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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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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Commercial Printing: Printing Brilliant Ink Jet Color

November 23rd, 2020

Posted in Inks | Comments »

Photo purchased from …

I may have mentioned this before in a prior PIE Blog article, but I always fill in the business reply card that accompanies the EPSON direct mail brochure that comes to my door every few months.

Each promotional box that comes to me in response to the business reply cards includes inkjet samples printed on EPSON equipment. These speak volumes.

A Sample Press Sheet

The most useful of these samples is a small press sheet that is just under 12” x 18”. It’s also a poster and an advertisement (in this case, for EPSON SureColor P-Series printers), but it clearly shows me a number of things about the technology, and over the past several years I have seen dramatic improvements in the output.

Like an offset press sheet, this 12” x 18” sample includes a series of printers’ bars. These show solids and shades of the four process colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) ranging from a 20 percent screen to a 100 percent solid. Granted, this is a simulation using a spray of minuscule spots rather than traditional halftone dots.

(This is the nature of inkjet printing compared to offset lithography. You don’t use traditional halftone screening. You build up continuous tone images with a spray of minuscule inkjet spots.)

So if the sample doesn’t reflect traditional halftone screening, what good is it as a measure of EPSON’s quality? The answer is that these two large-format, pigmented inkjet presses can print color screens as good as, or better than, what you can produce via offset lithography.

This particular inkjet printed sample I’m looking at also includes brilliant, large-format imagery. Colors are much brighter and intense than you would find in offset commercial printing, particularly in the oranges, greens, and purples.

This is because of the ten-color EPSON inkset (compared to the four process colors). Using ten colors allows the inkjet press to match far more PMS hues than offset lithography, unless you are using many extra offset press units for additional colors. (You might want to research Hexachrome and “touch plates.”)

The imagery in EPSON’s sample includes both square-edge pictures and silhouettes, both photos and illustration. It also includes a gradation (it looks like a long piece of fabric) that transitions from yellow to purple to blue. What we can learn from this is that EPSON inkjet printers can produce smooth gradations without any of the banding or artifacts that sometimes appear in inkjet presswork.

This EPSON poster/press sheet also demonstrates EPSON SureColor P-Series’ capabilities in printing typography. It includes the following samples, which are most instructive.

  1. It includes small sans serif type (perhaps 10pt with extra leading) reversed to white out of a complex photo that shifts in color from yellow to purple. The type is imminently readable. But so is the even smaller type (perhaps 4pt) surprinted over a photo that transitions from yellow to orange. Both of the preceding samples are set in uppercase and lowercase type (which makes them more readable than paragraphs typeset in all capital letters).
  2. Another paragraph is set in all capital letters. The words are printed in a medium blue over a dark blue halftone. The type should be hard to read (it is also set “solid,” which means it has no extra leading, which would improve legibility). But you can still read the lines of type effortlessly.

As I’m describing this poster, you can imagine a hectic (if not busy) design, with intensely saturated colors vying for your attention and multiple complementary colors creating visually vibrating perceptions.

The entire poster should be jarring to the eye, yet it appears only as a coordinated, intense image that leads your eyes comfortably around the page. This in itself attests to the quality of EPSON’s SureColor P-Series printers, in ways the specification sheet by itself cannot do.

The Specification Sheet

That said, it really does help to review the specs, once you have seen the results with your own eyes.

In this case, I’m only going to focus on those few specifications I think have the most immediate effect on the visual quality of the printed product. I would say these include the kind of inks used and the well-rounded ink colorset.

First of all, this is pigment ink. Pigment ink is different from the dye-based ink in a desktop inkjet printer. Pigment ink holds particles of the coloration material in a “suspension” between molecules of the liquid (the medium) in the ink.

In contrast, in dye-based ink the colorant is completely dissolved into a water-based vehicle.

At an earlier point in its development, dye-based ink was more vivid than pigment ink, but a single drop of water could destroy a print. It was also not as lightfast as pigment ink. In contrast, pigment ink was more lightfast and durable, but colors were not as vibrant as dye-based ink.

So it was a trade-off.

