How to prepare your direct mail campaign for print

One of the more terrifying aspects of your direct mail marketing campaign is getting it ready for print. Your design may be of the highest quality and the call-to-action ideal for your prospects, but that will mean nothing if the printed result is less than perfect.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an undo when opting for printing services. With that in mind, we’re sharing the steps you can take to ensure your direct mailing is ready for print. As a mailing house, we’ve seen a few bad examples in our time… 


As a mailing house, we have hung our heads in despair many times when a campaign comes to us without a bleed. A print-ready file without a bleed is not ready. In simple terms, a bleed is an extra space around the perimeter of your layout that extends past the direct mail pages. You should ensure to add a bleed when sending to direct mail printers – especially if any images, text, coloured backgrounds cross the edge of the paper. Similarly, once the print house has developed your direct mail campaign, the bleed will eliminate any slight errors during the trimming process. If you care at all about your mailing house – always include a bleed.

Image resolution

When your campaign is ready for printing services, you must consider the image resolution and aim to send the highest quality images to the print house. Even if the image file size is large and appears to be of a high quality, it doesn’t necessarily mean the image will not appear pixelated and, frankly, rubbish.

The quality of images is measured in dots-per-inch (DPI). The higher the DPI, the better your image and the smoother the print and mail services. If you only have the one image for your marketing campaign and the DPI is relatively low, speak to your direct mail printers regarding your options. For instance, reduce the scale of the image on your direct mailing and, perhaps, use a larger font size and call-to-action.

Does it have a fold?

Many direct mail marketing campaigns include folds after it is printed, and you must alert the mailing house to the finished product when looking for print and mail services. If the document is going to be folded, drag out guides on the digital layout to mark them out for the print house when sending over the files. If you are tri-folding your direct mail piece and splitting the page into three, ensure you double the margin space around the fold. If you don’t, the folds look uneven and create an untidy look. 

How will it be bound?

For those opting for printing services to create a marketing brochure or large, multi-page document – you must consider the binding. Talk to your direct mail printers as to what binding option will best suit the campaign. Depending on the overall finish and size of your direct mail marketing, there are a number of options. For instance, choose from saddle-stitch, side-stitch, sewn and glued and many more.


You need to get savvy with colour when it comes to printing services. Even a basic grasp of CMYK and RGB will significantly enhance the brief for your print house. When it comes to direct mail, however, you must always set your print layouts to CMYK mode. CMYK – or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – refers to the four inks used for colour printing. RGB, on the other hand, is only suitable for advertisements that will be viewed online or through any other digital format. For more information, you can read up on the differences between CMYK and RGB here.

Another consideration is the use of spot colours. A spot colour is created by an ink, either pure or mixed, that is printed in one single run. Including spot colours can prove fantastic for your marketing campaign, but it’s worth noting that it will cost significantly more in a short print run. The use of spot colours is much more suited to a larger volume of work.

Font size

To ensure high response rates for your direct mailing, you need to get the sizing right. If your font appears too small or too big, your reader will likely turn off and forget about your mailing. You need to think about who is reading the item and the appropriate sizing for the document. For instance, is this a piece where you need to encourage them to read more on your services, or will a passing glance do? If you are producing a brochure, you can type on the smaller side. However, direct mail postcards and the like should be clear and easy for all to read.

If in doubt, print off your campaign and get people within the company to read through and make any suggestions. Several pairs of eyes are always better than one… 

Check again

Following on from the previous point, come back to your campaign with fresh eyes and check all aspects again. Ask the mailing house for a test-run, so you can spot any errors in the bleeds, the margin or even your text. The test-run is critical – it’s unlikely consumers will communicate with your brand if they spot any spelling errors or the overall appearance looks messy. The prior preparation will, invariably, save considerable costs. Plus, it provides you with the opportunity to test the printing services and capabilities of your chosen direct mail printers. 

Know your paper

If the design, the layout and the message are good to go – your file is ready for print. With that in mind, you must know your paper. While we don’t mean take the A4 document out to dinner, you must be aware of the desired ‘look’ you are aiming for with the campaign. Paper is available in a variety of different weights, with thicker pieces of higher quality and, as such, more expensive. If you are attempting to convey luxury, thicker paper is more suitable. Therefore, you must consider how the design will appear on the paper. We suggest you speak to your mailing house regarding the different paper options and prices. For larger volumes, you may even be able to come to an agreement regarding costs.

More information on the UK paper size guide can be found here

Choose the right finish

If the design, the layout and the message are good to go – your file is ready for print. Once you have opted for a particular paper, you must choose the correct finish. Printing finishes can spell the difference between success and failure for your campaign. It is accurately recorded that consumers are more likely to engage with a brand using a higher-quality finish, so always factor this information into your overall budget.

Generally, you can find a range of finishing options with print and mail services, and we suggest speaking to the team at the print house for advice on what to choose. For instance, you can choose from embossing, foil stamping, coating, UV spot varnishing and many more.

Ultimately, the success and longevity of your marketing campaign relies on ensuring your document is suitable for the printers. If in doubt, follow the above instructions. If you would like to discuss any other printing services, you can get in touch with our team today. 

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