THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO PRINT BUYING
From concept to installation, a print buying project demands planning, creative solutions, and collaboration with partners in various areas of expertise.
While each printing project is unique, there are fundamental best practices that all print programs share. When you know what to expect during each phase of a print project and you trust your printing partner to provide the best solutions, your experience is more likely to be positive. In this guide, we cover the fundamentals for anyone who is involved in the print buying process so you can be sure your next print project runs smoothly.
Table of Contents
The PDF version of this guide includes even more content, like the Seasonal Retail Planning Calendar and the Print Project Budget & Planning Worksheet.
A major printing program requires precise planning: coordinating all of the moving parts from concept to design, into production, and finally to delivery and installation.
A master planning document is essential to getting started so you can see at-a-glance all the key pieces of your next print project. Organizing the details at the beginning of your project will also help your print rep know exactly what you need, and when you need it.
Whether you use a spreadsheet, or old fashioned pen and paper, a master planning document must include the following information:
1. Overview: name of the project, with a summary and key details; project deliverables and scope; intended audience.
2. Contacts: project owner, additional team members involved with name and role/title; partner/vendor contact information.
3. Budget: design; materials; printing; installation; hardware; misc (for extras that may come).
4. Design/Content: design notes and specs; copy; files for printer; number of design files & type.
5. Deadlines & Approvals: design approval deadline; print deadline; installation deadline; who needs to approve, date approved.
6. Installation and Follow-up: installation date & contact; recurring or follow-up tasks.
EXPECTATIONS AND TIMELINES
Each print program is unique and has much flexibility. A project can take days, weeks, or months depending on the client's deadlines, the approval process, and the project's complexity. Here is a general sequence of events many print projects follow:
We receive the client’s ideas and create a game plan to bring every client’s vision to reality. This process generally takes between 1 to 3 days, depending on the project’s complexity.
Once we have a plan and we know what is required, we present an estimate to the client. Typically, this step can take 1 to 3 days.
The duration of this step depends on the client. Once the client receives our plan and estimate, has reviewed and approved, their written approval is sent to us. The longer this approval process takes, the longer it takes to get the project started. Ideally, when we get the customer’s written approval, we’ll also receive a distribution list. This lets us know the full scope of the project and how many unique print pieces need to be delivered to different locations. For large projects, we can send finished pieces in stages taking into account different regions, ensuring that everyone gets the products when needed.
Some clients send us the art they want us to use, while others ask us to create artwork for their projects. If we are working with pre-existing art, we simply proof it before sending to the client for approval. If we’re creating the art from scratch, that adds a few days to the process. Once we’ve produced the art that we believe best suits the project, we pass it along to the client for approval. The time frame for this step is from 1 to 3 days, depending on the complexity of the design needed.
We make the revisions requested by the client, and then resubmit the work for approval. Usually, this step takes a day. This process will repeat until the client is completely satisfied.
Sometimes, it’s easiest to produce a prototype or a sample of the work, which generally takes 3 to 7 days. With the prototype/sample in hand, the client gets a more accurate idea of the finished product. We’ll need the client’s approval of the prototype or sample prior to starting production.
Should the client wish to revise any part of the prototype or sample, we make the requested changes and resubmit it for approval. The back-and-forth can take from 3 to 5 days.
We’ve worked with the client to ensure that the product we’re producing is precisely what’s required and now it’s time to turn the ideas into tangible objects. Depending on the intricacy or the sheer volume of the project, this step takes from 3 days to 29 days. If it’s a project that requires a number of pieces to be shipped to different locations, it’s possible that we can rollout the products in shifts, sending them out as they’re completed.
The finished product is shipped to its final destination. The length of time this step takes is based on the bulk of the project, and takes 1 to 3 days.
This step doesn’t pertain to every project; some clients require help with installation. We coordinate with certified installers who assist with the process of installing signage in the proper place. This can take 1 to multiple days, depending on the complexity. We take pride in photographing the print projects (signage, marketing materials) once installed in their natural habitats for final signoff. This is where our quality materials and craftsmanship really shine through and we ensure our clients are completely satisfied.
The last step of the process is sending the project to invoicing.
RETAIL TIPS FOR SEASONAL/TRANSITIONAL POP
Request a Kit
When you're ordering from your printer, request that they put all the materials from two upcoming campaigns in the same shipment; this saves on shipping, and you're ahead of the game. However, we do caution you not to get too far ahead of yourself. Signs can get damaged or go missing when they sit around unused.