But now the technology has improved, and the two options are more similar (in terms of durability, lightfastness, and color intensity). But pigment ink is still considered slightly better for professional quality work, and that’s exactly what these EPSON SureColor P-Series printers use.

Now, the inkset. More than anything else, the selection of inks makes a huge difference. The UltraChrome PRO inkset includes the following:

  1. Process colors: Cyan (both Cyan and Light Cyan), Magenta (both Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta), and Yellow. So that’s five in total.
  2. The inkset also includes a number of black and gray inks: Photo Black, Matte Black, Gray, Dark Gray, and Light Gray. That’s another five, or ten total.

Let’s start with the black inks (Photo Black and Matte Black). Together these allow for more contrast in black and white prints (by themselves or anywhere else on the custom printing press sheet). They also allow for sharper images.

To put this in context, about 20 years ago as a graphic designer I had to sacrifice detail in a black and white imagery on a commercial printing press: in the highlights, midtones, or shadows.

If this wasn’t acceptable, I could add an additional color (to create a duotone) or I could print a four-color process black and white image (it looked like a black and white image, but it was created with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black halftone screens).

The latter cost a lot, but it captured detail in all levels of the image, from the highlights to the midtones to the shadows. It is my understanding that the EPSON inkjet equipment achieves essentially the same effect by including a number of different tones of both black and gray.

Now, for the color. Four color process inks have a smaller color gamut (universe of printable colors) than you can reproduce with additional PMS colors or than you can reproduce on a computer screen using RGB (red, green, blue) light instead of ink.

By adding extra colors to the original CMYK inkset, manufacturers of high-end inkjet equipment, such as EPSON, can dramatically expand the printable color gamut; provide fully saturated, intense color; and match most PMS colors.

All of this can be achieved without the extra press units (and their associated costs) that you would need to do the same thing with offset commercial printing technology.

What You Can Learn From This Promotional Piece

First of all, it never hurts to request information from vendors (not just from printers but from press manufacturers, finishing product manufacturers, or any other equipment manufacturers). Usually (depending on the format of the vendor’s promotional piece) you can not only learn about the technology involved, but you can also see in the advertising material exactly how the equipment will enhance your commercial printing work.

Posted in Inks | Comments »

Custom Printing: Flexible Packaging Is on the Rise

November 19th, 2020

Posted in Packaging | 2 Comments »

When I was growing up, peanuts came in a can or a bottle, or sometimes a clear bag. Milk came in a glass bottle and later in a coated paper carton that opened up into a spout. There was no such thing as a bag of apple sauce or a box of apple juice with a little straw you punched through a foil covered hole.

Things have changed. Moreover, the whole arena of packaging has had explosive growth within the larger commercial printing world. In an era when fewer of my custom printing clients are producing long-run textbooks, newspapers, and such, I am particularly encouraged when I hear that packaging has been experiencing a huge growth spurt.

Enter Flexible Packaging

All of this came into focus for me when my fiancee brought home a bag of dried bananas and nuts recently, a brightly colored “pouch” with a zip seal, lots of room for information and branding, and clear foil embellishment on the banana and nut cover art. A functional, attractive container and sales device.

So, being a student of commercial printing and design, and with an interest in those printing venues experiencing growth, I did some research. This is what I found.

Packaging in General

Packaging falls into three categories:

  1. Corrugated board. This is the light, fluted board from which cartons are made. They are strong enough to hold glass bottles, electronic equipment, even print books.
  2. Folding cartons. When you open up a box of toothpaste, the container that goes in the trash is considered a folding carton. It is made of coated paper (but not corrugated paper or chipboard). It is used for lighter-weight products (like a box of wheat crackers). If you take it apart (pull open the flaps that have been glued together), you will find that the carton blank is incredibly intricate, for it must be converted from a flat press sheet into a folded and glued, rectilinear box with a top and bottom flap. If you look at cosmetics boxes of the same basic structure, you will see that folding cartons can be embellished with printing ink, clear foils, and metallics.
  3. Flexible packaging. According to my research, this arena of commercial printing is broader, including “bags, pouches, shrink films, tubes, sleeves, and carded packaging” (Wikipedia). Furthermore, this sector can be broken down into three other categories: skin packaging (for example, a side of salmon on corrugated board wrapped in a plastic skin, with everything pulled tight using a vacuum); blister packaging (a pocket made with rigid, thermoformed plastic, placed over a paper or plastic backing: for example, a package of batteries from Costco); and clamshell packaging (two identical shells facing one another, with no paper or plastic backing sheet). An example would be the plastic fold-over box you get from some restaurants if you have left-over food to take home.

