Stretch Your Budget with Self-Mailers

self mailers
Companies can save substantial amounts of money by eliminating the need for envelopes. The possibility of creating a self-mailer should be considered with any direct mail piece.A self-mailer is simply a piece of mail that doesn’t require an envelope. All of the necessary mailing information is located on one of the outside panels.Because self-mailers do not require envelopes, you must be more creative when designing the format, since you don’t have the luxury of an envelope to contain any extra sheets of printed material.

Here are some things to consider when designing a self-mailer:

  1. Will the delivery address be printed directly on the self-mailer, or will self-adhesive labels be used?
  2. The amount of written material in the self-mailer will determine the overall size of the mailer.
  3. Information needs to flow quickly and smoothly from the initial pitch to the fine print. The fewer words needed to convey your message, the better.
  4. The type of closure needs to assure safe passage through the mail. Staples are used often, but many people find them unappealing. Miniature self-adhesives are available in many colors, shapes, and sizes.
  5. If perforated sections are used, keep them in mind so that nothing can slip loose while being passed through the mail.


Thomas Watson, who founded IBM in 1924, placed on the wall behind his desk a single framed word: THINK. It became the corporate motto of one of the most influential companies of the century.

Think. The handiest source of new product ideas is your mind, if for no other reason than that you are always carrying it around with you. You have a mind. The next step is to open it and keep it open. What you want is to be open to change.

Management guru Peter Drucker has made the observation that most successful innovations exploit change. In his 1985 Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Drucker defined seven specific kinds of change that are sources of innovative opportunity:

  1. The unexpected, including unexpected success, unexpected failure, and unexpected events.
  2. Incongruity between reality as it actually is and reality as it is assumed to be.
  3. Innovation based on process need.
  4. Changes in industry structure and market structure — especially those that catch everyone unaware.
  5. Demographic shifts.
  6. Changes in perception, mood, and meaning.
  7. New knowledge, including the scientific and the nonscientific.

We are keenly aware of the effect of change in the graphics and arts industry. Few industries have undergone as much change during the last few years as printing. While two of our heroes are Johannes Gutenberg and Benjamin Franklin, we also deeply admire Steven Jobs, Michael Dell, and Bill Gates. We anxiously embrace new technologies and see the changes as opportunities — not something to fear or dread. We just thought you needed to know.

Tips for Choosing a Readable Type

You’ve worked hard to create just the right look for your client’s newsletter. But will your masterpiece also be easy to read? Balancing beauty with readability can be challenging. Here are some areas to keep in mind as you choose a typeface and layout the text on your next project:

X-height. X-height refers to the size of a lowercase x in a given typeface. The larger the x-height, the denser the type will appear on the page, and the less readable it will tend to be.

Tracking. Tracking refers to character spacing. Any variation from normal tracking (narrowed or expanded text) can have an adverse effect on readability.

Serif vs. sans serif. Research shows that serif fonts are more readable than sans serif fonts for large areas of body text. This may be due to the serifs’ ability to lead the eye from one character to the next. On the other hand, typefaces with serifs that are too pronounced can have the opposite effect. Also, sans serif fonts tend to be more readable than their serif counterparts in smaller point sizes, such as those used for footnotes or fine print.

Line length. Shorter lines of text tend to be more readable than longer lines. However, lines that are too short may also prove difficult to read. Experts suggest setting line length at approximately 39 characters, or two times your point size, converted into picas (e.g. 2 x 10pt =20 picas or 3 1/3 inches). Experiment with both of these options to see which works better for you.
line length

Leading. The leading, or space between each line of text, can also affect readability. In general, leading that is 2-3 points larger than the typeface enhances readability. Leading that is too much larger or smaller than that, however, can make the type more difficult to read.

Widows and orphans. Widows occur when the final line of a paragraph contains just a single word. Orphans are paragraphs that carry over just a single line from one column to the next. Both are visually distracting, unattractive, and reduce the readability of a page.
widows and orphans

Point size. Body text is generally set at 9-12 points in size. This can vary, however, depending on the typeface and purpose involved, so make adjustments accordingly.
point size

Signatures Could Save You Money

Of course, we aren’t talking about your autograph, but a printing concept. As you may know, we don’t always print documents in the one-page-per-sheet way that your office laser jet does. signaturesInstead, we may print several pages of material on a single, larger sheet (that’s called a press sheet) and then fold it and cut it to get the final finished page sizes.

What that means is that one large piece of paper coming off the press (before it’s folded and trimmed) could hold four, eight or more pages of material. That large piece of paper containing multiple finished pieces is called a “signature,” and the number of finished pages in one signature is called the “signature unit.”

The key to properly planning your multi-page documents is to think about the signature unit. If you have a project that is nine pages long and the signature unit is eight signatures (meaning the signature contains eight finished pages), you would use two signatures: one signature for the first eight pages, and a second signature for that last (ninth) page. But if you were to do a little bit of editing to reduce your document page length to eight pages, you would only use one signature.

By being aware of the signature unit (the number of finished pages that can fit on a press sheet) required for your project, you can remove or add content so that your final product fits the signature, which reduces waste and saves you money.

