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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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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Custom Printing: A Few Tips for Enhancing Your Photos

February 21st, 2021

Posted in Photos | Comments »

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

The Problem with Photos

There is a truism, somewhat unflattering in its wording: “garbage in, garbage out.” In commercial printing, whatever you start with in the way of photographic imagery, once you have digitized it (if it starts as a printed photo), opened it in your image editing software, placed the resulting TIFF photo into InDesign, and then handed off the file to the printer for imaging to the press plate, the image has degraded–at least a bit. Printing it on a paper substrate will degrade the image a bit further. Because of this, it is essential that you start with the very best image possible.

What do I mean by degrade? Two things for starters. The range from the darkest tone to the lightest tone in the image will narrow a bit in the journey from camera to offset commercial printing. This is called “tone compression,” the squeezing of the initial range from highlight to shadow.

In addition, the nuances of the visible transitions from highlights to midtones to shadows will be less evident than they were in real life, and less distinct to the eye than they were on the original image (film or digital) once you have printed the photos.

Another way of saying this is that the range and the detail in the subtle transitions from the lightest light to the darkest dark in the image will be minimized as you transition from the camera to the digital file to the custom printing plate to the final job on paper.

How Can You Improve the Quality of Your Printed Photos?

First of all, start with transparencies if at all possible. These have the greatest range from the lightest light to the darkest dark when compared to digital photos or printed photographs. (This is in the process of changing as digital technology improves. So you may want to do some research online for confirmation.)

Transparencies are essentially slides. They come in different sizes depending on the camera you’re using. Most commercial grade cameras bought for regular use are 35mm cameras. (Again, most cameras these days are digital rather than film-based, but back when I was an art director in the 1990s we used 35mm cameras almost exclusively.) Larger film formats were always better in that they captured more detail with less evident film grain (the silver halide crystals that made up the image on cellulose film for analog cameras). Some were 2 1/4” x 2 1/4” square-format cameras. Some cameras supported on tripods for extremely detailed work were 8” x 10” in format, yielding photos with both more and sharper detail in the transitions from one tone to another. Why is this? Because these large-format negatives or transparencies did not need to be enlarged as much as 35mm images for printing. (Even an 8” x 10” print made from a 35mm slide needs to be enlarged approximately 700 percent. A 2 1/4” image requires far less enlargement than a 35mm image, so minor flaws are less visible, but an 8” x 10” original is even better.)

So how does this translate to the digital images to which we have grown accustomed? If more image data affords a broader tonal range and more detail in the various levels from shadows to highlights, then a digital camera that captures more data—with a higher megapixel count—will translate into a better image in your camera and therefore a better image in prepress and final commercial printing.

You may even want to research image formats for digital cameras. From my reading on Camera Raw images, which are sometimes referred to as “digital negatives,” this format seems to be ideal (although it does create very large image files). Camera Raw captures the most picture information digitally, making it similar to working from not only a transparency but a large-format transparency at that.

However, if you do use a film-based camera, and you do choose to work from transparencies, be aware that if you examine transparencies on a light box, they will appear lighter than they will look when printed because they are back-lit. You have the same consideration when you’re evaluating images on a computer screen.

Resolution, Focus, and Depth of Field

One thing I have seen at various commercial printing plants is that if you start with a high enough megapixel image produced with a quality digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera, you can capture enough picture detail to be able to print the image on even grand-format inkjet equipment, large enough to create a mural. If you start with this good an original digital image, clearly you can produce large, crisp-focus images for your books and even posters.

Back in the ‘90s I learned all of this the hard way. I stated with a 35mm transparency and enlarged it for a poster. It was a promotional piece for a nonprofit educational foundation, and I hadn’t yet learned all of what I have noted above. I enlarged the image from 35mm to 18” x 24” poster size, and the film grain in the transparency became acutely visible. It looked like a pointillist painting (dot painting) or perhaps a mezzotint. Ouch.

A comparable flaw these days would be to start with a digital photo with too low an initial resolution and enlarge it (let’s say a 2” x 3” 72dpi image for the internet enlarged to a 4” x 5” format). You wouldn’t see film grain, as you would with a transparency, but you would definitely see pixellation (visible squares of color side by side making up the photo). This is one reason to always select a high-resolution image (300 dpi at the final size you intend to print it).

Flaws are always magnified, particularly if you enlarge the image. So the importance of choosing the highest quality photo pertains to image focus as well. If you start with either a film-based or digital image that is out of focus (or if your depth of field–the area of sharpest focus within a photo–is other than on your primary subject matter), the final printed product will be even more visibly blurred.

So What Can You Do?

Choose the image with the most picture data (digital or film). Make sure it is in crisp focus and the depth of field enhances the subject of the photo. Look at the image on a computer screen, but remember that the photos will appear lighter and the colors more saturated than they will once your commercial printing supplier has offset printed the job on paper.

Another thing you can do is check the images in Photoshop, analyzing their “histograms.” Histograms are vertical bar charts that show the number of pixels at a particular tone level from the darkest dark to the lightest light. You want a smooth curve with no gaps. You also don’t want either the shadow or highlight to be excessive (i.e., you don’t want the histogram chart to spike up at either end of the spectrum with too many completely white or completely black pixels).

Also, look for color casts, but don’t completely trust the accuracy of your (presumably uncalibrated) monitor in an uncontrolled (ambient lighting) environment (perhaps with a window, allowing the sun to change the colors on the screen throughout the day). Do a little research online to determine the proper histogram balance for the color channels (keep the Photoshop file in RGB–red, green, blue–format until you hand off the final, adjusted image to the printer in CMYK format). In this case you’re trying to avoid color imbalances: color casts. These show up on the online color densitometer readings, and on the internet you can find the proper Photoshop (RGB) amounts/percentages to keep all color channels in balance).

The Short Answer

So the best approach to avoid GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is to give your printer the highest quality images (either film-based transparencies or high-megapixel digital images).

