Catalog Printing Overview

Many people still use catalogs as a way to market their products and services or just educate their customers on a particular topic. In this article I will breakdown the benefits of catalog printing as well as all the different types of catalog printing.  Many website will provide catalog templates or different catalog design ideas, this will help you not only see the different trends but will allow you to conform to the printers different specifications for things such as resolution and bleed.

Digital Catalog Printing

printed catalog
printed catalog

With digital catalog printing or “short run” printing, you have the flexibility of keeping your catalog fresh, up to date and relevant by printing smaller quantities through a digital printer. Digital printing usually provides pretty good quality, especially this day in age but isn’t as nice as offset printing still. Short runs on catalogs are obviously much cheaper as a whole but your price per unit will be significantly higher than if you ordered in bulk through an offset printer. Many digital printers will provide you with easy-to-use templates and most even have an online ordering system where you can quickly and easily upload all of your files and sometimes even receive the order that same day. Most printers have a few options available for paper stock with additional options for the cover even. There are also many types of binding available, the more popular options are saddle stitching and wire-o binding. Lastly, if you want to mail out you catalogs to different addresses (known as a mailing service) you can usually ask the printer if this is something they offer and see if they can print and mail out your order without you even having to go through any additional hassle. One word of advice if you go this route is to add your address to the list of addresses that you prove the printer so that you can receive a catalog at your address as well. The other option is to use the post office to ship these after they are printed. This requires you to actually take the catalogs to the post office and you are working with two companies rather than one but sometimes its the only option. Regardless, digital catalog printing or short run catalogs will be a great option for small orders of your catalogs and will allow you to try many different designs to see which performs the best.

Offset Catalog Printing

Printing your catalogs through an offset printer is about as good as you can get from a quality stand point. Typically you will print higher quantities and pay much less per unit. Offset printing includes many of the same options you would see through a digital printer including paper options, binding options and mailing services. Offset printers typically have a longer turnaround time due to the nature of preparing files for the press but the wait is well worth it if you do not need them right away. When preparing files for an offset printer it is very important to inquire about their specific catalog templates before going through the design process. Each printer may have different specifications including bleed and resolution so you wouldn’t want to go through and prepare all of your design files before-hand only to change them later on. Lastly, most printers will include some type of coating which is highly recommended for all of your printed products, this will help repel liquids or dirt should they come in contact with your catalogs. One of the popular catalog coatings is aqueous coating and this is applied during the printing process. Matte finish is available as well but will not repel dirt and liquid so make sure to think through the application and decide which paper stock will work best when printing your catalogs. The number of pages of your catalog, booklet, or calendar refers to the total number of pages of your product, including the cover. The cover consists of four single-sided pages (front, inside front, inside back, back).

Different Types of Catalog Binding

When you print your catalogs you will need to decide on a type of binding, this is basically the method used to join the page of the catalog together. Below are a few different types of binding offered by various printers.

Most printers will at least offer a few different binding options but they wont offer all. The type of binding used on your catalogs also depends on many different factors such as paper type, size and where they will be used.

Catalog binding options typically used

  • Coil Binding
  • Comb Binding
  • Hard Cover Binding
  • Perfect Binding
  • Saddle Stitching
  • Spiral Binding
  • Tape Binding
  • Velo Binding
  • Wire Binding
catalog printing
catalog printing

Each different type of binding can have different effects when the catalog is finished as well, this should always be taken into consideration to make sure no valuable information is lost in the gutter. Below is a photo of how the gutter of the catalog can effect the photo or information place within the given area. This can obviously cause many problems if the text or important content is place to close to the gutter or if you’re images appear distorted such as the one used in this example. Usually the printer will not recommend crossover images and/or copy, as these elements may be lost in the gutter and may not line up after binding.

So always make sure to design your files on their templates and keep all critical images and/or copy within the Safe Zone. This will ensure these elements are clearly visible and there are no line-up registration issues when the product is bound.

Catalog Templates for Printing

As we stated above you want to always use the template providing by the company you will be using to print your catalogs. This will ensure that you adhere to their specific requirements from a resolution and dimension standpoint. For this most part this is the same through most printers but it may vary slightly. The bleed may also be different so check for the safe zones in the catalog template and make sure to keep all of your copy inside the safe zone so nothing is cut off when the catalog is cut down to size. Just ask your printer for their available templates, in most cased these templates for catalogs are free and available for multiple design programs such as Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Most catalog templates will require a color-mode or CMYK and resolution of 350dpi which will ensure the highest quality catalog printing for your next project.