Below is a healthy list of common questions we've been asked over the years. Please click on any question to view its answer!
If you have any additional questions, we encourage you to contact us.
Welcome aboard! We’re a commercial print shop in Fairfax, Virginia with a time-tested team of industry veterans and awesome equipment. Over the years, we’ve worked with businesses, schools, non-profits, and individuals on a wide array of printing needs. If you have a few extra minutes, we encourage you to check out our About Page and Services Page to get a quick idea of who we are and the common projects we tackle.
We understand that printing is an investment and often begins with a specific need. Our aim is to deliver a thorough, affordable, and arguably fun experience for projects of every size. We believe in treating you like part of our team with honest answers, recommendations, and pricing. We also believe in the power of communication—if you have a question or concern, we have answers and solutions. We’ll never dodge a phone call, email, or office visit, and if for some reason a specific team member isn’t available to help with your request, you’ll be next on their priority list when they’re available.
As a small business, it's also our duty to help other locally owned and operated businesses, organizations, and similar projects grow. We want to know about your upcoming events, sales, promotions, and other projects and regularly share information in-person and via social media about how to learn and support our customers' pursuits.
Of course! We try to hold on to samples or photos of every project we’ve produced. For the quickest idea, check out the photos on our Project Sample Gallery. You’re also welcome to visit our shop to get an eyes-on look and feel from our archives.
Printing begins with a need. Whether you’re on Step #1, Step #5, Step #900, or Step #0 in your printing journey, we encourage you to contact us in the way most convenient for you. You’re always welcome to call us during our office hours, send us an email, use our General Contact Form, place an Estimate or Order Request, or simply swing by the shop. We treat every question and request with the same degree of respect and fairness.
Because of the trillion nuances involved with printing, it can vary. For the typical projects we handle 100% in-house, you’re looking at a week or less (typically less) of lead time after you’ve approved your pricing quote and artwork proof. There can be additional lead time for projects with multiple pieces, larger quantities, unique bindery instructions, special-order materials, or outsourced services. When in doubt, let us know about any deadlines or specific needs and we’ll address them to the best of our abilities.
Because every project that enters our doors is unique, this can also vary.
To give every project in our shop a fair starting point with an equal degree of respect, we have a base setup charge. From there, the largest pricing factors are based around the project’s buildout, artwork status, and quantity. We promise we’re quick with pricing; usually a couple emails or a short phone call is enough to fill in all the blanks!
We fully understand that printing is an investment, and we promise to consider your budget. We’ve spent an enormous amount of coffee-fueled time analyzing our costs and have created honest pricing that complements our commitments to timeliness, customer service, quality control, reliable equipment, proximity, and trust.
For orders greater than $99, we offer free delivery services from our company van in Northern Virginia up to 20 miles from our office. This covers Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Vienna, Falls Church, Herndon, Reston, Sterling, Manassas, and all the fun spaces in between. We deliver Monday thru Friday during our normal business hours but cannot guarantee exact delivery times unless coordinated in advance.
We also offer shipping services via USPS Priority Mail and UPS Ground, 2nd Day Air, and Overnight services. This is encouraged for any customers outside of Northern Virginia, though keep in mind shipping charges will apply.
For projects with multiple recipients, recipients requiring security clearances, or recipients in Maryland or Washington DC, we offer delivery services from one of several trusted 3rd party courier services. Like our shipping options, courier charges will apply.
And of course, you’re always welcome to pick up your project from our office in Fairfax, VA. Our office is open for pickups Monday thru Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM. If you chat with us in advance, we can even coordinate after-hours or weekend pickups!
We operate industry-leading equipment from Konica-Minolta, Presstek, Xante, Epson, Duplo, Baum, Graphic Whizard, Akiles, and all sorts of other awesome companies. A quick-reference equipment and capabilities list is available upon request, but we put more emphasis on our operators than our equipment. :)
Most of your project’s cost is based around the production side of its journey. Factors to be mindful of include:
For most in-house goods: typically, no. However, because of the setup processes involved with the machinery around our shop, certain projects may be more cost-effective per-unit to produce at a slightly higher quantity. For example, there is rarely much difference in cost between 1 and 5 perfect bound books, or 100 and 250 business cards, or 10 and 20 flyers.
For goods requiring outside services or specialized printing processes: typically, yes. Most promotional products are sold in bundles, lots, or cartons, and specialty services such as die cutting or foil stamping require a decent number of sacrificial prints (“makeready”) to get your project fine-tuned to perfection.
For the clearest idea, please reach out to us to discuss your project’s needs. We have a quick answer for every conventional project!
Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half. By folding it in half, you’ve created four panels divided by the fold line—two on the front side of the sheet, and two on the reverse side of the sheet. These panels equate to the pages of your book, and this sheet of paper equates to printing lingo known as a “signature” (or more technically, a “4-page signature”).
