Custom-printed tabs scream organization. With school and a new work year just around the corner, custom-printed tabs will make you (and your company) look and feel more professional.
For example, if you are pitching a development plan, you are going to be taken more seriously if the proposal is organized with custom-printed tabs.
development project custom-printed tabs
Now compare the above tabs with these:
If you are competing with another developer, which pitch do you think will stand out? The one with custom-printed tabs, of course! We can print (black ink) text on Avery plain tab dividers on our copier, which is our most affordable option. However, we really recommend color because of the reasons stated above.
To print tabs with color, we use our tab machine. It can print tabbed-pages up to 15 inches tall with as many banks as you would like. Our standard banks are square with round corners, like the ones shown below:
standard tab banks
Most people prefer their banks to be on the right-hand side of the pages, but some prefer their tabs on the top. Our machine can do this, too.
tabbed pages with banks at the top
We can also create custom-shaped banks on our letterpress. For example, this company wanted tabs with a cut bottom corner. Since we already have this die made, if you would like this style of tabbed-pages, it would be cheaper than creating and ordering a new die.
die cut tab banks
Your most affordable option will be Avery plain tab dividers with black ink on our tab machine.
Custom-printed tabs serve the same purpose as customized business cards, stationery and other paper products: it makes your brand stronger. The more customized your products are, the more recognizable your brand becomes, and the more likely people are to use your brand, as people tend to use brands they recognize. If you are a student, custom-printed tabs are great for organizational purposes. Color, especially, makes tabs and information easy to find.
Want to see custom tabs printed in action? Check out our Youtube video! It’s in hyperlapse, which makes everything cooler.
Want a quote on your own custom-printed tabs? Call amp today!
Cutouts are fun. A circular business card, star-shaped sticker or a life-size cutout of your dog are going to be much more memorable and interactive than other print products.
…shapes were created on a letterpress using a particular die (also known as “die line”).
Letterpress: 1971 Heidelberg Windmill
Once you have a die, or a physical template that ensures proper layout for a printed product, you can begin to create multiple die cut products.
Soapbox die cut
…there are several methods of creating cutouts. In addition to our 1971 Heidelberg Windmill, we create cutouts on our Colex Digital Flatbed Cutter.
Although we will tell you which machine is best to use for your particular project, it can be useful to know their differences.
Cutout Difference 1: The Colex is better suited for wide-format projects.
As you can tell from the above images of the machines, the Colex is a lot bigger than the Heidelberg. The letterpress can only print items as large as 10″x 15″, while the Colex can print up to 150″.
The Colex can print both small- and large-format items. This is the main difference between the two machines, and if you take anything away from this blog post, it should be this point. To see a wide-format cutout project in action, check out this video:
Cutout Difference 2: The Colex is better suited for short-run projects.
Although both machines can do both short- and long-run, the Colex is better for short-run. It takes about three days to create a physical die for the letterpress, while the Colex can create cutouts in one day. Thus, if you need to print hundreds of cutouts, go with the Colex. If you need thousands, go with the letterpress. Furthermore, if you are going to be printing the same cutout multiple times (say, you need the same sticker every year), it is better to cut on the letterpress. We save and store each die, making the second and third run easier than the first.
To see a video of the letterpress creating cutout stickers in action, check out this video:
Cutout Difference 3: The Colex can cut any material.
The letterpress can only cut certain, relatively thin, materials. The Colex can cut foamboard, wood, acrylic and other thicker substances that the letterpress cannot.
gator board cutout
To see the creation of acrylic cutouts on the Colex, check out this Vine.
Cutout Difference 4: The letterpress is better with paper.
As we mentioned above, the Colex is better at cutting thick material. Paper, especially, can be almost too thin for the Colex to cut, and it can tear easily. If you need paper cutouts, it is best to cut on the letterpress.
Cutout Difference 5: The letterpress can emboss and deboss.
If you would like to add a nice touch (literally) to an invitation, business card or stationery, you can choose to emboss or deboss words or images. Embossing or debossing is either raising or depressing, respectively, certain aspects of a print product.
debossed information card
Cutout Difference 6: The letterpress is better at small, hard angles.
