The Marketer’s Guide to Printing

Everything you need to know about printing for your marketing job interview. How it works and what to print with advice from a professional print company.

If you’re reading this guide, it’s likely that you’re a marketing candidate that doesn’t have any print experience, but you need to know all about printing like pro for your next job interview – and fast!

I used to get turned down for marketing jobs, because I didn’t have any print experience.

But don’t worry, because we’re going to cover the basics, very clearly, succinctly and with diagrams to help you digest all this information very quickly.


Print File Setup
Trim Line
Bleed Area
Quiet Area
CMYK Colour

In marketing, you’re most likely to be printing booklets, flyers and business cards. But we’re just going to explain booklets. Because, once you know about booklets, flyers and business cards are easy!

You just need to understand that whether you want to print a brochure, a magazine or a manual, that they are all booklets. And a booklet is simply sheets of paper bound together. What product name you then give your booklet depends on your intention for your readers.


Printing paper typically comes in 4 types, in a wide range of thicknesses. Each paper type has a different look, feel and has a different effect on the presentation of your finished booklet, flyer or brochure.

Common paper types:

Silk – The most popular paper type. A recommended ‘default’ choice with a smooth finish

Gloss – Featuring a shiny finish that adds saturation. Gloss is a popular choice for photo albums.

Uncoated – A rough feeling paper that creates a vintage look with slightly dulled colours.

Recycled – A very rough feeling textured paper with very dulled colours.

For most printing, silk paper is the default option and will always provide the best results. Gloss paper is typically used for hi res photography. Uncoated paper is very popular in zines and photozines, because it slightly fades the colours. And because it’s ‘uncoated’ it can be drawn on, making it the only paper suitable for colouring and activity books. Recycled paper is especially rough textured with a brown tint that dramatically dulls colours, although artistically it looks great for rustic restaurant menus.

Paper thickness is measured in gsm (Grams Per Square Metre). Inkjet printer paper is 80gsm. Premium magazine pages are usually 130gsm. Business cards are typically 300gsm. That gives you an idea of scale. And the thicker the paper, the more rigid it is.


If you are printing something which will come in booklet form, whether that’s a magazine or brochure, then giving your booklet cover papers is highly recommended.

This will usually comprise four sides of thicker gsm paper at the front and back of your booklet which will make it look sleeker and more professional. It also has the added benefit of protecting the inner pages, minimising damage and keeping them safe from scuffing and tearing.

Cover papers are also available in Silk, Gloss, Uncoated and Recycled paper. They use the same gsm measurement, but are usually always thicker than the inner pages and will range from 170gsm to 300gsm.

Some publications do not choose a thicker cover paper and instead opt to just use the first and last interior pages for their front cover and back cover designs. Especially if they prefer uncoated or recycled paper, because you shouldn’t laminate these papers anyway. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘floppy’ because of the easy flex of the booklet, which would otherwise have been held rigid by a thick cover paper.


Choosing laminated paper is another way to protect your printed materials and it is recommended for a range of items from posters to business cards. We would always recommend that you choose lamination for the covers of booklets as it gives your work a more ‘finished’ appearance and will make them more durable.

There are a number of different options for finishes, but understanding the two main differences will set you in good stead for most jobs.

Matt lamination – this gives your paper a smooth protective coating

Gloss lamination – this also provides a smooth protective coating with a glossy shine

The difference between these lamination effects is equivalent to the difference between Silk and Gloss paper, but they offer additional protection for whichever paper they are used on.

If you choose a Gloss cover paper combined with a Gloss lamination, your end product will look very shiny and the contrast between the colours will be prominent. This presentation is favoured by many high quality magazines to help them stand out on the shelf.

If you combine a Silk cover with a Matt lamination, then your end product will have a standard Matt finish. This is the most common form of lamination and like Silk paper, comes recommended as a safe ‘default’ option to achieve the best results.

Uncoated and Recycled papers should not be laminated, because the finish won’t adhere to the paper very well. So don’t even think about it.


There are three main types of binding to choose from when you are planning your print job, and deciding which you prefer could help you with the design of your brochure or magazine.

Staple bound – this binding is also known as saddle stitch and it is simply staples through the middle of the pages to hold them together

Perfect bound – this gives a square-edged spine but is only suitable for booklets that have a sufficient number of page

Wiro bound – your booklet will be held together with looped wire rings

There is another option which effectively produces a hardback book, known as case bound, but it costs a lot more than the others and the process is quite complex, meaning that it is not used very often for marketing materials.

Which option you choose will depend on what you are hoping to achieve with your marketing materials and your budget. A 20-page booklet will usually be staple bound, but if you want a thick, glossy magazine, then you will want it perfect bound. Technical booklets with lots of pages are probably best wiro bound using thick paper as a practical and durable option.

Your chosen binding will have an impact on the way you design your pages and you will need to consider it when you are setting up your print file. You will need to allow some space for the type of binding you have chosen, but once you bear that in mind, it’s easy to accommodate.

Print File Setup

Sometimes known as an artwork file, your print file will contain the digital design for your marketing materials.

The first decision you will need to make is how large you want your finished product to be and how you want it to be bound as that will give you the basic dimensions to work with. Once you know how big your pages will be, you can work out where your bleed area will be and identify your quiet area as well.

