FAQs

You've got printing questions. We have answers.


Wondering how to turn your ground-breaking vision into a high-impact visual? Need a short run print project for your corporate event next week? Whatever the job, AlphaGraphics marketing and print professionals have you covered.

Check out the answers to some of our most frequently received questions below. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Contact us right now and a friendly team member will be happy to assist you.

Order Questions

  • How do I get an estimate?
    You can fill out an online estimate request form, or call and talk with one of our team members.
  • How long will it take for my order to be completed?
    If you’re working within a time constraint, let us know when you call for a quote. We can look at our print production schedule to ensure that you will meet your deadline.

File Details

  • What file format is preferred for digital documents?
    We prefer PDFs (Portable Document Format) with a minimum 1/8” bleed and crop marks. Most office and design programs allow you to save or export your files into a PDF format. Occasionally, the original file may be needed if artwork edits are required.
  • What resolution do my photos and graphics need to be set to?
    Resolution should be set to 300 dpi. Pictures and graphics pulled from the internet are often low resolution, typically 72 dpi or 96 dpi. Avoid these graphics, as they will appear pixelated and blocky when printed. Also, save all photos in CMYK mode, not RGB when possible. Images saved in RGB mode may not print properly. If you are unable to save your image in CYMK mode, please let us know.
  • How do I know if my fonts will look correct?
    The best way to ensure your artwork fonts will print correctly is to send them as outlined objects in your original file. If your program doesn’t allow this, packaging or sending us the fonts will work as well. If you have a question about how to send your fonts properly, please call us and we’ll be glad to help.
  • Common File Formats
    Like most commercial printers, AlphaGraphics requires a PDF document for printing. Fortunately, converting almost any type of
    file or document to a PDF is relatively easy. 

    Below is a list of common file types, what they mean and how they’re used.

    PDF (Portable Document Format)
    A file format developed by Adobe Systems that can be universally downloaded and viewed by any computer that has the Adobe Acrobat plug-in.

    JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
    A raster file best used for web-based designs because their compressed sizes load quickly. JPG images lose some quality when printed but are great to use for emails or anything web-based. 

    EPS (Encapsulated PostScript File)
    A vector format for your graphic. It can be resized without losing image quality. Due to its high quality, it is commonly used in print elements such as business cards or brochures. 

    TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)
    Works in almost any program. It produces a higher quality image than a JPG or PNG, but is not a vector format like EPS. It is widely used by photographers.

    PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
    A web-based file that does not lose quality when compressed. PNG files were created to improve on the quality of GIF files and are best used for the web.

    AI (Illustrator), INDD (InDesign), & PSD (Photoshop)
    Files often referred to as “working files” or “native files” and are usually layered files that are used to create printable PDF files.

    PUB (Publisher)
    Files are created using Microsoft’s publishing software. Most commercial printers cannot print these documents so they must be converted to PDF’s prior to printing.

    PPT/PPTX (Powerpoint)
    Files are created using Microsoft’s presentation software. PowerPoint slides are usually smaller than a standard sheet of paper. The way that PowerPoint handles graphics, layers and fonts can sometimes be tricky, so it’s important to convert PPT or PPTX files to a PDF format and review carefully prior to printing.

General Questions

  • What types of products and services do you provide?
    AlphaGraphics is a full service marketing communications provider, and offers a wide range of print, marketing, design, and sign services.
  • What types of marketing techniques can you add to my printed materials?
    Our multi-channel marketing solutions include:

    • QR Codes
    • PURLs
    • SMS and MMS marketing
    • Video production and editing
    • Variable mapping
    • Social media marketing
    • Mobile optimized websites, and so much more!
  • What type of Design Services do you offer?
    Whether you're a new business looking to establish your brand, or a seasoned business that needs help with print or signs, our design team can help.  We offer a full range of design services for businesses of all sizes. Contact us to schedule a free, in-person consulation to discuss your design needs.

    Preparing for a Design Consultation
    Gather up materials that inspire you and help explain your vision.  This can be something as simple as a swatch of paper or fabric with colors you like, or samples of work from other companies that resonates with you.  Think about the fonts you find appealing and the type of images you prefer. Visuals will always spur ideas and conversation. 

    During the Consultation
    Be prepared to discuss the purpose of your project.  Are you launching a new business or a new product?  Are you promoting an event?  Who is your ideal customer/client/participant?  Is this project a stand-alone or part of an on-going marketing campaign?  Our team will review the scope of the project and your timeline.  Feel free to ask all the questions you need.  The consultation should be comfortable and informational.

    After the Consultation
    After your meeting, our design team and sales team will meet to review your needs.  We'll draft a formal estimate of the cost of the project as well as the time to successful completion.  Once you're satisfied with the proposal, you may be asked to place a deposit for any design work to be done.  This ensures all parties are invested in the project and reserves a block of design time for you.

