I am often asked to recommend a printer, coordinate with a printer or explain aspects of printing. On this page I will try to briefly recommend a few good printers. Then I present a short glossary of key terms / ideas to help folks get the most out of printing. If you are planning to spend a lot of money on printing it is wise to understand the basic options. It is also worth getting a few prices from different printers.
A good first question to ask is “Do I need high-quality full-colour materials printed, or will a simpler one-colour printing be enough, which will cost a lot less and be much greener.” For important materials that will be kept for years full-colour is often needed and a number of green printers can do this to a very high standard. But maybe an event-poster needs a few full-colour posters, but could be accompanied by a larger number of simple one-colour or two-colour flyers, printed on a nice lightly coloured paper.
Printing can be a very environmentally damaging activity. Luckily, some printing firms have greatly improved their supplies of stock and their printing processes and I can recommend the following:
54a Rectory Road, Oxford, OX4 1BW
Open: Tuesday – Friday Noon – 5pm
Tel: 0845 345 1398
Friendly workers’ Cooperative, good value, use mostly 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Good for low-cost one-colour printingusing a RISO digital duplicator. this is not very high quality but it is VERY green and quite cheap. The RISO machines use about 2% of the ebergy that a photocopier uses! They can print on a wide range of coloured paper and card upto A3. Can do some spot-colour work but restricted by digital printing machine. Can also do short runs of full-colour laser prints upto A3. GreenPrint use soya-based inks and are powered from renewable sources.
5b Moor Business Park, Ellough Road,
Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 7TQ
Tel: 01502 715551
Friendly, high quality, but a bit more expensive than ‘normal’ printers. ‘Carbon neutral’, with EC-EMAS and ISO 14001 acreditation. They tend to use a stock of at least 75% post-consumer waste, with less than 25% mill broke. They use a waterless offset printing press, making their waste minimal. These are my favourite printers for full-colour documents.
Footprint Workers Co-op,
16 Back Sholebroke Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3HB
Tel: 0113 262 4408
Footprinters is a friendly workers cooperative, with similar machines and stock to Oxford GreenPrint. Reliable, responsive and fast. Their website is great, with many useful links, paper colours and jargon-busting tips.
Hillingdon Greenprint Ltd, 58 Beech Avenue, Ruislip, HA4 8UQ
Tel: 020 8868 7852 firstname.lastname@example.org
London’s low-cost and fast ‘green’ printing firm who have a RISO digital duplicator (for cheap and very green one-colour printing). Can also do some full-colour laser-printing.
Some key design and printing terms
Artwork – the finalised design files, either emailed or giver on a CDrom. Printers will expect this
to be ‘print-ready’ minimising the time they take getting it ready to print. It’s a good idea to also
give the printer a quality print-out (or emailed PDF / JPG) of how it’s supposed to look. Most printers
now expect the final artwork to be in PDF format. PDFs are slippery and if you make you own
please explore the various ways your design program can make them – you may find ‘options’
or ‘print settings’ options under ‘print’ or ‘page setup’ pages. Make sure you are creating large
and ‘print-quality’ or high-resolution PDFs if they are going to printers.
Bleeds – if your design has ink that goes right up to the edge of the paper, the artwork needs to be
a bit bigger than the final size, usually by about 3mm. The design is printed on paper a bit bigger
than the final size, and then after printing, the edges are trimmed off. Most large printers assume
that you’ll want this, always. GreenPrint and Footprinters have machines that cannot do this, and
artwork for these machines cannot have content near any edge, by about 8mm. One way of
cheating is to print on standard paper (eg A4) with 8mm white margins, and then you trim off
about 9mm making a smart final design that has ‘edge-to-edge’ ink, but is a bit smaller.
Finishing – things done to the printed materials after printing. EG: trimming (off bleeds) & folding.
If your job involves folding, be clear in your instructions as to which way the fold goes!
Glossy paper – I always thought this was a plastic coating, but actually it’s made of a fine clay that
is dug from a huge open-cast mine in the South West of the UK, to the detriment of the local
wildlife, loal people and the water table. Maybe we don’t need our publicity to be a part of this.
P.C.W. – Post Consumer Waste – a pecentage (often 100% or 75%) referring to a paper’s source.
This represents trully recycled stock, rather than paper made from rags, or offcuts from a paper
mill (which is called mill broke). GreenPrint and Footprinters use 100% post-consumer paper.
Proofs – most printers will want to give you a ‘proof’ – a printout of what they are about to print.
There are usually three types: A> a ‘wet-proof’ is very expensive and is an actual print out
from the printing-machines they will use for the main job; B> a ‘Laser-proof’ is a high-quality
print our from a full-colour laser printer; or C> a emailable ‘PDF-proof’ – just a PDF of the designs
that they are about to print. This is a last chance for you to notice that, eg: it’s upside-down etc.
Getting a proof is a VERY GOOD IDEA. Often a single set of laser proofs comes as standard.
Resolution – the amount of detail within an image, measured as ‘dots per inch’ (D.P.I.). High quality
printing is usually done at 600dpi, sometimes more. Many people consider 300dpi to be enough,
and this is often a sensible ‘minimum’ to stick to, especially if you’re emailing the artwork.
Most images from the internet are ‘low-resolution’ – just 72 or 96dpi, which looks fine on screen
but if used in printed materials, they look blocky or blurry. If an image is less than 200Kb in size
it is probably ‘low-rez’. Quality photos are usually over 1Mb in size. It’s easy to make a high-rez
image into a low-rez image – you just shrink it, loosing quality and reducing file size. It is NOT easy
to go back the other way. Once an image has been ‘dumbed down’ to be small and low-rez it
cannot be made big and high-rez again. There are a few tricks that can sometimes make a small
image slightly larger, or clearer / sharper, but it is not easy and does not always work well.
Size – the width and length of the paper or card, usually in millimeters. Most printers can cut the
final work into any size. In the UK, and in some other countries, sticking to the ‘A’ convention will
mean less wastage (in offcuts) and might be slightly cheaper as the job can be processed quickly
along with ‘other’ normal jobs. Printing in the USA, or Canada, uses the ‘Letter’ convention instead.
Standard sizes of paper in the UK:
A4 is 29.7mm by 210mm. A5 is half of that (210 by 14.85). A6 is half of that (14.85 by 105).
A3 is double the size of A4, 420 by 59.4. A2 is double that. A1 is is double that. A0 is… very big!
Stock – the paper or card that you are printing on. Thin paper is 80-100gsm
T.C.F. – Totally Chlorine Free – the paper was not bleached using any form of chlorine.
ECF is not quite as good, meaning Elemental Chlorine Free.