All of these have essentially the same reasons for existing:

  1. To sell the product. This is where the branding distinguishes one package from a competitor’s package.
  2. To provide information on the product (such as the saturated fat and sodium percentages for food, usually on the back of the packaging).
  3. To keep the customer safe and the product safe. This might include the zip seals and reusable spouts that allow you to squeeze out some apple sauce and reseal the flexible packaging without the risk of contamination and subsequent disease.

Features and Benefits

Here are some reasons flexible packaging is such a big deal:

  1. The plastic, layered films from which these pouches have been made have exceptional barrier properties. Therefore, they can protect the perishables inside and ensure a longer shelf life (than, perhaps, a bag of potato chips that you simply roll up when you’re full). For meats, for instance, the barrier properties can reduce smells and keep the juices in the package. They can also keep sunlight and external moisture out, or maintain the proper temperature. For pharmaceuticals (and food), flexible packaging can also make the contents more tamper resistant (and therefore safer for you).
  2. Flexible packaging provides an especially printable surface. You have room to easily print clear, eye-popping graphics, as well as information about the product.
  3. Flexible packaging can be displayed at the point of purchase in many ways, as needed. These pouches can be hung from a hole at the top, laid flat on a shelf, or stood up in a line on the shelf.
  4. Flexible packaging can be formed at the exact size needed. This means less waste. It also means less weight, so shipping costs will benefit. In addition, flexible packaging virtually eliminates the need for labels and caps, extra paper or plastic trays, etc.
  5. Flexible packaging is designed for reuse, with resealable spouts and ziplock closures. For instance, the bag of apple sauce gets thinner as you consume the product and close up the cap (a smaller package means less contamination by the outside air, hence a longer product life).
  6. Flexible packaging has been (and is being) designed to be recyclable. Moreover, since less material is used and therefore less energy is needed to manufacture and ship this packaging, and since problems with incineration have been resolved, using flexible packaging is an Earth-friendly proposition.

What You Can Learn

Here are some thoughts, in terms of staying relevant as a designer in a world where product packaging is a growing venue for your craft. This also pertains to you if you sell printing:

  1. First of all, start studying product packaging. Any time you enter a grocery store or pharmacy, keep your eyes open. Cosmetics counters in department stores are other good places to observe closely. Look at the kinds of visual effects manufacturers can achieve on the packages: foiling, embossing, metallics.
  2. Look for the new kinds of product packaging that weren’t available years or decades ago. These might include shrink sleeves that are fitted over bottles and then tightened up with heat so they snugly fit the contours of the bottles. Notice how such packaging provides even more space for marketing graphics. Also look for examples of clamshell packs and carded packs (like the slab of salmon shrink-wrapped to the cardboard backing). The more distinct kinds of product packaging you can identify, and the more able you are to determine the commercial printing technologies used to decorate them, the better.
  3. Begin to see the marketing design, the packaging design, and the printing technology used as distinct but nevertheless connected points in a trajectory from marketing research to initial concept, to more marketing research, to budgeting, to prototyping (a good place for inkjet printing, since you can economically make only one initial package for the prototype item), and then through the bulk manufacturing stage and packing, shipping, and delivery stage, to the final point of purchase. Understand how all of this works financially, and how simple adjustments in packaging can save both money and the environment.
  4. Study marketing, advertising, human psychology, consumer behavior, and economics. You’ll start to see how all of these relate to one another. You’ll also see just how powerful marketing can be, and if you’re a graphic designer, you’ll even see how a font change or a change in the design of a product logo can have far-reaching effects. (Think of how many people now see the green Starbucks logo and buy the coffee, and how this affects all the customers, intermediate vendors, and even the stockholders).

