Right Sizing Your Project

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With increasing creativity, many are using different unique sizes for their print product. While we love the idea and creativity, it’s generally still easy to know the standard sizes that are often used in the print-world: 

  1. It’ll be a lot clearer than to just say “postcard size”, “the normal brochure size”.
  2. Using standard sizes help to bring cost down as paper wastage is minimised, and generally are more readily available in the market.

The Standard Paper Sizes
The image here should be telling enough. Rule of thumb: most postcards are A5, magazines are A4, tabloids are A3 and the bigger posters are usually A2 or A1.

Additionally, we should know the difference between the open and closed finished size. The open format is the completed product before folding. The finished size means that the product has been cropped and so no longer has any “bleed” (explain more further down).

The closed finished size describes the product once it has been folded: as an example, a 6 sided A5 portrait Z-fold leaflet measures 444 x 210mm in its open finished size, which results from 3 pages of A5, each 148mm laid side to side next to one another. Once it is closed, this A5 Z-folded leaflet measures 148 x 210mm.

With one or two-sided products such as flyers or business cards, there is of course no difference between open and closed finished size.

My paper is bleeding?
To allow for cutting tolerances in the production phase, the format ordered has to be extended by 3mm on every side, or the finished size will need to have this space added. This would mean that the A5 flyer shown above would, before cropping, measure 450 x 216mm.

It is important for the colours, background images, and the layout to be integrated into the bleeding area, meaning that all objects on the edge will be affected by the cropping. If you fail to provide bleed information, cropping can leave behind a thin line of white on the edge of the (unprinted) paper.

You should also make sure that texts, images, graphics, and logos which you do not want cropped are far away from the edges; all elements which you do not want affect should be at least 3mm from the edge which will be cut later.



What File Type?


While computer has supposed made life easier, many tend to think that what we see on the screen will naturally automatically be the same we see on paper. Reality is that the way we save the file makes a huge difference.

Computer File Format

After your design for the product which is to be printed has been completed in a graphics program (e.g. Adobe Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator or Corel Draw), taking the bleed, size of lines and fonts, etc. into consideration, all that remains is to ensure that you have chosen the correct file format. At PCL, we accept file formats such as PDF, JPEG, TIFF and EPS. While it is possible for us to work on the Photoshop/Illustrator files, we prefer not to -- this ensures that the file we receive is closest to what you or your designer had intended the design to be. 


Amongst the different file formats, the PDF format are by far our favourite. It is one that keeps most faithfully to the original design and is easy to send around. This can be done rather easily using the design softwares by Adobe.  

However,  In the process some settings must be observed depending on the program. When creating a PDF file directly from these programs, the PDF/X standard (PDF/X3 standard or PDF/X1a standard) should be used. It is also recommended when saving to set the compatibility mode to 1.3. This prevents problems which could arise during the processing of files with layers and transparencies. This applies particularly to programs which do not support any PDF/X standards during the creation of a PDF.

But should you have trouble getting this out, feel free to contact us -- we'd love to help.

Other File Types

  1. JPEG / JPG – Joint Photographic Experts Group. A JPEG is an image file which uses lossy compression. Therefore only high-resolution images (saved in the best possible quality) are suitable for printing!
  2. TIFF / TIF – Tagged Image File Format. The TIF Format is also an image format. It was developed by Aldus and Microsoft for raster graphics and colour separation. A reduction in quality is to be expected with this format.
  3. PS – PostScript. PostScript is a page description language for the lossless output and saving of text and graphics. It is a file which is independent of the output device and was also developed by Adobe.
  4. EPS – Encapsulated Postscript. EPS is a file format which was developed by Adobe and enables the exchange of PostScript graphics between applications. The format can contain pixel and vector graphics.



Right Paper: Coffeetable Books


We've done quite a number of magazines and coffee-table books -- the ones we love doing are the annual magazines for schools, clans and associations. Why - the stories behind every single page. While it may not mean much to the man on the street who reads it, it's a safe-keep for parents, grandparents, as they retell their school-stories to the next generation.

Hence it's ever more important that the paper type reflects the era of print, brings out the memories that we want to remember decades down the road, and importantly durable to last through the years.

The Cover

For a while now, the majority of magazines use gloss paper, the property responsible for coated paper's shiny or lustrous appearance. Gloss papers are less opaque and have less bulk and are less expensive than Dull and Matte papers.

