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How Trim Size Affects Cost and Waste

April 5, 2013

The final trimmed size of a print project can have a significant impact on the cost of the job and on the amount of waste created.

Commercial printers use large size sheets of paper called “parent sheets” to run through the press. These large sheets are typically printed, then cut or folded into smaller sizes for projects such as brochures or flyers. When the printer plans the job for production, they take into account the space needed for gripper, registration and color bars. If the design is using bleeds or has a non-standard trim size, you may need to use a larger sheet.

Here is a list of the standard parent sheet sizes used in North America:

  • 17” x 22”
  • 19” x 25”
  • 23” x 35”
  • 25” x 38”

Let’s look at an example of two different sized print projects and how they fit on the same sheet size:

You are designing a full-color project with bleed, and you need a quantity of 10,000. For the sake of this example, this project will run on a large press with a sheet size of 19″ x 25″.

Scenario #1: Trim size 9.5″ x 12.5″
At this size, we can only get two on each sheet. This will require 5,000 passes through the press for each side. There will also be a large amount of unused paper on each sheet, which must be trimmed and discarded.

Scenario #2: Trim size 9″ x 12″
At this size, we can get four on each sheet. This will require only 2,500 passes through the press for each side, and there will be very little waste.

As you can see, scenario #2 requires half the press time, half the paper, and produces much less waste. With just this slight change in the trim size, you can save green and be green at the same time.

Capitalization and Case as Design Elements

December 5, 2012

We are all familiar with standard capitalization rules such as first letter of a sentence and proper names. But there are many other forms of capitalization and case that can be used as design elements to add interest or draw attention.

  1. Examples of different capitalization Title Case
    This is where you capitalize the first letter of each word in a short section of text. This is typically seen in places like headlines or page titles, but it can also be used in logos, brochure design or other graphical elements where you want to draw attention to all the words individually. One variant of title case is where short, unimportant words like prepositions (of/to/from) and articles (the/an) are left as lower case.
  2. All Upper Case
    This is pretty self-explanatory. For a given section of text, all letters are composed of standard upper-case characters. This might be used for section or column headings, or in some graphical element that is not part of the main flow of text. If used in-line, you should consider using small caps or petite caps (see below) instead.
  3. All Lower Case
    Standard text always has some capitalization. By using all lower case, you violate the expectations of the reader, and force their brain to process the words differently. If used properly, this can be a powerful tool to draw attention. It can be especially useful in logos or other graphical elements to give a more modern or hip feel to a design.
  4. Small Caps
    Most fonts will have a variation, known as “small caps”, in which lower case letters are represented with characters that look like upper case, but are sized to be near the height of normal lower case. In most Anglo-Saxon fonts, they are about 10% taller than lower case letters. In well-designed fonts, these are not just smaller versions of the normal upper case, but preserve the stroke weight of the other letters and are slightly wider to enhance readability. Small caps are often used for sections of text that would normally be all upper case, but would stand out too much and look out of place if full-sized caps were used.
  5. Petite Caps
    Petit caps are similar to small caps, except they are the same height as lower case instead of being slightly taller. Since historically, word processing apps have not supported petit caps, many fonts just use the same characters for both small and petit caps. If you have an app that supports petit fonts, and you want to use it, you should choose a font that also supports it. Otherwise you will have to manually create it by scaling and kerning, which may sacrifice readability.
  6. Drop Caps
    Drop caps, also known as initials, are a way of making the first letter of a paragraph or chapter stand out. Typically, initials are 2-4 times the height of normal letters and are sometimes quite ornate. They can be created with larger versions of the same font, a different font, or with a graphic. There are 3 typical variations of how they can be set with respect to the surrounding text (see graphic below):

    • Same baseline and left margin as surrounding text, but extending into the space above the paragraph.
    • Same left margin as the surrounding text, and sharing a baseline with one of the subsequent lines. Depending on the height of the initial, this could have it extending above the first line as well. This is the most typical form of drop caps.
    • In the left margin of the paragraph. There are several possible variations for vertical alignment, from extending above, to flush with the top, to somewhere in between.

Examples of different drop cap styles

Of course, once you know the standard way of using these case variants, you should feel free to break the rules to create new and interesting design elements. Just remember that in your marketing collateral design, there should always be a balance between readability and design. Otherwise, it may never get read, and your message will be lost.

Golf for Cheetahs

October 23, 2012

Cheetah Conservation Fund Logo Zuli Creative is proud to support this year’s Cheetah Conservation Golf Tournament by donating the design of the event program. This fun event is being held on November 12, 2012 to raise money and awareness for the Southern California Chapter of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. As cheetah lovers, owners Susan and Matt Bateman are thrilled to be able to help this wonderful organization. Please join us in our support. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available.