If there are any questions, I would encourage you to hand off the images to the printer for evaluation separately from the final art file submission (and with lots of lead time). A good prepress operator can look for all of the potential pitfalls I have enumerated and give you suggestions before you commit to final job files.

And then always ask for a physical color proof of any critical color work (like a poster or print book cover). If any of the flaws I have mentioned have slipped by, these will appear on a contract-quality color proof, and you can resolve the issues before offset printing your job.

Posted in Photos | Comments »

Book Printing: Play to the Strengths of the Print Book

February 18th, 2021

Posted in Book Printing | Comments »

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

On one of our almost daily trips to our favorite thrift store, my fiancee found a print book she liked about “chalk paint.” It is called Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook. I didn’t look at the book closely at first, but over the next few days at her suggestion I delved deeply into its content and production values. The book designer and publisher had included multiple design and production qualities and techniques that set this do-it-yourself text far beyond any presentation a digital book could offer.

Overview of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook

First of all, what is Chalk Paint? Chalk Paint is a brand of ultra-matte paint created by Annie Sloan. It is ideal for giving a chalky appearance and feel to furniture, and it can be easily distressed (intentionally beaten up to provide an aged, bohemian look to the furniture).

The print book itself is presented in an 8” x 10” hard-cover format. Moreover, it is Wire-O bound within the case binding. That is, the endsheets are punched, inside the book at the spine, to accept the rungs of the wire hoops. The book is “quarter-bound” (the brown, uncoated stock extends beyond the spine about an inch onto the front and back covers, and the remainder of the front and back covers consists of multi-level, somewhat Victorian-looking photos reminiscent of scrapbook pages).

The cover photo includes bits of handwriting (the author’s name), distressed type (a chalky appearance to the title in a bold, sans serif typeface), hand drawings, painted areas, and scraps of fabric. The background of the photo is a textured and mottled press sheet, which appears to be a photo of watercolor paper, with all of these drawn, painted, and photographed images on top. Across the bottom of the print book is a banner, with faux torn edges and a description of the book printed in red across the banner. All of this provides a unified collage with a very shallow depth.

(The artistic term for this collage treatment is “trompe l’oeil,” which means “to fool the eye.” You can find a lot of paintings like this online. They look incredibly real. Often they include stamps or postcards pinned to a background that appears to be right below the surface of the painting.)

So this is how the covers are laid out. They are also coated with a soft-touch, matte film laminate, and they are slightly padded under the printed litho paper that is glued to the heavier than usual binder boards.

Here is why all of this is relevant:

The matte coating and distressed sans serif book title, along with the cream (as opposed to bright white) background paper provide a textured, natural, “crunchy-granola” feel to the print book from the onset, beginning with the front cover. This is congruent with both the matte “feel” of Chalk Paint and the bohemian ethos of do-it-yourself furniture embellishment. Another way to say this is that the design (the visuals and the print production values) is congruent with the book’s subject matter.

Let’s Go Inside

An overall print book design, unlike a painting or any other flat work of art, implies the passage of time. You see and respond to the front cover. Then you turn the pages to absorb a progression of ideas, over time, from the images and the text.

In this particular book, when you open the cover to read the text, you immediately see a continuation of the front cover’s paper color and finish. The text sheet is an uncoated matte stock. Handwriting is used throughout the book for headlines and for fill-in-the-blank journal pages. (This is an artist’s sketchbook of sorts, for practicing images you plan to later paint directly on the furniture.) The handwriting is also balanced against small drawings (appearing as pen and watercolor art) that enhance the overall do-it-yourself tone of the book.

In addition to the descriptive text (a simple serif typeface for introductions paired with a simple sans serif typeface for accompanying lists) and handwritten sections inviting the reader to add her/his own notes and drawings, the text includes sketches, color swatches that look like brush strokes, and 4-color photos.

One of the things that I appreciate, in particular, is that in spite of being printed on an absorbent, uncoated yellow-white (natural) press sheet, the photos are crisp and unmuddied. The printer held the detail in the highlights, midtones, and shadows. This reflects his skill, and it also contributes to the artistic quality of the print book. Its purpose may be to teach people to use Chalk Paint, but it treats the whole process (both the learning and the practice) with an eye towards beauty and nuance.

I had mentioned earlier that the book is a case-bound, Wire-O product. Wire-O binding, unlike spiral binding (both metal and plastic), allows facing pages to lie exactly side by side. (Given the nature of a spiral, facing pages of a spiral-bound book are slightly mismatched.) In addition to allowing the book to lie completely flat when open (a boon for crafters who need both hands to do their work), the slightly off-white metal spiral goes nicely with the natural paper tone. This balance is enhanced by the full-bleed images scattered throughout the text.

More specifically, these full-bleed photos are most often used for the divider pages, which are printed on a heavy uncoated cover stock and are folded over into pockets. The reader can slip photos, notes, or anything else into these pockets. Furthermore, a portion of each divider is diecut out of the paper, creating somewhat of an “L” shape in the pocket and exposing its contents. Finally, a thumb tab is diecut and then folded out of each divider page.

Book Structure

All six of these divider pages (breaking the book into multiple sections and thereby giving the print book a formal structure) are printed on “faux-duplex” paper. In addition to being thicker than the text paper (because of the base cover stock and folded-over nature of the pockets), they are also quite intriguing, with one side of the sheet printed in one color and the reverse side printed in another. Throughout the book all of these colors change (two each for six dividers or twelve colors total). All of the tones of the background screens are somewhat muted, given the uncoated, absorbent nature of the paper. And this enhances the understated, artistic tone of the print book.

At the end of the book Annie Sloan included a series of note pages with copious space for reader drawings and notes.

