The closer the date of sending the magazine to print the more tense it gets. Anyone who has been through sending a magazine to print at least once will know what it looks like: your phone never stops ringing, last emails from the customer with corrections, photo on page nine needs to be swapped because the person in the photo withdrew the consent to publish, editor’s running between her desk and the graphic designers’ room (any other shoes than trainers strictly forbidden!) – these are just a few symptoms of sending a paper to print. Finally – there it is! We’ve managed to get the customers acceptance! Phew! And then another email pops out and the editor’s red eyes read: “So when is the magazine coming to us?”
Why not the next day?
You might think that after we get a “Yes” from the customer, the party’s over. On the contrary, for the agency the time of intensive work continues. The editor makes sure the changes sent by the customer and the proofreaders’ corrections (each printed text goes through proofreading twice by standard) have been made and then goes checking every single page by herself. Depending on the number of pages in the magazine, this could take up to a few hours. Later, she makes sure all the essential stages have taken place, including photo retouching and magazine alignment, which means the graphic designer checks whether everything is consistent with the layout, all the texts and photos are aligned, all the elements’ dimension, whether nothing got beyond the safety margin etc.
After this mind exercising (which takes about 15 minutes) the editor goes to Tomek (our technical editor) and kindly tells him that everything is fine, so we can start the final check and printing in color. What is there to check? Whether all the images are displayed correctly, the layers are arranged in the right way, nothing gets obstructed. This means another two hours of work, when the editor is on pins and needles hoping that Tomek’s work is not disrupted suddenly by another extremely urgent job. Tomek also pays much attention to the photos, making sure they all have the right parameters, they are in the right color space, have the correct format (doesn’t matter this had been checked at the typesetting stage.) Tomek, being an experienced employee, also understands why the editor is grinning at him, asking him to check everything…
Soon the editor is begging Tomek not to make any plans for the send out night, and if he happens to have any – to cancel everything, possibly right away, right now. At this stage the editor is even capable of extortion, but as has already been mentioned, Tomek is an experienced employee… He makes a promise very quickly (no point wasting time) and solemnly that he is not going to plan anything, which settles the editor who proceeds to his desk.
Later Tomek calls and asks: “What’s that picture on page nine?” The editor is close to a heart attack, but then shakes out and remembers that the photo was replaced at the very last moment and it should have been sent to retouch. As a result, she rushed to the kitchen where Kasia, our head of production, is about to start eating her delayed lunch, whips the spoon off her hand and leads her downstairs, explaining vaguely that there is a photo which came late and it has to be retouched immediately. We also have to make provision for this kind of situations, but luckily Kasia is a kind and patient person… and a very skinny one.
Photo retouched and replaced! Tomek prints all the pages in color. They go one by one through the hands (and eyes) of: the graphic designer, the head of production and the editor. Everyone is viewing them carefully, marks their suggestions, they can also discuss some small corrections. This is also the moment when the customer may expect a phone call from us asking if we can make this or that change. It’s quite obvious the above manoeuvers take a few hours of intensive effort.
When all the people responsible eventually decide that everything is OK, the colored prints go back to Tomek. Forced to cancel his evening plans, he now has enough time to prepare the production files for printing the magazine, upload them to the printer’s FTP, and later – to make the imposition prints. What’s that?
This is about arranging the magazine’s pages – using a special software – in alignment with the arrangement of pages in the printing sheets. Thus prepared imposition sheets are used to make the printing matrices.
Imposition prints – just like the colored prints earlier – go to Kasia, the designer and the editor. Forewarned is forearmed, and technical errors are always possible. If any change is necessary, we take it to Tomek, who replaces the production file with a correct one. At this stage the printer’s may also tell us about the possible errors they have noticed. And so the next few tense hours pass…
Turn it on!
The last word belongs to Tomek, who is free the whole evening. When he accepts all the pages, it is a signal for the printers to check them themselves and start printing. Naturally, this isn’t that easy because they are also getting more and more other files all the time, which is why we always try to book the date and keep it, as any delay would be risky – especially in the more busy times of the year. Even the best printing house wouldn’t make it if they received files to print at the last moment with a December 15 deadline!
In addition to the printer’s being busy, other factors determining the printing time include: volume of the magazine, number of copies and the resulting printing technique, type of binding, inserts. As a rule of thumb, the printing process itself takes several days (usually from 3 to 7).
- Offset printing – when the circulation is several thousand, we use the letterpress technique, where the printing elements (ink carriers) are matrices. The paper used for the printing press is up to the B0 format.
- Rotogravure – intaglio printing – a technique worth using in the case of high-volume printing (a dozen thousand or more copies). It uses incised printing cylinders which, depending on the size of the machine, can be up to several meters long and a few dozens centimeters in diameter. So the printing element here are the incised concavities of the cylinder surface. The paper comes from a roll which is up to 1.5 m in diameter and has quite an impressive weight, often more than a tone! In the case of very high circulation the printing goes on non-stop for many days, and the view of the roll changing without stopping the machine takes the breath away!
- It’s also worth mentioning digital printing, which technologically is closest to xero techniques and laser printing. This method is used for low-volume printing, even one copy.
Attention! If the magazine includes any inserts or other (sometimes nonstandard) additions this also makes the printing and distribution time longer.
You might think: “OK, I ordered only a few thousand copies, it is with an insert but, come on, what is taking them so long?” Look… We can’t pack the copies right away after printing, the pages need to go through the drying process. Oftentimes the cover is printed separately, because it usually comes on a different type of paper (thicker in most cases). If it also needs refining, you simply have to wait – laminating, lacquering, gilding, die stamping, adding three-dimensional structure and the like requires precision and takes time. There are plenty ideas to make the magazine more attractive, we’re always very excited to implement them, but there’s one thing we need to get the expected result – time!
Final stage – distribution
The magazine is ready but it still needs to get to the readers, who in most cases are not located all in one place. The parcels have to be packed in accordance with the guidelines from the distribution list, addressed and dispatched all over Poland. This takes more or less two days. And the moment the delivery gets to the recipients we are already thinking about the next issue…