Everything is connected. At the moment, product packaging is the nexus of growth. The more you know, the more relevant your design, commercial printing, and sales skills will be.

Posted in Packaging | 2 Comments »

Custom Printing: Some Options for Classy Invitations

November 14th, 2020

Posted in Invitations | Comments »

Let’s say you have to make a classy invitation for a gala work event, maybe a special dinner. It has to look great, very up-scale. What are your options for commercial printing?

Offset Lithography, Letterpress, and Engraving Technology

First of all, let’s define some terms.

Offset printing works on the principle that oil (i.e., ink) and water don’t mix (each repels the other). Image areas on an offset plate attract ink and repel water, and non-image areas repel ink and attract water. This oil and water balance must be precise, but it effectively allows the commercial printing plate to be flat (a “planographic” process).

In contrast, letterpress is a “relief” process. Raised areas of the printing plate hold the ink and deposit it on the image areas of the paper.

A third option, engraving, involves recessed image areas (type, etc.) on the custom printing plate. These are either cut by hand or burned into the plate chemically or with a laser. Ink is applied to the printing plate and then rubbed off the flat surface of the plate, leaving ink in the recessed letterforms. This ink is very thick. The intense pressure of the printing press forces the paper into these recessed image areas to transfer the ink from the plate to the paper. This is called an “intaglio” process, and it is used for some fine art prints as well as for commercial printing.

Using These Technologies to Print Invitations

To get back to the invitations for the gala event, commercial printing is a tactile medium. How an invitation feels in the hand is as important as how it looks, even if the average recipient of the invitation may not be conscious of the tactile component of the job. How the invitation feels will exert a subliminal yet profound effect.

Offset Lithography

That said, your first option is to print the invitation via offset lithography. If you choose a special paper (based on its weight, surface texture, and color), and if you create a heart-stopping design, this may be the perfect option. For instance, if you choose a dark paper and print with opaque white ink or perhaps silver ink (used in two passes, or “hits,” since one pass may not be opaque enough), the printed product could be striking.


The second option noted above is letterpress. Since image areas are raised above the surface of the plate, when they deposit the printing ink they also compress the paper, or mash it, where they strike. Like engraving, this can produce an intriguing, tactile effect. If you attend a Renaissance Fair (with participants in costume), sometimes you will see a letterpress being used. Physical pieces of lead type are laid into a “chase,” and paper is laid over the inked pieces of type. Then pressure is applied mechanically to force the paper against the type. Although more modern versions of letterpresses are more streamlined and less romantic, they essentially do the same thing. And if you print your invitation via letterpress (and especially if you have chosen an interesting paper stock), your final printed invitations will be both a tactile experience and visually memorable.


But let’s say you want something more formal. Engraving may be your best option. What’s special about engraving is that the printed image area on the page (such as each letterform in a text-only invitation) is raised slightly. By forcing the image areas of the paper into the inked areas that have been incised during platemaking, the engraving process causes the final printed product to have slightly raised type. (And on the back of the paper you can feel the slight indentations behind each letterform.)

Engraving is a very old craft, and an engraved invitation therefore has an air of gravitas, particularly if you have chosen a special paper for your end product. (Just as an interesting note, engraving has also been the main option for custom printing stock certificates and money.)

If you choose engraving, it’s wise to consider the following:

  1. The process is time consuming and therefore expensive. Also, few printers will offer this option. Skilled engravers are required for making the engraved plates (by hand, using a laser, or via chemical etching).
  2. You may be limited in the typefaces you can use, due to the specialized nature of the process (i.e., how the letterforms are cut into the copper or steel plates).
  3. Engraving presses are very small. Due to the extreme pressure required, printing anything larger than about 4” x 8” may require more than one pass through the press (thus raising the price).
  4. Inks may not tolerate heat well. So tell your printer if you plan to run engraved material through a laser printer.
  5. As noted above, a major part of the “effect” depends on the feel of the paper. Make your choice of paper count.

