How to Choose a Print Provider: the Right Printer
With a myriad of printers all
over the country to choose from, all offering quality work
under tight deadlines for reasonable prices, how should
you go about choosing a print vendor?
First, this is a process unique to
each buyer. Some start with samples, some with referrals.
Some go with their gut instinct. But overall, it is prudent,
I think, to consider at least several of the following,
since you will probably spend a large sum of money for a
process rife with potential pitfalls, a process on which
your reputation often depends.
Personally I start with samples. If
the printer has the ability to produce quality work in a
variety of formats with a variety of folds, die-cuts, heavy
coverage, metallics, and other challenges, this is an excellent
start. However, if the samples are poor, there's no reason
to pursue a relationship with the vendor.
Checking references is a good second
step, particularly asking such questions as whether the
printers work is consistently good and consistently
on time. After all, a printer that produces outstanding
work but doesnt meet deadlines is a liability, not
Keep in mind that a relationship with
a printing vendor is just that: a relationship. Printing
is not a commodity. Things will go wrong occasionally, so
it is a good idea when interviewing a printers references
to ask how the printer has come through when difficulties
If you can make the time, schedule
a plant tour. Seeing whether the plant is clean and well
organized as well as how the employees interact with one
another can tell you volumes about the printer. If theres
visible tension, or if employees are in a dirty or confusing
work space, this will be reflected in their product.
If everything else sits well with you,
if the prices are good, if people you know and respect speak
well of the print provider, consider starting with a small
job with a less-than-urgent deadline. Test the water slowly.
Keep in mind that most printers specialize;
most do not do all varieties of printing work. You will
need some sheetfed printers to choose from, as well as some
web printers and perhaps even some printers that can do
silkscreen or thermography. Keep a few of each, and keep
track of their equipment and how their specialty dovetails
with the work you do. Then get competitive bids from a few
printers in each category as needed.
Remember, printing is based on a relationship
of trust, and trust takes time. Start small and work up
from there, being as candid as possible with your print
rep and CSR about your expectations and about what you do
and do not like in any particular job you do with them.
Over time, you will build up a group of vendors you can
trust to do good work for a fair price within any number
of printing specialties.
When to Replace Your Print Buying Tools
Did you know that your print buying
tools go bad just like food in the grocery store? While
this analogy is somewhat extreme, it is true that after
a years time the PMS swatch book from which you choose
colors begins to change based on its exposure to light.
The paper stock yellows, and the colors fade. Since this
is your primary means of communicating color to your printers,
consider replacing it regularly to avoid surprises.
Paper swatchbooks also fit into
this category. If you look on the back of these swatchbooks,
you will see a date. It is prudent to keep these current
by discarding outdated books and requesting new ones from
your printers or paper vendors. Why? Because from time to
time paper mills discontinue certain brands and introduce
others. If your client or your boss loves the paper you
have chosen but the printer cannot supply it because the
mill has ceased production, you could look bad. So keep
your swatch books up to date.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]