How to produce an effective community publication that doesn’t blow your budget

At the foundation we’re often asked about producing print publications, and how to do it cost-effectively. So, to make it easier, we’ve outlined the key things to consider below.

It’s a good idea to think about them when you’re scoping your publication because they will affect how you develop your content and your budget.

Our advice is to always compare prices in various formats, colour options and printing companies. You’ll often be surprised by the difference in costs.

Format/size

Audience

Ideally, the needs and preferences of your target audience should be what drives the format and size of your publication.

Leaflets, brochures and factsheets are often the most effective formats. They are easy to pass on to people, to display in reception areas and for people to carry. For example lots of community legal centres, courts and doctors' surgeries have stands that hold DL-sized brochures. If you plan to distribute your publication in any of these places then a DL brochure might be a good choice. On the other hand, if you want your information to be provided in hardcopy and in a printable electronic version, A4 might be a good choice as it is easy to print for most people.

Shorter is almost always better. It’s very likely that your audience will not read a 100-page manifesto from beginning to end, and may even be put off by it altogether.

Cost-effective formats

Printers have standard formats that are the most cost-effective. Typically these are – in order of smallest to largest – DL brochure (standard brochure), A5, A4 and A3.

We recommend choosing from the printer’s standard formats. There may be good reasons why you want to print a non-standard format but it will be more expensive.

DL (standard) A5 A4 A3
Suitable for: Leaflets/brochures Leaflets/brochures Factsheets/longer publications Posters

Paper stock and weight

We see many organisations producing publications on expensive, premium paper stocks and too heavy for what you need. Using these types of paper can add considerably to the cost of your publication.

Ask your printer to show you examples of their economical paper options. You can also ask the printer to give you mock-ups in different formats so you have an idea of what you’ll be getting.

And, make sure you compare prices.

Paper stocks

There are two types of paper stock – uncoated (matt) and coated (gloss).

Uncoated (matt) paper is often the better choice. For some audiences, such as people with disabilities and older people, coated papers will be highly reflective and difficult to read.

Paper weights

Weights are measured in grams per square metre (gsm). The heavier the weight of your paper, the more expensive it will be to produce your publication.

For text and covers we recommend the following:

Text (inside pages)

The weight of your paper will depend on the paper you choose and the way it feels. Generally the weight will be between 80–140gsm. We generally recommend 120gsm.

Cover

Small brochures (DL, A5 etc.) – Self-cover

We recommend that covers for brochures and smaller publications be the same weight as your text. This is known as a ‘self-cover.’ It is the most cost-effective option because the cover is printed with the rest of the pages.

Larger brochures (A4 etc.) – Heavier weight cover

For larger brochures you may want/need a heavier weight cover to give your brochure a bit more rigidity. For this type of cover we recommend around 250gsm. This will be the more expensive option as the paper will cost more and will need to be printed separately from the rest of the text.

Printing

Digital and offset printing

There are two types of printing – digital and offset. The deciding factor is the number of copies you want to print. For smaller print runs you are usually better to choose a company that prints digitally. For mid to larger print runs, the economies of scale make offset printing usually more cost-effective.

Digital print quality has improved over the years, so you don’t need to worry about your publication looking like it’s come straight off a photocopier if you print digitally. Larger commercial digital printers are the best choice if you are concerned about quality.

If you’re unsure which is more appropriate, it’s a good idea to get a digital and an offset print quote to compare prices.

Digital printing Offset printing
  • More economical for smaller quantities (less than 1,500 copies)
  • Faster turnaround times
  • Usually more economical than digital for mid–large print runs (above 1,000–2,000 copies)
  • Generally a larger choice of formats and paper stocks

Colour

Colour is visually appealing and you’ll need it if you want to have colour images. But, colour is more expensive than black and white. So, think about whether you really need it throughout your publication. Choosing a colour cover with black and white text instead, for example, will reduce your print costs (but once again get a quote for different options to make an informed decision). Here are some colour options:

Colour options Cost
Full colour throughout (cover and inside pages) $$$$
Colour cover + black & white inside pages $$$

Full colour cover + one colour inside pages
(only for off-set printing)

$$
Black & white cover + black & white inside pages $

Binding

If you have a publication that needs binding, we recommend saddle-stitched (stapled) if it is not too many pages. It is the cheapest option.

If you have a publication that has a lot of pages, for example a directory, then we recommend a binding called ‘perfect bound’ (with spine). This is less common and not recommended for thin publications.

Saddle-stitched Perfect bound (spine)
Suitable for: DL brochure, A5 and A4. Up to 5mm thickness folded. Publications with a lot of pages where the staples will buckle.

Print quote

Printing costs can vary significantly. We recommend shopping around and getting a few quotes to compare the costs of each supplier.

To get you started, here is a template print quote request template.

And, finally, if you have any questions about producing publications, the foundation’s Publishing team can help. Contact the team on (03) 9604 8100.

This page was last updated on February 15, 2016