Small Investment Business: Document Cover Printing


Souvenir and gift products are always in great demand. Therefore, even taking into account the high level of competition in this segment, the business of printing a full-color image on various products (covers for passports, driver’s licenses, student ID cards and grade books, military ID cards, birth and marriage certificates, key holders, business card holders, key rings, magnets and etc.) is profitable and promising, especially if you can offer your potential customers products with original design and high quality.

First of all, you need to choose a specific type of product with which you will start your business and the technology used for applying a full-color image to it. For example, the most popular covers for documents are made of PVC (vinyl), textiles, artificial and natural leather, which determines the price of the finished product. Of course, if you are not considering this direction as an additional source of income or a hobby, you should not even consider the option of hand-crafting the cover itself.

Base blanks, regardless of the material used, are more profitable to purchase in bulk if you plan to offer a wide range of covers for documents of various price categories. If you want to start with the production of covers of a certain type (for example, only expensive ones made of genuine leather or, on the contrary, more affordable ones – on a vinyl or fabric basis), then it makes sense to look for an outlet with a manufacturer. Inexpensive covers for documents are made from sheet PVC, polypropylene, polystyrene up to 1.6 mm thick, bookbinding materials, soft PVC films for high-frequency welding.

The printing technology used (full color, silkscreen, embossing) also depends on the base material. For example, printing on vinyl or fabric would require direct sublimation printing equipment that applies dye directly to the item itself. Such machines are very expensive, and it is unprofitable to purchase them for the manufacture of one type of souvenir production in a small circulation. In this case, you can transfer the print order to an advertising agency or printer that has such production capabilities. True, the cost of the product in this case will be much higher, and your profit from its sale, respectively, will be lower.

Small firms that produce such souvenirs use an intermediate option, first printing the image on paper, and then transferring it to the blank of the future product (in our case, this is a cover for documents). Although in this case the time spent for the manufacture of covers slightly increases, but the overall cost of products decreases. For this method of transfer, inexpensive equipment is used, and the technology itself allows you to fulfill even single orders with good profitability. Note that when investing in the purchase of professional equipment for sublimation printing, the manufacturer benefits only when selling finished products in large quantities (from 500 pieces of one item), and this is not always possible, especially if you work exclusively for one region or sell your products retail, not wholesale.

For a budget printing option, you will need inexpensive equipment, which includes a heat press, a printer and consumables. Sublimation printing technology involves the initial printing of an image on a color inkjet printer using special inks and special paper, followed by transferring the pattern in a press to a pre-prepared surface of the workpieces.

The whole process can be divided into four main steps. First, the design of the future image is developed. Most Russian manufacturers of souvenirs do not pay much attention to this stage, considering it unimportant. They prefer to use photographs and pictures of suitable resolution found on the Internet, without respecting copyright. Only a few domestic companies turn to the services of designers who develop layouts for covers, but even in this case, the quality of their work often leaves much to be desired.

According to the results of surveys of buyers of such souvenirs, the most popular covers for documents with photographs of famous people (actors, singers, musical groups, etc.), images of cartoon characters, films and TV series, funny inscriptions, floral motifs, children’s pictures, photographs and animal drawings, graffiti, imitations of various natural textures (wood, stone, etc.).

When developing your design, consider the fact that your target audience is mainly young people between the ages of 16 and 30. It is not necessary to hire a famous designer or use the services of a famous artist. Among the recent graduates and young professionals there are talented artists who are ready to work for the first time and for relatively little money. Come up with your logo in advance, which you will place on your products.

The finished image is printed using an inkjet printer on special paper in a mirror image. Otherwise, the picture will turn upside down, and the inscriptions will be unreadable. The printed image is left to dry ink at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Since the shelf life of a print is practically unlimited, it is possible to make a large number of prints “in reserve” to optimize work and reduce production time, and if necessary, use them even after a few days or weeks.

The only condition is that the blanks with the printed image must be stored in a dry and clean place. The finished image is placed on the surface of the workpiece and fixed to it with thermal tape or heat-resistant transfer film for thermal transfer to avoid displacement. Please note: the pattern is fixed in a heat press at very high temperatures (up to 200 degrees Celsius), so you cannot use ordinary adhesive tape to fix the print on the product: it will simply melt and ruin the base.

At the last stage, the workpiece with a fixed imprint is placed in a heat press, on which the temperature and transfer time are set in advance. After this time, the product is removed from the press, paper and thermal tape are removed from its surface, and the finished cover is packed in a plastic bag.

This image transfer technology would require an inkjet printer, which forms an image by spraying small droplets of liquid ink onto paper. The print quality depends on the type and quality of the consumables (ink) used, as well as the size and accuracy of the spray. Inkjet printers come in two main types. In models of the first type, the print head is built directly into the printer itself ( Epson models belong to these ), and in models of the second type, the print head is located in the ink cartridge itself ( Lexmark and HP ).

Both printers have advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage of printers with a print head in the cartridge itself, according to experts, is the higher cost of printouts. Inkjet printers can use from two to eight cartridges. The fewer cartridges, the more restrictions on the number of colors. The undoubted advantage of inkjet printers over other models lies in the wide choice of media types for printing on them. It can be both plain and photo paper, as well as textiles, glass, canvas, PVC film, etc.

