Taking Delivery of a Print Job
Your job has been printed. The cartons -- or
skids with stacks of cartons -- have just arrived at your loading dock. Is your
No. Ensuring that the printer has met
your specifications and delivered a quality product is a
critical part of buying printing. But what do you look for,
and within a delivery of tens or hundreds of cartons, where
do you look?
First, check one sample for accuracy.
Then, check several copies from a selection of random cartons
to make sure the quality extends throughout the press run.
Make sure the printer has incorporated
all changes noted on the blueline and color proof. Did the
printer introduce any errors after the proof stage? Make
sure the printer used the paper you ordered. Check the color
for accuracy and also for consistent coverage.
Are all pages in the proper order?
Are any pages missing? If your product is a perfect-bound
book, do the pages withstand a reasonable pull? Check the
placement and accuracy of folds, perfs, drilling, binding,
and other finishing operations. Note any cracking of ink
or varnish at folds. Do any of the pages in a multi-fold
product bunch up or wrinkle (gusset)? Does the grain of
the paper run parallel to the bind edge in a perfect-bound
or saddle-stitched publication? Are all the folds square
with the copy? Are the covers and text pages aligned squarely
with one another?
Check reverses and tints. Are screens
too heavy? Are they mottled? Make sure ink coverage has
been crisp, with no streaking or other blemishes. Look for
over-inking or under-inking. Was the coating you requested,
whether varnish or UV coating, applied as noted on your
Make sure everything in the specification
sheet you gave the printer at the start of the job has been
addressed accurately (including packaging and delivery instructions).
Also, make sure the packing/delivery slip matches the actual
count, and that this number matches your requested print
After a while you will develop a sixth
sense of where to look for potential problems. Remember,
however, that no print job is perfect. Before you call the
printer to reject the job, consider the seriousness of the
flaw, as well as your schedule. If you do find a flaw in
printing, check other copies in the immediate vicinity.
Printing flaws tend to hang together in a group. So check
more copies in the carton and perhaps a few other cartons
close by. At this stage of quality control, checking cartons
at random will not usually help you determine the extent
of the problem.
Once you have a clear idea of the kind
of problem and its extent, contact your printers representative
immediately. It is his/her job to make sure the problem
is resolved to your satisfaction.
When to Request Prices from Printers
Many print buyers wait until the last
minute to request prices. The electronic mechanicals are
complete, and the disk is ready for hand-off to the printer.
A much more effective way to bid-out print jobs -- particularly
complex jobs -- is to involve at least one printer at the
early stages of design. Bring in a printers representative
and hand him/her a mock-up, folding dummy, and perhaps some
color swatches and paper swatches. Ask for his/her advice
on printing, finishing, and even mailing. Are there comparable
paper stocks that cost less? Are there ways to reduce postage
costs? Are there limitations within the printing or finishing
process you should know about? A good printer knows more
than you do about what they do bestputting ink on
paper. Listening to them can save you money, time, and aggravation.
Then, once you have determined the final specifications,
you can contact several printers for estimates.
[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.]