11. Production

There are three areas that need careful management in the production of a printed annual report: Paper, pre-press, printing and delivery. The size of the report, both physical dimensions and weight, has huge implications for the cost of delivery.

Best practice

Key points:
  1. Confirm any expectations, if any, you have about paper choice.
  2. Ask for a sample of the stock (called a ‘dummy’) before proceeding to print. This can be weighed to ensure it is within Australia Post regulations and your postal budget (see Delivery).
  3. Ask to see samples of similar projects printed on the designer’s preferred stock.
  4. Say early if you would like to be involved at the press approval so a suitable time can be scheduled.
  5. Note that printers are often working two shifts so a press approval could be scheduled anytime between 6am and 11pm - early notification may mean a more accessible time.

Ensure that you have discussed your expectations with your designer so you both understand the type of result you want to achieve.

Production / delivery / mailing lists

A good mailhouse can receive your mailing lists by email or CD in a wide variety of file formats, and can clean and enhance your data, add barcodes prior to laser printing letters or addressing your envelopes. This increases your postage discounts, helps reduce wastage and improves your response rates.

They can clean your data against most suppression files including the most popular:
-  Postal Address File (PAF) and Quick Address
-  Australia Post Change Of Address file
-  The ADMA ‘do not mail’ file
-  Sensis white pages

The carbon myth

There are environmental considerations to be assessed throughout the production process of an Annual Report.

Paper and the carbon myth
Think you’re being environmentally responsible reading a report on the net? Well think again.

The perception that electronic media leaves less of an environmental footprint than printed material is one of those myths that needs to be debunked once and for all. It’s just not true!

Putting ink on paper is one of the most environmentally responsible ways you can get your message across. However, what is most concerning is that we see many organisations cringing at the thought of using paper as a communication medium.

Some organisations are starting to actively discourage the use of print on paper because apparently it is negatively impacting on the environment. Whether the concern is real or just cost cutting, it is being said often and people are starting to believe it.

So being able to provide a factual counter to these claims is critical.

Trees lock up carbon

A significant portion of the earth’s carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere and organic matter such as trees and bushes. Carbon in the atmosphere traps sunlight and in doing so contributes to global warming. Paper production can have a valuable impact on reducing this influence.

A report by Jorge Sarmiento and Steven Wolfsy for the US Carbon and Climate Working Group highlights how the huge reforestation programs taking place in many parts of the world are helping to create a positive shift in the amount of carbon trapped within the environment, rather than the atmosphere.

The reason why this is beneficial is that a tree, which is almost entirely carbon with a small measure of water, grows for about 100 years. Its weight represents the amount of carbon taken out of the atmosphere, so after 100 years very little carbon is absorbed into the atmosphere.


There are environmental considerations to be assessed throughout the production process of an Annual Report.

Worldwide, voluntary controls and government regulations now influence the responsible manufacture of papers, so that they conform with strict environmental and quality standards. These controls now operate through the entire paper making process, from well managed forests that are certified and audited, through to paper mills that have adopted environmentally sustainable management practices and operating procedures.

Most of the Australian Paper companies can supply fact sheets on the sustainability of paper.

Download a description of forestry and paper accreditation schemes commonly used in Australia fact sheet.

One way to ensure that all steps in the print process of your Annual Report are well managed is to look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Chain of Custody certification. The FSC ensures that each step of the process, from plantation, pulp, mill, paper-maker, paper merchant and printer is certified at each stage to meet stringent environmental standards.

More information about the FSC system can be found on the FSC website.

Ink is a vital part of the traditional offset printing process and should be carefully considered as an environmental factor when choosing a printer. Soy ink was developed in the 1970’s because traditional oil based inks became so expensive. Since then vegetable based inks have been produced because of their lower environmental impact.

Vegetable-based ink includes soy but it includes other organic matter. Vegetable-based inks are recognized as environmentally better because they are not restricted to one crop. The production process takes the best qualities of different plant matter to make vegetable-based inks.

Digital printers use dry toner and like offset printing, digital printing uses cyan, magenta, yellow and black to print coloured images. Unlike offset printing, digital printing does not involve printing plates, but instead uses digitally generated images. This means quicker turnarounds, infinite personalisation possibilities, and no minimum quantity.

Recently, this technology has made tremendous progress in terms of print quality and print enhancement using liquid toner-based ink.

Pre press

Pre press is an important part of the production process. It is usually handled by the printer, but is a discrete stage between artwork and the printing process. It takes the designer’s data and re-purposes it via software, into data suitable to make a printing plate.

Pre press involves a number of processes:
  • download the prepress checklist
  • treating the images for optimum printing (including retouching where necessary)
  • separating the colours to make printing plates
  • imposing pages so that large sheets of paper can fold to become book pages.

A proof is made of the new data. This needs to be checked for errors before approving to print.

Because the information has been processed through different software, digital proofs should be checked carefully to ensure that nothing has moved, typefaces have not defaulted, images are accurately placed.

It is not appropriate to make extensive corrections at proof stage. Small changes can be made by the printers.  Extensive changes should be made directly to the artwork to ensure correct version control. This adds time and cost to the production.

How to check a digital proof
By the stage the digital proof needs checking, you are often very familiar with the information and that makes checking difficult. Suggestions:
  • read all headlines and subheads – mistakes here are most commonly overlooked
  • do not ‘read’ the text but check first word and last words of lines and paragraphs
  • check first and last words of all captions
  • check every page has the correct footer
  • visually check the page proofs against the final laser proofs.

Download a guide to checking a prepress proof fact sheet.


Printing is a process for reproducing text and images, typically with ink on paper using a printing press.

Printing presses
The type of printing press depends on the number of pages in a report, and quantity to be printed. Larger presses often print 8 pages at once, smaller digital presses may only print 2 at a time, both have advantages and disadvantages. The printer will allocate the project to the most economic way of printing.

The number of colours to be printed depends on the project.

Some projects are printed with specific colours – it may be a limited colour job (for economy), or perhaps a specific corporate colour needs to be matched for a logo. These specific colours are identified by a numeric Pantone Matching System (PMS). The numbers are part of an international system. The inks come pre-mixed or they may mixed by the printer at the press.

Many projects need to be printed in ‘full colour’ or four colour process – the most common reason is because they include colour photography. In this case, only four printing inks are used: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These four colours are printed in mixtures of small dots optically mixing to look like full colour.

Press approval
Once the digital proof has been approved, printing plates are made.

Printers ‘make-ready’ by running waste paper through the printing press while they mix the colours needed and achieve the correct colour balance. When they have the colour balance correct it is ready for a press approval.

Designers like to do a press check to ensure that their paper stock is performing as expected, and the colours are clean and vibrant. PMS colours are checked for accuracy.