Two More Options

Here are two more options that come to mind for creating striking invitations:

Foil Stamping

Let’s say you have chosen a dark, thick paper stock, and you don’t want to run the risk that the opaque white ink or two hits of silver ink won’t be opaque enough. An alternative would be foil stamping (either metallic or colored foil). The commercial printing vendor will need to have a cutting die made (subcontracted). Then, using the foil stamping die with a combination of heat and pressure, the printer will cut an image or lines of type from the roll of foil and affix the foil to the printing paper.

Depending on the thickness of the letterforms and rule lines, this can yield a dramatic effect (talk with your printer to make sure he can hold the detail in thin letterforms and rule lines). You can even use black gloss foil against a black matte press sheet for a subtle effect, or as noted above you can use a white (nonmetallic) or silver foil. But keep in mind that this is expensive. You need to pay for the stamping die as well as the foil application.

Thermography: The Economy Option

You may have seen thermography on business cards. The type and art have a raised feel like engraving.

Thermography starts with an offset printing pass using a slow-drying offset ink. Then thermographic powder is sprinkled on the ink. Then a vacuum removes all thermographic powder not adhered to the offset printing ink.

Then heat is applied to the printed product. The heat causes the thermographic powder to bubble up on the ink and create a raised surface. It feels quite a bit like engraved printing (from the front only, since there are no indentations on the back of the press sheet as there are in engraving, where the paper has been forced into the inked recesses of the engraving plate).

But thermography can be a very affordable option.

Nevertheless, there are some drawbacks:

  1. Thermographic printing is not abrasion resistant. Images can scratch.
  2. Thermographic ink does not tolerate heat. Don’t run thermographically printed products through your laser printer.
  3. Although you can use thermography for coarse halftone screens, keep in mind that fine halftone screens may plug up.
  4. Avoid printing large solids. They may blister.
  5. You can print multiple colors. However, I’d personally design the product to keep the colored inks from touching (i.e., avoid the need for ink trapping), since the heating and bubbling up process used in thermography may not be as precise as needed. Or at least discuss “ink trapping” with your printer before you proceed.
  6. Avoid printing thermographic images across folds. The ink may crack.

That said, if you design within these limitations, you can craft a beautiful invitation (or letterhead or business card). And it’s far cheaper than many of the other options, since you don’t need to pay for a cutting or foil stamping die.

And, if you do some research and you’re lucky, you may even find a printer with a Scodix digital enhancement press, which can build up 3D surfaces digitally (so they feel a bit like thermographic printing).

Posted in Invitations | Comments »

7 Advantages of Using Brochures

November 9th, 2020

Posted in Brochure Printing | Comments »

Many people say that brochures act as condensed websites because a well-produced brochure carries all the crucial information about your brand that you want your clients to know. A good brochure will introduce your company to include contact information and even testimonials, show pictures of the services you render. This means that by browsing your brochure for a few minutes, a potential customer can know what you do and how to reach you.

Whether you want to take them with you or leave them at door-steps, it is very easy to distribute brochures as they are light-weight and easy to carry. They are a cheap way of marketing your brand effectively. Many printing company services offer large discounts to clients who order for brochures in bulk quantities. It is a great way to reach out to your target audience and at a very low cost.

Share this Infographic On Your Site

Posted in Brochure Printing | Comments »

Book Printing: Perfect Binding and Saddle Stitching

November 9th, 2020

Posted in Book Binding Options | Comments »

Once you move from single-sheet print jobs such as flyers, brochures, multi-panel mailers, and posters to multi-page print jobs, you are faced with a number of binding options. How do you choose?

Here are some of your options and some of the considerations you might need to address. I will primarily focus on two of these (perfect binding and saddle stitching), but first here is a list of some of the remaining bindery technologies:

Case Binding: This is hardcover book binding. You see these print books in libraries (often covered in fabric, with and without dust jackets). You also see them in bookstores. They are high quality and expensive. If you go back a little ways historically, you even see hardcover books bound in leather (rather than in paper or fabric). These are durable (some are well over a hundred years old) and are made with strong binder boards. They are crafted for use and made to last.

