Catalogs are one of the oldest ways of advertising and spreading brand awareness. Yet, it is still one of the most effective ways. There has been research that concluded some online sales can be 55% catalog driven, while other data has also pointed an upwards of 70% across other channels of shopping. That is HUGE for anyone trying to increase his or her rate of conversion. And considering how durable a catalog can be, it can leave a lasting impression that stays with the customer.
Perfect example, I was at my buddy’s auto repair shop the other day, to get a tune up done for my Honda. As I sat there waiting, I noticed product catalogs for auto parts scattered on the coffee table. Of course, I had nothing to do so I just picked one up and flipped through the pages. As I was reading, I saw brands that were familiar; time and time again I would see the same brands at other auto repair shops. These brands became embed with me, eventually at some point I became comfortable enough to purchase their parts, because I was familiar. As I witnessed firsthand, it is simply that powerful.
So here you are, wanting to build and reinforce your brand by printing catalogs, awesome! But first, you need to figure out why you are creating catalogs to begin with. If you can narrow down the actual purpose of the catalog, you can save yourself a lot of money without going overkill (i.e. over printing copies for a theatrical performance than there are seats). Though, it never hurts to have a little extra on hand in case you under estimated the demand. So, first think to yourself, what am I going to use them for?
Purposes for catalogs include:
- Handing out for free at a conventions to generate leads
- Presenting your brand Image at the millions of coffee tables all over the world
- For ordering purposes, B2B transactions
- Leisure reading material to enhance brand image or product
- Creating ad revenue from advertisement pages
One you figure out the purpose of your catalog, it will be easy for you to decide how to print it. You will need to decide many factors that will go into printing a catalog; I went ahead and listed them below for you.
The amount of pages:
You will need to decide on how many pages you are going to print, this is a big deciding factor for cost, so think carefully how you would optimally use all the pages in the catalog (no blank pages unless intentional). Also, you will have to take into account your finishing option such as perfect bind and saddle stitch. This will affect the page layout and the number of pages you are to have. The reason is that it has to with how everything is printed and folded for bindery.
With saddle stitch finishing, you cannot have an odd number of pages, all pages need to be divisible by 4, so examples would be: 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, etc. The same applies for catalogs using perfect bind finishing.
If you still have further questions about the number of pages, it never hurts to call up a printer and ask, they should be more than willing to help you.
Deciding what cover stock is one of the most vital components to a catalog. Is it going to be a self-cover or a plus cover catalog? Self-cover means that the cover and the inside pages are the same paper stock, and that there are no additional pages to accommodate the cover. As for a plus cover catalog, it means that the cover stock is different from the inside pages, and that there is an additional 4 pages. So if you had an 8 page catalog plus cover, it is now 12 pages total.
If you want things to look nice and feel fancy, the plus cover is usually the way to go. People who want a consistent feel usually print their catalogs using self-cover. Now, the common types of paper stocks for cover pages are 100# gloss cover, 100# gloss paper, and 80# gloss paper. Of course there are more choices, just check with your printer for more options and recommendations.
Next, you need to choose the paper stock for the inside pages, or rather, “the guts.” Common choices for inside pages are usually 100# gloss paper, 80# gloss paper, and 70# gloss paper. You can even choose 80# bond offset, and 70# bond offset. Offset paper is that soft paper feel, almost like a newspaper. So it depends on what you’re going for and what you’re trying to achieve. Please note, there are certain limitations that depend on the cover choice, so it’s always good idea to check with your printer.
As for coating, there are many options available, depending on what you are trying to achieve. Most printers use AQ coating by default, unless you specify so. AQ coating has a semi-gloss finish, so it makes a perfect balance between both worlds. If you want to make something glossy then UV coating is the way to go. However, if you want the ability to write on the paper then UV coating is a poor choice. If you want a matte look to your catalog, then I suggest using matte coating.
Here are the visual differences for the types of coatings I mentioned:
There are many different bindery finishing options available. Here is a list of the most common types:
- Saddle stitch
- Perfect Bind
- Comb Binding
Saddle stitch is one of the most common types of binding along with perfect bind. It is considered the best value for your money in terms of having a catalog. Since all the pages are held together by two staples on the cover.
Perfect binding is usually meant for catalogs with many pages or some sort of presentation look book. Because there is more work involved, perfect binding is a tad more expensive. The pages in a perfect bind catalog are held together by glue in the spine. When you design a catalog of this type, make sure you account for the size of the spine. Here is a spine calculator to make your life easy.
Once you figure out the spine, you can design the cover properly to account for all the pages. This is very important as you don’t want to submit an improperly design cover to your printer! It will mean a lot more back and forth, more time wasted.
This sort of binding uses a coil like metal wire to hold all of the pages. This is common amongst notebooks at most office supply stores. It is great for notebooks, but not really for catalogs. So unless you want to try something different, I wouldn’t recommend this type of binding.
This type of binding is fairly common with schools and colleges, where the need to manually pull out certain pages is required. There is a lot of manual labor to do since the binding operator usually has to bind each one by hand. I don’t recommend this sort of binding for presentation purposes since it is not aesthetically pleasing. Because of the labor, this is not ideal for high volume runs and time constraints.
How it is made:
So now, you’ve decided how you want to print your catalog, your next step is to decide whether you want to design the catalog yourself or to have a professional do it for you. When it comes to print design and layout, the two main tools print designers use are Quark Xpress and Adobe InDesign. You can choose to use either one, as it really comes down to a matter of preference, both will get the job done (I personally use Quark Xpress).
