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How to choose the right printing company

Makin - Graphic Design advice

Over the years, I have learned that it is not only important but essential that designers select printers that are capable of the tasks we are setting them with each project.

I have been fortunate enough to work with a selection of very professional printing companies and through working with them we have been able to produce some stunning print pieces.

Type “printing” into Google and you are instantly flooded with results for low-cost print companies. They each offer remarkable deals, which, if you are on a restricted budget, are very appealing.

Who doesn’t want 500 business cards for a tenner?

While the low prices offered are very tempting, sadly in my experience many of these low-cost printing companies often produce low-quality work. A former client once decided to get some postcards reprinted for an exhibition they were attending. Instead of asking the printer I had originally used to produce the postcards, the client decided to use a local low-cost printing company. The postcards were printed using a digital press on paper stock that was both thinner than the original and uncoated giving it a matt finish as opposed to the satin of the original. Fair enough, changes like these are to be expected when using a low-cost outfit.

Not so colourful…

When inspected, the top few cards were identical to the original in colour but as the client split up the bundles it quickly became apparent that the colour changed significantly throughout the entire run. So the client called the printer to complain and request a reprint but with no success as the printer stated that they “could not guarantee the accurate reproduction of colour”.  I am sure that many readers will agree with me that this is a poor attitude to have especially as digital presses can be calibrated to give fairly accurate colour reproduction throughout a press run. It is apparent that this particular printer was more concerned about getting as much through his presses as possible rather than producing quality work.

Volume not quality…

This is not the only horror story about low-cost printers I have heard over the past few years and I sure that many of you reading this post today will have either had or know someone who has had a disappointing experience as well. Low-cost printers do have their place in the market and there are some gems out there that do produce good work but it is really hard to find them in a market place that is flooded with the fast money merchants.

How do you find the right printing company?

If you do a little homework you can easily find highly professional printing companies. What I like do is to ask for recommendations from other designers. By doing that I can quickly locate someone that would be suitable. Alternatively, If I find a brochure or magazine that matches the printing standard I am looking for, I quite often call the company who gave it to me and ask who their printer is… simple.

Meet with your printer…

As a graphic designer I like to see projects reproduced in the form that was intended and I take pride in a well produced piece of work. When I sit down to design a corporate brochure, one of the main areas of focus is the paper stock and finishes that I will specify for it’s production. I will meet with a representative from the printing company that I know have the capability to produce the project and discuss the specification with them.

Most printing firms are more than happy to meet with you to discuss your project requirements. By meeting with a printing company you can discuss everything involved in the production of the project. You can browse through paper stocks, select the style of binding and talk over the various different finishes available to you (laminates, varnishes etc).

Taking control…

Working with a printer allows you to control the project ensuring that when it is printed, the resultant work matches your original specification. This is far better than uploading your artwork to a low-cost operator and keeping your fingers crossed in the hope that when it is delivered, it looks as good as you intended.

Digital or litho?

One of the questions we are often asked by clients is whether to use digital or litho printing. In the twohundredby200 studio we tend to follow this basic in-house guide.

Digital printing

  •  Ideal for low volume printing where accurate colour is not too much of an issue.
  • Most cost effective for small print runs
  • Print on demand
  • Very fast turnaround times

We use digital printing for short life material such as leaflets, flyers and posters.

Litho printing

  • Ideal for high volume printing.
  • Achieves excellent colour consistency as colours can be accurately matched using the Pantone Matching System.
  • Flexible in terms of printing stock, inks and finishes.
  • Excellent print quality, better than digital.

We use litho printing for corporate brochures, annual reports, magazines and projects where high quality is a must.

As digital print technology improves, the divide between digital and litho is closing every year and your printing firm can offer advice on which route you should consider using for your project.

Working together…

Working together with a printer will ensure that not only will your printed material will look exactly as you expect it to but you will benefit greatly from their knowledge and expertise. Using an established professional company might not be the cheapest route but it certainly is the best way to rule out any of the nightmares caused by the low-cost alternatives.

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