Finally, around the back cover of the case-bound Wire-O book is a belly band (vertical, though, as opposed to the customarily horizontal orientation of most belly bands). It is about three inches wide, and it wraps vertically around the back cover (increasing the already thick feel of the binder’s board). The band is printed to look like uncoated kraft paper, although closer examination with a 12x printer’s loupe shows this to be white paper tinted brown with ink. The simple drawings and text on the belly band (with extra leading to make the text appear light and airy) echo the natural feel of the cover paper (which, interestingly enough, upon closer inspection with a printer’s loupe, is also augmented with a light 4-color process screen to add visual texture).

Finally, the piece de resistance. There is a vertical elastic band, dyed a rich, deep purple, which goes vertically around the back cover (through two drill holes). This elastic band can be pulled up and across the front cover, binding both covers together and (presumably) keeping any reader-added inserts from falling out of the divider-page pockets. So this is a functional addition, and functionality is consistent with a do-it-yourself book.

What Can We Learn from This Book?

So what can we learn from Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook? What makes it so appealing? Here are some thoughts:

  1. All of the physical characteristics of the print book–the paper tints, weights, and textures, as well as the cover coating (and even the thickness and texture of the strategically placed divider pages)–appeal to the sense of touch as well as the eye. None of this could have been achieved with a digital book. The designer has played to the strengths of a physical, as opposed to virtual, book.
  2. The book has structure: everything from the diecut divider pages/pockets to the informational, vertical belly band and elastic closure. These physical book manufacturing elements break down the book into a manageable series of chunks for the reader to absorb.
  3. The book invites reader participation in response to the notes pages, pocket divider pages, and even the pen and ink drawings with the faux watercolor washes (simulated with printer’s ink). Again, form follows function.

When all design elements, from the paper stock to the binding choices (the lay-flat nature of a case-bound Wire-O book) reflect and enhance its intended use, and when these manufacturing choices extend into the visuals and even the text treatments (typeface choices, handwriting, drawings), then the overall design of a print book is supremely successful. Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook definitely meets all of these criteria.

Posted in Book Printing | Comments »

07 Advantages Of Hiring Professional Printing Service For Business

February 17th, 2021

Posted in Printing | Comments »

When you are looking for professional printing services, you are looking to get an exceptional piece of marketing material for your business. Printing service is a necessity for almost any business. Whether you’re creating promotional flyers or printing out proposals and contracts for clients, your business could benefit from using a professional printing service.

By outsourcing to a professional service, you can ensure your order’s timely delivery at the quality you expect. If the custom printing online is not up to par, you can request a reprint at no extra cost. To guarantee the quality, it’s always good to leave it to the professionals who have good experience with all manner of print designs. Professional services also ensure clean, clear cut edges by printing on slightly larger sized paper and then cutting smaller designs down to size, leaving you perfect edges instead of white margins.

Posted in Printing | Comments »

Custom Printing: Choosing Sustainable Inks and Papers

February 15th, 2021

Posted in Inks | Comments »

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

A PIE Blog reader recently asked about using recyclable UV inks on recyclable media such as polypropylene. Since this is somewhat outside my knowledge base, I went to school on the subject online, and here is what I found, along with my own personal experience with such inks and papers.

Qualities of Inks (and of UV Inks in Particular)

Let’s start with what UV ink is. Many contemporary ink formulations can be cured using UV light. The alternative “drying options” using more traditional inks are oxidation (evaporation of the vehicle, the liquid part of the ink, into the surrounding atmosphere) and absorption (in which the ink vehicle is taken into the fibers of the paper substrate).

In these cases the pigment is left on the surface of the paper (or other custom printing substrate) once the vehicle is gone.

Unfortunately, some of the gases given off as the vehicle disperses are harmful to the environment. Because of this, in recent decades there has been a concerted effort to minimize the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) given off during the drying of ink.

To get back to the reader’s question, when specially formulated UV ink is used on a commercial printing press, exposure to UV light “cures” the ink (similar to drying). The ink becomes a solid. Moreover, it sits up on the surface of the coated or uncoated paper or other substrate.

This yields three benefits:

  1. Since UV ink cures instantly when exposed to UV light (in contrast to the other drying methods noted above), and since it therefore sits up on the surface of the paper, the colors maintain their intensity or saturation. Less ink is needed to create brilliant coloration because it doesn’t seep deeply into the paper fibers.
  2. UV inks can be used not only on coated and uncoated paper but also on completely non-porous surfaces like plastic (to reference the PIE Blog reader’s question about polyprophylene substrates) and even glass and wood.
  3. This makes UV inks ideal for use on banners (i.e., jobs printed on large-format inkjet equipment, as well as jobs printed on offset lithographic commercial printing presses). Moreover, since UV inks are bright, vibrant, have great adhesion properties, and are stable, flexible, chip resistant, light- and weather-fast, fade-resistant, and low-migration (i.e., good for food packaging since they don’t travel from the substrate to the contents of a food package), they are an increasingly viable choice for a huge range of both flexible and rigid printed products.

But Are They Environmentally Friendly?

In my research, I learned that UV inks have the following environmental benefits:

  1. Those UV inks that are specifically LED UV are cured with light emitting diodes (LED) rather than mercury vapor lights, as was done in the past.
  2. These LED UV lights consume far less energy, and generate far less heat, than mercury vapor lamps. They also require lower voltage and have a longer life.
  3. This means printers don’t need a high-powered cooling unit. The process also emits no infrared radiation, heavy metals, or ozone.
  4. Because of the reduced energy footprint (lower energy requirements and lower heat emission), LED UV inks are great for heat-sensitive substrates (i.e., certain flexible plastics, for instance).

In addition, UV inks and UV curable paper coatings are recyclable. According to my research, UV printed papers can be deinked (using cleaning, flotation, and dispersion processes to separate the ink from the paper), and then the waste paper can be repulped or reincorporated into the paper mill’s standard “furnish” (their liquid paper blend from which new, dry, fully formed paper can be created).

One thing to consider, however, is that recycled paper is usually of a lower quality than virgin paper. More specifically, the paper fibers are shorter after being made into new paper, and the ink particles may not be 100 percent removable. (Also, the paper won’t be as bright, since brightness is usually achieved through bleaching.)

