what he needs for the job will affect your invoice heavily.
  6. Utilize the sheet size. Involve the printer early on in the design stage. Sometimes a 1/8-inch difference in flat size can help the artwork fit better on the press sheet which will often provide great savings.
  7. To bleed or not to bleed. Offset, opaque and coated sheets give you a large variety of stocked sheets to choose from. It’s easy for your printer to accommodate bleeds by going up one step to the next paper size. Expect a 5 – 10 percent price increase. Writing, text and cover sheets, on the other hand, have a more limited variety of sheet sizes. The next step up is usually a big one (especially if a watermark is involved) and may amount to a 30 – 50 percent increase.
  8. Know your paper grades. Premium, number 1, 2 and 3. In the beginning, paper grades were based on brightness alone, but today’s new grading system also considers opacity, formation and run-ability. The same fillers and chemicals that create the paper’s bright appearance can also take its toll on the papers stability and run-ability on press. Great brightness AND perfect run-ability is what you pay for in a premium or number 1 sheet. Shop and compare paper grades too. After selecting a sheet, ask your supplier for a printed sample of the sheet, one grade below for comparison. On average, the price of a premium sheet is 12 percent more than a number 1 sheet and 24 percent more than a number 2. Also consider your printers “house” sheets (usually a number 1 or a number 2 sheet) and take advantage of their bulk purchase savings.
  9. Reduce Basis Weight. Printing paper is still sold by the pound. A heavier sheet could add 10 – 20 percent to your paper cost. Lighter sheets use less fiber, thus are less expensive to produce. If the project allows, consider 60# instead of 70# text, or 80# instead of 100# cover.
  10. Utilize digital printing. For quick turnaround of short run (1 – 500 quantity), full-color projects, turn to digital printing (ie. NexPress, iGen, Indigo, etc.). In addition to avoiding “makeready” and plates (and therefore costs), these presses allow variable-data printing and facilitate the newest trend on larger (VDP) projects, hybrids with digitally printed, regionalized covers and offset printed common contents.

Once you’ve got your paper, you’re good to go, right? Wrong! Check back soon for some expert insight on Press Coatings.


Director Of Production Services