Production Planning Printing Knowledge
Production Planning

Artwork Production | Printing Production | Personalization Production | Mailing Production

Production planning should start before the final copy or artwork is completed. Planning will help eliminate format problems and will help you find ways to economize when designing your project. For more information on what areas need to be considered before the artwork is completed, see Production Considerations. There are specifications that should be defined for artwork, printing personalization and mailing services, before production begins in each of the areas.

Artwork Production

Shown below are items and specifications that should be provided to the person(s) that will be doing the artwork for your project.



Give the exact size of all the pieces in the direct mail package. Supply a blank mock-up of the direct mail package so they can visually see how the package goes together.

Copy Placement

Provide a mock-up showing placement of text and graphics. Specify if any copy is to bleed.

Graphics Supplied

Supply photos, logos or other graphics and indicate if they need to be resized. Also, indicate if the photos need to be cropped.


Indicate if there is a particular style that should be followed, such as the same style as a previous mailing. Be sure to provide any corporate design guidelines that must be followed.


Indicate what typefaces are to be used for headlines titles and copy. Specify the size of each. If the size of type can be adjusted when necessary, give the minimum and maximum size acceptable.

Imprinted Copy

Provide actual samples of imprinted copy to show exact location for placement of other copy.


Specify how postage will be handled, such as stamped, metered or permit imprinted. This will indicate the proper amount of space to allow in the postage area.

Delivery Address

Indicate where the delivery address will be located. Will it print on the envelope, on an outside panel, or on an insert that must show through a window envelope?


Request that proofs be provided for any changes. Request proofs of the artwork until final approval is given.

Printing Production

Show below are the specification that should be provided to the manufacturer(s) of the items for your direct mail package.


Description and Quantity

Give a name and description of each piece that the manufacturer will be producing. Indicate the quantity for each item and whether or not an overrun is acceptable.


Give the finished size of each piece. Show the flat size and finished folded size of folded items. Indicate if copy bleeds on any pieces.


Indicate how artwork is provided, such as camera ready artboards, negatives or in digital form. If in digital form, what format was it prepared in, and are photos and graphics in place or will they need to be stripped into the negs. If negatives are provided, are they color separated and are tinted areas include in the negatives. If artboards are supplied, be sure to indicate color separations and any areas that need screen tints added.

Ink Colors

Specify how many colors will be printed on each side and whether the colors are the same or different on each. Indicate if the colors are spot color or four color process. Will standard colors, PMS colors or custom matched ink colors be used? If colors need to match other pieces in the direct mail package, provide a printed sample whenever possible.

Process Colors

If process color is required, indicate how it will be provided. Images can be provided as transparencies, color separated negatives, electronically or the original continuous color photos can be furnished. If the continuous photos are going to be furnished, be sure the manufacturer has the capability of making the color separations that are necessary.


Give paper specifications, such as brand name, color, finish and weight. Indicate if substitution can be made. If paper specs change between items in the package, be sure to indicate the different stock to be used on each piece.


What type of proofs are required? Do you want prepress proofs, press proofs and final processing proofs of bindery operations?


Give specifications for bindery operations, such as binding, folding, perforating, punching, die cutting and embossing.


Indicate how the finished product should be packaged for shipping. It could be shipped on rolls, bulk-loose on skids, or in cartons. Give specifications for banding or plastic wrapping if required. Indicate if it needs to be packaged for moisture resistance. How should the product be labeled?


Give any necessary delivery information, such as address, delivery to a special location, special receiving hours and required delivery date. Indicate if a special carrier is to be used.

Personalization Production

Shown below are the items and specifications that should be provided to the facility that will be doing the personalization of the items for your direct mail package.


Personalized Item

Indicate which pieces of the package are being personalized, such as the sales letter, insert or response piece. Provide samples of each item showing where it is to be personalized.


Provide quantity of total records. If different versions are being personalized, give the breakdown of quantities for each.


What type of process will be used? Impact printer, laser or ink jet? Indicate if the item will be a continuous form or cut sheet.


Show what type of copy will be imprinted and what areas will have variable text. Indicate what type style and size should be used for the imprinted information. Provide signatures if they need to be digitized for laser printing.


Is the piece provided as one-up, two-up or more? Give finished size of each piece. If a piece is to be personalized, will it be on one side or two? Indicate any additional features that have to be added to any pieces, such as perforations or die cutting. If any additional features will be added after personalizing is completed, be sure to indicate what they are and where they will be located.

Ink Color

Indicate if the personalization will be in black or colored ink.


Personalization should be proofed. Indicate who will be responsible for proof approval.


Give dates as to when finished product needs to be delivered to the mail house.


Indicate how the overruns of the printed product are to be handled once quantities for personalization are completed. Should they be stored, destroyed or returned?

Mailing Production

Shown below are the items and specifications that should be provided to the mail house that will be doing the mail processing for your direct mail package.



Indicate the quantity of each piece in the package that is scheduled to be received. Give a total quantity of direct mail packages to be sent, according to the total record quantities of the mailing lists.

Material Receipt

Give the scheduled arrival dates for each item of the direct mail package so that the mail house will know when all items are scheduled to arrive.


Give a description of the items that are included in the direct mail package. Specify what type of package the pieces will be mailed in, such as an envelope, box or bag, and what size it will be. Give size and description of all items inserted in the mailing package. Specify the exact order in which they are to be placed in the package, what direction they should be facing and whether or not there are pieces nested inside other pieces.

Additional Prep Work

Indicate if there are any of the pieces that will need additional processing, such as bursting, slitting, trimming or folding?


Provide a dummy package that shows exactly how all of the pieces of the package fit together. It should show all folding, inserting and the direction that all pieces are to be facing.

Variable Inserts

If there are to be different versions of the direct mail package sent out, be sure the variable inserts are marked clearly. Marking the variable inserts will help verify that the correct versions are being prepared according to the corresponding mailing lists.

Seeds and Samplings

Be sure to include seed addresses in you mailing lists so that you can determine if the mailing went out on time and the way you wanted it packaged. Be sure that the seed addresses are from different areas that the mailing will be sent. This is a way for you to determine when the mailing has reached the different areas. When reading results, you will want to be sure that the mailing has reached all areas before analyzing them.


Indicate which piece needs to be addressed and how it will be applied. Will the address go directly on an envelope or will the address be printed on labels and then attached to one of the pieces. What type of label will be used, a Cheshire, gummed or pressure sensitive?


Once an entire package has been assembled and addressed, it should be checked for accuracy. Indicate if the customer must  approve the final package. 


Be sure the mail house has the correct mailing lists. What class of mail will be used for this mailing, First Class or Standard Mail? Let the mail house know if the postage will be applied by a stamp, permit indicia, or meter. 

Mailing Date

Specify the scheduled mailing date. Indicate if the mailing date is critical due to a scheduled event or because of the start of a corresponding advertising campaign.


Indicate how the overruns of the printed product are to be handled once quantities needed for all mailing lists are completed. Should they be stored, destroyed or returned?

All of the above information, given to the different production areas, will help each area to plan the production of your project more efficiently. Providing proper information allows each area to order supplies that are needed and to plan the workflow of the project according to your needs . The sooner the information is provided to the production areas, the sooner they can deal with anything that they might see as a problem. They can offer suggestions that could help save time and money on your project.


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