Start Here With Raff Printing Customer Service FAQ’s.

We know you may not be an expert in everything print and mailing, but the time-tested staff at Raff are experts—with over a half-century of experience under our belt. Reach out to our experienced customer-focused team, and they’ll help you make the most of your print and mailing needs.

Do I need to understand commercial printing to work with Raff?

Absolutely not. We welcome the opportunity to work with print production novices, experts, and everyone in between. Printing is part art and part science — with more to the process than most people ever think about.  

We pride ourselves on meeting every customer “where they are” in other words.

What kinds of questions will a Raff Sales Representative have about my project?

Generally speaking, Raff Printing service specialists will begin with the end in mind. What is the end result product you need? When do you need it? How many do you want? Where does it need to go? How do you want it to get there?

Admittedly, this is an oversimplification of our process — because each of your initial answers leads to a new set of questions about product specifics, file types, review processes, finishing, shipping, mailing, and more. The most important thing you need to know is that, as a full-service commercial print shop and equally full-service direct mail and distribution center, Raff simply needs to get to know your project specifically to deliver exactly what you are looking for.  

Exactly when you need it.

How long do printing projects take to complete?

Almost exclusively, projects at Raff take as long as you need them to — meaning, in most instances, if you have a reasonable deadline for what you are asking for, then we will absolutely meet or beat that deadline. From a production standpoint, it’s often less an issue of the size of an order than it is the complexity of the order.

A custom die cut also featuring spot colors and unique coatings will physically require more steps (and time) to develop than, say, a standard-size postcard run on a digital rather than offset press.   

Each project is its own animal, so to speak — but we can accommodate comfortably-timed projects in advance as well as accelerated (rushed) timelines with equal dexterity.

What’s the most important thing to know about working with Raff Printing?

Just ask. For an estimate or quote. About a type of project, you may not be familiar with. Ask about what we do and how we do it—and we welcome the opportunity to provide the guidance and information necessary to deliver your smallest or largest project exactly as you imagined.

We take the “Service” aspect of Customer Service seriously, which is perhaps why nearly ninety percent of our extensive business is made up of repeat, longer-term customers. There are no silly questions here!

What are the best file types for my print submissions?

Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Indesign, and High-Quality Print prepared Adobe PDFs are recommended so long as all fronts are embedded. Consult with your sales representative in advance prior to packaging, zipping, and transmitting print files.

We can work with many file types, but it is helpful to know in advance what software and type of file you are planning to submit.

What resolution and color mode should I use to prepare my print files?

All color files should be CMYK (not RGB), as RGB conversion does not always yield the intended colors.

All images should be 300 dpi. Please edit and resize imagery in your choice photo manipulation software PRIOR to importing images into your final design file.

Are margins and bleeds necessary?

Margins and bleeds are design choices, not requirements. However, if you use them, be certain they are consistent and indicated.

As a general rule of thumb, all bleeds (colors and images extending beyond the actual page's planned physical border) should be set to a uniform width of 1/8th inch beyond the page border.

Should I submit my artwork as single pages or spreads?

Yes, however, you should not confuse one with the other. A spread extends across two separate pages (or multiple separate pages) and should be designed as such within your design software. Single pages are exactly what you think they are—single pages or two-sided pages--but also require your design software setup properly (crops, margins, bleeds, 300 dpi images, etc.)

NOTE: Be wary of multiple spreads within a booklet—there is a difference between a print layout and a printer spread layout based on how many pages your book will be. We can explain this better over a quick call rather than write it down—it’s printer-thinking that formats pages based on their location in a book or booklet.

Does Raff provide standardized print templates to their customers?

Absolutely—upon request. Our customers often look for a “standard” type of print product—a flyer, a one-page trifold brochure, a roll fold, a pocket folder, an X number of pages booklet, etc.

We are more than willing to share die lines and examples from past projects to assist you in setting up your own. Just ask your sales representative or prepress contact in advance.

Can Raff help me make changes to my art files?

To a certain extent?  Absolutely. We will let you know if your image, content and/or design file passes our pre-press quality control — and if not, we will let you know what needs to be altered, edited or changed in order to give you the best print output possible. Sometimes those changes are relatively simple—and we generally can make those for you upon request with nominal or no charge.

When changes are more significant (you need a higher resolution image, you need to make substantive text or layout changes, or you are missing a critical element like a bleed, etc.)…it is often easier and more cost-effective to make those changes yourself prior to submitting a final revised file.

Can I view my proofs in person?

