Catalog Printing Methods

When it comes to printing your catalog, there are several different printing methods from which to choose. In order to decide which is the best method for your specific catalog, answer these questions:

  • Quantity: How many catalogs do you need to print?
  • Page Count: How many pages are in your catalog?
  • Print Quality: How critical is print quality for your catalog? For example, if you are selling fashion, cosmetics, or fine jewelry, print quality is probably of much greater importance to the success of your catalog than if you are selling something that people don’t buy because of its appearance, such as auto parts or tools.
  • Turnaround Time: How quickly do you need your catalog in hand?

These are the main determining factors that will help you decide on which printing method is the best and most cost-effective solution for your catalog.

Digital Printer

Digital Printing

Quantity: Up to 500 catalogs

Page Count: Up to 96 pages

Print Quality: Better

Turnaround Time: 3 to 5 business days

One of the big advantages of digital printing is a shorter turnaround time. Because digital printing doesn’t require the “make-ready” time involved in offset printing, digital printing wastes less paper.

Digital printing also offers excellent print quality. Images that might not be of sufficient quality for offset printing will look better when printed digitally because digital printing uses continuous tone instead of dots like conventional printing. It’s also a much less expensive alternative for lower quantity printing and is great for the variable data printing used to personalize and customize offers based on list criteria.


Sheet-Fed Printing

Sheet-Fed Printing

Quantity: Up to 15,000 catalogs

Page Count: Up to 160 pages

Print Quality: Best

Turnaround Time: 7 to 10 business days

Sheet-fed offset printing offers several advantages over web offset printing. First and foremost, it delivers an overall higher quality print job and uses less paper during the make-ready process of getting the press up to color. Sheet-fed printing is most cost-effective for medium-quantity runs.


Web Printing

Web Printing

Quantity: Up to 250,000 catalogs

Page Count: Up to 2500 pages

Print Quality: Good

Turnaround Time: 2 to 3 weeks

Web printing, on the other hand, is much faster than sheet-fed, but the overall quality of the printing is generally not as good. The speed, though, makes web printing cost-effective and ideal for large print runs.


Gravure Printing

Gravure (Rotogravure) Printing

Quantity: Over 250,000 catalogs

Page Count: Over 1000+ pages

Print Quality: Best

Turnaround Time: 3 to 4 weeks

Gravure printing provides a very high, consistent print quality, because the print media is engraved right onto the gravure cylinder. The main downfall to using gravure is that it’s very costly, but if you have extra-high quantity print runs and need to maintain a high-quality print throughout the run, the cost can be justified.


The criteria for different catalog printing methods outlined above is based on print jobs I’ve worked on over the course of 25+ years and will give you a general rules of thumb for what method might be the most cost-effective for your project. These are just guidelines, however, and you should always get printing quotes based on your specific catalog’s specifications to make sure you’re getting the best price, quality, and value for your particular catalog job.

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