    During the Design Phase
    As your project is in development, our design team will occasionally send you proofs* of our progress for you to review.  You'll have a chance to review our work and request any changes to the project.  Your assigned Sales Representative will be included in any email correspondence and we ask that you use the "Reply All" option when responding to ensure they stay informed.  

    Approving Your Project
    Once you are happy with the final design, we ask that you respond via email to your assigned Sales Rep and our designer noting your approval.  At this time, your sales rep should be able to give you an estimated timeline for project completion.

    *Proofs are often low resolution or watermarked versions of your project and not the final print-ready version.
  • What are the most common envelope sizes?
    Download our handy Envelope Size Guide.

    #10 | No.10 | Standard Business Envelope (with or without window)
    - 4-1/8" x 9-1/2"
    #9 | No. 9 | Return Envelope - 3-7/8" x 8-7/8"
    A2 | Invitation Envelope - 4-3/8" x 5-3/4"
    A6 | Invitation Envelope - 4-3/4" x 6-1/2"
    A7 | Invitation Envelope - 5-1/4" x 7-1/4"
    A8 | Invitation Envelope - 5-1/2" x 8-1/8"
  • When should you refresh your marketing collateral?
    It’s easy to take a “set and forget” approach to your marketing materials, especially when you’ve expended time and energy to create all that collateral in the first place.  Stale content, however, may not be sending the message you want to send.  That’s why it’s important to regularly audit your marketing materials.
    Download our handy Brand Refresh Checklist to help you determine what’s working and what needs to be updated (or eliminated).
  • What is a proof?
    In printing terms, a proof is a one-off copy of your document after all modifications and printing setup processes have been completed. It is your last, and best, opportunity to make sure that your print job comes out the way you envisioned. By carefully inspecting the proof, you can help ensure an accurate, flawless delivery of your print job the first time.

    Types of Proofs

    Digital Proof
    - An on-screen version of a printable file used to proof a project for layout and content.  Digital proofs are usually emailed for review and may be compressed or watermarked.

    Press Proof - A printed copy of a printable file used to proof layout, content and for editing purposes.  Press proofs are usually not finished (trimmed to size, bound, etc,).

    Hard Proof | Finished Proof - A printed sample of the final project, often trimmed to size and completely finished. Used to proof content, layout, as well as color and paper.
  • Is white considered a color in printing?

    Not typically. Because white is the default color of paper, it is simply recognized as the absence of ink.

    There are exceptions, however, such as when printing on substrates in colors other than white. White is also used when printing on things like metal and acrylic.

    If white is is required on your project, we'll review your options with you before printing. 

  • What paper types do you offer?

    We have a large collection of “house” stocks in our production area. If you have a specific style in mind, we can check our in-house inventory to see if our selection is able to match your tastes. Or, we’ll check with our paper vendors to see what they have on hand. Keep in mind that special stocks or materials may require bulk purchasing from suppliers.

  • What is the Pantone Matching System?

    The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a color reproduction standard in which colors all across the spectrum are each identified by a unique, independent number. The use of PMS allows us to precisely match colors and maintain color consistency throughout the printing process.

  • Why do the printed colors look different than the colors on my screen?

    In short, printers and monitors produce color in different ways. Monitors use the RGB (red, green, blue) color model, which usually supports a wider spectrum of colors. Printers use the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color model, which can reproduce most—but not all—of the colors in the RGB color model.

 Templates to Download

  • Business Card Template - 3.5" x 2"
    A standard business card measures 3.5" long by 2" tall.  A business card should have at least .0625 bleed on each side.
    Files submitted for printing should be 1-up.

    Click to download a business card template.
  • #10 Envelope Template - 9.5" x 4.125"
    The standard #10 envelope (also called No.10 or business class envelope) measures 9.5" long by 4.125" tall.  This envelope can have a window on the left side, the right side or have no window at all.

    Click to download a #10 envelope template.
  • Letterhead Template - 8.5" x 11"
    Standard letterhead measures 8.5" wide by 11" tall.  If no images or color goes to the edge of the letterhead, no bleed is required.  If images or color goes to the edge, bleed of at least .125" on each side should be added.

    Click to download a letterhead template.
  • Trifold Brochure Template - 11" x 8.5"
    A standard trifold measures 11" wide by 8.5" tall.  Bleed of at least .125" on each side should be added.

    Click to download a trifold template.
  • Standard 9"x12" PF1 Pocket Folder with 3.75" pockets
    Our standard 9"x12" Pocket Folder has a 3.75" pocket on each side.  Folder prints on the outside (and pockets). Business card slits may be added to either pocket.  This folder is the perfect size for any 8.5" x 11" documents.

    Download a 9x12 Pocket Folder Template
  • Postcard Template - 6" x 4"
    The USPS offers discounted postage pricing for postcards. Postcards must meet certain size requirements to qualify for this special pricing.  If your mailpiece does not meet the dimensions above, then the Postal Service considers it a letter and letter-size postage is charged. The typical postcard size if 6" long by 4" high.