By gathering several of these signatures and stapling them at the fold line, you’ve created a saddle stitched book! No matter how many signatures are added to the mix, your book will always feature four pages per sheet—even if some of them need to be left blank.
Other types of books in our shop are printed as a “book block” (which sounds significantly less cool than a “signature"). Book blocks are created by printing two pages to a sheet of paper—one on the front side of the sheet, and one on the reverse side of the sheet. As a result, the final print from our machinery will be a sorted, unbound stack in perfect reading order.
From there, we can take these book blocks and spin a coil through one of their sides (coil bound books), run them over some super-hot glue and adhere them to a cover sheet (perfect bound books), stab a staple or two through them (packets), or back them with chipboard and run some glue over one of their sides (notepads). Bookbinding is fun!
Whereas a 4-page signature is a sheet of paper making up four pages of your book’s content, a spread is only one side of that sheet. Every time you flip through a book with left and right pages, you’re looking at a spread.
If you ever rip a sheet out of a saddle stitched book (you monster!), you might notice a strange phenomenon as you dive deeper and deeper into the torn-out sheets: the pages are out of order! Rather: one side of the sheet features one sequence of page numbers, and the other side of the sheet features another sequence of page numbers.
This sorting method is known as “printer spreads,” and ensures your final saddle-stitched book remains in its intended order once its signatures are printed, gathered, folded, and stapled.
A 60-page saddle stitched book will feature pages 1, 2, 59, and 60 on its first signature, 3, 4, 57, and 58 on its second signature, 5, 6, 55, and 56 on its third signature, and so on.
Each printer spread will feature the page numbers that total the final page count of the book, plus one. In a 60-page saddle stitched book, pages 1 and 60 will be on one spread (totaling 61), pages 2 and 59 will be on one spread (totaling 61), pages 3 and 58 will be on one spread (totaling 61), and so on.
Now that you know this forbidden knowledge, please don’t tackle this part of the process when submitting orders to us. We have software that automates this step. :)
When reading an electronic version of a printed publication, it usually makes more sense to view it as it intends to be published. For books, this means the odd-numbered pages will be on the right side of the display, and the even-numbered pages will be on the left side of the display. This two-page view of the document is known as “reader spreads.”
Quick tip! Are you viewing a PDF page-by-page and want to instead view it as reader spreads? Open the PDF in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat, then select the following two options from your top menu bar:
View -> Page Display -> Two Page View
View -> Page Display -> Show Cover Page in Two Page View
Ta-da! Reader spreads. :)
When pricing a project, you might notice us reference a certain number of pages per finished good. A page is one readable panel in a bound publication.
For any book we produce as a book block, 60 pages will correlate with 30 double-sided sheets of paper. For saddle stitched books we produce in-house, 60 pages will correlate with 15 double-sided sheets of paper.
Zip files/folders are super-useful, as they allow you to compress multiple files into one, bite-sized file for transferring online. You’ll need to utilize this functionality if you wish to send multiple files through our Estimates and Orders or Send a File pages.
Regardless of your operating system, you’ll first want to gather all of your necessary files into a folder. On Windows, right click in an open space, then select “New” -> “Folder.” On Mac, go to your top menu bar and select “File” -> “New Folder.”
Click and drag your appropriate files into this folder and rename things as necessary.
On Windows, right click on the folder and select “Send to” -> “Compressed (zipped) folder.” On Mac, right click on the folder and select “Compress.” You’ll now have a new zipped file with the same name as your folder!
From there, you can upload this zip file through one of our website tools or send it via email. :)
For the official Microsoft explanation, please see Zip and Unzip Files.
If you’re feeling confident with your project's artwork, all we need to produce a typical project is a press-ready PDF. This means that your page sizes are accurate, your margins are properly spaced, your color space is accurate, fonts are embedded, and any bleeds are properly pulled. For a full rundown of our artwork requirements, please see our Project Artwork Checklist page.
If you’d feel comfortable with us having your development files for any in-house modifications, you’re welcome to send them over as appropriate. We strongly encourage “packaging” your files so that your fonts, images, and other design links are properly accounted for during the file transfer. In Adobe InDesign, this is accomplished by going to “File” -> “Package.” In Microsoft Publisher, this is accomplished by going to “File” -> “Export” -> “Save for a Commercial Printer.”
If we’re designing something for your project, we encourage you to supply as many resources as possible to get us on the right track. This includes your highest resolution photographs, icons, imagery, pre-typed text, napkin doodles, branding requirements, etc.
Absolutely! Please review our Project Artwork Checklist page. There’s even a printable version of the checklist if you’d like to hang it on your wall!