However, more and more we have clients coming to us for the matt-coating (A non-glossy, flat looking paper. Matte papers are higher in cost and in bulk.) It gives the minimalist feel to the magazine, while spot-UV will allow you to highlight the right parts of the cover. For example, the school logo, the photograph. The matt-coating together with the spot-UV allows the right parts of the book stand out. The bulk of such a paper gives "weight" to this gift that's to last the generations. 

The Content

Environmentally friendly organisations love to use recycled/FSC paper -- besides helping to save trees, it also gives a rustic feel. One of the newer paper types would be coated recycled paper. The huge advantage is that the paper is coated (for protection and longer last of the magazine) and the colours won't be as dull as on the usual recycled paper. 

The other commonly used paper for fashion/entertainment magazines is the coated art-paper or coated mechanical-paper (a lot thinner). These paper-types definitely gives better colour reproduction and is loved when there are lots of photographs in the content. Photographs definitely won't look as nice on woodfree or recycled paper.


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Right Paper: Namecards

Right Paper for Business cards (one and two sided)

No app (or LinkedIn) has quite replaced the need for business cards. I've been to enough networking events and realise that it's definitely a lot more sincere to show your business card (a nicely done one of course), rather than a smart phone. These cards tend to be in heavy use (and stuck with a swollen wallet), so the paper should be stable. Some of the common paper stocks we've seen it being used:

  • 250 gsm art paper (silk finish)
  • 250 gsm art paper (gloss finish)
  • 280 gsm postcardboard (a matt finish)
  • 300 gsm art paper (silk finish)
  • 300 gsm art paper (gloss finish)
  • 350 gsm postcardboard
  • 400 gsm art paper (silk finish)
  • 400 gsm art paper (gloss finish)

If you've got a nice photograph of yourself on your card, a silk/gloss finish will do your image favour. However, more and more, we see people liking the minimalist matt finish -- a modern, clean feel to the card. Gloss finish tends to feel arcade, but that's to the eye of the beholder. 

And finally, just before you run away getting those box for $10 deals, consider again the impression you want to leave in the wallet and hands of your client -- in the stack of other name cards.

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Right Paper?

Born in the 1980s, I have the privilege of experiencing the rise of the Internet, the come and go of marbles and skipping ropes -- but something that I realise has never changed through the years, is the power of story telling. Somehow, the whole process of hearing someone on the chair sharing their day or experience, or reading it from a book -- and today, through social media, still intrigues. No content can be as powerful as a story. 

But why print and not other things? Well, print engages more senses than digital can ever do. The very difference of placing an idea on print versus just publishing it on social media, is the entire user experience of holding the print itself. Print engages more than just the sense of sight (at most audio) that comes from digital medium -- it engages the sense of touch, smell  (the smell of an old book grandpa passed down). 

Hence the importance of choosing the right paper that gives us the "surface feel". The surface feel can tell you a lot about the paper, e.g. size, contours, surface texture, weight, and stability.

Offset paper
Also known as copier or printer paper, offset paper is frequently used for letters and notebooks because it can be written and printed on over and over again; this makes it suitable for copiers, ink-jet, and laser printers.
Offset has high brightness and a “rough” surface, which allows it take on colour better. It can be written or printed on at will because no water-based coating is applied.

Art (coated) paper
Coated or art paper is made of chemical pulp which often has a high non-wood percentage. The matt or glossy finish applied and the water-based coating (dispersion coating) applied gives a smooth, closed surface which makes this paper harder to write, print, or stamp onto. The dispersion coating seals the colour and gives the paper increased stability, which leads to excellent printed images with sharp contrasts. Coated paper is the perfect illustration printing sheet, just right for flyers, brochures, and similar visual products.

Poster (outdoor) paper
With a grammage of 115gsm, poster paper is hard-wearing and weather-proof, woodfree white with a matt coating on one side. The blue rear side prevents whatever is behind the paper from showing through the poster once it has been pasted up; the paper’s translucent basis and its UV resistance make it particularly suitable for outdoor use.

Postcardboard / chromo board
Cardboard used for post cards is often called chromo board, and is kind of mixture between art and offset paper as one side is varnished and given a water-based coating, making it unsuitable for writing on, while the rear side is left matt. Due to the very high stability of chromo board, it is particularly useful for postcards or presentational materials which need to be writable on one side.