Although the Colex can create small-format cutouts, it is better suited for wide-format projects. Thus, sometimes very small, hard angles are difficult for the Colex, such as the image below:
Four-leaf clover cutout with small, hard angles
As you can see, the angles between each leaf are very small and sharp. Thus, this print project was cut out on the letterpress. But make no mistake — the Colex is pretty darn good at cutting precise shapes. Just take a look at the cutout of Tennessee below cut on the Colex:
cutout of Tennessee
Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of the differences between a letterpress and a Colex. We (and other printers) will always point you in the right direction, but it’s good knowledge to have walking into a print shop!
Now are you ready to make some super cool cutouts?
As most of you know, die cuts are just a fancy print term for “cut outs” or shapes. An encyclopedic definition of die cutting would be: a process used in many different industries to cut a thin, flat material into a specific shape using a steel cutting die. We mostly die cut paper and stickers at amp. The benefits of die cutting include visual appeal and a good marketing technique. A fun shape will have a lingering impression on the viewer, making you or your company stand out.
To create die cuts, you must first have a “die” or “die line:” a template that ensures proper layout for a printed product. A graphic designer can create the die line on the computer first and transfer the shape to a physical die. Below are 4 images of the process: the first is a digital picture of a soapbox die, designed on the computer. The second and third images are the physical die and a paper piece stamped out on the letterpress. The last image is the finished product, a beautifully assembled soap box.
Click to enlarge.
soapbox die cut stages
At amp, we use a 1971 Heidelberg Windmill to die cut. We also refer to it as our letterpress. Here is a video if you’re interested in the production process:
Because die cutting is a specialty that requires more set-up and finishing, it is a bit more costly. However, if a print shop already has a die made that you like, your project’s cost and time decreases. For this reason, we have made you an inventory of the dies we house at amp. This is not a complete list, as we have several company-specific dies, but it is a good start if you are looking for basic shapes. We will continually update this blog so that you always have the most up-to-date information.
Die Cuts: Animal Dies
Die Cuts: Badge Dies
3″x5.5″ square badge die with rounded corners
3″x4.5″ rectangular badge die with rounded corners
4″x6″ rectangular badge die with rounded corners
3.5″x4.25″ badge die
Die Cutting: Brochure Dies
Die Cuts: Business Card Dies
Business card die
Business card die
Business card die with rounded corners
Rounded corner business card die 3.5″x1.75″
Chop corner business card die
Business card die
business card die
2 round corner 2 straight corner business card die
Scalloped business card die
Die Cuts: Card Dies
Unique card die
Scalloped holiday card die
Rectangular thank you card die with rounded corners
Thank you card die
Square card die with rounded corners
Folding card die
Die Cuts: Circle Dies
Twenty-four 1″ circles die
Twelve 1.5″ circles die
Single 1.75″ Circle Die
Six 1.75″ circles die
Twelve 2″ circle die
Single 2.5″ Circle Die
Six 2.25″ circles die
Six 2.5″ circles die
Six 2.75″ circular dies
Single 3″ circle die with dot
Six 3″ circles die
Single 3.5″ circle die
Six 3.5″ circles die
Single 4″ circle die
Single 5″ circle die
Single 6″ circle die
Single 6.5″ circle die
Single 8″ circle die with dot
Pacman: single 8″ diameter circle die with dot
Single 10″ circle die
Keg Top Die
Die Cuts: Food and Drink Dies
Pizza slice die
Beer bottle die
Recipe card die with tab
Keg Top Die
Die Cuts: Envelope Dies
envelope liner die
Envelope liner curved flap die
envelope insert die
Die Cuts: Fan Dies
Rounded corner rectangular die
Rectangular rounded corner fan die
Die Cuts: Gift Card Dies
gift card die with 2 slits
gift card holder die with 2 slits
gift card holder die with 4 slits
Gift card sleeve die
Die Cuts: Holiday and Seasonal Dies
