10 cost-saving tips for print productions

10 cost-saving tips for print productions

We’ve collated 10 tips that can help you save money on your next print production. To tally the potential savings, we’re using a 2,000 magazine print run as an example, but these points can be applied to any number of products.

Now that digital has taken over as the mass-media format, print orders are becoming increasingly specialised: higher-quality productions, with greater creative differentiation.

This can complicate things for print buyers: increasing the range of choice, and potentially also racking up large bills.

But stunning print doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little know-how, and with the right degree of collaboration from your printer, you can identify the easiest areas of your production where costs can be controlled, and allocate budget to the features that really make the difference.

These 10 tips are designed to help you become a savvier print buyer: equipped with the knowledge needed to produce an outstanding print production, without blowing your bottom line.

Click here, to see a summary of potential savings, in one handy infographic. 

1) Printing in 16pp or 32pp sections

print in 16pp sections to reduce print costs

Printing presses typically work on plates that produce 16pp sections. Printing in smaller denominations, for example 4pp or 8pp, leads to using more plates, creating a longer run and incurring costs. It is therefore prudent to stick to sections in multiples of 16.

This is of particular interest to independent magazines, which are increasingly using multiple paper stocks within a single production, sometimes using a change in texture to signify a change in theme, format or tone. 

kinfolk magazine

One example of a production that used this cost-saving tip is lifestyle quarterly Kinfolk. They incorporated three different stocks, without incurring undue costs. The bulk of the content, 112pp of 192pp, is printed on a stylish, uncoated Offset stock. In the magazine’s ‘Movement’ section, 64pp of the glimmering Galerie Gloss is used, while Redeem, a 100% recycled off-white product, made from spent leather spelt, was chosen for the ‘Directory’ section. 

Printing in smaller sections, such as 8pp, can cost up to £350 extra per section, on our example run of 2,000 magazines.  

2) Consider printing some sections in mono

print in mono to reduce print costs

Playing around with colour, or in this case absence of colour, is another string in your bow for delineating sections of your publication, or for reproducing photography. 

Reducing the number of inks involved in the print can significantly reduce costs. Printing in mono can save up to 20% against printing in a four-colour process.

In their Autumn 2020 issue, Disegno, a quarterly architectural design journal, printed 104pp of their 136pp product in mono. Asking the question, ‘Where are the black designers?’ in its lead article, the use of black and white made for a stark visual representation of the weighty topics found within, while also providing a frugal printing solution. 

If you were to print around 75% of pages on our example title in mono, you could expect to save up to £700. 

3) Using four-colour process 

Many production houses feel they need Pantones to bring their content to life. Spot inks are familiar, and due to their specificity of colour, are a popular choice. However, they do come at a premium.

With most products, CMYK printing will already be used for the majority of the pages, and can accurately reproduce the colours offered by spot inks. Our in-house colour management and calibrated presses allows for exacting accuracy on every print. The application of Pantones also requires additional  plates and time to be allotted for preparing the paper and presses, on top of the costs required to purchase the ink.

chirs guest print production

Renowned artist Chris Guest came to Park looking to print a collection of his work in a book for general sale. Often painting heavily tattooed models, the customer wanted a bright pink to run through the book as a motif, reflecting the colourful and playful nature of his subjects. Even with such vibrant colour, our four-colour process was more than up to the task. 

4) Print on house stocks to cut paper costs by up to 30%

For many design teams, the temptation to experiment with creative stocks will be appealing. 

In reality, most magazines will end up using a printer’s house stock. These reliable products are house stocks for a reason: chosen for their better reproduction quality and how quickly they dry, or can be folded. And, as they are bought in bulk, they will be cheaper due to economies of scale. 

A good printer’s house stocks will still be a superior choice to most papers. Park’s house stocks, Edixion and Galerie Satin, available in gloss and matt, come with the affordable luxury of a substantial and weighty feel. Galerie Gloss was chosen for Issue VIII of Beauty Papers, as its whiteness and eye-catching surface provided further definition to the photography found within. 

beauty papers magazine open

Purchased by Park in bulk, these stocks offer a fantastic saving opportunity for clients. On a run of 2,000 magazines, a customer could expect to pay 30% extra by using a creative stock, as opposed to a printer’s house stock. 

5) Embossing or laminating rather than using textured stocks

A common requirement for all of our products, be they magazines, catalogues or marketing brochures, is to add tactility to the cover. A simple, yet expensive, solution is to use textured stocks – but you can also add texture by embossing or laminating.

A large bill isn’t the only problem created by using textured materials. These stocks can result in unreliable reproduction on print due to the paper’s uneven surface, and a longer drying time. 

Embossing, or using a textured laminate on untextured stock, can create different consistencies more reliably, while reducing costs and print time significantly. 

print pages magazine 4 covers

For its award-winning autumn/winter 2018 issue, It’s Nice That’s magazine Printed Pages uses an eye-catching gloss-foiling on its cover lettering, providing a shimmering refrain set against the heavy sand-grain embossed background. 

