Sharing the sheet – for designers

November 24, 2015


So you've just designed a brochure to be professionally printed for your client (whether it be offset, letterpress or other ink based processes), but there is some left over space on that large sheet that will otherwise be trimmed off and thrown in the rubbish.

Why not use that left over space for your own design project?
It's a good move for the environment, the printer will be happy because there will be less rubbish that they need to dispose of and you too will have an extremely cost effective project delivered to your door at the same time as your client project. It's all win win, right?

The advantages are pretty obvious.

So, firstly, let's talk about the disadvantages of this concept.
In a studio environment, it requires a bit of planning, management and a flexibility that sometimes is unrealistic for a busy studio. Unfortunately for many, self promotion projects seem to get the 'bottom of the pile' priority status. Whilst this isn't optimal... it is a reality for busy studios and freelancers.

So the process would most likely be like this:


  • Finalise your client's design and prepare for print.

  • Gain quotes from your printer whilst talking with them about your intention to add another design to the edge of the sheet. This will require them to plan how the page/s of your client's design will be laid out on the sheet for the the least wastage.
    If you expect to dictate the dimensions of your own project, it is likely that the price will be driven up slightly as the project may not fit on to the sheet as 'snug' as you'd like, but if you can wait until the printer tells you how much space is available at the edge, then you can design your project to suit. This is usually the best way to go about it for the cheapest outcome. Flexibility is the key but it can be tricky to plan in advance without really being able to commit to a specific size until the last minute.

  • Once you've finalised your design to fit the extra sheet space, supply the artwork to the printer. You'd need to have your project ready for print at the same time as the client project which can be a bit of a struggle if you are super busy.

  • Once both projects are laid out by pre-press and proofs are approved, it is printed.

  • Colours will be matched to the client project as a priority, and your colours may result in being slightly different to how you expect. Again, being flexible is key here and also planning the design to allow for this is a good idea. For example, if your brand colour is Pantone 021 Orange and your client is printing in process colours (CMYK), then don't expect the colour rendition to be as bright as it would be if you were printing a single colour. Adjust your expectations, or pay full price for your own print run if you are pedantic.

  • After the printing is complete, the only extra work the printer will have to do to complete the print run, is to trim and package both projects separately.

If there were any embellishments such as Spot UV varnishes, celloglazing/laminate, foil stamping etc that your client approved for the print run, you may take advantage by adding the same to your own project. Unfortunately in Australia (I'm unsure about elsewhere), with the exception of celloglaze/laminate, this might simply add a bit of extra cost to your project as you'd be using more foil, varnish etc which would be charged as extra. Talking with your printer about this will help you get the best result without breaking the bank.

In terms of communicating your intentions of sheet sharing to your client, this is really one for the individual to decide. I've always been of the opinion that being as transparent and honest as possible is the best practice and the only way to go, but then again, it depends on the client.
You may have a small client that is struggling to pay high printing costs and it might be of mutual benefit to share the costs between you. Your client will appreciate your honesty and that, in itself, builds a stronger business relationship that is a brilliant investment for ongoing work. On the other hand you may have a large corporate client who doesn't care in the slightest if you want to use up the extra space on the sheet. Whilst I believe it's always best to simply ask, I've also had situations where this only adds to the stress for the client that they don't want to know 'all this technical stuff – just print it!'.
So there doesn't seem to be a particular protocol for this sort of thing except for a simple, use your honesty, ethics and be a clear communicator and make the judgement based on individual situations. You're clients will appreciate it.

So why has this great little sheet sharing idea been rapidly disappearing from our printing/design practices over the last 20 years?

It has become less common to add another smaller project to the edge of the sheet because of the introduction of digital printing such as the HP Indigo Digital Press. These machines offer a smaller sheet size, short runs but with a fantastic print quality. They are increasingly becoming more cost effective and the print quality is equal if not better in some circumstances than the offset printers. For example, they can offer brighter colours such as the orange and blue hues. Another advantage is that they don't use toners so the print still still seeps into the paper so that the printing has the same feel as the paper itself. You'll find with toner based digital printing, the toner sits on top of the paper in a very shiny manner which means that if you want an uncoated look and feel, it still looks glossy where there are images and type.
After speaking with Michael McAteer from Printcraft in Brisbane, he explained to me that they haven't had much call for 'add on' projects to offset printing because it is cheap enough for their clients to simply print a shorter run on the Indigo press with quite a range of specialty papers able to be put through the machine.

With print technology taking so many big steps recently, it just isn't as worthwhile managing the disadvantages of the sheet sharing compared with the advantages of quality digital printing for those extra self promo projects. With the Indigo press and others of the same quality, why compromise on the quality of the project if you don't have to.




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November 24, 2015

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