How to Make Whatever You Print Look Sharp, Get Noticed and Read

Getting high quality printing takes more than finding a good printer. You have to know the rules of the game or the results will be less then professional. Regardless if you're using the corner drugstore's copy machine to run off a few copies on the spot, or paying big bucks to a printer in a distant city for a full blown catalog, everything starts with the material provided. The camera truly sees everything, so be careful to always provide crisp, uncontaminated originals or you will be disappointed with the results.

Tips to Produce Good Originals

Which is Best, Photocopying or Offset Printing?

Finding the "right" printer depends on the job you're having done. Most Quick Print Shops found in the major metropolitan areas do reasonably good work but are usually expensive. The main advantage is speed. If you have to have something right away expect to pay a premium price. If you can wait an average of a week to ten days you can find many mail order printers that do very good work at a fraction of the price of your neighborhood printer charges. Like anything else it pays to shop around. Prices and quality of work varies considerably.

One alternative to offset printing is high quality photocopying. Several national franchises and many retail chain provide excellent work. The key is what type of equipment is available. The typical "pay as you copy" machines that you must feed an endless supply of coins are not suited to running more than a few copies at a time. To get quality and reasonable price I'm talking about expensive full size machines that can copy a two-sided document in one pass anywhere from 50 to 200 copies per minute. If well maintained, the output is excellent and hard to distinguish from offset printing. Your cost should be in the area of four to eight cents a page, which can be a bargain if your need around a hundred copies or so.

If you need more than a few hundred copies, offset printing is cheaper especially in higher quantities. The best way to save is plan ahead. The printer's biggest cost isn't paper or ink which they buy truck loads of at a time, it's labor expense creating, lugging and setting-up the plates in the printing press. So don't have a thousand circulars printed up and come back a month later to repeat the process. You can almost always get a much better price by ordering a six month or greater supply and have them printed all at once.

Paper and Ink

Color paper is far cheaper then colored ink for the same labor intensive reasons, and works just as well at getting attention. Good choices for sales letters and proposals are off-white, buff and cream. Letterheads look best on a heavy paper. Black ink on a soft yellow or medium pink are very effective choices for circulars and price lists. Lighter shades green, gray and lilac also work well for most sales materials.

Harsh color combinations like black ink on red paper should be restricted to large type of a few words only, due to being very hard on the reader's eyes. Reverses (white type set on large black backgrounds) should be limited to small sections like headlines or an attention getting box for the same reason.

Some advertisers have had good success with the newer fluorescent colored papers. While very harsh, they're also bright which gives the necessary contrast to make them work. Because any material printed on this type of paper can overpowering, keep your wording to a minimum and stay away from small text.

Additional Tips to Make Your Work Stand Out

No matter how good the final product, its of no value if it doesn't get read. Chose your words carefully. Eliminate worn-out over used words and phrases that serve no purpose. Make every word count. Graphics and any art work should tie-in and complement the words - never detract or confuse.

The importance of white space can not be over emphasized. Never try and squeeze your work into too small an area. While half-inch margins should be considered a minimum for an 8-1/2 x 11 paper, three-quarter to one inch margins generally look better. Be sure to break-up long blocks of text with Sub Heads. Not only do they make whatever you wrote easier to read, it adds visual impact as well.

If you're using a computer don't be tempted to use every font you have in your library. It comes across unprofessional and has the net effect of actually making your work look sloppy and amateurish. For any document you should have no more then three fonts. One for any headline, one for sub-heads and another for the body. Instead of changing fonts, add interest by using either bold or italics You can also make your work look better by varying the size of paragraphs, and indenting or changing the justification on certain key sections. Bullets, borders, and shading in moderation also go a long way to making what ever your writing look better The better your work looks, the more likely it will be read!

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