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How to Hold Down Your Printing Costs

The first time you look at a printer's pricing sheet, you'll realize that you have a lot of choices to make about your print job. All the options can be confusing, and can tempt printing customers to splurge on expensive extras they don't really need.

The main item where people let their imaginations — and their pocketbooks — run away with them is the use color and how much color to use.

The simplest color scheme is spot color, which is the simple addition of one or more specific colors to a printing job. Spot color is good for adding a splash of excitement to business cards, menus, or programs without breaking the budget.

Four-color printing is more expensive, but allows your printed product to feature photographs or sophisticated graphics. While four-color printing can be very impressive when properly used, it is overkill for many small business needs such as coupons, menus, or business cards. If you decide to use four-color printing, make sure you have a good reason. For instance, it makes sense for an interior design firm to use four colors to showcase its work in a brochure. But a pet store ought be able to settle for spot color and text in its newsletter.

The next choice you will face is what sort of paper to use. Expensive, glossy "real white" paper is not always necessary to make a good impression. For many purposes, cheaper stock such as newsprint will suffice.

If you or someone in your company is good with desktop publishing programs and your printer accepts work electronically, you might be able to save some money by designing your own materials and creating a printer-ready document for reproduction. If you decide to go this route, ask someone you trust to be objective or someone with experience in graphic design to look over your work. The downside of today's easy-to-use desktop publishing software is that it empowers untrained people to produce clumsy documents.

Finally, before you order your print job, think about how many copies you want to print and how much time the printer will have to do the job (from the moment you drop off the materials to when you need the finished product in hand).

If you're printing something your business will use again and again, remember that most printers offer discounts for bulk jobs — so the more you print at one time, the cheaper it will be. Printers will also sometimes make special deals with repeat customers. It doesn't hurt to ask.

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