But this doesn’t have to be a problem. Why? Because repulped paper is usually turned into lower quality board grades (as opposed to bright-white, #1 uncoated commercial printing sheets). Or this paper can be used for tissue, paper towels, toilet paper, or any number of other paper products. Moreover, much of the paper that has been recycled does not include a full 100 percent content of post-consumer waste.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of paper in use is still virgin paper. It’s just that having the option to cut virgin wood for paper or to recycle and then extend the life of the paper fibers through cleaning and repulping makes for a far more thorough and sustainable use of forest resources (even if the trees are being constantly replanted).

Recycling paper in this way also reduces waste being diverted to the landfill.

Ensuring Sustainability

You might want to research the following organizations, which are active in keeping track of the actual sustainability of the process of turning trees into commercial printing paper. These two organizations are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). You may see these acronyms on printer estimates or as logos on boxes of custom printing paper.

These organizations track and certify the chain of custody (various steps in the process of planting, growing, and harvesting lumber and making paper), ensuring responsible management of forest resources and the incorporation of post-consumer waste (PCW) into the papermaking process.

So look for these certification logos (FSC and SFI) or ask your printers about their compliance with these certifications.

One thing to keep in mind is that the best (or most sustainable) papers are “FSC Certified Recycled.” This wording ensures the genuinely recycled nature of paper products, more so than any other labeling.

How About Polypropylene Printing Substrates?

I once saw a fish tank at a restaurant with a printed paper ad, or menu (I can’t remember), in the water, tied to the rocks at the bottom of the tank. It was intriguing.

Later on, I learned about such synthetic paper as Yupo. I thought back to the paper in the fish tank, and then realized that for printed products used outside in wet weather, those used for menus, and those used for labels, plastic-based paper was ideal. (Keep in mind that two of the other alternatives are wood-fiber-based paper and cotton-based paper such as stationery bond.)

When you add to these more traditional paper options the newer synthetic stocks (which presumably are not porous) and the particular curability of UV inks (plus their superior adhesion qualities even to non-porous substrates), you have an ideal match.

That said, when all is said and done you still have plastic to recycle. And given the PIE Blog reader’s question about printing UV inks on polypropylene substrates, I did some more research.

This is what I found:

  1. Polypropylene is rugged and resistant to solvents. Therefore it is useful for durable printed products (such as printed plastic bottles).
  2. Plastic can now be purified with intense heat at a molecular level to produce clear, odorless, nontoxic plastic pellets from which 100 percent recycled plastic can be made.
  3. In spite of it’s huge popularity, polypropylene is also one of the least recycled materials.
  4. This is problematic, because polypropylene degrades slowly in landfills. It also includes toxic additives such as lead and cadmium. In addition, burning thermoplastics discharges dioxins and vinyl chloride into the atmosphere.

Since these plastics can be cleaned of contaminants with adequate heat, and then blended with virgin polypropylene to make recycled plastic, this is a win/win proposition, eliminating the danger of improper and dangerous disposal of these plastics.

The Takeaway

So what can you do?

  1. First of all, read everything you can get your hands on regarding environmentally friendly commercial printing products, and then ask your printing suppliers about their participation in recycling programs. This includes inks and papers.
  2. Ask how your printers recycle paper waste. Probably they have vacuum hoods and hoses snaking throughout the pressroom that collect the paper scraps and fibers and deposit them in balers (to make bales of paper, like bales of hay) for shipping back to recycling plants.
  3. Ask about UV inks. But be aware they they may cost more than conventional inks.
  4. Study the environmental impact of the various commercial printing technologies, including offset lithography, digital printing, gravure, flexography, screen printing, etc.

Posted in Inks | Comments »

Custom Printing: Engage the Reader’s Eye with Page Design

February 6th, 2021

Posted in Design | Comments »

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

Whether you’re designing a print book (everything from the cover to the table of contents and the interior text pages), or you’re designing a poster, a brochure, or even a web page, your first goal is to make the design inviting and readable. If you can’t capture the reader’s attention, you can’t engage the reader. You can’t tell a story, teach the reader something, or persuade the reader to buy your product or service. If you don’t do this, all of the information on the page is meaningless.

But how do you organize text and images on a page to make the print book, poster, or brochure both enticing and readable?

Grouping Similar Information

Group things together that are related, and make things that are different look different. Also, give the reader a hierarchy of importance in the design. (What’s the most important element, then the next most important element, etc.?)

In this light, I remember reading a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that was particularly frustrating because it had no punctuation and no paragraph indentations (as a method of illustrating the stream of consciousness of the main character). Had the print book not been required reading for my college class, I would have missed a captivating story.

So, a device as simple as a paragraph indent will indicate to the reader the transition from one idea to the next. What would otherwise be a sea of gray type becomes a series of groups of ideas.

A good designer can use type style and size; width of margins; and contrast between the headings, subheads, and text copy (including type size and contrasting fonts) to group some information together and set this apart from other information.

But what other methods of organizing book content does the designer have at hand? One of these is the distinction between the cover and the main text pages, and between both of these and the front matter and back matter of the print book (i.e., the table of contents, copyright page, and title page in the front of the book, and the index and afterword in the back). The best way to learn to craft this global organization of a book is to observe, copy good design, and then create your own design work.

A Few Points on Magazine Design

In contrast, on a magazine page spread, the graphic artist has a few more design elements to consider than a print book designer. (Of course, this depends on the complexity of both the print book and the magazine.) These may include photos, captions, color screens and solids, and pull quotes. All distinctions (i.e., contrast) between one design element and the next will work together to serve up little chunks of information in a manner that aids in the reader’s comprehension.

It is up to you as the designer to determine this order of reading and to use your page design skills to facilitate it. The building blocks of page design include contrast in type size, contrast between type styles, size and color contrast within and between photos, and the use of white space on the page spread.

