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Printing Industry -- Who Pays for Shipping?

An often overlooked point of negotiation within a printing agreement is who pays for shipping.

If your printer is local, and your job is small, your printer will often just deliver the boxes in a truck for free, using his own delivery staff. Of course, as mentioned in a prior article, you will pay a surcharge for inside delivery, but the dock-to-dock (printer to client) delivery may often be without charge.

If your printer is farther away, it pays to scrutinize your contract, looking for the letters "FOB" or "F.O.B." This information tells you who pays for shipping, you or your printer. FOB means "free on board," free of any additional claims by the shipper to the point specified. In short, FOB shipping point means that you pay for shipping and take ownership of the job at the point from which the print job is shipped, your offset printer's plant.

FOB destination means the printer pays for the freight and you take ownership of the job when it reaches its destination, your office. Keep in mind that the words "shipping point" and "destination" may be these specific words or other words (loading dock, for instance) implying origin or destination. If this is not absolutely clear in your contract, ask your printer to be more explicit and make sure the contract is rewritten. Even if the contract specifies FOB destination, your printer will pay the common carrier for delivery but he may turn around and charge you to recover this price if you haven’t pinned him down on this issue.

Another thing to remember is that where you take ownership (or responsibility) for the printed job determines who will file a claim if damage occurs in transit. If damage occurs in transit and ownership does not pass to you until delivery, your printer will file a damage claim with his insurance company or the common carrier. If damage occurs in transit and ownership has passed to you as the job leaves the printer’s loading dock in a truck, you will file a damage claim with your insurance company or the common carrier.

Make your contract crystal clear. Assume nothing. Shipping can be expensive. Also, as an aside, always check random boxes of publications before signing for a delivery to determine whether any damage has actually occurred in transit.

More on Photos

When altering the size of a photo, remember to reduce or enlarge it within the image-editing program, not in the page composition software. Photoshop will reduce the image once and for all, and the resulting image you place in Quark will be the final size. If you depend on Quark to reduce the image, it will take more computer memory and therefore more processing time, since it will have to calculate the reduced size each time you print the Quark file. This is a good rule to follow even if you distill your final Quark files or InDesign files into PDFs for hand-off to your print provider.

Descreening (Screens of Halftone Screens)

If your photo has already been offset printed, it will be a halftone (made up of parallel rows of dots of various sizes). If you try to scan this image again (out of a magazine, for instance) and offset print it, the page composition software will essentially screen an already screened image and probably create undesirable geometric patterning called moiré. Descreening, once you have scanned, can be achieved with Photoshop’s “gaussian blur” command (among other methods; check your “help” files or manuals for specifics). The image can then be sharpened using “unsharp masking.” Your offset print provider can help you with this. Do keep in mind, however, that the best original is a color or b/w image with a wide dynamic range of colors, or shades of gray, provided in sharp focus. Whether this comes from a digital file you buy over the Internet, a transparency you scan, or even a hard-copy photographic print, the old adage is true: garbage in/garbage out. However, the best scenerio is to avoid needing to descreen and then rescreen the photo. Start with only the best original image.


[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.]

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