    Click to download a 6" x 4" postcard template.
  • Postcard Template - 9" x 6"
    The USPS considers a 9" x 6" postcard to be a "flat" or "letter" and discounted postcard postage will not apply.
    Postcards must meet certain size requirements for postcards (see our downloadable template for more information). If your postcard mailing is not designed properly, the USPS may reject it so please follow instructions carefully.

    Click to download a 9" x 6" postcard template.
  • Rack Card Template - 4" x 9"
    While rack cards can come in any size, most are 4" wide by 9" tall.  This will allow them to fit in the most common counter top or wall-mounted rack card holders.  Rack cards can be single-sided or double-sided.

    Download a 4x9 Rack Card Template
  • Retractable Banner Template - Multiple Sizes
    Retractable banners come in various sizes.  Here are templates for the most common sizes.

    Download a templacte for a 33.5" x 78.5" banner.

    Download a template for a 35.5" x 89.75" banner.

Common Printing Terms

  • Bind

    To fasten sheets with wire, thread, glue, or by any other means.

  • Binding
    A name given for any of many procedures used to put pages together. Binding can be as simple as a staple in the upper left corner of a document but there are many other types.  Here a few types of binding:

    Saddle Stitch BindingSaddle stitch binding uses 2-3 staples in the spine of a document.
     Square Saddle StitchSquare saddle stitching squares off the spine of the document before it is stapled.
    Coil BindingPlastic coil binding threads a heavy plastic coil through small holes drilled into the document.
    Wire bindingWire binding using a metal coil threaded through small holes drilled into the document.
    Perfect BindingPerfect binding does not use coils or staples.  Instead, the cover of the document is glued to the inside pages.
  • Bleed
    Printers and designers use the term “bleed” to refer to the portion of a document that will be trimmed away after a document is printed.

    Any time you want a color, image or background to run to the edge of the document (without any white space showing), you need to  extend your document beyond the desired finished size by at least 1/8” on each side. This gives the production team room to print and trim your document without cutting off anything important.

    Explanation of Bleed
  • Brand
    Brand is the term used to describe the identity of a business, company or individual.  Brand is comprised of elements such a organization name, logo, color scheme, typeface, mascots and more.  The Brand is anything that prompts recognition of an organization. 
  • Cast-Coated
    Coated paper with a high- gloss reflective finish.
  • Coated Paper
    Paper with a clay or other coating applied to one, or both, sides. The coating can be dull, gloss, matte, or a number of other finishes. Coated paper generally produces sharper, brighter images and has a more reflective quality than uncoated paper.
  • Collated
    To put pages in a certain order for binding.
  • Color Correction
    Methods of improving color separations and definition.
  • Cover Paper
    A heavy printing paper primarily used to cover books or make presentation folders.
  • Crop
    To trim a picture, image, or printed sheet.
  • Crop Marks
    Printed lines showing where to trim a printed sheet.
  • DPI - PPI
    DPI refers to the number of printed dots contained within one inch of an image printed by a printer. PPI refers to the number of pixels contained within one inch of an image displayed on a computer monitor.
  • Gloss
    A shiny paper coating that reflects light.
  • Laminate
    To cover with protective film. Also used to bond or glue one surface to another.
  • Matte Finish
    Dull paper or ink finish.
  • Offset Printing
    Printing which involves a plate that makes an inked impression on a rubber-blanketed cylinder, which, in turn, transfers it to the paper.
  • Perfect Binding
    An unsewn, flat-spined book binding made with glue.
  • Pixelation
    Images are made up of a small grid over very small boxes called pixels, In low resolution files, there may be as few as 72 pixels per inch.  Pixelation occurs when a low resolution image is enlarged to the point that the individual square pixels become visible. Pixelated images appear blurry.  Images of 300 ppi (pixels per inch) are preferred for most printing project.
  • What is a proof?
    In printing terms, a proof is a one-off copy of your document after all modifications and printing setup processes have been completed. It is your last, and best, opportunity to make sure that your print job comes out the way you envisioned. By carefully inspecting the proof, you can help ensure an accurate, flawless delivery of your print job the first time.

    Types of Proofs

    Digital Proof
    - An on-screen version of a printable file used to proof a project for layout and content.  Digital proofs are usually emailed for review and may be compressed or watermarked.

    Press Proof - A printed copy of a printable file used to proof layout, content and for editing purposes.  Press proofs are usually not finished (trimmed to size, bound, etc,).

    Hard Proof | Finished Proof - A printed sample of the final project, often trimmed to size and completely finished. Used to proof content, layout, as well as color and paper.
  • Resolution
    The degree of sharpness of a computer-generated image as measured by the number of dots per linear inch in a hard-copy printout or, the number of pixels across and down on a display screen.
  • Saddle Stitching
    A type of binding that uses wire stapling at the center of a magazine or pamphlet.

Still have questions?

Call our team today to learn more about the tools we can use with your printed communications to improve your ROI.

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