Proofs are initially provided via email or “cloud” share as a print-ready .pdf file and must be approved by you prior to Raff moving forward with your project. However, you are welcome to be present during your press run in order to press-check printed finals in person. We also offer hard-copy proofs on request.

What do I need to know about my project to prepare proper files for pre-press?

The good news is, the more you know at the beginning, the better off you’ll be. But if there’s an element or requirement you do not understand or are not comfortable with, Raff will work with you to help guide your file creation and preparation. Contact your sales rep or in-house project manager.

Here’s a basic list:

  • Type of project
  • Number of pages, if applicable.
  • Quantity.
  • Type of paper.
  • Type of coating.
  • Are bleeds required?
  • Do you have imagery and logos available at 300 dpi.
  • What design software will you use to prepare your file?
  • Will you submit a print-ready .pdf instead?
  • Do you have elements of personalization/customization like images or data that uses variable data?
  • What is your anticipated “turnaround” time? (when do you need your product—we work backward from that date when developing a schedule.)

What is important to know about choosing coatings and finishes for my print project?

Printed pieces can be coated and/or finished to make a piece more durable and attractive or offer a higher-quality look or feel based on the many options available. Understanding how your print piece will be delivered, viewed, presented, and handled by the end customer helps to guide your choices.

Coatings and finishes can make an attractive brand statement and protect your print investment. The difference between the two is that “coatings” are applied as the paper is being manufactured, and finishes are applied after your piece has been printed on a particular stock.  You will often hear the terms coating and finish used interchangeably.

What types of coatings and finishes are available for my project?

  • Gloss, Matte & Satin Paper Coating:
    Similar to what you might understand from different types of paints, these coatings vary the degree of sheen or shine of your product and can help your images pop off the page. Gloss coatings offer a highly reflective shine and are common for catalogs, magazines, and children’s books.  Matte coatings diffuse or mute the look of your piece, offering a higher image contrast while being smoother than uncoated stock (paper)—think lookbooks, graphic novels and journals. Satin coatings are a happy medium between Gloss and Matte, and combine the benefits of both.
  • Aqueous Coating:
    Standard protective clear coating which adds a slight shine to the final product while making it more durable/protected. Aqueous coating is available in gloss, matte, satin, and soft touch (see below).
  • UV Coating: A heavier-duty clear coating designed to protect your piece and prevent fading over time.
  • Soft Touch:
    One of our premium clear coats that results in a soft, velvety feel for the page that is highly tactile.
  • Spot Coating:
    Your print piece can feature specific areas that have specific coatings or colors applied for visual emphasis, an effect that offers a satisfying feel that differs from the surrounding areas on the page(s).
  • Varnish:
    Similar to what you might see in clear coats for wood products, varnishes are protective liquid finishes that seal in the printed ink on the surface. They are distinguished by type (varnish, lamination, etc.) and style (gloss, matte, satin, et.). and are used to protect paper from scratching, fingerprints, dirt and scuffing by increasing the resistance of the paper. 

    You can varnish entire pages or “spot” areas for an appealing contrast.

How much do coatings and finishes cost?

Aqueous coating has almost become a standard add-on for us, and is often included in the price of your job. As quality, enhanced feel, complexity and durability of the finished product increases, so too does the per-unit cost depending on the type of coating or finish you’ve chosen. 

I’m having a tough time distinguishing between my options—do you offer samples?

Once we understand what you are looking for in your final printed piece, Raff can certainly provide samples of the types of coatings and finishes we offer that might make sense for you.

What does die cutting mean in printing?

Die cutting is the process of making a thin metal shape that will act like a cookie cutter for your paper designs. The metal is embedded into a block of wood and then used on a press to cut paper to a desired shape as part of a finished printed product. From very simple cutouts (such as a stamped hole in a door hanger) to more complex dimensional print products that utilize cut-out outlines and interconnecting shapes (such as a city skyline) to add style and emphasis to a piece.

Is Raff capable of creating Dies for custom projects?

Absolutely. Our in-house die-maker has been making custom dies since age 5. (True story!).

Does Raff provide templates for standard Die Cutting Products?

If you have a project in mind that you’ve seen before (a door hangar, a cutout shape in a piece of direct mail, etc.), chances are we’ve done something similar in the past, and can provide you with a template file that you can use as is or easily customize. See the die preparation question below for more information.

Can I discuss my ideas for my custom cut/folded print project before asking for a quote?

Not only is the answer to this question a “yes”—it is an absolute must. You should have a general idea of what your concept “is” prior to speaking with Raff. Do you have a dimensional piece that interlocks in an interesting way? An area that uses negative space (cutouts) to reveal information from the “inside” of your print piece? Or do you have an idea that requires a pull tab or “reveal” feature that needs to be custom-built?  