Christmas ornaments die
Four-leaf clover die
Santa beard die
Tombstone die mailer
Die Cuts: Households and Household Items Dies
Ribbon die with hole
DVD cover die
Die Cuts: Mailer Dies
Bifold mailer die
“Hold your hand” bifold mailer die
Die Cuts: Media/Press Kit Covers Dies
Press kit die
Media kit cover die
Die Cuts: Miscellaneous Dies
Paper swatch die
Miscellaneous shapes die
Die Cuts: Music-Related Dies
Male playing guitar bifold die
Guitar pick die
Die Cuts: Oval Dies
Single 3.75×2.25 Oval die
8 ovals die
Die Cuts: Pocket Folder Dies
Standard 9″x12″ pocket folder die with 2 pockets: no business card holder
Standard 9″x12″ pocket folder die with 2 pockets: with business card holder
Standard 9″x12″ pocket folder with double pockets and business card holder on the left die
pocket folder die with two card holders in one pocket
Standard 9″x12″ pocket folder die with pocket on the left only: with business card holder
Back of landscape pocket cover die
back of portrait pocket folder die
pocket folder die with one standard pocket and one vertical pocket
9″x12″ pocket folder with 2 vertical pockets die
Pocket folder die with two vertical pockets and one business card holder
Pocket Folder die with one vertical sleeve
pocket folder die
Die Cuts: Sleeve Dies
Business card holder die
CD sleeve die
Die Cuts: Sports Dies
Hockey puck die
Die Cuts: Tab Dies
Die Cuts: Tag and Ticket Dies
Square, rounded-corner jewelry card die
2 rectangular necklace cards die 3.25″x5.25″
6 square earring cards die
Rectangular earring cards with upper holes die cut die
Rectangular earring cards with lower holes die cut die
1″x1″ jewelry tags die
Earring holder die
Single 3″x3″ tag die with hole
3 square, rounded-corner tags die 3″x3″ with hole
Rounded-corner, square jewelry card die
Scored, rounded-corner, jewelry tags die
3 trifold square jewelry card tags with rounded corners die
6 trifold square jewelry cards with rounded corners die
Rectangular tags die
rectangular tag die with octagonal head
Rounded-corner rectangular tag with triangular head die
6 hang tie tags die
Single hang tie tag die
Rectangular tag die with rectangular hole
Hanging car tag die
3 bottle tags die
10 1″x1.5″ rectangular tag dies with rounded corners and hole in bottom left corner
10 1″x3″ rectangular tag dies with rounded corners and hole in bottom left corner
4 rectangular tag dies with pointed triangular heads and hole in the top
Booklet tags die
An example of how this ticket looks with design:
die cut ticket
Die Cuts: Triangle Dies
Single 4.2″x3.75″ triangle die
15 triangles die
Don’t see anything here you like? Ask us! We may have that die in-house. Again, this list is not comprehensive. If we don’t have the die, we can always make it!
Have you ever read a blog post about business cards that stated the obvious? Such as “put all your information on your card,” or “don’t use ugly colors?” Well, we have. Here’s what we have to say to those blog posts: duh! So we wanted to create a more descriptive, specific blog post about creating both unique and print-ready business cards.
Step 1: Business Card Design
When you design a card, make sure the images, logos and other information are located at least 1/8 inch away from the edges of the card. The cutting process is not exact, and you would not want any artwork or text trimmed.
On that same note, make sure your card has bleed. Bleed is a term used to describe documents that have images or elements that touch the edge of the page, extending beyond the trim edge and leaving no white margin.
If you use a picture, make sure the resolution is at least 300 dpi. Even if your photo looks fine on the screen, it may look blurry or fuzzy when printed.
Know the difference between color components used by computer screens and printers. Screens use a red, green and blue color scheme and mix these colors to create other colors. Printers either use CMYK or PMS. CMYK stands for cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black. PMS (Pantone Matching System), or spot colors, are pre-mixed with existing and published color formulas instead of simulating colors by combining primary colors. Most printers use CMYK, so your best bet is to create your design in CMYK colors.
