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Card Sharps - part 3 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

by Mike McNamee Published 01/02/2012

Costing Analysis

The estimated cost per card, complete with envelope and cellophane depends greatly on the assumptions that are made. As we are about to show, the cost of fine art paper and the way in which you cost your labour, dominate the final estimates.

Using our assumption of 2,500 cards per year, if they take five minutes printing time each this amounts to 208 hours or a little over five weeks (assuming a 40hr week). If the blanks have to be loaded one at a time then the printer has to be attended for the entire period. So suddenly, if we compromise on quality and reduce the printing time by the use of 'high speed printing', use of Best Quality rather than High Quality and so bring the printing time down to 1m 11s we have found time for a three-week holiday! This, though is perhaps only part of the story, you may, for example, be able to devote the time to a dual task of printing while you perform other jobs around the studio (yes we men can multi-task you know!). For the purposes of the calculations we have assumed time costed at £20,000pa and then factored by 50% for multitasking.

This is arguably fanciful for, in reality, if you print at a rate of one per minute you will probably find that by the time you stuff and envelope and then cellophane it, the next print will be off the line. At 8.68p per minute for labour it starts to show the importance of having a printer that can run un-attended with reasonable qualities of cards in the cassette. We had one quote of 6p/card for 'envelope stuffing' which seems reasonable.

Give or take a few pence either way, the cost of a fine art, A4 folded to A5, blank sheet is around £1 and this dominates the cost as much as labour charges. If you can use a lower cost blank and then print at around 1 minute per card you can just edge 48p per card set and involve about 70 hours of work.

The estimates are production costs. On top of this you have to factor overheads and a profit.


We have amortised both the printer and creaser costs over three years. The creaser costs are discarded for pre-creased blanks. Once again labour costs might dominate if you cost the time to deliver cards to a sales outlet; this can be time consuming, but those who do it assure me that you have to keep your outlet refreshed with cards. If you are selling sets of cards for wedding 'thank-yous' then this is not a cost that you incur. By the same token if you are sending 'marketing' cards from your studio you have to factor in the cost of postage which is as much as the cost of producing the card. No matter how you cut it, the price 'on the shelf' of a fine art card has to be around £5 to make it worthwhile for everybody, including the VATman, to have their piece of the cake. To some extent, the only advantage that you may have at the start of this venture is that you can buy ready-made sets of blanks and cards, inkjetready, print them on your studio printer and then test the water.

Agonising over the costings to this point caused us to visit a colleague who prints lots of cards (typically 2,500 for Christmas orders alone). He also uses the Epson B500 DN printer and so we were able to put a stop-watch on operations. These discussions transformed our thinking! The B500 (now the B510) is a far superior machine for grinding out commercial qualities of cards, it was chugging away turning out 250gsm card blanks every 22 seconds and printing the insides, where needed, at just 8 seconds a card. The blanks in use where not 'inkjet prepared', they were matt, coated stock.

The quality is not as good as a true inkjet print but good enough for many artists and certainly good enough for public consumption.

Experience teaches that despite any quality reservations we as photographers might have, the recipients still sometimes have these cards framed.


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1st Published 01/02/2012
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