With magazine design, as with print book design, you use these to group certain visual elements and indicate their relative importance. There are a plethora of tips and tricks to create this “road map” for the reader. but in just a few words, your primary goal is to direct the reader’s eye around the page.

A good way to learn how to do this by studying design grids (the structure of a page: how things are placed within a predetermined “scaffolding,” also referred to as “page geometry”) of the books, posters, and brochures you find striking. Observe. Notice what you like. Then deconstruct it and articulate why you like it and what design rules the graphic artist has used to give order, structure, and unity to the layout.

Eye Movement (Some Samples for Illustration)

One of the key methods for leading the reader’s eye around a print book page, a magazine page, a poster, or a brochure is to note the visual direction implied in photos or other visual elements (even the style and placement of type).

For instance, my favorite design book (Design Basics Index by Jim Krause), to which I often refer in the PIE Blog articles, includes four sample business cards for a surf shop. Each sample includes the client’s contact information and a blue ocean wave. Nothing else. The four samples are very similar. But here are the differences:

    1. In the first option, the wave is breaking to the left (toward the edge of the card), but all contact information text is stacked and on the far right of the card. Because the wave is breaking off the left side, it leads the reader’s eye off the left side of the business card. It does not lead the reader’s eye to the name, address, phone number, and other contact information. It may look pretty, but the design and the intended eye movement are at odds. (Krause says as much in the text of his print book, but I would add one other observation. In this culture we read from left to right. So if the wave leads the reader in the opposite direction, this goes against her/his expectations and hinders the reading process.)

 

    1. Option #2 has all contact information stacked on the left of the card (set flush left). On the right the wave crests and is about to “break” off the edge of the business card. The reader’s eye goes to the cresting wave first, but then it has to “back up” (go back to the left side of the card) to get to the contact information. If you only have a second to make an impression, this card may only give the hasty reader an image of the cresting wave, and she/he may miss the contact information. The takeaway? Assume the reader will unconsciously read from left to right. Make sure your placement of design elements both reflects and encourages this eye movement.

 

  1. (Actually both option #3 and #4) Krause’s third and fourth design samples are very similar. The only difference is in the way the wave is drawn. In both cases the wave crests and is about to fall to the right, onto the contact information. On the third sample card, the wave beyond the curling crest exits the page exactly horizontally. But on the fourth sample business card, the curve under the crest of the wave cradles (or contains) the lines of contact information (because it curves upward slightly on the right as it bleeds off the edge of the business card). This particular design, unlike the other three, includes a cresting wave falling onto the most important part of the card (the text), but it also holds the reader’s eye in place with a simple rising of the water to the right of the wave.

The Takeaway

Learning design can be a lifetime pursuit. I personally learned my design skills not in school but on the job. But what has helped me the most has been looking closely at the design work of the masters and asking myself the following: What was the overall goal? And how did the designer achieve the goal using the elements and principles of design?

The elements of design might include type style, size, and weight; page geometry, or the design grid; color; and imagery such as drawings and photos. And the principles of design might include repetition, contrast, unity, and the like.

So the short answer is: Observe, deconstruct, understand, create.

Posted in Design | Comments »

Promoting Business through Flyer Printing

February 3rd, 2021

Posted in Business Cards, Flyer Printing | Comments Off on Promoting Business through Flyer Printing

These days, every business requires effective promotion to succeed. Whether you are running a small scale business or a medium, an attractive promotion technique is extremely essential to let people know about your brand and products. Now, most successful business organizations prefer using flyers for promotional activities. Whether you plan to put your products on discount deals or need to introduce a newly launched product in the market, flyers are best way to convey your message to the customers.

A lot of people say that because of the uncontrolled use of social media these days, it is a great option to promote your brand online. Still, the promotion through flyers works in an amazing way, actually much better than the online promotions. These days, there are several best flyer printing services available online, and you can choose one according to your specific needs.

While moving out for work if you get a flyer, then you will obviously read that on your way to the office. Therefore, promoting a business through flyer printing is absolutely the perfect way.

Benefits that a flyer promotion can serve you with are as follows:

Easy to reach the target audience

With the help of flyers, it gets very easy to promote your brand and business. You can choose the best flyer printing services online and get perfectly designed flyers for your business promotions. After that, you can get those flyers distributed to other places like parks, streets and you can even get them inserted in newspapers to reach homes.

Customers get attracted by creative advertisements

You can ask your flyer printing service provider to make it a bit more creative for attracting customers. And for that, you need to choose the best designs that align with the perfect content for the flyers. This technique will help your flyer advertisement to look unique and the customer as well gets your message in a creative way.

Easy to read on the move

A great benefit of using flyers for promotion is that the customers can easily carry that for reading on the move. When you visit a mall and someone gives you a flyer, then you will definitely look at that and go ahead reading that only if it looks attractive. This is the biggest advantage of promoting business through flyer printing.

Affordable

In general, business promotions demand a lot of investment. But, promoting your brand through flyer printing gets very easy on your pocket. Additionally, it works amazingly when it comes to boosting the business growth and increasing profit ultimately.

Therefore, if you are also looking forward to promoting your brand and products in the best possible manner to earn higher profits and attract more customers, then it would be best to choose flyer printing. These days, there are multiple options available for printing services online, but you need to choose the best and the most reliable one as your brand image matters a lot.

Posted in Business Cards, Flyer Printing | Comments Off on Promoting Business through Flyer Printing

Book Printing: A Captivating Print Book About Cleopatra

January 31st, 2021

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on Book Printing: A Captivating Print Book About Cleopatra

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

My fiancee and I were recently looking for new art projects for our art therapy work with the autistic. Since we had found a plastic mummy kit in the thrift store for educating kids in the religion, mythology, and embalming processes that ensured ancient Egyptians a safe passage to the next life, we decided to have our students build and decorate a cardboard sarcophagus (essentially a mummy case).

Along with our art projects for the autistic, we like to provide visual aids and background information to educate/interest the members, their aides, and their parents. In that light, I dug around in our stash of thrift store print books and found a beautiful book about Cleopatra to share along with the little plastic mummy kit.