Step 2: Business Card Paper
When it comes to paper, the first thing to know is cover weight versus text weight. For business cards, you always want cover weight. Text weight is much thinner, and it is used for things such as pages in a magazine.
Within cover weights, there are hundreds of papers to choose from. Hundreds. Want a basketweave, woodgrain or houndstooth paper for your card? They exist. How about an astro metallics palm tree green paper for your card? Or a paper with gold specks? You can search the internet all day for different paper types in different colors. However, unique papers typically cost more and take more time to produce. So if time and budget are not factors in your decision, go for a unique paper!
Most people, however, choose from a select few types: uncoated, silk, gloss, felt, matte and linen. Sometimes uncoated, silk and gloss are lumped into one category called “smooth.” Again, there are hundreds of different colors, but most people go with white or natural. Natural is more of an off-white, as you can see below.
Basic business card papers
What’s the difference between matte and glossy? Matte has a silky and smooth surface but not the shine of the glossy business card paper. Gloss is good for cards that have a photo as it really makes the picture pop.
Step 3: Business Card Weight
Once you’ve selected the type of paper you want, you need to decide the weight of the paper. The thicker the paper, the sturdier and more professional it’s going to be. Most print shops use 80-lb cover paper as the standard because it’s cheaper. As a general rule, you should not use paper that is less than 80 lbs. We actually use 100-lb paper as the standard business card paper, despite its price, because we think it looks and feels better. The heaviest weight we own is 130-lb paper, although you can “sandwich” papers for an even thicker card. A cool way to make your card stand out is to sandwich a different colored paper between your selected paper, as shown below. The result is a thick, unforgettable business card.
sandwiched business cards
Step 4: Business Card Finishing Options
Here’s where things get fun. There are 6 main types of finishing (7 if you count uncoated) which are not mutually exclusive: embossing and debossing, foil stamping, UV coating, lamination, die cutting and folding. Uncoated means simply no finishing at all. If you want to save money, you might give thought to an uncoated business card.
1. Embossing and Debossing:
Embossing and debossing, in addition to being one of our favorite types of finishing, are two techniques used to imprint impressed or depressed images onto paper, respectively.
Blind embossed card
Foil-stamped debossed business cards
Embossing and debossing are used frequently for wedding invitations because they create a very elegant look and feel. The unique touch makes your brand (and you) more memorable because it triggers a different sense in the recipient. The same goes for textured paper or soft-touch lamination. Once you decide to emboss your business card, you then need to decide if you want it “blind embossed,” or left plain, as shown in the picture above. If you want to make the imprint even more memorable, you can add ink or foil stamping.
Embossing and debossing are two of the most expensive finishes because they require a die. Similar to a mold, a die is a specialized tool used to cut or shape material mostly using a press.
We use a 1971 Heidelberg Windmill to die cut all of our materials.
1971 Heidelberg Windmill
Embossing is slightly more expensive than debossing because it requires two dies — a male and a female die, or one that is recessed and one that is raised.
2. Foil Stamping:
Foil stamping is often used in conjunction with embossing or debossing to create a more dynamic impression on your business card. They both require a die and adding heat and pressure. For these reasons, the two are often thought to be the same. However, foil stamping is just what it sounds: a thin film of metal. Embossing actually changes the surface of your card. You might be thinking, “why not just use metallic ink?” Well, you can do that, especially if you are trying to save money. Foil stamping just adds a little more pop to the design.
Debossed, foil-stamped card
Foil stamping should be done on smooth, uncoated paper for best results. Textured papers such as linen or felt are more difficult because the uneven surface interrupts the pressing process. It’s also good to avoid using coatings or varnishes in the area to be foil stamped. Because foil stamping requires a die, the finishing is on the pricier end of finishing options.
3. UV Coating:
UV coating creates a very glossy, shiny coating on business cards and other papers. UV coating is great for business cards with images, as it makes details pop and stand out. If the image has blues or blacks, the end result is an almost wet appearance. UV coating helps protect your card against both chemicals and abrasions due to its hard finish. BONUS: It’s also environmentally friendly! UV Coatings are solvent-free and do not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the production process.
