Apr 132011

Space; the final frontier. Or, to put it another way; size matters.

Most, but not all, digital printers are sheet fed. At least our DocuColor is. And the “standard” size sheet we use and quote prices by is either 9×12 or 12×18. We do not stock a “legal” (8.5″x14″) size sheet. Some of the paper we use is not available in cut sheets and in a lot of those instances, we end up with a 11.5″x17.5″ size sheet cut from the 23×35 master sheet. And in at least one instance, we stock a sheet that is 13×19 (this is the largest size that can physically be run through the DocuColor). All of this is real important as you create files for digital printing.

Like traditional printing, digital “presses” need a “gripper” on the page. That is, there’s a portion of the page that simply cannot be imaged. On all size media this is 4mm (.15748031″) for lead and trail edge and .3mm (.11811″) on the edges for 12×18 media and 3.5mm (.13779528″) on the edges for 13×19 media. So, whatever you design, you have to start by subtracting that area from your total image space.

The size of your finished piece is the result of a lot of factors, some of a design nature, some of a more pragmatic origin, e.g. postal regulations, envelope size, etc. Sometimes, these parameters must be compromised to utilize digital printing efficiently. For example, let’s say you want to produce a note card that will fit in an A-6 envelope (4.75 x 6.5). A good size to make this note card might be 4.5×6.25 folded, 6.25×9 flat. However, this would something we could only print 1-up on a 9×12. If it was, say, 4.5×6 folded, 6×9 flat, we might be able to print it 2-up on that same sheet. Just a teeny, tiny quarter of an inch difference and we cut the print run in half. It will be a bit looser in the envelope, but that’s the compromise you have to decide to make.

Now, a word about “bleeds.” Whether it’s traditional ink on paper or digital toner-based printing, the world of print is a relatively imprecise place. No matter how you print something, when an image or a background color comes right to the edge of the trimmed sheet, you must leave at least 1/8″ of image BEYOND that trim for successful printing. This is referred to as a “bleed.” It prevents the occurrence of a thin white line on the edge of the finished piece where that particular sheet was printed perhaps little too far to one side (it’s an imperfect world, as I mentioned). It also requires that the piece be printed on an oversized sheet and trimmed.

Bleeds can really complicate the issue. In order to trim a piece that bleeds, we need guides that tell us where the trim should be, “crop marks.” In general we need about 1/2″ of space on each side of a bleed image to accommodate the bleed itself and a crop mark to indicate where the trim should be. So a piece that bleeds needs an extra 1″ in length and width on the page. You need to take all of this into consideration, preferably in the design phase, if you plan on digital printing. We’ll normally try to pry this information out of you when you call us for a quote. I know we sound very nosy, but most of our customers hate surprises, especially when they occur long after the design has been approved, priced out and is under deadline.

Finally, a word about customer-supplied stock. There is a minimum size that can successfully be printed on the DocuColor. This is 5.5″x8.5″. We cannot run anything smaller than that through the device. While we will usually try to run whatever you are interested in printing on (with some exceptions; materials that appear to be capable of melting on our fuser are usually politely declined), it is sometimes impossible to print on the smaller pre-cut papers available at the local arts & crafts store.