Mechanical Binding: This includes double-wire (or Wire-O), spiral wire, screw and post, plastic coil, GBC or comb binding, tape binding, ring-binders, plastic grip, and VeloBinding (a narrow strip of plastic on the top of the book and one on the bottom, connected through the pages by plastic tines).

Mechanical binding usually involves hand work. It is expensive. That said, it is ideal for very low run projects (maybe a dozen to a hundred, or more, reports for distribution at a convention). In a few cases you can even add pages to, or remove pages from, mechanically bound print books.

Now for the workhorses of the binding world: perfect binding and saddle stitching.

Perfect Binding Options

Perfect binding is used for longer paperback books. Unlike a saddle stitched book, a perfect-bound book has a spine. The benefit of a spine is that you can print the title of the book on it. Without a spine, a saddle stitched print book will be less visible on the bookshelf.

Perfect bound books come in a number of different flavors. They can be lay-flat bound, in which the printed, folded, and gathered press signatures are attached to the edges of the front and back book covers. More specifically, the book block is glued to the covers at the front and back fold but is not actually attached to the spine. This is very similar to the process used for case binding. The book block is essentially “hung” on the folds between the covers and the spine. This allows the book to lie flat on a table. For a cookbook or manual, this can be very helpful.

Another perfect binding option is the original method, in which the stacked press signatures are ground off at the folds of the signatures, then slathered with liquid glue or hot-melt glue, and then set into the paper covers (a single piece: back cover, spine, and front cover). What makes this different from the next option (burst perfect binding) is that once the folded edges of the press signatures have been ground down, the pages are essentially glued against the spine as single sheets of paper (not as folded, connected press signatures). Therefore, it’s easier for individual pages to get pulled out than in the burst perfect binding method.

In contrast, burst perfect binding leaves the folds of the press signatures in place. Instead of grinding off these folds, the equipment cuts notches into the fold edges of the signatures. Hot melt glue or liquid glue can then be slathered into the binding side of the press signatures, and the glue will have more surface area of the paper to which it can adhere. (And the pages are still connected at the folds, decreasing the chance that individual pages can be easily pulled out.)

Here are two things to consider if you’re looking at perfect binding your print book. First of all, the process is expensive and time consuming. Your book printer may have to subcontract out this work.

The second consideration involves the length of the print book. I have been involved in printing some perfect bound books comprising only 64 pages. Other books have been hundreds of pages in length. If you’re designing a very short book (maybe 28 pages), there’s really not much room for a printed spine. Granted, you can leave the spine blank. Talk with your printer about the minimum page count his binding equipment will handle.

Side Stitching and Saddle Stitching

Before I address traditional saddle stitching, there’s an alternate option called side stitching in which the individual press signatures are first stacked. A powerful stapler (essentially) then secures these pages (the tines of the stitching wire go down vertically through all the pages and are crimped at the bottom). This kind of binding is remarkably sturdy. When I was growing up, my National Geographic magazines arrived this way. (Or, more specifically, they were first stitched in this way and then covered with an additional paper cover to hide the side stitches.) That said, side stitched books will not lie flat.

In contrast, saddle stitching, the other bindery workhorse (along with perfect binding), involves first nesting the press signatures (sliding one folded press signature into another, as opposed to stacking them on top of one another as is done in perfect binding).

Saddle-stitching wire (like side stitching wire) then goes through the open books at the fold (the trimmed wire stitches look just like staples), and then the print book is folded shut.

Saddle stitched books have no spines. However, almost any commercial printer or book printer can do this binding work in-house. Therefore, it’s cheaper and faster than the (often) subcontracted perfect binding work. You will usually see this kind of binding used for short magazines.

But here are some things to consider that make saddle stitching less than ideal.

First, the book has to be short. I’ve participated in the saddle stitching of magazines that exceeded 64 pages. That said, the paper was thin, and occasionally the center spread of the magazines would pull out easily. To avoid this, in most cases I would advise clients to perfect bind such a print book or magazine. But, to be sure, ask your book printer how many pages he can safely accommodate in saddle stitching without risking the loss (or loosening) of the center pages.

