Copy Shop Couture

Steve Gordon, Jr.While I know we’d all like to imagine that we have clients with budgetary windfalls and the hands-off approach to business that would allow creatives to send that  8-color, die-cut, blind-embossed, spot-varnished project to print…we are often hit with the ever-present truth.

Most often we are forced to squeeze all we can out of a small budget that leaves us just enough overhead to make a visit to, you guessed it, The Kinko’s down the block. Sweeeeeeeeet.

So here are a few street-level tips that might help in that process and still allow you to turn out some arse-kickin’ work and remain friends with our copy shop brethren.

1) Size Does Matter. The truth is that size in the creative services world results in vast differences in the price of printed materials. Right at the outset, if you know a project is going to have ridiculous budget constraints, take this into account and design for the output means. Why fight the good fight of wide open creativity if you know you are going to lose that battle when you have to turn your files over for production? Design within your means. This can be just as creative an issue as any, so show ’em what you’ve got!

2) The Conversion Rate. Don’t forget that you are designing for machines that print CMYK by way of toners and, in rare occasions, inks. Your Pantone books will become a headache if you work only on the premise that the printed flip-book is gospel! Choose your colors wisely and make sure to convert your colors and working environment to CMYK to get closer to your actual output.

If you can get your hands on a Pantone Process book for the picking and comparison of colors, you’ll be a lot better off. It’s rather frightening how far off some of the colors can be in the conversion.

3) Stackin’ Paper. It’s not all about neons and cloud patterns in copy shop papers anymore. There are a respectable number of papers and finishes that can be run through digital copiers to produce very good looking work in the end. House sheet styles will be plentiful. Take your favorite paper sample book along and do a side-by-side comparison. You may not find exact matches but you will be pleasantly surprised at the choices you do have.

Also, very surprisingly, copiers can accept and take a wide range of papers that we all know about. You may be able to test out some sheets if you can get hold of some samples from your favorite paper rep that you owe a drink or two.

Classic Crest is a fave of mine for versatility, while McCoy Silk is an amazing accidental find for really quality high-end looking output. The way the ink lays down on the satin finish gives a spot gloss + dull varnish look. Again creative thought is not all just about the actual art but also the process.

4) Copier Cats. Copiers lay toners and inks down on paper using a variety of means and they usually have some type of heat-finish at the output tray end of things. Black and white printers are to be avoided if you can stand it. Even if your work is black and white. The high-traffic usage of these machines causes a very dirty print that is acceptable for document printing but would leave far too many remnants and copy junk on the page.

The suggestion is to use the color printer options if available. They cost a bit more but they treat your page with a little more respect than the very workman-type black and white printer/copier would.

Another reason for using the color copier/printer, and referring back to the color issue, rich blacks reduce the mottling and poor coverage that can often come with copier toner. Explore some formulas for a good rich black to use in lieu of a flat (K).

You have every right to test papers and machines. I’ve been to many copy shops that have been more than willing to help you get the output set before starting to charge you for print costs.

5) The Big Finish. The finishing options are pretty impressive at most copy shops. From saddle-stitching, scoring, perforation, folding and even some bindery options, there are lots of ways to get the look and the final functionality just right. Ask about what your local area shop offers by way of finishing. This will be a big added benefit to making your work look a lot more sophisticated than what most imagine coming out of a copy shop.

5) Jimmy Says Clean It Up! Finally, straight up folks… BE NICE! We creatives have a very strong tendency to be rather snooty and snotty when it comes to the prospect of sending out high-style, high-brow, high-minded work to a copy shop. I’ll be the first to admit it, guilty as charged. But there is a huge benefit in having the turnaround time, the hands-on overseeing of your work and the 24-hour print option.

Make friends with the staff member helping you or even the whole staff if you frequent a certain place. These good folks do work there on the regular. They know their craft and their hardware. They may just have some hidden gems that can make your work look like Grey Poupon on a French’s budget. But then that would be making them part of your creative collective network, wouldn’t it? *wink*

BTW: Steve Gordon, Jr. will be speaking at CFC 2011 on what it’s like to be a “24/7 creative.” Registration is open! Or sign up for the newsletter here to make sure you get all the news first.

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