Welcome to Spec This – the online print estimation tool. Fill out the form below for any print project under the sun, and Spec This will send out your project's info to any printer(s) you specify so they can provide you with a quote. (Don't worry, you'll get a copy too.)

To start, click on the "Open" boxes [+] next to each step, and complete each section. Once started, you will have a hour to complete the form. Need help? The yellow tabs located in each section are there to guide you through.

Please note: You must complete all required fields before moving on to the next section.

Providing as much contact information as possible is key.

Without knowing who to get in touch with, the print representative compiling your quote cannot provide you, the client, the highest level of service you deserve.

Additionally, having all the client's information up front allows for a much easier process if and when you go to print with the project. From your original quote request, the printer already knows whom to contact for both billing and shipping purposes when the time comes.

In order to quote multiple print vendors, click the Add another printer button. Using this feature you can send your estimate request to up to three different print vendors.
This section is meant to outline all the basic information associated with the project.

There is the option to add up to three separate pieces -- ideal for stationary systems, or books with text and cover. For example, to quote a business card, letterhead, and envelope, fill out the first column for the business card then click Add another piece to this project and fill out the second column for your letterhead. Repeat for the envelope.

If your piece has an internal number associated with it, you may add it in the Project Number field.

Please provide a Description for each piece, including any details you feel will help in the estimating process. This may include whether or not the piece is single or double sided, or if it relates to another piece.

For Quantity, you may quote several different numbers. Please separate each quantity with a semicolon (;).

Flat Size is the size of the piece when it is completely flat and not folded. This field is especially important for packaging projects or brochures. Please indicate the unit of measurement.

Finished Size is the size of the piece when it is folded or trimmed. These dimensions may be the same as the Flat Size, if there is no folding involved, and is important for any project requiring folds. Please indicate the unit of measurement.
Number of Pages indicates how many pages the piece is. One sheet of paper constitutes two pages. A double-sided sheet equals two pages, two double-sided sheets equals four pages, etc.

Please indicate how each item will be printed -- either Offset, Digital, Both, or as Data. Offset printing is done on a large press and is the most common printing method. Although it may be more expensive initially to set up the machinery involved, it is a more cost effective option for larger print jobs. It also tends to produce a finer, more crisp end result. You can also print on a wider variety of stocks and materials.

NOTE: The print method is more often determined by the printer than you. Please provide your recommendation, but ultimately, trust your print vendor.

Digital printing usually offers a shorter turnaround time and is more cost effective for smaller quantities. Think of it like a really big inkjet printer, like the one you have in your home office. And don't worry about quality -- today's digital printing has come a long way and can provide a very comparable end result to offset.

You can also print a piece using both offset and digital methods or as variable data, which allows for different information to be printed on each individual item. Data printing is great for direct mailings where tens, hundreds, or even thousands of addresses need to be applied. Reminder: A database of information also needs to be provided to the print vendor when it comes time to go to press with data printing. This can be submitted once you pick a vendor.
This section deals with what stock (paper) to print.
There is the option to add separate stock variations -- ideal for identities/business systems (where there are up to three pieces) or quoting different materials for a single project. Just click Add another stock option to use this feature, and another column (up to three total) appears.

Please indicate which piece will be printing on each stock, as well as if you are printing a Flat Paper Sheet, an Envelope, or a Label.

You will also need to spec an uncoated or coated stock.

Uncoated stocks are more textured and will give a softer look since the inks tend to bleed into the paper, rather than sitting on top. This bleed is called dot gain. A higher dot gain means more bleed into the fibers, which makes the ink often appear darker. Uncoated is also the option you want if doing anything that needs to be written on (think letterheads), since a lot of writing utensils will not work on most coatings.

Coated stocks create a sharper end result with less dot gain, but are often a more expensive option as they are treated with various materials.
You will also need to provide the Weight of paper you want, as well as if it is Cover or Text. Cover weights are heavier, while text weights are greater suited for letterheads or book pages. Weight is most often measured in pounds, but can also be measured in points. Please indicate you unit of measure.

Manufacturer, Product Line, Color and Finish are all more details that will help your printer more accurately quote your project. This can also make a big difference in the overall appearance and the end result. It is highly recommended that you get your hands on some paper stock books (you can get them from your paper reps) or samples to actually look at and feel each different stock.

There are so many different options out there...choose wisely.
This section deals with what inks you want to print with.

There is the option to add separate ink options -- ideal for identities/business systems (where there are up to three pieces) or quoting a single piece multiple ways (ex. CMYK vs. PMS). Just click Add another ink & coating option to use this feature, and another column (up to three total) appears.

PMS (Pantone Matching System): An internationally recognized system of pre-mixed spot colors.

CMYK: The acronym for the four most commonly used colors in printin -- cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. When layered, these colors are how printers reproduce full-color art.

Typically, print vendors will use the following system:

A / B: Where A is the number of inks printing on side A and B is the number of inks printing on side B. This method always applies to the flattened state of a piece.

For example, a double-sided, four color project will print 4 / 4. There are four inks printing on each side.

A single-sided piece will always print A / 0, since there are no inks applied to the back side.

