Low Cost short run printing options?

I am designing a magazine for school (well IN school to be more accurate, its a car magazine), and am looking to produce say 5-10 copies. Quotes from local printers (in New Zealand) are in the $1000 range, which needless to say is a lot for a poor college student. So are there other options? Are there online places that will do it for cheap (even in the US is cool)?

why not get a good HP or Epson inkjet printer for 1/3 of that $, use the best paper you can find, print double sided.

Without getting into the set-up costs that are required for offset or other commercial printing processes, these are the options in rough order of cost to purchase printer. Very high availability from most printing service bureaus.

  1. Inkjet printing as described above. Don’t need to use an expensive inkjet printer, but might need wide carriage to print tabloid size for fold and staple. Otherwise, any of the 2nd from bottom line models will do. Ink will be very expensive if the print run has lots of photos. Options are photo paper, photo-quality paper and inkjet coated paper. Don’t use plain bond - the ink bleeds. Photo paper can be had at 11x17 but more than 4X expensive than A4 sizes. Pros: best possible photo reproduction, especially with well calibrated colour management (ICC files). Cons include non-waterproof (coffee stains, sweat, rain), unavailablility of tabloid sizes in photo-quality or inkjet-coated papers.

  2. LED laser-quality colour printer. Possibly available at a service bureau such as Kinko’s or UPS Store. Half-toned PDF file will be best to ensure that colours will turn out as expected. Wide carriage printers will be much more expensive and budget may force you to a service bureau. Worst photo and print quality of the 4 options due to dot-matrix effect of laser diode print-head (don’t believe the DPI specs.) Also, ICC colour management may not make up for limited colour gamut.

  3. Colour laser printer. As with LED, half-toned PDF will ensure colours to turn out as expected. Higher resolution than LED printers because printhead no reliant on grid of laser diodes (resolution based on pulsed pattern of dots reflected onto imaging drum). Printers usually more expensive leading to a higher cost/page for service bureaus. Well managed ICC colour management can prevent mis-printed colour values. Same colour gamut as LED printers. Most printers are tabloid sized so fold/staple is a likely option.

  4. Solid ink (wax) printers. This is a proprietary technology of the Tektronix division of Xerox. Works like melted crayon. Smoothest colour of the non-inkjet printers and very, very fast. Cons: just as with crayon, heat can ruin the finished print and can be scraped off very easily, especially from transparency films.

  5. Digital banner printers. AKA wide solvent and EcoSol printer plotters, such as HP, Encad, Roland, etc. Can print on a wide variety of papers and materials. Very expensive… machines at least $15K and printing costs at least $1.00 / sq.ft. to print (not including sheet material). Many printers will print on synthetic papers like Hop-Syn and Yupo. Available at many sign shops and blueprinters. Can be used for large and unusually shaped die-cuts.

Be prepared to convert your Illustrator, Corel, InDesign, Quark or other file into a PDF for greatest tranportability. For a true “Time Magazine” look, export at 150 dpi and half-toned process colours. Consider a really thin coated paper instead of typical office bond to emulate the cheap paper used in subscription magazines. You may require separations, depending on the service and printer type.

Good luck.


Wow, thanks for the info!

What about binding beyond fold and staple, like if I print everything in A4, can they then be bound with reasonable ease? (in other words, can I buy a considerably cheaper printer)

My employer makes a product that contains proprietary printing media - since I’m not in the commercial printing industry I cannot say too much about binding techniques. However, I get the feeling that they are fairly limited if you are printing on page-sized sheets, especially for a “magazine” look.

The number of sheets being printed might still make a service bureau reasonably priced. You might also consider borrowing or renting a printer. You might be able to get away with printing a master copy and then going to a DIY centre to use the colour copier. Maybe one of the local newspaper or magazine companies will “publish” it for you or there is a book self-publishing company over there.


try this… Australian website that prints personal photo books. http://www.momento.com.au/

it may or may not work for you.

at some print shops you can print digitally no need to do offset printing. digital prints save you money when you do a couple hundred or 20, but with a run in the thousands it doesnt pay to do digital and it is done with offset printing.

yes pdf is the best format-but also if doing indesign make sure that you dont have any missing links. and when doing work make sure that they have the typeface that you are using. I know that typefaces can be embedded but to be safe I make another file of my work and outline all the type. then it becomes artwork and wont be altered if they dont have the typeface, but then again they wont be able to make changed to it, (spelling) so on a second layer have the file without outlines and include all typefaces used in the cd that you give them. How many pages is the book? what is the dimensions… how is it going to be bound, spiral,coil, perfect bound, stapled etc… ? this might be better to do the job just at a local place ie kinkos ( i kno kinos sukks, but…)

good luck

inkjet isnt that good of a printer for type. if you have alot of type geta laser.

Hmm. Your budget and run are part of your specs. If it’s going to cost you too much to print this, maybe there are ways to change your design and/or structure to acommodate your needs. For instance, maybe some pages can be black/white. Or, it may make sense to print multiple pages on larger sheets of paper and then trim them down.

I’d go Canon inkjet with separate tanks, the lowest model you can get.
The epson matte double sided paper.
This saves on paper costs.
You don’t likely need archival. In fact if you really do, your out is to include a CD of jpgs and let the owner print out in archival if they really want to and pay through the nose for archival ink and archival paper.

If you want to add value, sell it as a limited edition and number and sign each copy. If you don’t use archival ink, one way around it is to give an option that a buyer may get archival at cost plus a nominal minimum fee plus shipping.

This keeps everything down in cost. Just pick up some ink and a printer on ebay.

Sell it more like a photographer would sell a limited edition set of prints. A limited edition of 25 or 50 that are signed.