It’s a little bit hard to convey in photographs, but do you see how the light reflects off the business card below because of its high shine?
UV Coated Business Cards
One disadvantage of UV coating is it catches and shows oil more easily, such as fingerprints. It can be wiped off, but it’s something to consider. UV coating should not be used on metallic inks, foil stamping or anything that needs to be written on. For this reason, some clients will have only one side of their business card UV coated. Lots of people like to write on business cards, so it’s smart to keep one side uncoated.
You can either spot or flood UV coat a paper. Spotting is using the coating only on certain areas or “spots” of the paper. We don’t do this in our office. Flood UV coating is covering the entire business card. The card above is flood UV coated.
Want to see UV coating in action? Check out the video below:
4. Die Cutting:
Die cutting is another amp favorite. Die cutting is essentially making your business card (or other paper material) into a shape. A unique and fun way to make your business card memorable. Die cutting, as it implies, requires a die to be made, which ups the price. However, ask your local print shop what dies they have in-store. They may already have a business card in the shape of a rhomboid!
Rhomboid die cut business card
Business card with single cut die cut
Die cut business cards in the shape of a hand
Insider tip: round-corner business cards are an easy way to make your business card look more unique and professional. At amp, it is one of our “rush” options because we can do fewer than one hundred cards by hand. However, if you need more than 100, the business card will require its own die.
Folding is just what it sounds like. Business cards can have a fold to add more space (and more copy) and/or a unique design. As business cards are printed on cover weight, they will need to be scored in order to be folded. Scoring is any method of reducing paper stiffness along a line in order to aid in folding. We use a machine to do this for us, which speeds up the process.
Folded and die cut business cards in the shape of a caricature
Folded and die cut business cards in the shape of a caricature
When most people think of lamination, they think of sealed-edge lamination, such as the kind found on menus. This isn’t always pretty, but it protects the material from water, dirt and abrasion. Flush-cut lamination is more commonly used with business cards, as it offers some degree of protection but still looks nice. As business cards have a shorter life-span than menus, flush-cut lamination makes sense.
There are several different types of lamination, including matte, gloss and soft-touch. Yes, there are matte and gloss papers, as well. Matte and gloss lamination just add another protection layer. Textured paper should not be laminated as it would lose its tactile nature, thus defeating the purpose of the unique card. Soft-touch is one of our favorites. If you select this type of lamination, you will want to hold your business cards all day! Below are pictures of the different laminates, although in the case of soft-touch and matte lamination, it is almost impossible to see. However, for some people, that is the best part. It doesn’t look like a laminate, but it has the feel and protection of a laminate.
Gloss-laminated (10 mil) business cards
Soft-touch lamination on business card
Matte-laminated business card
If you decide you want to laminate your business card, you will need to decide the thickness of the laminate. 10-mil is a very thick laminate, as shown in the Platinum business card below. Compared side-by-side to a plastic business card, the thicknesses are roughly similar. 3-mil would be a very thin laminate, but it would still protect your card. You should ask your printer for samples to see what thickness you prefer.
Plastic v 10 mil lamination business card
Don’t like to read? Emily gives a summary of the info in this video! Take a look!
Which type of booklet binding is the most affordable? The quickest? The most durable? Here’s everything you need to know about different binding methods.
Most Common Types of Booklet Binding
Let’s start with saddle stitching, one of the most popular and affordable binding methods. Although it’s called “stitching,” it’s actually created with wire staples. It’s called saddle stitching because the collated sheets are draped over a saddle-like piece of machinery during the stapling process.
Next is wire-o (wire bound) binding, another very popular method of binding. It is durable, due mostly to its ability to lay flat when open. Wire-o binding is created by punching holes through the collated sheets and using formed wire to connect the pages. It has a very professional look, due to the metal wire, and thus is often used in formal presentations or meetings. The wire can come in a variety of colors and lengths, depending on the look you want. Below is a video of the process:
Click to see video!