It might sound counterproductive, but the fewer privacy restrictions you have on your files, the better. This is to ensure everyone here involved with your project can easily review your supplied files for accuracy. When we have what we need, you’re free to secure or remove the files from your filesharing service.
Generally, you’re aiming for copying and pasting the “shareable link” option on your project’s file or folder. Please review the official walkthroughs for the major filesharing services below:
Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee your files will be properly received and downloaded if they don’t follow the above steps.
Absolutely! Think of our method as “production design”: we’ll take any resources you can supply to us (or any resources we can license) and turn them into something awesome and ready for print! Chat with our team to find out if we might be a good fit for your design needs.
Let’s say you want your final project to have printed content all the way to its edges, such as a border, solid background, or full-scale photograph. Because most print machinery doesn’t print to the edge of a sheet of paper, your project will run on a sheet larger than its finished size and then get trimmed.
Bleed margins are an extension of your artwork that will guarantee it “bleeds” to the edge of the sheet. Without them, unintentional white margins may appear on your project’s edges during the trimming process.
If your project needs to feature bleeds, each side of the artwork needs an additional 1/8” (0.125”) of content beyond its trim lines. For a 2” x 3.5” business card that bleeds, the artwork should be 2.25” x 3.75”; for an 8.5” x 11” document that bleeds, the artwork should be 8.75” x 11.25”; for die cut work, the artwork should have 1/8” of extra content extended beyond the intended shape; etc.
We can’t stress it enough: nothing essential should be in this bleed margin. It should only be an extension of your artwork’s background and border elements.
When cutting or folding your project to its finished size, we want to avoid any possibility of your artwork’s essential content being chopped off, awkwardly close to the edge of the sheet, or off-center.
Safety margins are the spaces around the cut and fold lines of your artwork that serve as a reminder of where not to place anything essential to your project’s reproduction, including text, captions, the focal point in photographs, inset borders, etc. Most major desktop publishing software (InDesign, Quark, Publisher, Word, etc.) allows you to define page margins.
By default, we encourage your artwork to feature at least 0.25” safety margins around every trim and fold line. For booklet projects, this margin should increase to at least 0.375” on the non-binding edges of the project and at least 0.5” on the binding edge of the project.
Feeling stuck? Grab your favorite book, newspaper, or magazine and see how their designers have laid out the publication. You’ll almost always notice cushioning around the edges so nothing falls off the page!
The resolution of a graphic defines the density of its data. This is represented in design and desktop publishing software as “resolution,” “dpi,” or “dots per inch.” When a graphic is lower in resolution, it will have less detail available in it prior to any pixelation or blurring. A 600dpi image will be sharper than a 100dpi image at the same printing size.
For printed goods being viewed within an arm’s reach such as books, brochures, flyers, and business cards, a resolution of 300dpi is typically recommended by print shops. For printed goods being viewed from further away, such most signage, you can usually get away with a resolution between 100dpi and 300dpi depending on the viewing distance.
If you’re working in pixels, the quickest way to determine the optimal resolution of your image is to take its pixel dimensions and divide it by your intended resolution.
For example, a 1200 pixel by 1200 pixel image will best reproduce as a 4 inch by 4 inch image at 300dpi (1200px divided 300dpi = 4in), a 6 inch by 6 inch image at 200dpi, and a 12 inch by 12 inch image at 100dpi.
In short: your screen outputs color using a completely different science than printing, and they unfortunately don’t 100% overlap.
A screen uses pixels of projected red, green, and blue light (“RGB”) to create the image. Most monitors look different from one-another and have countless controls in their menus that affect factors such as their displayed warmth, brightness, and contrast. Colors will almost always appear more intense and vibrant than their printed counterparts, especially on blue, orange, and green hues.
Conventional full-color printing uses dots of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black pigments (“CMYK”) reflected from the printing surface by your room’s lighting to create the image. The type of pigment used (ink vs. toner), color temperature of the printing surface (bright white vs. off white), lighting in your room (warm vs. cool), and reflectivity of the printing surface (glossy vs. uncoated) are all major factors in the final gamut of the printed image.
When in doubt, we strongly encourage working with us on a physical copy proof of your artwork prior to its full production run. We can then determine the best options for color tweaks.
Unless you have written permission from the author and/or publisher for the work in question, we cannot. This includes items that make up parts of your project, such as unlicensed stock photography and imagery, text, etc.
A proof is a copy of a project’s artwork for your review prior to its full production. It’s the artwork we intend to send to our production machinery and should be reviewed by you and any colleagues to confirm the final buildout, flow, artwork, text, and other elements essential to its success. Upon your approval of the proof, we’ll proceed with the project’s production.
We provide most proofs as PDFs via email, but also offer physical copy proofs (“hard copy proofs”) for any projects that have critical elements.
