Why Short Run Printing is Important to Your Business

Short Run Printing

What is Short Run Printing?

In the printing world, a run refers to any type of printing job. Short run booklet printing is a custom order of a relatively small batch of brochures or booklets. The specific size of the batch will depend on your particular needs, and short runs can range from one or two pieces to 500 or more pieces per run.

Typically, short run printing uses digital printing technology instead of offset printing. Offset printing has traditionally been the go to standard for large batch orders, but it doesn’t work as well for smaller runs. Offset printing falls short when it comes to small runs because of the big upfront cost of burning custom metal plates (one for each ink color) that can be expensive and time consuming to set up.

With digital printing, you don’t need a plate, a laser beam creates a “latent” image (basically a static charge) on a special metal drum that attracts the ink (or toner) to the areas of the drum with the static charge.  That ink is then transferred to the paper making the process much faster and with less waste.

Short run brochure printing offers several advantages. Each business will have its own specific needs, so it’s up to you to decide whether or not short run printing is the best choice for your business.

Working with an experienced, local printing company who can explain the options available for your project can help you make a decision on what the proper run length would be for your print project.

The Advantages of Short-Run Printing

Reduced Production Time

In general, short runs can be completed in 12 to 48 hours. This speed comes from the way short run printing uses digital technology instead of traditional offset printing. Only short runs produce on digital printing equipment can be produced quickly and economically.

As the speed of business moves faster and faster, it’s important for your business to keep up.  Short run printing allows you to print a quantity that will cover your marketing needs for a couple of months. Then when your competition updates their marketing materials you’re not stuck with a big batch of outdated materials.

If you need business cards or brochures and time is of the essence,  short run printing makes sense. And when you’re at a trade show and the foot traffic in your booth causes you to run out of brochures, a local printer can print more overnight and ready for the next mornig.

Superior Quality

In years past it was commonly believed that digital printing produced a lower-quality images than offset printing. But that has changed to the point where many experts believe that digital printing technology now exceeds that of offset printing. In side by side tests, often digital prints are found to be more vibrant and detailed, rivaling most offset printing products. Best of all, digital printing offers more convenience and affordability than offset printing, particularly in small runs.

Less Waste

Why buy thousands of brochures if you’re expecting to hand out a hundred? By printing the amount you need, you reduce the number of left overs you’ll have to dispose of later.

Printing produces a lot of waste, so by ordering a booklet printing short run, you reduce the waste that you and the printer produce. Less waste does not only benefit your bottom line, but it’s good for the environment as well.

More Agile

Short run printing allows you to alter your design. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to print the same brochure time and again, especially as details and market trends change. Instead of getting stuck with thousands of outdated booklets, short run printing allows you to make changes as needed.

Since the short run printing process is so streamlined, many companies use it to refine their marketing strategy. You can make changes between batches and print out one or two documents as proofs. Doing so using traditional offset batch printing gets expensive and wastes time and resources. However, the process becomes simple and efficient when using digital printing and short runs.


With short-run prints, you can order many short runs of the same product. Print on demand services don’t work that way.

As with most printing jobs, the first one is the most expensive. Subsequent runs become more affordable, which makes short run printing the ideal choice for small batches of booklets or brochures.

The Disadvantages of Short Run Printing

While short run brochure printing offers several benefits, it may not be the right fit for every company. For example, if you’re company mails out 50,000 catalogues to customers several times a year, short run printing may not be the best option for you.

More Expensive Per Page

As your local printing company will tell you, the more pages you print, the cheaper every page will be. Some of this cost comes from economies of scale, but some comes from the nature of offset printing.

The most expensive part of offset printing is making the custom plate. Once that’s done, printing large batches of prints is cheaper.

Short run printing may be more affordable in total, but you’re paying more per page. If you decide that you need more copies of your brochure than you expected, you may end up paying more than if you’d chosen a larger run.

Should You Consider Short Run Printing?

Short run printing is a viable option for many businesses looking to save money and remain agile and versatile. Many businesses use a mix of short run and long run printing, depending on their needs for a specific project.

Short run printing works well if you want small batches delivered quickly. Short runs are less wasteful, and you’re less likely to end up with thousands of brochures that you don’t need. They’re also more affordable than large scale runs and allow you to make changes between batches.

However, if you want to produce large volumes of the same booklet, you may want to find a better solution. Running multiple short runs can become more expensive than one large run, especially if you’re not making any changes.

The best way to figure out whether short run printing is the right choice for you is to discuss it with your local printing company. Any reputable printer can explain the advantages and disadvantages of any type of run, helping you save money and plan a long-term printing strategy.

 If you’ve used the same printer for several years, they’ll know your business almost as well as you do, and they can give you invaluable advice to meet your short run booklet printing needs.