As its name implies, postpress encompasses those print production steps that occur after the printing press. Post press operations typically fall into three broad categories.

Binding- functions including cutting, folding, and bookbinding (in other words, the form)

Finishing- operation including foil stamping, embossing, and die-cutting (decoration)

Distribution- Strategies, including packaging, shipping, and delivery (distribution)

Postpress gives a physical form to your message, it puts the finishing touches on the design and also provides the optimum distribution strategy.

The ambition of marketing professionals including designers is to influence a buying decision, advertising is built on the premise that the right message in the right package can persuade individuals to purchase your particular product. Print communication is multi-sensory, engaging the eyes, and incorporating touch, sound, and even smell. Print can be simultaneously subtle and vibrant. The soft background of a cream text stock contrasted against an energetic mirror-like gold foil stamp is an amazing tool to attract attention.

Print is familiar, personal, and trusted. It can send a message of value elegance, richness, and enthusiasm. Effective print can rival any marketing campaign on response rate. Print is used for countless applications, including enticing a buying decision or sealing a contract.

The right package incorporates the best form, decoration, and distribution to convey your message. Your choices for postpress operations will make the difference between a book, folder, flyer, or carton that sells- and one that sits

Postpress enhances the sophisticated craftsmanship of the lithographer by giving shape to the product. It adds function and adornment and delivers the product in a usable, convenient form. Without postpress, there would be no book, no relief, and no dimension.

The most basic postpress process, cutting is central to the printing operation and is utilized for nearly every job. Because printed pieces are frequently produced two or more at a time, cutting is needed to separate those pieces.

There are other common postpress or bindery functions. For example, many flyers require folding. Hand folding is possible, but large-volume machine folding is much more efficient.

Bookbinding is another important process in postpress workflow, whether you intend to wire stitch, adhesive bind, spiral bind, or use a hardcover, a book with an appropriate binding conveys quality and functionality.

Postpress also entails the decorative functions of embossing, foil stamping, or foil embossing. These high-value techniques help pieces stand out from their competition. Each process provides significant importance in certain markets.

Packaging, mailing, and delivery are other key components of a comprehensive postpress strategy. The effective designer considers all value propositions for a print job, including proper packaging. Products integrity, ease of transportation, verifying product counts, and ease of access are all important packaging components.

Professional warehousing, kitting or fulfillment may add additional functionality for your client. Kitting multiple components into one cohesive package involves expertise. Managing data, inventor, and retrieval systems make fulfillment and kiting a valuable postpress component.

Without a comprehensive postpress plan, the designer relegates the final product to chance. The skilled designer considers all options and selects those that provide the greatest value within the budget. Without question, increasing your knowledge of postpress operations will increase the success of all your projects.

Every designer has a toolbox, it contains pencils, erasers, brushes, ink pens, and templates. Of course, today the tools may be digital and the toolbox virtual, but the outcome is a professional expression of yourself and your concept. Designer Saul Bass said it well, “Anything but boring. “That is the worse crime-that is, of course, unless your design overshadows your message. As you make creative decisions, build an image that will enhance your message, not distract from it.

Your design toolbox should contain a variety of tools in each of the three postpress areas-binding, finishing, and distribution. Postpress strategies expand your design toolbox, provide additional solutions, and give your designs added power. As your skills improve, you will discover new tools and learn different techniques for applying existing tools.

Increased production knowledge ensures the smooth manufacturing of your projects. Understanding paper grain direction, for example will significantly improve your brochures, books, or even a table tent for the local café although producing these details belongs to the printer, your knowledge base will be an invaluable resource. Experience leads to better work at lower costs.

Your projects may have a greater impact by using less conventional decorating options, such as multiple varnishes and coatings, foil stamping, or embossing to draw the eye to the printed graphics. Other designers use extended gamut colors and spot colors to make an image “pop”. Of course, white space can also be very effective.


In addition to choosing paper and fonts, designers define the form of the finished product. A fundamental question for any designer is, “what shape will the final project take?”

For example, you decide on the form of an advertising brochure. Will it deliver the flat? Folded? What type of fold? Should it be a booklet? How many pages? Should it bind or simply be single sheets with three holes for insertion into a binder?