And that is what I want to share with you, because the print book is gorgeous, and it reflects qualities and techniques you won’t see in an ebook.

As I always say when addressing design issues in these PIE Blog articles, if you like a design, be able to articulate why it works. There’s no better way to learn design (which I consider a lifelong process). So taking my own advice, here is a description of the book about Cleopatra and my analysis of why its design is superb.

The Overall Print-Book Format

This is a perfect-bound book designed by the National Geographic Society as a companion to an exhibit on Cleopatra. It is 8” x 10”, printed on a dull, bright-white paper stock.

Unlike many other books, Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt has French flaps partially covering (and partially revealing) a full-bleed, gold Egyptian pattern on the inside front and back book covers. The gold coloration (metallic printing ink) along with the French flaps and the thick paper (probably 100# white gloss text) adds an air of opulence to the book. Clearly this is an appropriate tone, given the wealth and power Cleopatra commanded. (Again, as I always say in the PIE Blog articles, when you design anything, make sure the form reflects or supports the tone and content of the print book or any other printed product.)

Although the text paper is a bright, blue-white, dull stock, which makes reading easier, the designer has also gloss varnished the images. This is particularly effective in creating contrast (i.e., making the photos “pop”).

The backgrounds of many of the pages are black, with full-color images of Egyptian coins and statuary and captions set in reverse type in a simple, easy-to-read-at-any size, sans serif type. These pages are often facing other pages with white backgrounds and black text for captions. This shift from black to white to black sets up a nice visual rhythm. So the print book is comfortable (the book’s size and format–as well as its light weight–plus the qualities of the paper stock) and interesting to read. It would still be so even if I couldn’t read the language, simply because it is attractive and easy on the eyes.

Achieving a Visual Rhythm

All of the design niceties I have mentioned pertain more to the design of a page or page spread (and the readability of the type) than to the overall print book design.

However, what sets this book above most others is that the designer approached the organization of the book (as well as the “look” of the page spreads) as a design challenge. Between the two covers (and their opulent French flaps and gold-patterned printing), thought has gone into crafting a design grid that allows for the reader’s immediate recognition of what she/he is reading. This the designer achieved by using only a limited number of different page grids.

The chapter dividers include a large, all-caps treatment, sans-serif type that has been letter-spaced (spread out slightly). These are one- or a-few-word titles surrounded by a thin rule, above which is the chapter number spelled out (i.e., “CHAPTER FOUR”), again in all caps but in a contrasting serif typeface. The type on each divider-page spread is white, reversed out of the richly colored background photo. Even with the type’s thin letterforms, the all-cap headlines are graceful but powerful (perhaps a little like Cleopatra herself). Finally, there is a white border (about 3/4”) all the way around the double-page photo.

Over the course of the multiple chapters, these divider pages set up a rhythm, an expectation in the mind of the reader, which allows her/him to group the pages of the book into digestible chunks. Moreover, this visual “look” is also carried consistently through the four-page chapter introductions. These have one large column of text on each page, placed toward the center of the book with a “scholar’s margin” on the outside left and right.

Consistent with the divider pages, these chapter intros have a white border running around the perimeter of the double-page spread. In this case a dark brownish-red rule (the same thickness as the white rules on the divider pages) surrounds the text columns, crossing over from the left page to the right.

In line with the letter-spaced type on the divider pages, the headlines on the intro pages are also spread out slightly. They are set in the same sans-serif type as headlines on the divider pages, and the body copy is set in the same serif face as the all-caps chapter numbers on the divider pages.

The wide columns of body copy in the intros have extra leading (space between lines), which makes reading them easier. In addition, setting the heads in thin, letter-spaced type while also spreading out the leading between lines of type adds to the sense of luxury and opulence in the book. This is fully consistent with the character of the book’s subject, Cleopatra.

To begin the initial paragraph in each chapter introduction, there is also a drop-capital letter, in gray, extending five lines deep.

To highlight the headlines (both main heads and subheads), the designer printed these in the same brownish red color, which goes nicely with the rich gold and black tones throughout the print book. This brown is also used for the large pull-quotes, which are set in italics and nestled into mortises cut out of the single text column on these intro pages. (These quotations also extend into the scholars’ margins.)

Maintaining the Visual Rhythm

The long and short of this is that the designer has set up a visual rhythm. This fosters the reader’s expectation of what is to come and shows how each element relates to everything else.

Good visual rhythm works best when it has a counterpoint every so often, something to contrast what could otherwise become visually monotonous. In this case, there are the pages following the introductions that include a catalog of images (everything from coins to silhouettes of small statues).

There’s a lot of varnished gold ink on these pages, which, as noted before, alternate between having a white or black background. Occasionally, there are also “text” pages reversed out of a black background along with a silhouetted full-color image. These have three-line drop caps, printed in red, as well as a thin vertical line (in red ink) running the length of the text block between the two narrow columns (for consistency with the thin rules on the divider pages and intro pages).

Of course, the interior of the print book is sandwiched between front matter (table of contents and such) and back matter (index and such), followed by the interior back cover page with its opulent gold pattern slightly covered by a French flap.

All of this is like a frame, presenting the lush imagery inside the book as well as the content of the text. A frame should never detract from the painting it showcases, but a structured scaffolding, if you will, of thoughtful design, can make reading a print book a more fluid and enjoyable experience.

In this case, the designer knew how to use the elements of design to highlight and showcase the substance of the book.

What We Can Learn

Here are some quick thoughts:

  1. Good design breaks an otherwise undifferentiated mass of content (photos and words) into manageable chunks of information, which can be seen as related to one another in a particular way and a particular order of importance.
  2. Good design (as evidenced in the designer’s use of color, typeface, column grids, etc.) should reflect the tone and content of the book.
  3. Good design should structure the content without calling attention to itself. The frame is not more important than the picture.
  4. Readability is the prime goal. Every element of design should guide the reader through the reading experience. If the reader gets tired or loses interest, you’ve lost your audience.

