Understanding and Working with Print Signatures
As a print designer, understanding and designing with signatures will offer you endless design possibilities. Simply put, a signature is a group of pages that are printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper that once folded, trimmed, bound and cut, become a specific number of pages depending on the page size and the size of the press sheet.
How to Create Stunning Paper Concepts and Maximizing Your Printing Budget
As a print designer you should take full advantage of working with print signatures to achieve maximum effect for your design concept and learn how to maximize the printing budget. By possessing this advanced knowledge, you can create stunning paper designs and stay within budget. For example, instead of using the same paper stock for the whole brochure, you can use different papers and different combination of inks for each individual print signatures. The possibilities are endless for creating amazing brochures.
What you first have to understand is that each signature is a print run and for each print run, you have to choose a paper stock and the number of inks to be used. It’s also obvious that the number of inks you print per signature on a specific paper will not only affect your design concept, but the print budget directly. Knowing that printing 4 color-process on a #1 coated paper is more expensive than printing 1 color on a #3 uncoated stock, you can now design not only with the look in mind, but also the budget. Now let’s put this advanced knowledge to work for you and your design concept. As an example, let’s consider a small 16-page brochure plus cover. For a start, the entire publication is actually 20 pages. The cover is a 4-page signature and the 16 inside pages can be either a 16-page signature, two 8-page signatures, or a 12-page signature with a 4-page signature, or any other combination that totals 20 pages. Now, depending on the content of your brochure, your concept and the order in which your client’s message is delivered, you now have the ability to choose the best combination of print signatures to deliver this message.
When designing with print signatures, you also have to take into account from the start, your binding type. Your binding type always depends on the total amount of pages your brochure has, your design concept and the printing budget. By selecting different binding types, it will change the order in which print signatures are assembled in the final brochure, therefore giving you the ability to manage the order in which different papers are presented. For example, when you use ‘saddle stitching’, first page will go with last page, second page with before last page and so on. If you use a ‘perfect bound’, signatures are stacked one after the other. In the case of a ‘spiral bound’, signatures are also stacked one after the other, but you can insert a single sheet pretty much anywhere and the brochure will lay flat when open. Understanding how different binding types work, is essential to get the most out of designing with print signatures. The ‘pull out’ is another, different type of signature. It could be considered a loose sheet, even though it’s folded, depending on where it’s inserted in the binding. But most pull outs are commonly inserted between two signatures, during the binding process.
Learning how to maximize your print budget versus the impact of your design concept will take years of knowledge, but this is how incredible paper designs are conceived, using years of accumulated knowledge and printing know how.
Folding a 16-page signature into a booklet