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Todd

22 Jan 2009, 8:57 pm

Choosing a Printer

What should a person look for and what questions should be asked when selecting a general purpose print shop? I was asked by someone who is less than impressed with their current printer and wants to move on but is unsure about how to determine their knowledge and skill, short of spending $ to have each one do a job.

Thanks

chuckamuck

22 Jan 2009, 10:42 pm

Are they “less than impressed” with print quality, or general unhelpfulness of printer?

In this day and age you want a printer who has a totally digital workflow. The most advanced will never touch film and some (high end) never touch a plate because the presses are digital also. I guess it kind of depends on the size of jobs a person has and budget as to the quality you can expect from a given printer. I would stay away from brokers unless you know and have experience with the printers they are brokering for. If quick turn around is the goal then quality is pretty much not necessarily a factor. Also, you want the printer to be willing to work with you to adjust things (within reason) to achieve correct color output.

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Todd

22 Jan 2009, 11:07 pm

Both. But probably more so the latter. Quality is of course a factor but this person mainly needs a printer for occasional small jobs like brochures, business cards…things like that. Nothing hardcore or high- end. He has no experience with printers so basically he wants to have some idea of what to look for and what to avoid; to educate himself in the basics so he doesn’t waste $ and time bouncing from one to the next.

Thanks,

T.

On Jan 22, 2009, at 5:42 PM, chuckamuck wrote:

Are they “less than impressed” with print quality, or general unhelpfulness of printer?

waltd

23 Jan 2009, 1:08 am

It can be very telling if you ask whether they accept projects in Adobe CS4 or whatever the latest QuarkXPress version is — good printers get themselves on the beta programs and figure out what’s coming next, and aren’t afraid to accept the latest versions of things. Bad printers will drag their feet, ask you to down-save, etc. and won’t be up on the latest. Mind, it doesn’t matter if you’ve lagged behind and only have CS2 or X or whatever, but a printer that will take the latest shows that they try on the prepress end.

Walter

On Jan 22, 2009, at 7:07 PM, Todd wrote:

Both. But probably more so the latter. Quality is of course a factor but this person mainly needs a printer for occasional small jobs like brochures, business cards…things like that. Nothing hardcore or high-end. He has no experience with printers so basically he wants to have some idea of what to look for and what to avoid; to educate himself in the basics so he doesn’t waste $ and time bouncing from one to the next.

Thanks,

T.

On Jan 22, 2009, at 5:42 PM, chuckamuck wrote:

Are they “less than impressed” with print quality, or general unhelpfulness of printer?

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David Owen

23 Jan 2009, 9:07 am

If I may chip in as a litho printer since 1883. The industry here in the UK and probably in the states also has changes massively. As spot colour print is fading away rapidly and everything is is going full colour litho or digital. Many print buyers are buying on price alone even, and don’t understand what they are buying, as everyone gets a computer and the work is coming from different non-print design areas.

Many printers won’t want to touch native files anymore and ask for PDF’s, they are going for full PDF workflow like us. They don’t want to see native files anymore, because of the hassle this can create. One of them being, is it really necessary to have every version of every software out there for that one off job. As margins are squeezed massively, this waste is being taken out. We have tools that can fix PDF files client supply.

Todd, if your printer has got modern kit, then quality should be generally OK as quality the margin between good and bad has narrowed massively. But you really got to ask yourself are looking for best price? or best quality? Despite when clients tell ask me they want both of these. They don’t exist alongside each other.

If you want full colour “cheap” then your full colour job will probably be printed along side other jobs, and colour control is averaged across the whole sheet with other jobs. If you want a quality your job will be printed alone, and you will pay a premium - but get better quality. Want it faster, probably pay more.

David

On 23 Jan 2009, at 02:08, Walter Lee Davis wrote:

It can be very telling if you ask whether they accept projects in Adobe CS4 or whatever the latest QuarkXPress version is — good printers get themselves on the beta programs and figure out what’s coming next, and aren’t afraid to accept the latest versions of things. Bad printers will drag their feet, ask you to down-save, etc. and won’t be up on the latest. Mind, it doesn’t matter if you’ve lagged behind and only have CS2 or X or whatever, but a printer that will take the latest shows that they try on the prepress end.

Walter

On Jan 22, 2009, at 7:07 PM, Todd wrote:

Both. But probably more so the latter. Quality is of course a factor but this person mainly needs a printer for occasional small jobs like brochures, business cards…things like that. Nothing hardcore or high-end. He has no experience with printers so basically he wants to have some idea of what to look for and what to avoid; to educate himself in the basics so he doesn’t waste $ and time bouncing from one to the next.

Thanks,

T.

On Jan 22, 2009, at 5:42 PM, chuckamuck wrote:

Are they “less than impressed” with print quality, or general unhelpfulness of printer?

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Heather Kavanagh

23 Jan 2009, 9:12 am

On 23 Jan 2009, at 10:07, David Owen wrote:

If I may chip in as a litho printer since 1883.