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on Book Printing: A Captivating Print Book About Cleopatra

Three Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Online Printing Company

January 30th, 2021

Posted in Printing, Printing Contracts | 2 Comments »

Finding a reliable printing company that addresses the needs of the business takes some time and effort. Also, one can’t deny that finding an ideal printing company is essential in enhancing the visibility of a business through digital and traditional printing methods. Therefore, the quality of the materials like brochures, flyers, logos, book covers, and t-shirts can make a world of differences between elevating the brand’s image and tarnishing its reputation. A reliable printing company works dedicatedly and professionally to prioritize different customers’ different needs to offer utmost satisfaction. However, most people aren’t aware of the tips to find the best printing companies and tend to make mistakes during the hiring process. Unfortunately, this can entirely damage a brand’s reputation if the quality of the print material degrades. So, there are a few questions that one must ask in the beginning before hiring the best online printing company. Let’s take a look at the following questions below:
1. Do they Have In-house Experts?
There are printing companies that outsource their projects to some other companies. However, it can be a real deal-breaker for businesses, especially when it takes too much time to produce the print materials. It depends on the individual’s preferences and business requirements. One must inquire about this factor before hiring the printing company to stay prepared for the delay or unsatisfactory event. The best online printing company always focuses on providing quality materials to their clients even if they outsource the projects, but it may increase the turnaround time when a printing company focuses on quality. So, businesses must place their order in advance to avoid facing any unsatisfactory events in the future. Asking this question allows businesses to stay prepared for all kinds of possibilities.
2. Do they Provide an Estimate?
A professional printing company needs to provide an estimate before they start working on the project. It helps the clients to stay financially prepared. Also, it should be noted that getting a quote from a printing company is free. Most printing companies allow their clients to enter the details of their printing project to get a quote online. People must ask if the quote received is the actual cost or the estimate. Sometimes the actual cost slightly differs from the estimated price. So, this is an important question to ask before partnering with any printing company.
3. Do they Offer A Guarantee?
A reputable printing company always aims at providing customer satisfaction more than anything else. Therefore, they offer a guarantee on their printing work. In case, the customers aren’t satisfied with the end result, they either offer a money-back guarantee or strive to improve their print materials to match the customer’s requirements at no additional cost. So, communication with the printing company is extremely crucial to ensure the quality of the printing materials. One must ask these above-mentioned questions to evaluate the quality of a printing company.

Posted in Printing, Printing Contracts | 2 Comments »

6 Benefits of Web Offset Printing

January 30th, 2021

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Posted in Offset Printing, Software, Web to Print | Comments Off on 6 Benefits of Web Offset Printing


A form of offset printing which constantly puts in a roll of paper through the press is known as web offset printing. Such presses are able to print on both sides of a paper simultaneously. These days, this job is outsourced to various printing companies around the world, and the Internet has made it easy to reach out to them.

Top benefits of web offset printing

1. Highly cost effective- Rolls of paper cost only half of the price of precut paper, making this a cost effective printing solution. The use of rolls instead of sheets also makes this process more efficient than others.

2. High speed- Web offset presses manage to print several thousands of paper rolls every hour. Operators do not have to worry about reloading these machines with precut sheets. A company that wants to obtain many copies of its catalogs or magazines can easily get it done through web offset presses.

3. Consistent quality- When a printing service makes use of Advanced Interface systems and the latest technology, high quality results with consistent levels of quality can be expected every time. The turnaround time is also pretty quick here.

4. Less money for black and white prints- The cost of printing black and white is significantly lower here than most other processes

5. Large scale prints- Looking to print in huge volumes? If yes, then a web offset press is a great solution. One can expect large scale prints here with no sacrifice on quality.

6. Flexible- Additional tasks such as folding, perforating, and cutting paper can also be accomplished here. Heatset web presses come with large drying lamps to set ink quickly on a high quality image.

7. Some Sheet Fed presses are equipped with a “Sheeter”, thus using rolled paper ( like web rolled paper ) feeding than using cut sheets.

Choose a well known company

For fulfilling the above printing requirements, it makes sense to choose a reputed printing company, irrespective of its location. Through the Internet, it is now possible to get in touch with an agent who can find the most suitable print company. Expertise in the field is necessary for obtaining a good quality product, and one should always give time to the same.

Timely delivery of a printing assignment is very important. There are many cases in which books are required at the end of a month, or magazines are necessary at the end of a week. It is important that the printing company gets the message about timely delivery, so that deadlines are not unnecessary missed. Keep a few days in handy for editing as well.

Printing can help build brands

Good quality of print helps to build a brand. When books and magazines printed beautifully reach the customers, they tend to remember company names for a long time. Similarly, when magazines are rolled out for employees and not for the public, the same logic is applicable. Strengthening a brand helps to build a large and loyal customer base over the years.

Good quality always shows that a company cares for its employees, or customers. Therefore, one must get in touch with printing companies for the best results in this aspect.

 

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Posted in Offset Printing, Software, Web to Print | Comments Off on 6 Benefits of Web Offset Printing

Custom Printing: What Print Buyers Look for in Printers

January 27th, 2021

Posted in PrintBuying | Comments Off on Custom Printing: What Print Buyers Look for in Printers

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

When it comes to print buying, I know how I choose a printer. What I don’t know is how others approach print buying. So I found it intriguing to read an analysis on www.piworld.com of NAPCO Research’s survey of 200 print buyers or print buying influencers. The article is entitled “Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection.” Written by Lisa Cross, this article was published on PIWorld’s website on 11/23/20.

First of all, what is NAPCO? According to “Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection,” “NAPCO and PRINTING United Alliance research teams develop research and economic models that solve customer business problems.” The article goes on to say that “NAPCO Media research teams survey, analyze, and monitor critical trends related to marketing, printing, packaging, non-profit organizations, promotional products, and retailing.”