Coverage Amount indicates how much ink will be used overall.

Bleed means that something on the piece extends past the edge -- there is no border around the artwork.
If a Coating is used, please indicate what type it is, as well as where it's applied.

Spot coatings are applied to a single, confined area, while Overall coatings are applied across the entire surface of the piece.

Varnish coatings can give some protection against smearing, and dirt or water damage, and are also one of the most cost effective coating options. Varnishes can also be tinted in a wide range of colors.

Aqueous coatings are fast-drying and water-based (think friendly to the environment!) and are more resistant against smudges and fingerprints than Varnishes.

UV coatings are cured using an Ultraviolet heat lamp method and are another green option. They dry instantly and are the most durable.

Coatings also come in different finishes. Gloss creates a shiny effect, Satin is smooth (but not as shiny as Gloss), and Dull refracts light for a more muted look.
These techniques can often make or break a project. Finishing is really where you can get creative with production methods.

Scoring: Breaking the paper fibers (but not all the way through) to make for easier folding.

Perfing: Making a line of small dotted slits for the purpose of tearing-off a section of the paper.

Drilling: Making a hole (or multiple holes) in the paper.

Padding: Adding an adhesive to one edge of a stack of paper to keep it together. Think note pad on your desk. You will also need to note which edge is padded, how many sheets per pad, and does it need a chipboard backer.

Shrink Wrapping: Wrapping your product tightly in a plastic film.

Foil Stamp: Foil is released from a backing when stamped with a heated die and transferred onto the stock.

Emboss: Creating a raised surface on the stock so that it stands out in relief. Blind Embossing is done without printing anything in the emboss area. Registered Emboss is when the stock is printed in the same area as the relief. Foil Emboss is to use foil to emboss the area (this is also often called a Heat Stamp).

Die Cutting: To cut irregular shapes using a die.

Laminate: A thin transparent material applied to the stock creating a protective surface.

Special Packaging/Cartoning: Packing items in a particular fashion. Are there any specific needs for the packaging of your materials? Specific carton quantities, skid packaging, wrapping or labeling requirements? Please note in additional comments section.

Saddle stitch: To bind by stapling sheets together where they fold at the spine.

Perfect bound: To bind sheets at the spine and cover by glue.

Wire-O: A bindery trade name for mechanical binding using double loops of wire through a hole.
C-Fold: Six panels with two parallel folds in a spiral fold configuration. Commonly used for tri-fold brochures.
Z-Fold: Two or more parallel folds, each folding in opposite directions.
Gatefold: Where the left and right edges fold inward towards the center with parallel folds and meet in the middle of the page without overlapping.
Double Gatefold: A Gatefold that is folded again in the same fashion -- with the left and right edges folding to the center.
French Fold: Where paper is folded at right angles, or cross folds.

Whether your project will mail or not is a crucial factor in the design, printing and binding. The regulations regarding mailing are numerous and must be followed to the letter.

Print vendors that do mailing have personnel on their staff that can assist you to make sure you following those regulations. If your project is be mailed and the regulations are not followed, it may lead to extra expense for the job in the form of increased postage, penalties and/or possible reprints.

First Class Presort: Discount mail is your best option if you mail in volume. For this type, you must have 500 or more pieces per mailing and you must do some extra work to make ythings easier for the postal service to handle. This extra prep can lower your postage costs. Postage depends on the characteristics of your mailpiece. Additionally, you must pay an annual mailing fee at each facility where you enter mail, and all mailpieces must weigh less than 13 ounces.

Automation prices are available for cards, letters, and large envelopes compatible with automation standards. To qualify for the lower automation prices, your mailpiece must meet specific addressing, barcoding, and design standards.

Presorted Standard: This kind of mailing usually is for printed pieces that are generally identical in content. Each piece must weigh less than one pound. A mailing of at least 200 addressed pieces (or 50 pounds) is required.
Proofs are crucial.

They allow for you and the client to see how the final piece will be printed, and give you one last chance to make revisions (although there may be additional costs involved, so check with your print vendor beforehand).

There are a variety of different proofs that you can request, each with it's own degree of accuracy.

Laser: This is a output of your item for review only. It is normally not considered as a final proof for client approval.

PDF: This is an electronic proof. This is usually considered only good for approval of content. It should not be considered suitable for color approval.

Composite High Res Color: This proof is usually a color proof and may be one or a combination of many forms, Matchprint, Epson or other proofing systems. This will be the proof that the printer will use at press to guide them for color of the printed sheet. This proof should be examined for color as well as content.
Iris/Dylux/Blueline: This is usually a proof put together by the printer to show size and composition. It is not considered suitable for color approval, but will show how the product goes together and how it fits. It may be used to proof for content and construction.

Ink Draw Down: Testing a particular ink mixture on the actual stock in which it will be printed on.

Press Check: An on-site proof meeting with your print vendor to examine sheets from the press.

Samples, or mock ups can be obtained from the printer for varous reasons. It is best to get a sample if you want to see how something will be folded, bound, etc. in order to make sure you know what the outcome will be.

Getting mock ups made ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches (and money) in the long run.

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