Talking it through with Raff in advance sets the stage and the expectation for the project.

Can I create/design my own die digitally or does Raff create the file?

Actually, the answer to the question is yes to both—we can proceed either way. 

If you wish to create the die yourself (after consultation with Raff), it is as simple as adding another layer of artwork. You could add the layer to your existing design in a professional program like Adobe Indesign. Clearly mark the layer as “die-line” and then add an outline of the form you want to create.

Make the line color that will stand out on a blank sheet. And remember your design basics when preparing a die layer. Good designers leave a little bit of space between the design and the edges of the paper or trim lines, right? You also need to keep some space between your design and the die lines to avoid any text or design elements being eliminated by the die.

If you wish to have us make the file for you — we’ll take the same steps as above — the only difference being we will work with your approved original design to simply “add” the layer that contains the planned die cutout.  

A final pdf proof clearly indicating the die and special instructions associated with the die is provided by Raff prior to printing.

What does binding mean?

Simply put, binding is the process of holding multi-page projects together along a single side or “spine.” Depending on the intended use of your project, the type of cover you’d like to feature and the number of pages in your booklet or book.

Raff offers a variety of binding options in-house.  We can also sort, package, and ship your finished book materials as you see fit—to one, several, or dozens upon dozens of locations.

What print binding options does Raff offer?

Raff offers multiple types of bindery services in-house, generally recommended to fit the size, purpose, and budget your project demands:

  • Saddle Stitch Binding:
    Saddle stitching uses two large staples (or stitches) to bind a thinner multi-page project together along a folded spine. The most common method of bookbinding, saddle stitching, is available on finished products up to a quarter inch (appx. 64 pages including cover).
  • Square Binding:
    This type of binding is actually a saddle-stitched binding (see above) that is scored and folded. The end result looks like a perfect bind (see below) but is actually saddle stitched.
  • Coil Binding (plastic or double wire):
    Coil Binding or spiral binding is a popular binding method that allows your bound book to open flat and be rotated 360 degrees for note-taking. This binding method is durable and cost-effective for heavily used documents.   Coils are available in multiple colors as well.

    If you want to add a degree of elegance to a spiral bind, consider twin loop or “wire-o” binding, which uses looped metal wires in place of the plastic coil-binding element.
  • Perfect Binding:
    If you’ve held a soft-cover or paperback book, it is likely a perfect binding. Perfect-bound books have an edge that is squared off and glued together before being fitted with a soft cover that can be made with various stocks, colors, and coatings. The square edge of the binding allows for the title or other information to be displayed on the spine

    Perfect-bound books can be up to an inch thick and accommodate hundreds of pages.
  • Case Binding:
    Also known as “hardback” binding, case binding is a perfect bound book that is glued into a hardcover.  This is the only type of binding we do not provide in-house—however, Raff Printing partners with an incredibly experienced case binding vendor should you need a hardback.

How do I choose between the binding options available to me?

Budget, size of pages, number of pages, and anticipated end use of your final multipage printed piece are all unique considerations to be made when choosing your binding option. Consider the options above and then be sure to discuss the benefits of each with your Raff Printing representative.

Can Raff print hardback books? (Case binding)

The only major type of binding we do not provide in-house (but can provide cost-effectively through an excellent partner vendor) is Case Binding—also known as Hardback binding. Similar to perfect binding, pages in a cast binding have a single ground-down edge that is first glued together and then glued a second time inside a hard cover material along a custom-sized spine.

What does variable date printing (VDP) mean?

Variable data printing is a printing technology that allows for incredibly distinct personalization of individual print pieces across an entire print run. VDP utilizes high-quality digital printing presses combined with template-driven products that use “variable data “ (information such as text, colors, images, or logos) that can be changed dynamically from printed piece to printed piece by inserting unique “data” for each piece. 

VDP relies on correctly planned, stored, and formatted data in a database (an Excel file, for example).

What types or products can Raff produce with variable data?

Specific promotional material, postcards, letters, mailers and more—basically any print product designed to be viewed and interacted with by a unique recipient can utilize variable data to better target and personalize that product.

How should I prepare my data files for printing?

Proper file preparation, coupled with print designs optimized to best present that data, are critical to efficient VDP.  If you are familiar with “form fields” in a responder or “fields” within a database, you already know the basics of file preparation for a variable data-driven project.    What you need to understand specifically is how your data and “fields” will transfer or “map” to the final printed product.

