Planning Your Printing Project

Before you begin a printing project or work with a commercial printer, you should know how the process works.

Be prepared to follow these six steps:

  1. Choose printing type.
  2. Choose paper.
  3. Get an estimate.
  4. Submit your file.
  5. Review your proof.
  6. Receive finished job.

Choose Printing Type

Commercial printers provide three main types of printing. Each type varies in quality and cost. Understanding each can help you choose the best one (at the most reasonable cost) for your project.

Offset lithography

This process transfers (offsets) an inked image from a plate to a rubber cylinder and then to paper. Each ink color is printed separately. Offset lithography is a complicated, technical process and requires higher set-up costs to make plates and color separations.


  • Costs less for large quantities (than digital printing).
  • Superior, consistent image quality.
  • Sharp, clean color.
  • Prints on almost any paper or surface.
  • Can match exact colors using the Pantone system.

Best use:

  • High-quality, high-quantity projects that need exact color matching.


  • Because of set-up costs, use offset lithography only for quantities of 1,000 or more.

Digital printing

This process uses large-format, high-volume laser or inkjet printers. They use the same types of toner and pigments as desktop laser and inkjet printers. Digital printing can produce hundreds of printouts in a few minutes.


  • Short turn-around time.
  • Costs less for small quantities (than offset lithography).
  • Consistent printing with very little variation.


  • Can lose fine image detail.
  • Lower quality than offset lithography.

Best use:

  • Small-quantity projects with short turn-around times.


  • Use digital printing for quantities between 100 and 1,000.

Professional color copies

This process uses high-performance, multifunction copy machines.


  • Able to copy, print and bind on the same machine.
  • Color control up to 2400 x 2400 dpi resolution.

Best use:

  • Manuals, booklets and presentations.


  • If printing fewer than 100 copies, use a professional color copy provider, such as Xerox, Ricoh or Staples. Always round quantities (e.g., 25, 50).

Choose Paper

Choosing paper requires selecting the best paper stock, weight, coating, brightness and size for your project.

Paper stocks and weights

Paper stock defines the general thickness and sturdiness of the sheet. There are three types of paper stock for printing:

  • Card stock: Stiff, rigid paper used for manual covers and table tents.
  • Cover stock: Heavy paper used for book covers and publications.
  • Text stock: Lightweight paper used for letterhead, envelopes, program insert sheets and flyers. It’s lighter than cover stock but heavier than writing paper. Text stock is easy to fold without scoring.

Paper weight is a more specific measurement. Card stock is measured in points (paper thickness in thousandths of an inch) (e.g., 10 pt., 12 pt.). Cover and text stock are measured in pounds of 500 sheets (e.g., 20#, 80#).

Determining the right paper stock and weight depends on how your printed materials will be used.


  • Postcards, business cards, rack cards and bookmarks should be printed on 100# or heavier cover stock. Flyers and brochures should be printed on 100# text stock.


Paper with a coated finish has a glossier sheen and a smooth texture. Coated paper can give a more polished look to projects such as magazines and booklet covers.

Uncoated paper stock has a flat sheen.


  • If end users will be writing on the printed piece, print on an uncoated paper stock.


Paper brightness, expressed on a scale of 1 to 100, refers to the level of whiteness. Brightness affects how vibrant color images will appear when printed.

Cleveland Clinic paper requirements

Offset papers (for common collateral and gang-run printing)

House Brand 97 brightness
Text Weight 100# text
Card/Cover Weight 12pt, 14pt

Offset papers (for magazines and newsletters)

House Brand 92 brightness
Text Weight 70#, 80# or 100# text
Card/Cover Weight 80# or 100# cover

Digital papers

House Brand 96 brightness
Text Weight 100# text
Card/Cover Weight 80# or 100# cover


There are two sizes you need to specify:

  • Flat size: The size of a product after printing and trimming, but before folding.
  • Finished size: The size of the final product, after folding. This is also called “trimmed size.”

Standard sizes:

Brochures 12” x 9”; folds to 4” x 9” 8.5’ x 11”; folds to 3.6” x 8.5” 11″x17″; folds to 8.5″x11″    
Bookmarks 2” x 6” 2” x 8”      
Flyers 5.5” x 4.25”
(1/4 page)
5.5” x 8.5”
(1/2 page)
8.5” x 11”
(full page)
Postcards 4” x 6” 5” x 7” 8.5” x 5.5” 6” x 9” 6” x 11”
Rack cards 4” x 9” 4” x 7” 3.5” x 8.5”    
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