There are some tricks to QSL card printing that I must share with youse all.
I've been printing my own cards (by the antique letterpress method) since I
got Dad's print shop after his passing. Before that I used offset "quick
print" places. It all works the same way.
LAYOUT: You can do it all with Aldus PageMaker, CorelDraw or ClarisWorks.
There are tons of different certificate, memo, page make up, publication
software packages that will do the work for you. Just remember some of the
COLOR: color costs extra, especially if you're printing your own off a color
jet printer or whatever. However, if you print out your card design in black
with each color on a separate sheet WITH the obligatory registration marks
(circles with crosses in 'em) before you go to the print shop of your choice,
life will be easier. You pay EXTRA for having the printer/negative/plate
stripper cut in the color for you.
BATCHING: Try to fit as many copies of your card design on one sheet (or on
sheets if you're using color). That way you get a press run cost for X number
of sheets and pay only a tiny portion more to have the cards cut out of the
eventual press run of sheets. Kinda like making all the legs for 15 chairs
first, so you only have to change the woodworking tool once for each part.
DESIGN: Remember that certain colors of type disappear on various back
grounds. It's easy to put your call sign in large block letters that stand
out against whatever background. That's cool. But the QSL information should
be in black, against a clear, uncluttered background, in type that doesn't
take a Star Trek manual or a visit to the Klingon Language Institute site to
read. If you do nothing else, make the QSL info clear . . . . and yes, you
can still put it on the back of a picture post-card style of card (as in a
scene from a Puerto Rican beach with your callsign stomped across the skyline
of palm trees).
PRINTERS #1: Quick print places can and often do have color repro equipment.
However, take a look at the prices and paper stock variables that your local
"real" printer can do. Xerography usually plays on unfinished (not shiny)
card stock. And there's a limit to the thickness of card that you can run.
"Real printers" can handle a much wider range and often have no problems
(given the right equipment) with calendered (bristol, shiny, whatever you
wanna call it) card stock. (Make sure that they can do full coverage color if
you go this route . . . nothing worse than lettering that fades out from edge
to edge across the color.)
PRINTERS #2: Don't leave out letterpress printers. There are lots of lunatics
still around who do letterpress printing. If you want a simple card with a
simple design but you want one little dash of panache, letterpress printers
often can do that for you. Example: You design a card that has all the
QSL/address/QRP club affiliations &c on your computer, leaving space on the
card somewhere for your call in another color or type face. You batch 'em up,
you get 'em xeroxed at the quick print place and then take the press run
(AFTER cutting & trimming) to a letterpress printer. He or she then prints
your callsign in gold ink or some bright color on each card. (I used to do
this for folks: I had a card design that was basic gut-bucket QSL info &c. I
then overprinted the callsign on the top left of the card, ARRL membership
hoohah and all, with the ham's name & address at the bottom. Three different
faces of callsign info, various colors upon request &c.)
PRINTERS #3: A lot of what you see in QST or 73 or CQ magazine is available
at home. Shop around your town for a personal touch. This ain't to say that
you don't want to have Wayne (W4MPY) print your cards . . . or Tom Ebbert
(used to be in all the mags, now understand he's only doing QSLs for old,
long-time customers) or W9XX (in Indianapolis), or the "Little Printshop" and
others for that matter. It's just a hint at getting your own design.
LAST but not least: Keep in mind that you can get too damn much stuff on a
card. Keep it simple and honest and easy to read and you'll end up with a
card that will hang in a wall-packet whatchit.
AND NO, I do not print QSLs. It cuts into the time I spend reading QRP-L
stuff, operating, blowing up, burning down, chopping up, burying, burning,
stomping on and cussin' at stuff that I wreck.
A man's gotta know his limits.
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