A similar method to wire-o binding is spiral binding. Plastic or wire coils are looped through holes along the paper edges, it can come in a variety of sizes and colors, and it lies flat while open. It is more durable than wire-o binding, but not as professional-looking. The coil is more flexible and easy to maintain its shape, so it is good for documents that need to be mailed. It is used often in cookbooks, manuals and booklets that need to be referred to often.
spiral (coil) binding
Next is perfect binding, another common method of binding. Most paperback novels you see at the bookstore are perfect bound, along with corporate reports, manuals and catalogs due to its professional appearance. It is created by gluing the pages and cover together at the spine. Before the collated pages are glued, the spinal edge of the sheets are roughed up with blades or abrasives. This increases the bonding area for the glue, and thus the efficacy of the bind. This method is popular because it’s relatively economical to produce, it displays and stacks well, and it allows for printing on the spine — which helps others easily locate it in a stack of books. The downside is it requires around 50 pages or more, it doesn’t lay flat, it’s permanent (can’t remove pages) and it’s not as sturdy as other options.
Less Common Types of Booklet Binding
Now we get into the less common types of binding.. We’ll start with sewn bound. There are two types: center sewn and side sewn. Center is down the middle, while side — you guessed it — is on the side. This type of binding is very unique, pretty and delicate. The ends of the thread are normally cut and tied close to the edges. Some customers prefer the thread to remain long, and one client even wanted the ends untied for a more bohemian look. The disadvantage is it takes longer than other methods of binding, and is thus more expensive.
Side sewn binding
Center sewn binding
Comb (or plastic) binding, although very similar to spiral and wire-o binding, is rarely used in our shop. It’s not very durable because its teeth tend to break off, and it looks the least professional (in our opinion). On the other hand, it’s very cheap, simple and can open flat. It can come in multiple colors and sizes.
comb (plastic) binding
Screw binding is just what it sounds like: documents are held together with a screw. It can be plastic, aluminum or heavy-duty steel. This allows for a variety of colors. Screw binding has a lot of benefits: it’s durable, it has a large binding capacity and it’s easy to stack and store due to the flat nature of the screw post head. Unfortunately, it’s more expensive than other binding methods, and documents will not be able to lay flat. Screw posts are a great choice for photo albums, architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, scripts and especially swatch books.
Tape binding: Essentially perfect binding with a piece of tape on the spine. It’s affordable, stacks flat and looks nice. It will not open flat. People use it instead of perfect binding often for the look.
Side stitch: Similar to saddle stitch, but the wire is stapled into the front cover instead of along the spine. The drawbacks of side stitching as opposed to saddle stitch is that the pages don’t open flat, and there is margin loss along the binding edge of the pages. Advancements in perfect binding have decreased the appeal of side-stitching.
The following three binding methods are not offered at amp, but we will go over them briefly.
Loop stitch: A type of saddle stitching in which the staples are formed into wire loops, essentially creating a three-ring binder. Unlike a three-ring binder, loop stitching eliminates the three holes in the booklet and increases the binding margin of the text.
Hardcover (Case binding): Exactly what it sounds like. It is the hardcover books you see at the bookstore. There are several different types, but usually the inside pages are sewn together in sections and then glued to a cover. It’s fairly expensive.
Plastic Grip: A very inexpensive and simple method of binding. A 3-sided plastic spine is attached to the collated pages.
Unique Types of Booklet Binding
Finally, there are unique ways of binding that deviate from the norm. Here are two examples:
Carabiner binding: One of our clients wanted to send their customers a custom-branded carabiner. Attached to the carabiner are pages of information about the carabiner and how it is special. They had a great idea to bind the pages with the carabiner instead of the usual saddle stitch or wire-o binding.
carabiner booklet binding
Hidden wire-o binding: Although hidden wire-o isn’t as unique as carabiner binding, it is not used too often. People utilize this method because it combines the advantages of wire-o binding and perfect binding: the booklet lies flat, and the spine can be printed upon.
Hidden wire-o binding
So now that you’re a binding expert, are you ready to make a kick-ass booklet? Happy binding!