Whether it’s a name, address, unique headline or offer, a color, an image, a logo—each item that potentially changes from piece to piece must be included in the data you provide. In fact, it should be the only data you provide. By taking ownership and understanding of the data fields necessary to complete your project, you can save both time and money.

Raff will work closely with you (and your data) to determine whether or not it has been formatted properly for seamless integration into VDP.  While it is generally more cost-effective for you to prepare your data—we certainly can help!

What types of databases does Raff support?

Ideally, Raff prefers properly formatted Excel files --.xls .xlsx .csv.

Can Raff help me prepare my data files for print?

Yes. In fact—in a sense, we have to help you prepare your data to a certain degree because we must review your information to ensure it is properly formatted for the VDP process.

That means checking for like-sized images; unique, properly formatted form fields for names and addresses; specific associated information that might change piece to piece; even color choices and unique offers.  

We can provide guidance in advance to help you make the changes necessary to your data for seamless integration into your project.

What are common VDP data preparation errors?

The most common errors relate to uniformity and consistency of data from record to record, and the correct separation (or aggregation) of data that make it difficult to “map” to corresponding fields on the final printed piece.

Not separating first and last names into separate fields, combining multiple lines of address information into a single field, submitting different sizes or resolution for images (such as personal images on ID cards), and including extraneous information in data files not required by the project…. are by far the types of errors we encounter most.

We recommend you clean and prepare the data you own (you are the experts in that data, after all). However, we’re more than willing to help, so long as it is understood that data cleansing on our part may add time or additional cost to your project, depending upon the complexity of the “fix” we provide for you.

What shipping services does Raff offer?

Drop shipping, batch shipping, all classes of United States Postal Service (USPS), FedEx, UPS.

Can Raff provide batch shipping for multiple locations?

Absolutely. It’s one of the advantages of working with a full-service printer that offers equally robust full-service direct mail and distribution. We can seamlessly batch and ship packages from our Pittsburgh location if you need specific packages for multiple locations.

How fast can Raff get my order to me once production is complete?

This is a question that begins with the end result in mind—in other words, the answer depends upon when you need to have the product(s) in the hands of your customer or end user. Knowing that date drives the entire production process—not just the shipping or distribution of that product.   

That being said, we have access to (and integrate with) the same type of shipping you are familiar with—including next-day, two and three-day, ground, air, and more across all the services mentioned above within the United States and North America.

What’s more, we can deliver in person the same day within a reasonable local radius of approximately 150 miles depending upon the order size.

Can Raff provide mailing services for my print project?

Absolutely. We offer full-service mailing and fulfillment, indicia/permit and postage across all USPS classes, drop shipping, batch shipping, and complete FedEx and UPS services. Postage as a cost is a pass-through service at Raff—while billed as a separate line item above and beyond your print project, we do not mark up postage costs.

What types of mailing are offered?

See the previous question and answer. And remember that Raff has mailing capabilities comparable to any company specifically designed for direct mail operations.

Can my organization’s postage account be used for shipping costs?

Yes. Be sure to verify your permit (indicia) information is current and that you have allocated funds in your account to sufficiently cover the cost of your mailing project.

Can Raff combine my print materials prior to mailing?

While the word “fulfillment” is often used interchangeably with types of mailing or distribution, Raff Printing defines fulfillment as any project that requires it to be touched by human hands in order to be completed.

If your multi-page project, special kit or dimensional mailer requires hand stuffing, unique folding or additional preparation that cannot be done automatically by machine, Raff can scale up to large-run hand-executed fulfillment rapidly. And we have decades of experience doing so!

Does Raff keep standard print materials in stock?

Raff Printing stockpiles commonly used standard-sized paper and envelopes in-house, and for companies that utilize us long term, we can stockpile specific print materials we (and they) know they will need overtime to save both time and money in the long run.

What we don’t have in stock can be readily ordered at the inception of your product and generally be in-house from 1-2 days to a week. Custom materials and unique paper requests are the only exceptions, and depending on your type of specialized project could take anywhere from 2 – 6 weeks to acquire.

Can Raff store my company’s print materials until requested by authorized parties?

Yes, to a certain degree. If you know you’re going to utilize a piece over and over again (a pocket folder, a specific type of mailer, a template for information like a sales sheet or product data sheet) Raff can warehouse a specific quantity to address your future needs, often saving you money over time as print material prices are volatile—even from week to week.

Contact Raff Printing To Discuss All Your Printing & Distribution Needs.

Make Raff Printing in Pittsburgh your one-stop, single-source partner for whatever you need to print, bind, fulfill, ship or mail! Brokers, Agencies, Businesses and more--contact us today for fast, high-quality professional printing and service that?s second to none!

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