It’s important to note that a proof is completely different from proofreading, and that we don’t offer proofreading services at this time. We strongly encourage reviewing the entire content of your proof several times before giving us the final OK.
Sorry, we don’t offer proofreading services. Professional proofreading is an art form, and we don’t have the capability to offer it at a competitive level. As a result, we encourage you to review your proof several times for spelling and grammatical errors before giving us the final OK to proceed with a project's production.
Absolutely! We store your project’s files on a secure fileserver that is backed up daily, and we try to hold onto physical copy samples and paperwork for every project we produce for at least 3 years.
Absolutely! We encourage you to send over a branding guideline for us to keep on-file. Our team will work with you to the best of our abilities to ensure your printed brand stays clean and consistent.
Digital printing is a printing process that images your project’s artwork per-copy using a combination of toner, developer, heat, static, and magic. It is the most economical method for producing smaller quantity projects, projects with different printed content per-page, and projects with personalized data such as sequence numbers or addresses on each finished good.
Digital prints with denser images tend to have a glossier appearance that takes on the look of the toner instead of the look of the paper. It’s an acquired taste, but it allows consistently dense artwork to appear sharp on both coated and uncoated papers.
Offset printing (lithography) is a printing process that images your project’s artwork on a physical plate prior to the production run. Each plate is a photonegative of one of the colors making up your project’s artwork. It is the most economical method for producing larger quantities of projects featuring static imagery.
Offset printing uses traditional inks to produce your image, allowing your project’s artwork to absorb into its printing surface and take on the look of the paper regardless of the ink density. For critical branding, offset printing can also utilize mixtures of inks to produce exact replications of Pantone spot colors.
Within a basic degree of tolerance, we can reproduce most Pantone spot colors using one of several printing methods under conventional lighting conditions. Each printing process has its strengths and limitations, so we encourage you to work with us on producing physical copy proofs from our production machinery for color-critical projects.
Because ambient temperature, humidity, paper, and the mood of the machines can all affect color output even after calibration, we encourage producing larger batches of color-critical projects on a single day instead of smaller batches of projects over an extended time.
You bet! Depending on the composition of your project, we have several ways of personalizing some or all its content. This is especially useful for mailings, welcome packets, and similar targeted projects.
We stock and regularly order affordable, industry-leading papers compatible with our printing equipment. This includes paper as thin as 50# offset/20# bond and as thick as 16pt paperboard; paper as economical as copy paper and as premium as watermarked stationery; paper featuring coated gloss, coated matte, uncoated, textured, and similar finishes; and all sorts of fun stuff in-between!
In most situations: yes! Some physical copy proofs require more time, materials, and labor to produce than others, so we offer several options based around the criticality of your artwork, budget, and turnaround time.
It is our goal to deliver the most consistent, personalized, high-quality project from start to finish. However, as with every commercial printer, there is a certain machine and operator tolerance introduced in every step of the printing journey that can lead to small shifts, skews, and variations to the finished good's positioning and output. By following our artwork guidelines, proofing, and team recommendations, we can safely mitigate most problems that may emerge with your project, though please understand that there are certain variations that are just shy of impossible to fully mitigate.
Proper storage is vital when keeping an inventory of printed goods. After your project is completed and in your hands, we encourage you to keep your printed goods:
When handling printed goods, double-check that your hands and your handling surface are free from dust, lint, dirt, moisture, and other debris.
A deposit may be required for your first project with us or any projects that may incur a significant cost to either us or a partner vendor.
Thank you for working with us! Payment can be remitted via check, credit card, or debit card either to our address, over the phone, or through our Online Payment Portal. Every project will receive a physical copy of its invoice upon pickup or delivery, and an electronic copy of the invoice can be requested by contacting our team. We also mail out statements monthly to your billing address on file.
Unless you have established credit with us, full payment is due prior to the receipt of your printed project. Customers with credit terms are on a Net-30 basis.
McCabe’s Printing Group operates in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and as a result needs a Virginia-derived Certificate of Sales and Use Tax Exemption or a valid self-signed certificate such as an ST-10, ST-10A, ST-11, or ST-13 related to your retail, resale, or non-profit industry.
Fortunately, if you qualify for exemption, Virginia makes the application process super-easy. Please visit Virginia's Sales Tax Exemption page for all the details.
Unfortunately, without the proper certificate, we cannot remove sales tax from your project’s invoice.
Not a problem! Please contact us and we’re happy to look up open invoices, send electronic copies of invoices, verify payment history, or anything else to make our collective bookkeeping as headache free as possible.
Don’t panic! We fully understand that financial hardships can happen. Communication is key, so please reach out to us if there are concerns remitting a payment. Please note that depending on the age of an invoice, we may have to place new projects on production hold until your payment is received.