How your files are printed

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When it comes to printing sleeves for vinyl records, various techniques and methods are used. One of the most commonly used printing methods is offset printing. But what is this method and why is it so widespread? What are the different possible finishes and how can the ordered quantity affect the price? We will explore these questions in this article.

1 - What is offset printing?

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Offset printing is a widely used printing technique, which is based on the lithographic principle. It involves the repulsion of greasy ink, water and selective varnishes. The ink is spread on an offset plate, where it only stays on the areas to be printed. These areas are protected by water in the case of wet offset and by a layer of silicone in the case of dry offset. This ink is then transferred using a blanket, a rubbery material that improves the quality of the ink transfer from the plate to the paper.

2 - Why offset printing?

Offset printing is currently the most used process in professional printing. Its success is due to its flexibility and ability to adapt to a wide variety of products. Moreover, this printing process provides quality products at a relatively low cost, making it particularly suitable for printing vinyl sleeves.

3 - Different possible finishes

3.1 - Varnish and lamination

After printing, several finishing options are available to enhance the appearance of your vinyl record sleeve and protect it. Among these options, you will find standard varnish, which gives a glossy appearance to the sleeve. UV varnish, applied over the entire surface (flood) or on specific areas (spot), provides additional protection and a distinctive shine.

Lamination, whether glossy, matte, scratch-resistant matte or custom, adds a thin, resistant layer of plastic for increased protection and an aesthetic effect. Hot stamping, flat or cylindrical, and embossing are other finishing techniques that can give a unique character to your vinyl record sleeve.

3.2 - Cardboard choice

You can choose between plain white or black outer covers, or printed outer covers. The latter can be made with 1 or 2 central holes or without. The standard cardboard is 280g white/grey, but you can also choose white/white, used especially for printing on reversed cardboard to obtain a matte finish without even using matte lamination. For a more robust rendering, 350g cardboard is also available in white/grey or white/white versions.

4 - How does the ordered quantity influence the price? Understanding the impact of making offset plates and materials choice

When it comes to pressing vinyl records, several factors come into play to determine the final cost. From the ordered quantity to the quality of the materials used, every detail counts.

4.1 - Economies of scale: a key concept

Economies of scale is a concept that states that the more you produce of something, the lower the unit cost of that thing. In terms of printing, this means that the more vinyl record sleeves you order, the lower the unit cost of each sleeve. This is due to the fixed costs associated with setting up the print. Once these costs are amortized, the additional cost to print each sleeve is relatively low.

In short, if you wish to press vinyl records, keep in mind that the ordered quantity and the choice of materials have a significant impact on the total cost of your order.

4.2 - The role of offset plates in price determination

An important part of the printing process is the use of offset plates. To understand, let's remember that offset printing is based on four main colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMJN in French, CMYK in English). Thus, your digital image will be decomposed according to these four colors.

Each color is "engraved" on a specific offset plate, which means that for each graphic, four offset plates usually need to be created. Whether you order a single sleeve or 100,000, the need for these "molds" remains constant.

This is where the concept of economies of scale comes into play: the cost of these plates is spread over the total number of sleeves produced. Therefore, the more sleeves you order, the lower the unit cost of each sleeve.

4.3 - The impact of materials choice on cost

The choice of paper materials is an essential consideration in the printing process. In fact, the type and quality of paper used can greatly influence the final cost of printing. Thus, it is crucial to understand how the choice of paper can affect printing costs.

Firstly, the weight of the paper plays a significant role in determining the cost. The higher the grammage of the paper or cardboard, the higher its price. For example, a thicker cardboard requires more raw materials for its manufacture, which translates into higher production costs. This has a direct impact on the final printing cost. Choosing a thick cardboard can therefore lead to a substantial increase in the total cost of printing.

Secondly, the technicality of the paper or cardboard is another key factor that influences the cost. Technical cardboards, which are specially designed to meet specific needs, are generally more expensive. They may have special properties, such as water resistance, UV resistance, opacity or the ability to be printed at very high resolutions. These specific properties require more complex manufacturing processes and more expensive raw materials, which increases the price of the technical cardboard.

Finally, it is important to note that the cost of paper or cardboard represents a significant part of the total printing cost. On average, the price of paper accounts for about 30% of the total cost of a sleeve. This percentage can vary depending on various factors, such as the type of paper chosen, the volume of the order and the complexity of the printed design.

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