So, essentially this survey analyzes and addresses both the printing and the (general) business technologies and processes the PIE Blog discusses every week. Therefore, for me, NAPCO is a “guru” to which I listen with rapt attention.

What makes the NAPCO survey interesting to me, actually, is that print buyers these days appear to be very knowledgeable, very savvy in terms of processes, technologies, and equipment. This didn’t used to be the case. Years ago when I started in the field, in the 1980s and 1990s, designers may have learned their craft of design expertly in college, but many if not most had little experience creating printable art files, understanding how offset printing was done, or knowing which technologies and specific printing equipment were appropriate to best (and most economically) print their projects.

Well that has changed, and Lisa Cross’ PIWorld article is very specific as to how. Here are some takeaways from her custom printing article.

Increasingly Savvy Print Buyers

According to Lisa Cross’ article, print buyers increasingly understand the processes they are buying from print sales reps. Perhaps this is through personal experience, but I would expect that having internet access (both to written descriptions of printing technologies and to online videos of these processes) accounts for a big part of this increasing knowledge.

Print buyers also learn online and in trade journals that they have multiple resources immediately at hand. They can buy these printing technologies and processes from any number of commercial printing vendors.

Because of this abundance of print buying options, “Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection” notes that savvy print sales professionals need to understand buyers’ new-found technical knowledge, the buying options they have, and their expectations for the vendors with whom they work.

To quantify this, NAPCO Research, as noted in Lisa Cross’ article, says that “over two-thirds of survey respondents (67%) report being extremely familiar with the printing processes used to print their company’s materials.” And “86% of print buyer respondents indicate they specify print processes and/or brands of printing devices used to produce their print work” (“Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection”).

These findings by NAPCO Research are completely consistent with my own experience in selecting the best print vendors for my commercial printing clients. Let’s say I’m looking for a printer to produce a client’s short-run poster job. Since it is a short-run job with critical color requirements, I might want to print the poster on an HP Indigo press. I might know a handful of vendors who have this equipment. I might also know whether their particular HP inkjet presses are of sufficient size to accept a large press sheet (and not just the smaller 13” x 19” size many digital presses will print).

Apparently, other print buyers have similar experiences. According to the survey discussed in Cross’ article, “70% of respondents report that [the brand of equipment] is a key decision factor.” Presumably print buyers’ decisions are increasingly informed by their own growing awareness of current commercial printing technology, gained from readily accessible equipment specifications and product/process reviews, as well as their own buying experience.

Interestingly enough, according to “Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection,” this means that savvy commercial printing suppliers are increasingly taking into consideration their customers’ requirements for such equipment when making purchases for their plants. To a good extent this is because knowledgeable print buyers know they have options. They can buy from outside vendors or perhaps even print their jobs on in-plant equipment. They can print jobs via offset lithography or via digital inkjet or electrophotography.

Focus on Color Matching and Color Consistency

“Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection” also notes that savvy print buyers are increasingly looking for ways to ensure color consistency across multiple technologies (offset and digital, for instance, if they have both long- and short-run printing needs or a need for versioning and personalization).

When I was an art director/production manager in the 1990s, we used to attend regular press inspections for most of our high-profile custom printing jobs. Now, onsite press inspections are far less common (except, perhaps, for color-critical work like food, fashion, and automotive). To a good extent this is due to better on-press, closed-loop color control, which provides immediate feedback regarding color accuracy.

Nevertheless, print buyers still want assurances that the color will be accurate throughout a job and from one job to another, and since this depends on the skill of press operators (as well as the capabilities of their equipment), the new breed of print buyers looks for printer certifications. Two important color management certifications noted in “Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection” are G7 and ISO 9000.

Cross’ article also references print buyers’ interest in sustainability certification (presumably, such as a printer’s use of FSC-compliant—or Forest Stewardship Council-compliant—commercial printing papers).

The Value of Educating Print Buyers

If you are a custom printing supplier, according to Cross’ article, it benefits you to generously share your technical knowledge with your clients. Clients are most interested, according to the NAPCO Research study, in information on “the print production process…digital printing technology, and improving color quality and consistency.” They also want to learn more about “preparing print job files, substrates, digital enhancements, and combining print with other media” (“Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection”).

If you are a commercial printing vendor, educating clients benefits both you and them. This fosters customer loyalty and also helps ensure accurate, print-ready files. It “enhances relationships, while increasing production efficiency and productivity” (“Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection”).

The Importance of Personal Connections and Vendor Reliability

Savvy print buyers expect and require outstanding, responsive service. Again, this benefits both them and the print vendors, since jobs get completed quickly and accurately. The NAPCO Research study makes it clear that print sales reps need to understand both the technology and their customers’ needs in order to efficiently and cost-effectively solve their problems.

Job Submission, Monitoring, and Control

Print buyers want to understand how to best produce art files that will work the first time. They want to know how a job is moving through the various print manufacturing processes, and they want to be able to control not only the quality but also the cost. Furthermore, they want tight control over their brand.

NAPCO Research’s study of 200 print buyers and influencers found this reflected in the fact that “81% of print buyers prefer working with a print service provider that offers an online ordering tool” (“Print Buyer Survey Reveals Key Factors Influencing Provider Selection”).

The Takeaway

What can we learn from this article as print buyers and students of commercial printing?

  1. Study everything you can about custom printing. Start with online articles and videos.
  2. Then ask your print providers about anything you don’t understand.
  3. Ask printers for samples produced with the various print technologies. Closely observe any differences. (Look closely at the general color fidelity and intensity, tint screens and solid areas of color, photographs, type, etc.)
  4. Look for printer certifications, such as G7 and ISO 9000. Also ask your printers about the sustainability of their materials (FSA printing papers and soy-based ink, for example).

The more you know, the better you will be as a print buyer, and the higher the quality of custom printing you will get from your vendors.

Posted in PrintBuying | Comments Off on Custom Printing: What Print Buyers Look for in Printers

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