You can request double-sided signage from your printer; whether it's a refresh of your seasonal campaign or an entirely new campaign, flipping the sign is easier and cheaper than ordering a whole new set.
It's not just a Boy Scout motto, it's the best way to keep your printing budget in line. If you've got your marketing material order placed well in advance, you will save yourself the last-minute shipping charges that can break your budget.
Being willing to make your signs even an inch or two smaller can allow your printer to put two signs on the same page, reducing your printing costs. Flexibility about the materials used for your signs can be a source of savings, too. If you know the sign is only going to be up for a few days, it doesn't make sense to use a high-priced extra durable material. Something thinner can look just as nice and save some cash. Consult your printing rep—explain how you want to use the sign and ask for recommendations about the best material for the job.
Actions Have (Financial) Consequences
Understand that if you choose to move a campaign up, or to create signs to generate new interest in flagging sales, you'll be paying a premium on getting your signs ASAP. Overnight shipping and other costs for rush jobs can quickly add up.
Plan special events, print, and promotions with a guide that keeps you ready for what's coming up next in the year.
COMPLIANCE ISSUES TO CONSIDER
You have a vision for your retail space's decor and signage and you can't wait to see it come alive on your windows and walls. But wait! Have you considered the realities of working within the boundaries of your space? Are you familiar with the rules and regulations that come with doing business in your building or in your community? Working with major retailers around the country, we have experience in coming up with creative solutions to compliance challenges, like city ordinances and other building regulations.
Before you're forced to completely remove and redesign your signage — with a tremendous loss of time and money — take a moment to consider these potential compliance hazards that may arise. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Does my landlord have special requirements for window signage or barricades, or other rules that may affect signage, wall murals, or window clings?
2. Does your location have any city ordinances or codes that may prohibit/limit window signage or outdoor signage?
3. Does your property lease agreement have special regulations about what can appear on barricades or outdoor signs on your building?
Window Clings and Wall Graphics
Window graphics, decals and wall murals are a must-have for any attractive retail space. Before you make any final decisions about these kinds of graphics, there are many factors to consider in order to ensure a flawless result.
When deciding what type of material is best for your project you should consider the following:
- Is there any existing paint or substance on the wall that will affect adhesion?
- Do you want to be able to see through the window cling?
- How long do you want the graphic to stay on the wall/window?
- Who will be installing the graphic?
If you've never explored the option of branding your vehicles, you're probably not sure where to begin. That's okay! There are really three things you need to know before you begin a fleet graphics project:
Graphics—Ideally, you'll have a vision of what you want portrayed on your fleet. However, it's not absolutely necessary. Our sales person can brainstorm with you to gather the information our in-house design department needs to create a concept.
Timeline—Your satisfaction is important to us, so we want to be sure that you have a realistic expectation of how long it will take to create fleet graphics that meet our standards.
Your Fleet—Before we begin the process, it's important that you've identified your fleet. This means that you come to us knowing how many vehicles you want to wrap and where they're located.
Tradeshows & Events
Figuring out your objectives for the space is the best way to decide how to set up your exhibition. Before your rep can start getting creative about the many print options available for sprucing up your event, you need to define your goals for the space. What are you hoping to accomplish during the exhibition? Do you want to:
Generate leads? An event is a great place to make contact with a group of people who are there because they're interested in your industry.
Beef up your email list? Exhibitions provide you with the opportunity to enhance your email list in an easy and ethical manner. You know they're interested if they sign up themselves!
Converse with potential customers in a more relaxed and casual atmosphere? This allows your future clients to get to know you and your company, leaving them with a positive impression when it comes time for them to make their purchasing decisions. If you're looking to prompt conversation, you should consider grouping chairs in clusters, creating ample seating areas that are conducive to talking.
If you’ve figured out your goal for the tradeshow; this is where your printing partner comes into the picture. We can create incredible pieces (and even design your layout) that are not only memorable, but also temporary. They are easily installed and broken down and it's even possible to reuse some pieces. Check out some of our creative tradeshow design pieces here.