All these questions are crucial to the structure of a document. How a project is folded or bound drastically impacts its usability. As you grow in understanding of the advantages, disadvantages, and production limitations of the equipment.

When considering form, the cost is certainly a major factor. However, each postpress operation offers unique benefits that may overcome price objections. For example, three-ring binding is one of few methods in which the end-user can modify the book content, which is important for frequently updated products such as catalogs. In books where removing or replacing pages is discouraged, the three-ring binding provides a distinct disadvantage.


Some of the most creative design work is achieved with postpress decorating strategies, called finishing operations. These may be performed by the printer, but are often outsourced to specialized trade finishers.

Finishing techniques include hot foil stamping, blind embossing, foil embossing, die-cutting, scoring, laminating, and even hand assembly of capacity folders or specialty pieces. While many of these operations impact utility and even form, most are decorative in nature and are used as design tools. Wine labels, collateral pieces, and greeting cards utilize foil stamping, embossing, and die-cutting. Each example incorporates postpress finishing operations as key design elements, increasing decorative options for the designer and adding value for the client.

Consider a wine label. The bright, reflective foil catches the eye and conveys a sense of elegance or royalty. Perhaps more than any other food or beverage, wine relies heavily on the label for sales. It is estimated that at a given price point, ninety percent of wine purchases are based on the label design because of this influence, no expense is spared in the design and production of wine labels. They are decorated with hot foils, embossing, and die-cut edges to influence point-of-sale decoration.

Embossing is a method used to create three-dimensional effects with paper. Braille, used to aid the blind in reading, is a widely known example of embossing. Most embossing is purely decorative, providing a unique three-dimensional look and feel. Embossing deforms the paper without damaging it; actually, it reforms paper into the shape of the die.

Some papers distort better than others, allowing very deep embosses. In general, bulky uncoated stocks work best. Very thin stocks tend to rebound after the paper has been formed; they do not hold an emboss well and should be avoided. To achieve the best possible result, you should discuss paper selection with your postpress provider.


Distribution strategies include drop shipment, mailing, warehousing, and fulfillment, along with appropriate packaging and imaging to complete these operations.

Clients want high-quality work, faster and cheaper than ever before reducing cycle time is an increasingly critical factor in print procurement. Just-in-time, lean manufacturing strategies involve having product support pieces in place at the right moment-not too early, tying up precious resources, and not too late, forcing product delays.

Basic understanding, combined with good resources, prepares you to make informed, cost-efficient decisions.

PostPress Planning

Planning is the key to smooth production. The general strategy is to conceptualize forward, then plan backward. After you have a general idea of the form and design for your piece, start backward by planning distribution.

A cheaper plan would be to skip cartons, stack the flyers directly on a pallet, and stretch-wrap the pallet. Using this alternative, however, it is likely that numerous pieces would be damaged in the distribution process. Packaging smaller lots typically provides greater protection for the product, but packaging impacts price. It is best to consider these expenses from the beginning.

After planning your distribution strategies, you should next consider binding options. How will a book look be assembled? Some binding methods such as perfect binding, spiral binding, and ring binding require a large gutter area; some stack single sheets; others insert folded signatures one inside another.

Although press sheet layout is typically implemented by the printer, your understanding of layout could impact price. For example, putting common spot colors on pages that print on the same press sheet may reduce cost.  You should discuss imposition with the printer in advance to determine if efficiencies can be gained knowing where the pages are positioned on the press sheets.

Page dimensions are important when planning a design. For example, significant price breaks may be realized by conforming to standard paper sizes. Remember, press sheets may have other control images printed on them. Your printer can help you to determine the optimum press sheet size.

The cost of postpress

The cost of poor postpress, however, is devastating, requiring expensive and rushed reruns. It is essential that postpress be planned and executed correctly. While you have minimal control over the postpress execution, you have significant control in planning and preparing your files to minimize errors. The more you know about postpress, the better you will plan, communicate and avoid mistakes. The more you know about postpress, the more persuasive your projects will be for your clients.