As a marketer you face many options when selecting the method to print your promotional material. There are so many choices (digital, offset, full color, oversize, silk screening, etc.) that a professional may be required to help you decide the best option for the look you want and the budget to which you’re confined. This is a primer to help you understand more about full color process printing and if it’s the right choice for your promotional piece.


Promoters choose full color process printing for several reasons.
1. The quality of the printing must be absolutely top shelf.
2. It’s the less expensive option when doing long print color runs.
3. It’s cost effective when doing big direct mail campaigns.
4. The physical size of the desired output is too large for a normal size press.
5. The touch and feel of the combination of high quality paper, printing and coating makes the promotional piece feel like something of superior value, thus endowing the product with an exalted status.



Preparing full color process files requires some forethought. Because proofs are expensive to produce, it’s extremely important to carefully proofread and edit your promotional piece before submitting it for printing. Files should be submitted as single page PDFs, preset with crops and bleeds, embedded fonts and images, in CMYK color spectrum and without transparencies. Should you make edits after a proof has been produced, you will incur fairly hefty charges for new proofs.

Understanding how full color process printing actually works can save you time and money. Full color printers run large size sheets (for example, many full color process printers have presses that run a 28” x 40” sheet). Eight, 8.5” x 11” pages fit on one 28” x 40” sheet. So, if you have an 8 page, 8.5” x 11” saddle stitched booklet, all eight pages will be printed on one side of a sheet with the reverse printed on the back. If your job is a 6” x 9”, two sided postcard, it would be printed 16-up on both sides. Printing many pages on one sheet saves you money. The page size of your promotional piece dictates how many can be printed on one 28” x 40” sheet. If you have flexibility on the page size (or the number of pages in a booklet), you should let your printer know because (s)he may be able to save you money by changing the page size or count, even just a little bit.

Once you’ve submitted the print file to the printer, you will receive a high resolution color proof (commonly referred to as an Epson proof). The purpose of this proof is to check for color accuracy. Because the proof looks exactly as your job will be printed (on the 28” x 40” sheet) it can be a bit confusing. If you are printing a booklet or something requiring a finishing service, you will also receive a low resolution hard copy proof to check for pagination or other issues.

Review the proof immediately. If you need to make edits or corrections to the job, you should write directly on the proofs. Return the proofs to the printer when you’ve finished. If you make significant changes, it will require a new proof which can be costly. If you have simple text changes, these can be done by the printer. Multiple proofs can delay the printing of the job so it’s important to proof your job carefully before submitting it to the printer the first time.


Because full color printers use large, four (or more) color presses which are expensive to run, they schedule jobs in advance. So, when you place your order with a full color printer, you need to remember that they’re ordering the paper, estimating prepress and proof approval times, scheduling time on the presses, estimating ink drying time (did you know blue ink takes the longest to dry?) and anticipating finishing work such as saddle stitching, cutting, binding, etc. Missed deadlines can be costly and can end up requiring overtime, which always costs you, the client, more money. This is why it’s ideal to do as much editing as possible before you submit your files to the printer, thus reducing multiple proofs and lost time.


Many full color printers can print more than four colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black is the basic – CMYK) at a time. Some can print 4 colors + a PMS color; some can print 5 or 6 colors at a time. Whatever you select depends on the look you want. Also, clients choose to have their important pieces aqueous coated. Aqueous coating a booklet or promotional piece protects it by sealing the ink. It reduces fingerprint smudging, dries faster and is available in shiny or matte finishes. It also has a tactile angle. It makes the paper “feel good”. It has a smooth quality that is substantial and at the same time, subtle. Varnish is another option for finishing a piece but it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as aqueous coating.


Once pieces are printed, most will require some form of finishing work. There are several methods of folding, for example. Bi-fold, trifold and Z fold are the most common forms. A gatefold is the most expensive because it requires a longer set up time, a different cutting and folding process and runs slower on the equipment. The most economical way to bind a book is to saddle stitch it because saddle stitching is often done in-line on the printing press. Other binding services include coil, wire, tape and perfect binding methods. Special cutting services (referred to as die cutting) are also available. You may want specially shaped tabs, or brochures in the shape of one of your products. There are several ways to finish your products so be sure to review the choices with your printer.


If you’re not accustomed to printing in long runs you may be surprised when a truck pulls up with a pallet of 30 cartons and wants to deliver it to your office! So be sure that you know how many cartons your order will be before you give the printer the green light to deliver it. If your company doesn’t have a place to load boxes to a tailgate, the driver will have to carry each box by hand which would drive up your delivery fees.


Full color process printing can yield absolutely stunning promotional pieces that will convey a quality product image to your clients. However, it requires more forethought and planning than digital printing so be sure to take the above points into consideration when ordering a full color process print job.

Call or email us for a free full color printing consultation.