Printing comes in all shapes and sizes, so it's worth having a basic understanding of what will work well and not so well when it comes to buying your printing.

Artwork:
If your designing your own products to ensure you get the best results take time to have a brief discussion with your supplier regarding how this artwork should be supplied to him, this will let you know if the software you were thinking of using works at his end. These days most quality companies can handle all types of different files, the most stable ones being Quark, Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign these however are professional pieces of software and are not cheap to obtain, less stable ones are Microsoft Publisher and CorelDraw this does not mean the latter two can't be used but more care is needed when
setting your artwork up.

The pace at which the printing industry works these days is cantered around PDF's (portable document format) in short this is an encapsulated file that holds all graphics and text within your layout. All the above stated formats can produce PDF's and within each design program are excellent guides on how to produce a PDF from your artwork.
Common issues I see on a daily basis when dealing with supplied PDF's are the Customer fails to add bleed to the document, bleed is the term used when ink goes right to the edge of the sheet, to achieve this the printer has used a piece of artwork that is slightly larger all round and then guillotined to the correct required size cutting a small amount of waste that carries some image off, thus leaving the finished product with ink running off the edges. Another common issue is the Customer fails to embed the fonts - simplified this means you are enclosing the fonts you have used within the document, another term for achieving this is "outlining the fonts” again this is just a way of enclosing the fonts into your document.
Even professional designers often fall down on these two very common issues but with a simple check list at the point of making your PDF's these errors can be avoided speeding up the whole process and may save you money if your printer makes a charge to correct your faults.

Most PDF's can be emailed to your supplier but for very large documents it may be best to use an FTP server (file transfer protocol) this just gives a direct password protected route onto your suppliers server and you can drag and drop almost any size of file by using this method.
Quality suppliers will use an integrated software workflow that checks all aspects of your document and indicates any problems within the supplied files, from this if required they can produce a "Ripped Proof” simply this is a proof that has been through their workflow and has been electronically checked and can be classed as stable, and is an accurate representation of what you will in the end receive as your printed job.

A point of note when viewing PDF's on your computer screen is that different screen types present colours in different ways and so should only be used as a guide to colour rather than an accurate representation. Similarly it is highly likely that each of us interpret colour in a slightly different way to the next person - so one shade of blue to you may well appear a different shade to the person standing next to you, assuming you are both not colour blind.

So your print supplier has your file and is ready to print it, basically that is the hard part over, they now have a choice of which printing method to use. These days a first class supplier will offer both Litho and Digital formats and will match your job to the most suitable route in order to deliver best value to their Customers. As a rule Litho will be for larger print runs over say 1000 units and Digital for runs of beneath 1000 units, however one exception to this rule is where you have a personalised piece of work (data changing on every sheet, could be a simple name and address change) which has to be digitally printed whatever the quantity.

It is widely recognised that Heidelberg are the world leader in producing litho printing equipment and Hewlett Packard Indigo are the leading digital manufacturer of ink based digital equipment. Any organisation that uses such equipment will certainly have the tools to do a good job for you however this does not mean that printing organisations without such kit will not do a good job.

These days as the internet progresses, print organisations are taking the strain out of the design and artwork element making it far easier for Customers to gain a professional look and feel without moving from their chairs or paying graphic designers high one off charges to produce designs. Our site www.betterprint.co.uk and our best competitor's site www.goodprint.co.uk (we are in no way related) offer contemporary, innovative and relevant designs of business cards and stationery and neither produce cheap, flimsy products.

I hope the advice above is useful and I hope you like our site, I am keen to know what you think.