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Should I photocopy My Printing Project?

Ok, so youíve learned about all the different color options and paper stocks and printing methods, but youíre still not convinced that you need to go to a printer. After all, thereís a fancy, new copy machine at work, so why not just run a few thousand copies and be done with it. Well, Here are the strengths and weaknesses of each option that will help to determine with option is right for your print job:

Photocopying (which includes "digital printing" for the purposes of this article)

Time: Using a photocopier can turnaround even a large quantity of prints in a matter of minutes. Especially if you take your job to a copy center that has high-volume machines that are ready to copy.

Money: There is typically a fixed price associated with each copy. This can be good and bad. It is good if you want a relatively low quantity of copies, but can add up pretty quickly if you need a large quantity. Also, there is no costly preparation involved with photocopying.

Quality: Though photocopiers have come a long way, printing is still king for quality. Copier toner can chip off and photo reproduction quality is usually second grade when compared to printin. You'll also have fewer choices in terms of paper stock. Linens, in particular, do not work well for photocopying.


Time: Using a printer for your project will usually take longer as there is some "pre-press work" to be done. Although, Direct-to-Plate printing can save a lot of time and money. A print shop will usually have only a few presses on hand, so your project will have to wait in line behind jobs that came in before it.

Money: Because of the higher costs of the press, film and plates, and the cost of having someone run the presses, you can expect to pay more for a printed job. However, a high print quantity will offset these costs and you end up paying less per piece as your print quantity rises. Again, direct-to-plate printing can bring the price of smaller quantities way down because you don't have to pay for film.

Quality: The quality of a printed product is far superior, in most cases, to photocopying. You'll also be able to choose from a much wider variety of paper stocks.

In many cases, the only factor that matters is cost. Therefore, letís look at an example. You need 15,000 prints of a black and white sheet. Should you go to a printer or use a copy machine? To find the answer you should call the people doing your printing or copying and get the total price for your print job. Then, divide each price by the quantity and you'll have the "per-piece price" for both printing and copying. In this case:

Printing: $450/15,000 = $.03 per piece - the price winner

Copying: $750/15,000 = $.05 per piece

And what if you need to print 500 color sales sheets? It is clear that printing will give you the best quality product but we will need to use the same formula to determine the best option in terms of cost. Let's take a look at some figures.

Printing: $750/500 = $1.50 per piece

Copying: $500/500 = $1.00 per piece - the price winner

It all comes down to some pretty simple math and what matters more - cost or quality. Keep in mind that this article and these prices were written to give you an idea of how to figure out the best method for your project. You will have to call your printer or copier to get accurate quotes. There are many variables to take into consideration (digital printing, cheap printing, in-house copying, etc.) but hopefully you now have a better idea of how to make your decision and what you type of results you can expect.

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