No one wants to overspend when it comes to creating print materials.

But if you’re investing in print, it has to feel impressive and stand out. Otherwise, you might as well just send another email listicle. :)

So you have to remain on budget – but you’re looking for ways to make your materials stand out – no problem! Whatever type of print collateral you are working on (brochures, rack cards, booklets, direct mail pieces, etc.), there are inexpensive ways to make them look high-quality.

By creatively selecting certain decorative and design elements, as well as making smart paper choices, you can achieve expensive-looking print materials without breaking the bank. Let’s look at a few print production hacks that can help you achieve that end:

Choose Eye-Catching Finishing Effects

When used carefully and effectively, finishing effects can elevate the quality of your print materials. You can use these embellishments to enhance the look and feel of your print marketing.

Digital foil:

This form of embellishment involves bonding metallic foil to the paper, using digitally printed images or designs that adhere to the paper. While cost effective, digital foil creates a beautifully crisp and shimmering surface image that conveys luxury and quality. Something you certainly cannot achieve with an email.


This process involves the creation of relief images and designs on paper (works best on thicker paper stock) and other materials. It lifts the standard and quality of the product and adds elegance to any paper or surface. Different types of embossing, like blind emboss, registered emboss, combination emboss, sculptured embossing, tint embossing and glazing can enhance the look and feel of any surface. This tactile finishing gives a bumpy feel that elevates the luxurious aspect of the piece.

Related: Embellishments How to Dress Up Your Print Materials

Laser Cutting:

The process consists of melting, burning or vaporizing the print material using several types of lasers, and has the ability to create delicate and intricate patterns and It is ideal for custom projects and can create breathtakingly beautiful products. We can consult on how to incorporate laser cutting into the design of the piece. For example, creating the effect of a glass being emptied when an inner card of a direct mail piece is pulled. [show photo of suds and swag invite]


It involves a method of coating printed products (paper, cardstock) using UV light for curing the varnish. It creates an interesting contrast between the elements that are shiny and reflect light and the uncoated, matte elements. The glossy finish gives the print material that extra "umph!" Again, we can consult on how to incorporate this look into the design to add emphasis to a certain portion of the piece.

Print Materials Look Expensive | Ironmark, Annapolis Junction, MD

Ironmark used laser cutting for the Suds & Swag corporate gifts show invitations.

Go for Unusual Folds or Cuts

Creative design involving unusual folds or cuts is an inexpensive way of enhancing the look of your print materials.

Stepped Accordion:

This design features the tapering of the panels, which results in a stepped edge that allows your printed material to appear zigzagged. It creates the illusion of pages, and the stepped effect on the side can be useful for numbering or categorizing.

Die Cut:

This method creates unique design elements by steel cutting through paper to create custom shapes, pop ups, and reveal windows, that can be simple, unusual or intricate with fine details.


Complicated but aesthetically pleasing, this fold features a classic gate fold, that expand and pop out when the inner panels is opened up, revealing multiple layers that can be filled with inserts such as business cards.

Related: Unique Print Folds You've Never Considered

Create an Exquisite Design

These days, with attention spans as short as they are, an average (or below average) design just won’t cut it. A unique or bold design can do wonders for your print materials, and with a solid creative brief and a skilled and dependable designer, you can get it done. The creative brief presents the guidelines to a creative team regarding a set of expectations and the vision for the project. It should contain the project title, points of contact, project goals, project’s target audience and specs, background information and context and final deliverables. Presented with all the information needed for success, a creative team can create the bold design that will make your print materials look expensive.

Click here if you need to spruce up your creative materials using Ironmark’s Design Team!

Select a Unique Paper Stock

You may not think much of it, but making the right choice in paper can either elevate the quality of your print materials, or make them look dull, wimpy and flat. It’s not about selecting the most expensive batch, but it’s important to choose paper that is the best match for your project goals.

Does your design warrant a unique texture, giving a tactile feel to the piece? Should the edges be rough or smooth? Would a shimmery or pearlescent finish complete the look? Is the goal to promote the environment, so an earthy or leafy paper might give the subtle hint? These are all options at your fingertips.

Think about how ink lays differently on varied paper textures, the lifespan and usage of the material, brand perceptions and get your designer’s input on what paper will best complement the work. With an uncoated stock, the ink sinks down into the paper, allowing a more muted look. On a coated or glossy stock, the ink sits right on top, creating a bolder, brighter look.

Thickness or weight of the paper also indicate quality. There are some thicker stocks that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and will seriously add some panache to your print materials.

Related: How to Choose Paper Stock for Your Next Print Job


You don’t have to break the bank to make your print materials look expensive. Get quality looking print materials by using selective finishing effects, incorporating unusual fold and cuts, opting for a bold design by using a creative team with a clear vision and making the right choice in paper.


You’ll have your donors, customers, and colleagues telling you how cool your print materials look – and your competitors will be saving your samples for their next board meeting!

At Ironmark, we have the skills to help you achieve any of these techniques. Contact the print experts at Ironmark today to find out how you can make your next print project stand out.

Written by Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley oversees the digital marketing client services team as well as the marketing strategy division for the company. Since joining the company in 2016, she has increased Ironmark’s digital presence by over 700%, establishing a new lead generation mechanism for the sales team. A certified inbound marketing professional and HubSpot agency partner, Kingsley has been helping companies transform their marketing function into fully diverse and streamlined growth engines since 2003. With agency and client-side work under her belt, Kingsley’s strategic experience spans both the B2B and B2C sectors. Prior to joining the Ironmark team, she served as in-house marketing director for several non-profit organizations. Kingsley is an honors graduate of the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University.
Find me on:

Similar Articles