Wow! I never imagined you were that old!

I’ll just reinforce what Dave is saying. My current job has a digital workflow, and takes “press ready PDF” as the standard format. Most of the outsourced print we can’t handle is also PDF-based.

If you find a good local printer (word of mouth is a good recommendation) it’s well worth paying them a visit and trying to forge a good working relationship with them. Good, reliable, flexible printers are worth their weight in gold.

Heather

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David Owen

23 Jan 2009, 11:10 am

ha, sorry 1983.

On 23 Jan 2009, at 10:12, Heather Kavanagh wrote:

On 23 Jan 2009, at 10:07, David Owen wrote:

If I may chip in as a litho printer since 1883.

Wow! I never imagined you were that old!

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waltd

23 Jan 2009, 1:06 pm

Oh, I agree about that. I just want to clarify that asking if they support the latest is a clue about their general willingness to be modern. Many of my printers want PDF, the ones I rely on the most will ask for a PDF “proof” of what you want the page to look like along with the native files.

Most of the printing I do is either 4+ colors (CMYK plus flood or spot varnish or spot PMS) or else it’s all spot colors. It’s very rare that I buy printing for something that’s “just” CMYK, mostly those are ads or other placed media.

Walter

On Jan 23, 2009, at 5:07 AM, David Owen wrote:

Many printers won’t want to touch native files anymore and ask for PDF’s, they are going for full PDF workflow like us.

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Todd

23 Jan 2009, 2:57 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the insight, very useful. Well, it’s not my printer that’s the problem (yet) but an associate of mine who unfortunately lives somewhere else otherwise I would recommend one.

First of all his local printer options are very slim with a couple of small independents which he didn’t get a good feeling from and the rest national chains like Kinko’s and Staples (I know, I know). I, like him, realize the disparity between best price and best quality but I doubt he’s going to pay top dollar for some business cards, even if he could find one he liked.

Thanks to all who replied, I picked up some good tips myself.

Todd

On Jan 23, 2009, at 4:07 AM, David Owen wrote:

Todd, if your printer has got modern kit, then quality should be generally OK as quality the margin between good and bad has narrowed massively. But you really got to ask yourself are looking for best price? or best quality? Despite when clients tell ask me they want both of these. They don’t exist alongside each other.

If you want full colour “cheap” then your full colour job will probably be printed along side other jobs, and colour control is averaged across the whole sheet with other jobs. If you want a quality your job will be printed alone, and you will pay a premium - but get better quality. Want it faster, probably pay more.

thatkeith

23 Jan 2009, 3:24 pm

Sometime around 23/1/09 (at 10:07 +0000) David Owen said:

If I may chip in as a litho printer since 1883.

A mere 8 years after offset litho principles were invented… ;-)

The industry here in the UK and probably in the states also has changes massively. As spot colour print is fading away rapidly and everything is is going full colour litho or digital.

It is not entirely the case that spot colour is fading away, as jobs with ‘specials’ of various kinds will always be needed, certainly until someone comes up with a print process that had a bigger gamut than CMYK can manage. (And that doesn’t take six inks.) The packaging industry from the mid-level upwards is a major user of spots ‘n’ specials.

But in terms of one and two-colour presses doing run-of-the-mill flat work, yes, work that used to go through these is increasingly being done as basic four-colour jobs (litho or digital) instead.

Many printers won’t want to touch native files anymore and ask for PDF’s, they are going for full PDF workflow like us. They don’t want to see native files anymore, because of the hassle this can create.

Absolutely. From the point of view of a designer and publisher AND from the point of view of a printer, the PDF workflow makes life distinctly safer. As long as a printer is happy to provide specific PDF production settings or profiles, or they are happy with files made to one of the main PDF-X standards, then I don’t mind what DTP app versions they use for other stuff.

k

ENauta

24 Jan 2009, 8:43 pm

On 22 Jan 2009, 11:07 pm, Todd wrote: …He has no experience with printers so basically he wants to have some idea of what to look for and what to avoid; to educate himself in the basics so he doesn’t waste $ and time bouncing from one to the next…

Hi, Todd. I am a graphic designer, but currently employed as a print manager for a nonprofit. Though I wouldn’t choose to use a broker (who would simply be duplicating what I am paid to do), your acquaintance may really benefit from using a good broker. A good broker knows printing inside out and handles all of the details for the customer; a customer who knows little about printing is the most likely to benefit from such an arrangement. The customer pays a fee on top of the printing costs, but brokers get very good rates for funneling steady work to their printing contacts, which can save money for the customer. I know a couple of brokers in the Chicago area who have hearts of gold.

ENauta

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DeltaDave

24 Jan 2009, 11:22 pm

brokers….who have hearts of gold

Who would have thought that any sort of ‘broker’ would have a a ‘heart of gold’

David

Glasgow, Scotland

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