Save Money through Gang Run Printing

In a previous post we covered the differences between offset and digital printing. In general, offset printing produces higher quality products and produces more consistent results when it comes to color. One of the downsides is, it's more expensive for smaller quantities. The main reason offset can be expensive, especially for smaller quantities is the set up charges, to set up a press for a single job is pricey, but once you're over that hurdle it's much more economical than digital printing. The solution: Gang Runs.

Gang Run Printing is when you run several jobs together on the same paper stock thus eliminating multiple set up charges. Several on-line printers produce materials based on this model allowing them to offer low prices on common materials (i.e. Business Cards, Brochures, Rack Cards, Door Hangers, Posters, Greeting Cards etc.). My two favorites are JakPrints and Moo. I've worked with JakPrints many many times and they do great work, have great customer service and offer quite a few paper options.

If you're working with a custom printer, you can still set up your own Gang Run with some careful planning. Take a look at your entire year. Which projects use the same paper? Which ones could be grouped together based on timing? Approaching projects in this way can help save you thousands in set up charges.

Customizing Print Jobs with Variable Data

In the last post we talked about offset vs. digital printing and I mentioned that with offset printing there wasn't a way to customize individual pieces without added costs. Variable data is a technique that utilizes the strengths of both processes to produce customized or personalized print materials in a cost effective way. Using this technique, the 'shell' of the piece is produced offset and then information flows in from a provided database or excel document to customize each piece. Producing things this way takes advantage of digital capabilities and avoids the need to set up each individual file. Variable data in it's simplest form is addressing envelopes or self-mailers (as seen below) in it's more complicated form it can be swapping in specific language, information, graphics or maps that are unique and designated for that particular recipient. This process is predominately used in mass mailings but can be utilized for other items that require individual set up, for example, company business cards, numbering event tickets, labeling credentials, etc. 

The below 'shell' was produced offset. Here it is before variable data was applied.

The same piece addressed using variable data.

Understanding how variable data works and it's capabilities can be incredibly useful when you're dealing with files that require customization. It's a helpful tool and a great time-saver.

Offset vs. Digital Printing

Understanding the differences between offset and digital printing when printing any sorts of materials will ultimately save you money and produce the most visually pleasing results.

Offset printing is the process of transferring ink from plate to rubber roller to paper. If you're producing something full color, you'll use 4 plates: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, or CMYK. As the paper rolls through all 4 inked plates within the machine, the inks are layered one on top of the other to create the final full-color image.

• high-quality job with consistent results
• inexpensive for large print runs
• accommodates unusual/thick materials

• slow
• expensive for short runs
• no customization without added costs

Because this process uses custom plates, there are set-up charges, but once you start printing, the individual price per print is incredibly low. Let's do an example:

set up charges - $500
price per print - 1¢

100 prints - $510
10,000 prints - $600

Digital printing is a much simpler process in which the image is transferred directly to the printer digitally, avoiding the plates completely. 

• speed
• inexpensive for small print runs
• able to customize per piece

• color inconsistencies
• limited paper options
• mediocre results

Because this process doesn't involve set up, there are no upfront charges, but the price per print is more expensive. Let's use the same example:

set up charges - $0
price per print - 20¢

100 prints - $20
10,000 prints - $2,000

The decision between offset and digital comes down to a few key factors: money, time, and quality.  Knowing the pros and cons of each process will help you make a more informed decision and produce the best quality results for your specific printing situation.