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How Does Variable Data Printing Work?

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Variable data printing (VDP) is a digital printing method that customizes each printed piece with unique content. Unlike traditional printing methods, which produce identical copies of a document, VDP allows for personalized text, images, graphics, and other elements to be incorporated into each piece. 

The customization can range from simple changes like names and addresses to complex variations within the content and design. These variations can be based on demographics, gender, age, purchasing history, or other criteria. 

Because variable data printing is an intricate process, it is important to find and partner with a printer who prints, understands, and works with data. At Hatteras, we have a full-time IT department on staff who regularly works with data and can help our clients with the VDP process. 

Let’s explore why outsourcing print and mail operations is the strategic move for 2024, examining this approach's advantages and implications.

Core Components of Variable Data Printing

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Database Management

The foundation of variable data printing begins with data management. This process starts with marketers compiling and organizing relevant information about their target audience, ranging from basic demographics to specific preferences. The data needs to be kept up to date and to ensure accuracy. The data is stored in databases, which serve as the reservoir from which variable elements are drawn during printing.

This database could be a customer relationship management (CRM) system, an Excel spreadsheet, or another structured source of information as long as it stores the variable elements.

Template Design

A template serves as the foundation for the printed piece. It defines the layout, graphics, and static elements of the piece. The designers at Hatteras will work with you to create a template. The template design dictates how the elements are structured and presented. This template includes placeholders for variable data fields that will be populated during the printing process. Placeholders may be logos, branding elements, and specific colors.

A well-designed template will ensure consistency, which is essential for maintaining brand identity and professionalism.

Processing Software

Once the database and the template design are completed, Hatteras will process this data through software that interprets the template and merges it with the data from the database to generate unique print files. This software automates the process of matching data fields with the placeholders in the template and ensures accurate customization of each printed piece. 

Quality Control

Before printing, it is essential to follow quality assurance protocols. At Hatteras, we will run sample prints before going to print. Our customer service team scrutinizes sample prints to safeguard against errors. 


With the integration complete, the project is ready for print. Variable data printing requires digital printing equipment capable of retrieving data from a repository and fusing it during the printing process. At Hatteras, we have invested in the most advanced HP line of digital printing equipment. Our presses are high-speed, delivering exceptional quality while printing personalized pieces. 

Finishing & Distribution

After printing, the customized materials may undergo additional finishing processes such as cutting, folding, binding, or inserting into an envelope and mailing.

Elevate Your Marketing with Variable Data Printing

Variable data printing stands at the forefront of printing innovation, offering unparalleled opportunities for personalization and direct engagement. As we've seen, its capabilities to tailor content specifically for each recipient can significantly elevate your marketing strategy, fostering deeper connections and enhancing customer loyalty. If you're looking to harness the transformative power of variable data printing and propel your business communication to new heights, consider reaching out to the experts at Hatteras. 

With our state-of-the-art technology and deep industry knowledge, we can help you leverage VDP's full potential, ensuring your messages not only reach but resonate with your audience. Don't miss the chance to redefine your marketing approach with precision and creativity—contact Hatteras today.

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