How to Seamlessly Ask for a Print Estimate

A lot of people ask, how much do 500 postcards cost? Or how much for 250 booklets? Can you give me a ballpark? Oh, the ol’ ballpark question. That ballpark can vary a lot depending on just a few variables. Here are the basics that a printer needs to know:

  1. Final Size
  2. Paper
  3. Number of inks
  4. Quantity
  5. Specialty Finishing, such as: die -cutting, perforating, score and folding, foil stamp, emboss, spot UV, spot varnish, converting to a pocket folder, lamination, you get the drift.

Let’s break these down.

Final size:

Standard paper sizes are: 8.5 x 11; 8.5 x 5.5, 11 x 17, etc. This is either after cutting down to final size or folding/ converting down to final size. A pocket folder typically converts to a 9 x 12. Booklets can be 8” x 8”, 8.5 x 11, 6” x 6”, or any custom size. It helps to know the flat size of the booklet when it is open especially if the booklet is in landscape format (also known as oblong). Sometimes customers don’t picture the printer printing on larger sheets than 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17. As the printer, we actually print on 19” x 13”, 14” x 20”, 28” x 20”, 28” x 40” and more. We then cut down to the final size after printing. So, yes. Every job is custom.

Number of inks:

“Full-color printing” is really a combination of 4 inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. Digital printing is by and large, always 4 color process. Sometimes white ink or clear ink is used. Offset printing is typically done using the four-color process as well. However, a lot of times we print spot PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors on our offset press. Company logos are typically built with PMS colors. So, your letterhead and the business envelope can print 2 color or four-color process.


Common paper can break down to 3 types: Gloss, Matte (or Silk), and Uncoated. Paper that is glossy has a glint or shine to it. Silk papers are dull coated. The benefit of coated stocks is that the ink from the press sits on the coating and the images stand out and look clear. When printing offset on uncoated paper, the inks can absorb into the sheet which might make images look a little “washed out” (not with our HP Indigo!). Uncoated is great for things that you need to be able to write on with a pen, such as forms, applications, or notecards. Specialty stocks such as Pearlescent (sparkly), textured, velvety, leathery, vellum, ultra-smooth, are also available.


Economies of scale should be taken into consideration when estimating a print job. The greater the quantity, the lower the per unit cost is. There are set-up expenses that will make the small quantity job look expensive (per unit) than for large quantity jobs. This is because the up-front expenses are much more spread out per unit for a large job. Basically, once you have the set-up expenses paid for, you are just paying for ink and labor at that point. So sometimes, a price for 1,000 might be just a little less expensive than 2,000. It’s important to note that Digital printing is less expensive in low quantities while offset printing is less expensive for large quantities because of the different set-up processes.

Specialty finishing:

Once you’ve got the ink on the paper, there are a lot of specialty processes for different effects. We will cover specialty finishing under a future blog.