Using Type as a Mask

Adobe Illustrator has a wonderful assortment of tools for adding fill colors and patterns to paths and objects. However, those fill options aren’t as plentiful when it comes to adding fills to type. Workarounds for these limitations are available. One method allows you to use type as a mask to apply a gradient to your text. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a word or phrase of text.have a great day
  2. Use the rectangle tool to create a rectangle about the size of your text. Apply a gradient fill to this rectangle
  3. Drag your type on top of the filled rectangle, making sure that the text is on top. (Object > Arrange > Bring to Front)have a great day
  4. Select both pieces, the type and the rectangle.
  5. Choose Object > Clipping Mask > Make.
  6. Click anywhere outside your type to see the effect.have a great day!

You could use this technique to create unique headlines for a newsletter, or in your company’s logo.

Work in RGB, Preview in CMYK

While Photoshop files intended for use in full-color print jobs will ultimately need to be converted to CMYK color mode, working in RGB color mode means more filters for you to use, and a smaller file size, which allows Photoshop to operate more efficiently.

photoshopKnowing these benefits, wouldn’t it be nice to work in RGB mode, but see the effects of your work in CMYK mode?

Here’s how you can do just that in real-time. While your image is open onscreen, go under the Window menu to Arrange, and choose New Window. This will open another view of your existing document. Press Command-Y (for a PC: Control-Y) to show a CMYK preview of your image, then return to your original document and edit as normal. The changes you make in the RGB window will be updated in the CMYK window.

Your finished file will still need to be converted to CMYK mode for use in full-color print production. If you need assistance with this final step, please contact us – we’ll be happy to help.

Adobe InDesign’s Paragraph Composer

First, a little history… Back before computers, when type was set by hand, great care was taken to make a page of type appear “beautiful.” The typesetter would have the luxury of analyzing each line of type to make sure it didn’t create unwanted text disturbances like rivers, widows, orphans, or hyphenation problems. If an aesthetic problem was identified, it, along with any other lines of type affected by the change, could be quickly remedied.

paragraph composer

Now, fast-forward to the computer age. Even though computers have made the job of setting type much more efficient, the software has always lacked the ability to analyze multiple lines of text in order to achieve the best aesthetic typographic result.

Enter Adobe’s InDesign, and the introduction of the Adobe’s Paragraph Composer, which has the capacity to reduce the amount of time spent on composition, and increase the consistency of hyphenation and overall letter and word spacing.

Adobe’s Paragraph Composer can consider multiple lines of text, eliminating widows, orphans and text rivers, and improving the overall quality of the body of text as you type, allowing you to approach page layout from an artistic point of view.

adobe paragraph composerPreferences for Adobe InDesign’s composition engine are defined by selecting the Adobe Paragraph Composer or Adobe Single-line Composer from the InDesign Paragraph palette menu.

Choosing whether to use the Paragraph or Single-line Composer depends on what type of work you are doing. If you are working with a small amount of text, such as a headline or caption, the Single-line Composer will allow more user control. The Paragraph Composer is best suited for larger bodies of text because it was designed to consider multiple lines of text at one time, and will provide the highest-quality aesthetic results with very little hassle.

Adobe Acrobat’s Dictionary on Demand

Did you know that Adobe Acrobat (since version 6.0) provides a convenient dictionary at your disposal?

If you are connected to the Internet while working in Acrobat, you can easily look up the meaning of any word in a text object. Here’s how:

Simply select the word you want to look up with the text tool and right-click (Windows) or control-click (Mac), then choose Look Up “selected word.” Acrobat will then launch your web browser and the meaning of the word you selected will be displayed.

adobe acrobat dictionary

Naming Layers in PhotoShop 7.0

Why You Should Name Your Layers
If you’ve ever created a multi-layered document in PhotoShop, you know it can become very difficult, time consuming, and frustrating to keep track of what is on which layer. That is a great reason to name your layers as you go. The following techniques will help you become a more efficient PhotoShop pro:

Naming Layersphotoshop 7.0
As You Go

To name a new layer as you go, hold the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (PC) before you click on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.

Renaming Layers
If you want to rename your layers after you create them, double-click directly on the layer’s name in the Layers palette and it will highlight the text so you can type a new name. (If you double-click anywhere else besides the name, it will bring up the Blending Options in the Layer Style dialog.)

Save Time in 7.0
This way of naming layers directly in the palette is new in PhotoShop 7.0. In version 6, you had to hold the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (PC) when you double-clicked and it would bring up the Layer Properties dialog where you could rename the layer. This minor change is a big timesaver.

Fixing a Problem Photo…

…by blurring the background, yet keeping the grain.You can remove distracting detail from an image or focus attention on the subject by isolating the subject and keeping it in focus as you blur other parts of the picture. The Photoshop technique presented in this tip imitates the effect you get with a shortened depth of field, traditionally achieved by opening up the camera’s iris (setting the f-stop low). The blurring can be limited to the background, or, as shown here, the sharp subject can be sandwiched between blurred background and blurred foreground. In either case, you’ll need to make the blurred areas match the sharp ones by restoring the film grain or digital noise (the equivalent of film grain in an image captured with a digital camera) that was lost in the process of blurring. photo
Defining the Foreground
If you want to keep a foreground subject in focus while blurring only the background, it’s a good idea to make sure the foreground subject bleeds off the bottom of the picture, even if it means cropping the image. Otherwise, if the subject is standing on the ground, it can be very tricky to make the transition from the in-focus ground at the feet of the subject to the out-of-focus background.