If you are not good with designing, you can hire a freelancer to do it for you. Some places to check out are 99designs, Elance, and Upwork. But be sure to have the freelancer do some mock up work before you let them have both feet in the door. That way, you can get an idea of their performance and skill.
Some guidelines when you design your catalog are:
- Color profile is CMYK, no spot colors (unless intentional)
- Graphics are at least 300 dpi for clarity
- Body text is 100% black while the other 3 colors are 0 – (0, 0, 0, 100)
- Rich black needs to be (60, 60, 60, 100) for images and borders
- Make sure all pages are consistent proper 1/8th (0.125) bleeds with nothing too close to the cutting edge.
- File is exported as a PDF
You now have an awesome catalog that is ready for print. Before you get excited about submitting the file for print, be sure to go over it thoroughly. You will want to check for spelling errors, color profile, bleeds, and anything else that you are not sure about. Your printer is not responsible for your mistakes, so it will save you a lot headache and time if you do this for yourself. Make sure you export the PDF file correctly for printing as well. This mistake is common with print designers who use InDesign. When exporting the catalog to PDF, make sure you choose the correct settings; I outlined the steps below:
- Choose File > Export.
The Export dialog box opens.
- Choose a location in which to save the file and then enter a new file name.
Browse to a location on your hard drive using the Save in drop-down list (if you’re using windows) and name the file in the File Name text field. if you’re using a Mac, name the file in the Save As text field and select a location from the Where drop-down list.
- Select Adobe PDF (Print) from the Save as Type (Windows) or Format (Mac) drop-down list at the bottom of the Export window.
- Click Save.
The Export PDF dialog box appears with the General options screen open.
- Choose “Press Quality” from the Adobe PDF Preset drop-down list.
- Leave the Standard drop-down list at “None.”
- Now, click on the “Marks and Bleeds” tab, located in the same menu as “General.”
Make sure “All Printer’s Marks” and “Use Document Bleed Settings” is unchecked, go ahead and enter in the bleed values of 0.125 for “Top” “Bottom” “Inside” and “Outside.”
- You can now export your file to PDF for printing and upload onto our server.
If you export the PDF file this way, you will avoid the transparency issue that affects the printing, meaning the images will not render artifact lines. Read more about this issue at:
Finally, after spending so much time designing, checking, and double-checking again, you are now ready to print your catalog. At this stage, you don’t want all your hard work and time to go to waste, so it is very important to find a printer who is willing to hold your hand through the print process. For this reason, it is impeccable that you choose a printer that specializes in catalog, magazine, and booklet printing services, for these type of printers will pay more attention to your job and will notify you of any potential errors that may arise.
If you were to give your catalog to a printer who prints everything from business cards, window clings, greeting cards, stickers, to wide format banners, they will not have time to handle your job with special care. For example, can you expect to receive an amazing hamburger at a taco truck, even though they offer it on the menu? Same notion applies to printers, not all online printers are the same.
Also, picking a printer who handles large volumes of work, like Vistaprint, Overnight prints, and Uprinting is also a big no-no for catalog printing. Why? Because they handle too much work load to have the time to take care of your needs. Imagine having hundreds of catalogs come in per week, all of them about 48 pages and more. On top of that, all the other printing they have to do for their other customers. No doubt, they will run everything as is, because time does not permit them to pay special attention. You can bite the bullet and go with these online printers because of the attractive pricing, but do not be disappointed if there was a spelling error you missed on the cover that was printed anyway without notifying you of that potential mistake.
However, Printing Technic is no newcomer in the print industry. They specialize in booklet, catalog, and magazine printing. They also handle other types of printing like business cards, flyers and postcards, but booklet printing is mainly their forte. When printing with them, if you encountered some problems with the artwork you can expect this sort of scenario:
- After checking the artwork, customer submits file to Printing Technic’s prepress.
- Printing Technic’s prepress notices some issues with certain pages in the artwork, and notifies the customer.
- Customer receives notification, and makes the necessary revisions to submit the new pages.
- Printing Technic receives the new pages, then processes a PDF proof for the customer (if specified), however upon processing the proof, the Prepress department notices a spelling error in the new revised artwork.
- Printing Technic calls and notifies customer of the spelling issue to get approval before going further.
- Customer breathes a sigh of relief, and fixes the spelling error and submits the new file to Printing Technic.
- When everything checks out, Printing Technic processes the job for print.
Of course, this scenario will occur when there are issues with the artwork. Though the customer is still responsible to check the artwork for any errors, but it really helps to have an extra set of helping eyes that care.
For the most part, things will be smooth and your artwork will be preflightted to make sure there are no low resolution warnings. If there are then you would be notified. If everything is good, then the job will be processed for printing.
Printing Technic doesn’t offer a wide variety of products like the other online printers do, so they are able to cut down their overhead costs pass those savings to you. This is how they can provide wholesale pricing to the public. Their workflow is geared for booklet printing so you can expect better response and turnaround times as well.
Hopefully by now, you have an overall picture of what you are going to do and the choices you have when creating your catalog. As you can see, catalog printing is very intricate, and it involves a lot of attention and detail. So don’t pass off the job to a printer who doesn’t care as much as you do for all that work to go to waste.