In addition to the printer from the equipment, we need a heat press. The Russian market offers a wide range of models with different parameters. When choosing a suitable heat press, first of all, you need to pay attention to the possibility of uniform heating of the heating element. Otherwise, if the heat press you choose cannot maintain the same temperature over the entire area of ​​the heating element, the full color image will be uneven in color and short-lived. In addition, the following indicators must be taken into account: accurate maintenance of the set temperature, uniform pressure, ease of positioning materials in the press (the best option is models with the ability to rotate), ease of opening and closing, digital control and display of parameters, dimensions of the working space, stable reproduction of results.

Many inexperienced entrepreneurs purchase universal heat presses to start with, which use one temperature and time controller, but are supplied with several heating elements for different products at once. Most of these Chinese-made models are characterized by extremely poor print quality and a short service life, so savings on such a purchase will be very doubtful. Most likely, after a lot of marriage and low-quality products, you will have to fork out for better equipment.

When buying an inkjet printer and, moreover, a thermal press, the availability of a guarantee, the length of the warranty period and the level of customer service by the company from which you purchase the equipment are of no small importance.

From consumables, you will need sublimation paper and sublimation ink for an inkjet printer. Sublimation paper has a special coating that does not allow the ink to soak into the sheet, keeps them on the surface and at the same time does not allow the paint to spread, resulting in a high-quality and bright image. When transferring a pattern, the ink separates from the paper and remains on the workpiece. Sublimation paper is produced in A3 and A4 format sheets, as well as in rolls of various lengths and widths. The cost of one A4 sheet is from 5 to 12 rubles, depending on the manufacturer and supplier.

Often, in order to save money, sublimation printing uses thin matte paper, which is cheaper than special paper. Although, in general, the print quality with such paper turns out to be quite good, but still not without flaws, especially when it comes to transferring an image to a textile base. Printing on fabric using sublimation paper comes out much better and brighter (especially when using all consumables, including paper and ink, from the same manufacturer). According to experienced entrepreneurs, despite the high cost of special paper, its use is quite justified, unless, of course, you care about the high quality of your products and the reputation of your company.

Sublimation printing requires special ink, which, when heated, can penetrate deep into the fabric structure or another, even denser, surface. However, when using sublimation inks, one must take into account the fact that not every surface is suitable for transferring an image with their help. These inks are suitable for printing primarily on vinyl and synthetic fabrics. But on cotton, such an image, despite the fact that it will be translated, but, nevertheless, will not be fixed and will soon come down. The same applies to any other hard surfaces (eg ceramics, metal, glass or stone). Such surfaces must first be coated with a special polymer composition, on which the dye is subsequently fixed.

The choice of ink for sublimation printing on the Russian market is quite large, including the price category. As a rule, they are bottled in containers of 100, 250, 500 and 1000 ml. There are even packaging in canisters of 5 liters. The minimum cost of 100 ml is from 400 rubles and more. Some types of cheap sublimation inks have a rather unpleasant odor. This factor should be taken into account when choosing a room for production. It is desirable that it be equipped with good ventilation.

When choosing sublimation ink, you should pay attention to such a factor as the size of the fraction. Not all inkjet printers can work with sublimation inks. It all depends on the size of the drop. If a certain indicator is exceeded, ink can clog the printer nozzles, which will lead to the need for constant cleaning of the print head, and this, in turn, takes a lot of time and effort.

Covers for documents with an exclusive design are a great option for a unique and unusual gift for family and friends. Such products are sold through specialized stores, wholesale companies, our own online store and retail outlets in shopping centers and supermarkets.

To determine the potential profit from the sale of such souvenirs, you need to calculate the cost of the finished product. To do this, it is necessary to take into account the cost of the base itself for printing (in our case, this is a vinyl cover for a passport, the maximum cost of which is 10 rubles apiece), as well as the cost of printing an image on an inkjet printer. The cost of ink when printing an image on a full A4 sheet is up to one milliliter. The cost of ink also differs, depending on the manufacturer and the volume of packaging. The average cost of 250 ml of ink of the same color is about 1200 rubles. The minimum cost of sublimation paper, as mentioned above, is from five rubles per A4 sheet, and the cost of printing such a sheet, provided it is completely filled, as it is easy to calculate, reaches 10 rubles.

The total cost of one vinyl cover for a passport does not exceed 50 rubles (and this is taking into account the cost of the basis for printing a full-color image). The wholesale cost of such a product is at least 100 rubles. At retail, they are sold at a price of 250-300 rubles apiece. The cost can be significantly increased by just one package and proper positioning.

Additional costs include the cost of creating your own website with a detailed catalog of your products, as well as professional processing of all images with product examples (this will cost at least 15-20 thousand rubles). You should also not forget about creating your own groups on social networks, through which a considerable percentage of sales are carried out, because this is where your target audience spends most of their time. Promotion, filling, support and development of these groups also require a lot of effort, time and/or money. Of the traditional types of advertising, you can also use the distribution of flyers and business cards, outdoor advertising, advertising at points of sale (if the sale is carried out through retail outlets and stores – your own or others’) and where your potential buyers spend most of their time (universities,

To conduct a business of making covers for documents and other souvenirs, you must register as an individual entrepreneur. Expenses in this case will be minimal both for the establishment of a company and for document management.

The minimum starting capital for starting such a business is about 150 thousand rubles. This amount includes the purchase of equipment, consumables, payment for the work of the designer and advertising at the first stage of work. The payback period for the sale of finished products at retail and small wholesale is estimated at 6-9 months.


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