The largest market for commercial printing services is advertising. Newspaper inserts, magazine ads, direct mail materials, and more all fall under the category. Some printing work is regularly done through long-term contracts, but most is done on a project-by-project basis, after bidding has been completed. Since demand for printed materials varies, many printers keep additional presses on hand for peak times. The process begins with pre-press production, which includes preparing files and converting them to the correct CMYK color model. Once the file is finalized, the printing process starts with plates for each color in the job.
The next phase of commercial printing growth is driven by changes in customer expectations. Today’s customers are demanding shorter and faster print runs. Printers must find ways to increase speed while maintaining profit margins. While incremental improvements are necessary to meet customer demands for speed, they may not be sufficient to keep pace with these new expectations. According to the Printing Industries of America, as many as 30 percent of all printing will be completed in a single day by 2010.
Depending on the industry, commercial printing can involve relief or planographic prints, which elevate the image above other regions. The intaglio printing method, on the other hand, places the image into a recess that shares a surface with the substrate. The result is a print that has a high quality and an affordable price. Commercial printing companies also handle large-scale projects. Regardless of the scale of the job, commercial printing companies will scrutinize the final product to ensure it is both high-quality and easily replicable.
In addition to the cost of paper, other materials and labor are major costs for commercial printers. The cost of paper, for example, accounts for up to 25 percent of a commercial printer’s overall revenue. It’s not uncommon for a commercial printer to have one production plant that employs less than twenty people and has an annual revenue of only five million dollars. In addition, commercial printers are not likely to hold large inventories of paper. They rely on regional distributors to obtain paper and other materials.
The demand for commercial printing is based on the advertising needs of business customers and the profitability of individual companies. Large companies enjoy scale advantages, serve large customers, and make efficient use of expensive presses. However, small commercial printers can compete effectively by offering better service to local clients. Currently, the competitive landscape for commercial printing is shifting with the introduction of new digital technology. With this, the cost of digital color pages has fallen below offset printing prices, which means companies lagging behind are at risk of losing customers.
While offset printing has a long history of success, it hasn’t been optimized for short-runs. Many commercial printers now specialize in digital imaging, including the front-end CAD process, web page design, and CD production. But it’s still a necessary part of the marketing mix. With advances in technology, the cost of digital printing is expected to fall as much as 10 percent per year through 2010.
Large format printing is another type of commercial printing. This method uses inked rubber plates to transfer the printing image to a wide variety of surfaces, including banners and billboards. Unlike letterpress printing, large format printing has a wide range of applications. It is cost-effective and low-maintenance, and offers flexibility in using different inks. In addition, large-format printing is a great option for marketing and advertising campaigns.
In recent years, many printers have branched out into higher-margin design work. Many have purchased computerized design systems and hired graphic designers to perform prepress work. Prepress work may include typesetting, page composition, image manipulation, and graphic design. Proofs and editing are common services performed by prepress specialists. For high-quality results, businesses should hire a graphic designer. Some companies have their own graphic designers. Whether a business opts for in-house designers or outsourced services, it’s best to hire a reliable third party expert.
Offset printing is another technique that uses a rubber blanket to transfer the inked image to a paper surface. It is a method of printing that relies on the principle that water and ink cannot mix. The process begins with an image placed on a dampened metal plate. Once the ink dries on the image, it is transferred to a rubber cylinder, called a blanket roller, and then transferred to the paper. Using this process, you can practice by printing on scrap paper.