How to Get a Print Estimate

A printing estimate is much more than just the cost of the job. It is also a preliminary production plan based on the specifications you provide. Within the estimate is the blueprint for how the job is going to be produced.

Always use a checklist to put together a request for quote (RFQ). It is amazing the details you will miss if you rely on only your memory. Running through a checklist with your client also means you will get all your answers at once, instead of having to bug her for more answers.

Give your printer plenty of time to work on the estimate. Some estimates can be very complex and take several days to complete, especially if the printer is working with multiple buyouts for finishing processes. The more time the printer has to work on the estimate, especially if it is a large job, the more time she has to fine-tune the price. This may include getting special pricing on paper, tweaking a schedule, or crafting alternates that can save you a significant amount of money. A rushed estimate not only has an increased probability of being incorrect, but it may be in the printer’s favor, not yours, as he attempts to make sure the estimate covers their cost on your job.

Communicate your specifications using the language printers’ use for optimum results. One example is the page size. The first number is always the horizontal measurement and the second number is the binding edge. 8.5 in. x 11 in. means it is binding on the 11 in. edge. 11 in. x 8.5 in. means it is binding on the 8.5 in. edge. This is a basic item that continues to mess up print jobs. Ironically enough this error can make it all the way into the final print job!

Things you need to know to get an estimate:

  • Quantity. How many do you need? Asking for multiple quantities makes sense only if your client is unsure how many he needs or might use more if the unit cost drops low enough. Talk to your print rep about where quantity breaks might occur.
  • Overs/unders. Will your client pay for overs or accept unders? If you are buying his printing for him, you need to know this in advance.
  • Paper. Be as specific as possible; brand, weight, and color information is required. If you are open to a comparable paper, say so. If you need a suggestion for stock, give an example.
  • How many colors of ink. Name your ink colors and indicate if the job is printing two-sided or one-sided (the paper color is not a color). For example, a black ink two-sided job would be k/k, a Pms red one-sided would be 485U/0, the zero indicating that side is blank. If it is process color on both sides, that would be indicated by Cmyk/Cmyk or 4cp/4cp.
  • Size. If the job has a flat size and finished size, indicate both. A flyer that letter-folds would be written like this: flat size: 8.5 in. x 11 in., finished size: fold to letter.
  • Pages. The number of pages must be even, and you are saving money if it is evenly divisible by four.
  • Drawdowns. Indicate if you need drawdowns and whether they are to be solid or type.
  • Finishing techniques. Mention the specific technique and the PMS colors if applicable, or color and brands such as for foil stamping.
  • Bindery. Name the specific bindery method.
  • Packaging and distribution. Is the job going to be delivered on pallets? In shrink-wrapped packages? How many to a package? Carton-packed?
  • Storage. Will the job need to be stored and fulfilled by the printer?
  • Type of proof you want. Blue line, contract color, Pdf, press proof.
    How many rounds of proofs will you need? Will the first round be soft-proofs and the second contract? It makes a difference in the price.
    Press check. Now is the time to mention that you need to press check the job.
    Due date. A job with no due date is an invitation to languish.
  • Budget. If you have a predetermined budget, now is the time to mention it. If your specs are completely out-of-whack, you will need time to change them and the sooner you know that in your design process, the better for you and your client.
  • Unit cost vs. job cost. Do you need unit pricing or lot pricing?

Having a clear list for your RFQ will help you to compare apples to apples and see the differences between print estimates and project parameters like paper, ink colors and quantities.

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