PREPARING DIGITAL FILES
We realize that each printing job is different and specific issues may arise that are too numerous to list. However, most problems with supplied art can be eliminated by following these general requirements:
1. Ask Your Rep
Your rep is one of your best resources. A good rep doesn't want to simply sell the product, they want to educate the customers. Your rep should provide samples of previously printed pieces, paper, ink draw downs, and more, just to be sure the customer will have a clear idea of what the finished product will look like. Also, a rep can be your ticket to a tour of the facility where your job will be printed. There's nothing like a hands-on experience of what it takes to finish a print job to help you understand the process.
Your rep will also be able to provide you with specific instructions for how to supply pre-press with the right art files in the right format. Furthermore, if you have technical issues packaging up your file, your rep can help.
2. Follow File Requirement Guidelines
Every printer will have different file requirements. Here are some of our file requirements to give you an idea of what your printer will expect:
Standards are based in Adobe Illustrator with PDF compatibility.
Files accepted: Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, ArtPro, Adobe PDF and Esko Normalized PDF.
Include a PDF of your layout for preview and quality control purposes.
Create your document at 100% of final size. If your application does not allow this, setup at 50%, 25% or 10%. Scale used should be noted in art margin, or as part of the file name.
Include a minimum of 0.25 inch bleed (at 100%) on all jobs. This is most important with scanned images. Wall murals and windows usually require up to 2 inch bleed.
All fonts/links are to be included with provided art. Both InDesign and Illustrator have a "Package" feature under the File menu that can do this for you.
Wherever possible, convert all text to curves (outlines/paths). Ideally, send one version with text converted to curves and one version with fonts intact for possible editing (if necessary).
Provide art in CMYK color mode (plus spot colors desired).
Any spot colors must be specified using PANTONE Matching System* for best results.
When specifying white in your file, create a spot color swatch named "White Ink". Our RIPs automatically use white ink for any spot color named "White Ink". Give the swatch a color breakdown that is easily visible, but not used elsewhere in the job. Include a note on the file (outside the trim) specifying what color, visible in your layout, represents white ink.
Include a matchprint or a printed sample to match to.
* Color match accuracy will vary depending on color range (gamut) of printing method used and substrate.
View your art at full print size to ensure proper art quality.
Provide images at a minimum of 100ppi at full scale. If art is 1/2 scale, resolution = 200ppi; 1/4 scale = 400ppi, 1/10 scale = 1000ppi.
If this cannot be achieved or you want further clarification, call your Vomela sales representative.
Use the "collect for output", "Package", or similar feature in your software to guarantee all necessary files are sent with the job.
Provide any files created in layers using Photoshop (or similar software) along with artwork in case editing is required.
Provide art file untrapped. Our prepress department will handle all trapping requirements.
3. Tips for Gradients and Effects
To avoid “banding” in gradients, create your gradients in Photoshop and add a little bit of noise. Illustrator gradients tend to show banding or stepping.
For best results, avoid using Pantone colors with any types of effects/transparencies. Use the CMYK values for more predictable results.
4. Double, Triple, Quadruple Check
This is advice for you AND your printer. Check the dates, times, and and all the small details carefully when presented with a proof.
Lack of attention to detail can be costly in time and money. A mistake that isn't noticed until the print has been run can put you behind and break your budget.
CONCLUSION: TRUST YOUR PRINTING PARTNER
From concept to installation, a print project demands planning, creative solutions and collaboration with partners in various areas of expertise. We hope you take one thing away after reading this guide: your printing partner matters.
Whatever your print buying needs may be, from marketing collateral and store décor to event, fleet, and transportation graphics, you can rely on The Vomela Companies’ team of specialists to bring your vision to life. Via our vast network, we create top-of-the-line promotions and store décor, plus event, fleet, and transportation graphics for some of the most recognized brands in the world. We offer such a diversity of services because more options mean more ways to present your brand.
EXPERIENCE THE POWER OF PRINT
The Vomela Companies is a full-service, specialty-graphics provider. But even more, we are creators for the visual world. In a global marketplace with diverse needs, we create eye-catching graphics that demand attention— and bring your brand to life.
Let's Get Started
As one of the largest fleet suppliers in the US, The Vomela Companies have printing and installation facilities located across the nation—making local or far-reaching rollouts seamless. Our approach is all about keeping your fleet on the move by providing a highly streamlined and synchronized process to graphic updates for any size fleet (from 1 to 10,000+).
We provide any combination of:
• Project management
• Full-size prototyping
• Material specification
• Print manufacturing
• Removal of old graphics
• Value engineering
• Inventory management