Susan and Matt with Cheetah

Print Sustainably with FSC-Certified Paper

September 28, 2012

There are many choices to be made when you are selecting the paper for your next brochure or print project. If your company has environmental initiatives, you may ask “How can we be more sustainable with our printed materials?” One way is to use FSC-certified paper.

What is it?

FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. FSC-Certified timber comes from sustainable forests that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.

Why would you use it?

It is one way to show your customers that you are serious about environmental responsibility and are consciously taking steps to be more sustainable.

What are the choices?

The FSC system maintains three trademark label types, based on the content of particular product lines. These labels are:

  • FSC 100% – All fiber from well-managed forests
  • FSC Recycled – A minimum of 85% of the wood fiber content is from post-consumer sources, with a maximum of 15% coming from post-industrial sources.
  • FSC Mixed – A blend of FSC 100%, Recycled and/or Controlled fiber. Controlled fiber refers to any wood fiber in an FSC product that isn’t from an FSC forest or recycled.

What is the “Chain of Custody?”

All processing to make and use the paper must be part of the FSC chain-of-custody. This means all growing, milling, printing, bindery and finishing are performed by FSC-certified companies.

Many printers are environmentally responsible, but in order to be FSC-certified, all members of the chain-of-custody must go through a certification process.

How does it work?

  1. Communicate with your designer that you would like your printed piece to be FSC-certified, so the FSC-certification trademark label can be included in the design.
  2. You and your designer choose an FSC-certified printer and work with them to select a certified paper.
  3. Once the artwork files are complete, the printer will submit a request to the FSC for approval. This process can sometimes take a couple of days, so be sure to allow for this in the schedule.
  4. The FSC will approve the use of the appropriate trademark labeling, which will then be printed on the final piece.

The use of FSC-certified papers is a way to ensure that your printed materials are more environmentally responsible. The designer will work closely with the printer to make sure your goal of sustainability is met.

Spot Colors Go Beyond CMYK

September 13, 2012

You can’t get there from here

The majority of commercial printing is done in CMYK; however, there are limitations to the colors that CMYK can reproduce. That’s where spot colors come in. They use unique ink formulas to open up the world of color in offset printing, so you can hit a specific color or use specialty inks such as metallics.

How it works

In typical offset printing, a job is separated into 4 colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK). The combination of those 4 colors can be used to produce most colors, and are used for reproducing color photography. Each color has a separate plate on the press. A press that is designed to handle just CMYK would be 4-color press.

When you use a spot color, another plate is created, and a special mix of ink corresponding to your spot color is used on that plate. If this is running on a 5 or 6 color press, then it can all be done in just one pass. If running on a press that can only do 4 or fewer colors at once, it would require additional passes through the press. In either case, there is additional work of setup, printing, and clean up involved, so there is usually an additional cost.

When to use

Adding a spot color will often cost a bit more to print, so why would you do it? There are some circumstances where spot color is justified:

  • CMYK doesn’t cut it – Some colors cannot be achieved with CMYK, especially some vibrant and intense reds, greens, blues and oranges. Spot colors take the frustration out of trying to hit a specific color on CMYK.
  • Specialty Colors – Specialty inks such as metallic or fluorescent can only be done as a spot color.
  • Critical color – If a specific color is a significant part of your brand, spot colors will ensure that they look just right every time they go on press.
  • Consistency – Many companies use spot color to maintain consistency across all of their marketing collateral design, such as brochures and stationery.

Things to know

  • Offset only – Spot colors are only available using offset printing, so they cannot be used on small jobs that will be printed on a digital press.
  • Coated vs. Uncoated Paper – It’s important to know that the same color of ink will look different on coated and uncoated papers. When choosing a color, use the appropriate color guide (see below).

Color classification

There are several different classification systems for defining unique spot colors. Of those, the Pantone Matching System (PMS) is the most commonly used in the United States and Europe. It is a proprietary color space developed in 1963, and is used in a variety of industries, primarily printing, though sometimes in the manufacture of colored paint, fabric, and plastics. The Pantone system also allows for many ‘special’ colors to be produced such as metallics and fluorescents. The other systems for color will not be addressed here, since they are less known, or are for specific uses (i.e. newspapers, packaging).

Choosing a specific color

The Pantone Matching System has numerous printed color guides that allow a graphic designer to choose from thousands of discrete colors. The guides show the colors printed on coated and uncoated papers, and provide a reference name and/or number that is used in the artwork file to tell the printer exactly which formula to use for that plate.


With all of the options that spot colors offer, it’s good to know you can find the color you need, when you need it. Your graphic designer or printer can help you determine if your project would benefit from using spot colors.