Once you have read this guide, you will understand how to set up your print file and know which print marks to include to ensure you get what you want from your printing.


You may well already have an idea of what size you want your materials to be. In the UK, the most popular dimensions are A4 and A5. As you might expect, the size and landscape or portrait orientation  of your paper will determine the area available for your design.

Trim Line

This is another self-explanatory term as it is the line on which you expect your materials to be cut as the printing machine trims the edges of your chosen paper. The placement of these will be determined by the size of paper you have chosen, but because of the nature of the process, there will always be slight discrepancies when the cuts are actually made which you will account for in the rest of your print file.

Bleed Area

Your bleed area will extend 3mm outside your trim lines on every side, whatever size paper you have chosen.

This means that your design will need to continue off the ‘edge’ of your page into this area, even though it is supposed to be cut off during the printing process. Although the cutting blades should fall squarely on your trim line, if the paper does shift slightly during the process, you won’t end up with white lines around the edge of your finished item.

Preparing your print file means building in a margin of error to your design – although modern machines are incredibly accurate, preparing for slight discrepancies will ensure that there are no surprises when you see the end result.

Quiet Area

The quiet area is everything in the 5mm inside the trim line and it has two functions. The first is similar to the bleed area so you should avoid putting any important elements to your artwork in this space as it could well end up being chopped off altogether.

The second is for aesthetic reasons as having design elements which are right at the edge of the page will make your artwork look cluttered. Leaving a clear space around the edges provides a little more room for your message to stand out.

If your booklet is perfect bound you need to keep your designs 12mm away from the binding edge.

In the case of wiro bound, you need to keep your designs 20mm away, otherwise big metal loops could go through important design elements. This applies to your cover design too.

Staple binding doesn’t require any additional quiet area on the spine side, as the staples don’t take up as much room as the other binding types and therefore the standard 5mm quiet area is sufficient.


Your computer screen displays RGB colours generated by light. Printing machines produce CMYK colour with ink (effectively mixing paint). It is not physically possible to print in RGB.

This means that RGB colours will be converted to CMYK for printing, which can cause inconsistencies between colours. So when creating artwork for print in programs like InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop, it’s important to set your colors to CMYK before you begin.

You want to use CMYK Profile: Coated GRACoL 2006 (ISO 12647-2:2004) for the best results.

Although printing machines can process JPEGs, Word documents and other low res files, it is recommend that users only upload PDF files exported using the ‘high quality print’ setting from inDesign. And that images should be at least 300dpi, as anything lower will look grainy with a low resolution when printed.

Fortunately, all of these options are very easy to select with packages like InDesign.

Booklet Examples

To give you a better understand of printing, we have listed 3 common booklet examples below. brochures, magazines and manuals each have their own typical combinations of paper types, thicknesses, laminations and bindings. The classic high-gloss fashion magazine for example, will usually be perfect bound due to its high page count, with text paper made of silk pages, and a gloss cover paper with a gloss lamination.

For obvious reasons, the number of sides must always be divisible by 4.


  • A5
  • 36 sides
  • Staple bound
  • Silk text paper 130gsm
  • Silk cover paper 170gsm
  • Matt lamination
  • 3mm bleed area on all sides
  • 5mm quiet area on all sides

These are the specifications for a typical good quality booklet.


  • A4
  • 56 sides
  • Perfect bound
  • Silk text paper 130gsm
  • Gloss cover paper 170gsm
  • Gloss lamination
  • 3mm bleed area on all sides
  • 5mm quiet area on all sides
  • Additional quiet area totalling 10mm on the spine side of each page including cover

Perfect binding usually goes hand in hand with a gloss cover paper and a gloss laminate with silk text paper inside for a high-end finished product which looks and feels luxurious.


  • 210mm x 210mm square
  • 40 sides
  • Wiro bound
  • Uncoated text paper 170gsm
  • No cover paper
  • No lamination
  • 3mm bleed area on all sides
  • 5mm quiet area on all sides
  • Additional quiet area totalling 20mm on the spine side of each page including cover
  • Extra thick paper is recommended with wiro binding to make the end result more durable


Now that you know about the fundamental paper types, laminations, bindings, bleed and CMYK colour, you should be ready for your marketing interview.

Meanwhile, flyers and business cards are basically single sheets of one of the different paper types, which can also be laminated. So they have a 3mm bleed and a 5mm quiet area all round. You just don’t have to worry about binding them.

Before your interview, make sure that you can easily explain the following:

3mm bleed
5mm quiet area
Staple bound and perfect bound
All printing is in CMYK colour
Recite the CMYK profile GRACoL 2006

guide to printing


While you probably won’t be expected to create the print files yourself, unless there’s a design aspect to the role you’re applying for, it’s important to know the technical elements of printing for the purpose of project and account management.

It also means that you can now take full control when it comes to printing your marketing materials. When you aren’t dependent on anyone else for your print file, you can freely compare your options online and make your budget go a lot further than you might expect. And always be sure to make the most of the marketing potential of printed materials.

For more printing knowledge, visit our new support section.

Adam Smith is the Marketing Manager at Mixam, a print company that’s disrupting their industry through innovation with their Instant Price Calculator and online features to make print easy and accessible to everyone. And best of all, Brand Recruitment got Adam an interview there!

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