By using embossing and laminates, you could expect to save as much £1,500 across 2,000 copies of a magazine, compared to using textured stocks.

6) Printing on white paper with tints

print on white paper to sve up to 50% on print costs

Often used to engender a sense of luxury, cream stocks have grown in popularity, both in independent magazines and catalogues. However, coloured stocks command a much higher price.

Alternatively, clients can instead choose a white stock, before applying a cream tint on the final print. This not only offers an opportunity for saving, but also allows for more accurate colour reproduction, as the image prints onto a neutral background. 

Courier, a future-of-work and commerce title, wanted to use a cream stock in their special ‘magbook’ edition, to create a premium feel, more reminiscent of a work of literature rather than of reportage. This suggestion even left enough in the budget to splash out on a custom paper size, and stay comfortably within budget.

You could expect to save as much as 50% on your paper costs by printing on white stock with a tint, as opposed to cream paper.

7) Digitally printing white ink on coloured backgrounds

Printing white copy onto a coloured stock has always been a costly choice. Historically, this would require a layer of white foil or a silk screen to be printed on top of the stock.

Not only would this require a press to be specially prepared for the process, but it would also require additional runs, to ensure the legibility of the copy. 

Digital machines such as the HP Indigo, and large format printers such as the Vutek Press, can produce white copy on coloured backgrounds quickly, without the need for multiple processes.

On runs up to 1,000 copies, customers can expect to save up to 40% or more on a cover when printing white ink on a coloured background digitally, as opposed to a silk screen press, and achieve an equally high standard of print.

8) Using high-bulking paper

High-bulking paper savings

High-bulking paper allows you to save cost in two ways: it’s cheaper to produce, and thanks to its lighter weight, it’s also much cheaper to ship. You could expect to save up to 10% on delivery, when compared to weightier stocks. 

Limbo magazine, created in the spring 2020 lockdown to support freelance designers, writers and photographers, shared its revenue directly with its contributors. It was therefore important to find cost-effective printing solutions that left plenty of margin for rewarding the designers and artists who participated.

limbo magazine spine high bulking paper

We suggested the use of a high-bulking stock, Essential Velvet 110gsm. Boasting the same opacity as 130gsm silk stocks, the weight-reduction reduced shipping costs by 15%. 

9) Using 240 x 167mm paper as opposed to A4

reduce print costs by printing on 240x167mm

Increasingly popular across a number of indie titles, printing in slightly-smaller-than-A4 allows for worthwhile savings. 

Printing on 240 x 167mm allows you to print in 32pp sections, as the smaller size allows for a single piece of paper to create more pages. A4 can only be printed in 16pp, using more plates and paper, in turn racking up costs. As with the use of high-bulking paper, longer runs offer scalable savings.

dropped magazine

We’ve suggested a number of our clients use this size, including cycling title Dropped, wine experts Noble Rot, and mental health magazine Anxiety Empire. 

On our example run of 2,000 magazines you could expect to save over £800 by using this 240 x 167mm when compared to A4 stocks. 

10) Order bespoke sizes direct from the merchant (NB – not for small orders)

order bespoke paper sizes to reduce print costs

Paper merchants typically only carry paper optimised for standard printing sizes (e.g. A4 or A5). If your heart’s set on a bespoke size, they can usually accommodate the request, at a cost.

For longer-run publications, however, you can order the paper to be manufactured in a bespoke size. Ordering direct from a paper mill, well in advance, can reduce wastage costs – an advantage in terms of both costs and sustainability.

For example, with a 270 x 210mm 116pp magazine, you can reduce costs by 9% by allowing the mill to print in the optimal size for folding, as opposed to using paper typically used for standard sized products. 

It’s worth noting that this tip only applies to longer runs of at least 4,000 or so copies, as the paper mills require a minimum weight of 3 or 4 tonnes to produce the custom material. They also require at least three weeks’ notice. 

infographic showing ways to save on print

Finding your print solution

If all these tips were applied to a single production, savings could add up to the thousands.

In reality, though, these tips are more likely to be of interest to designers and publishers already investigating the creative possibilities of print, in pursuit of a differentiated product that reflects their personality or their brand.

It’s your printer’s job to help you navigate those possibilities: understanding the look and feel you want to achieve, and demonstrating how that can be done within your budget.

One such example would be Dropped Magazine. Funded by Kickstarter, the magazine had built up a following even before it had launched, and needed to meet its fan’ expectations with an impactful first edition.

Dropped editor Alex Dormond had this to say:

“Park provided guidance and support on print specifications, paper qualities and helped us to print in the most efficient way possible. They also highlighted potential issues very early on, to avoid any surprise costs later in the process.”

Read the Dropped case study here.

Or to find out how to save on your own next print production, click here to get in touch.



Send Alison a note with your brief or enquiry, and we'll get back to you shortly.

What is 11-5?

Alternatively, click here for more ways to get in touch.