Second, there’s a risk of “creep” or “push-out,” as the saddle stitched books start to get very long. As noted before (and unlike perfect-bound books), the 4-, 8-, 16-, or 32-page press signatures are nested (one slid into the center of the other), not stacked. What this means is that pages closer to the center of the book stick out further than pages in the front or back of the book. Therefore, these center pages are actually trimmed slightly shorter than pages near the front and back of the book.

If your page numbers (folios) are close to the trim edge initially, they may wind up even more painfully close to the edge after trimming. (The process of trimming is not as precise as one might like.) In fact, the trimming blade could even cut through the folios. To avoid this, ask your printer about the possibility of creep or push out and ways to avoid it. (You may even need to adjust the page design ever so slightly in the center signature(s) to compensate for this.)

The good news is that saddle-stitched print books will lie flat on the table.

What You Can Learn From This Discussion

  1. You have many options.
  2. When it comes to mechanical binding, you are often paying a premium (for hand work) for a less professional looking product. If you’re producing a cookbook, this may be ok or even desirable. (Consider GBC, plastic coil, Wire-O, or spiral wire.)
  3. Your best options are often perfect binding and saddle stitching. In either case, consider your budget, the need to have a spine you can print on, and the length of the print book. Involve your printer early. Ask about the best book length (page count) for each option.
  4. If you’re considering perfect binding and want a book that will lie flat, ask about “lay-flat” binding or Otabind (the brand name for this process).
  5. If your book needs to be durable and highly attractive, consider case binding. You may even consider adding a dust jacket, or you may choose a special binding cloth, or even leather, to cover the binding boards. But expect this to be expensive and time consuming work.

Posted in Book Binding Options | Comments »

Infographic: 7 Reasons Why Brochures Are a Great Way To Connect With Your Customers

November 5th, 2020

Posted in Brochure Printing | Comments Off on Infographic: 7 Reasons Why Brochures Are a Great Way To Connect With Your Customers

In a technology-driven world, most of the companies are using brochures. Brochures are used to send the subtle message that your business is professional, reliable, and committed to quality. Compared with some online marketing options, brochures are a low-cost marketing plan. Also, most professional online printing companies will work with you to design and produce sleek brochures that fit your budget. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Brochure Printing | Comments Off on Infographic: 7 Reasons Why Brochures Are a Great Way To Connect With Your Customers

Color Printing Online Made Easy

November 5th, 2020

Posted in Color Theory | 2 Comments »

It is hard to imagine any industry that can function without the services of color printing online. Whether it is a restaurant, automobile company, computer peripherals, or electronics store, all of them require color prints to make their products easily available to customers.

These days, there are certain companies which provide color printing online services by acting as print coordination companies, whereby they get in touch with suitable print vendors in the world. As per a client’s requirement, each of these companies places a bid with the coordinator, and then the client can select accordingly. Thereby, this process helps to pick a company on the basis of both quality and price.

Offers are always available

In most cases, print companies are likely to provide attractive offers to their clients through the coordinator. This is truly the beauty of how online printing has turned the tide around in this field. By choosing one of the available offers, clients will always get maximum bang for buck. What’s more, clients do not have to pay for the services being offered by the print coordinator.

Good customer service

Today’s print companies have excellent customer service support, enabling them to deliver highly personalized services to every client. Though a customer IVR (Interactive Voice Response) may seem difficult at first, one gets the hang of it by listening carefully. The primary job of a customer service department is follow-ups, which they always handle with aplomb when with a reputed company.

Top benefits of color printing

Over time, studies have shown that color printing has displayed the following benefits:

  1. It makes every message more memorable by up to 39%
  2. It enhances readership of direct mail by a whopping 55%
  3. Attention span and recall are automatically increased by 82%
  4. Brand recognition also goes up by 80%
  5. It gives a thoroughly professional appearance


Every individual requires more color in his or her life, and no company should be any different. However, owning color printers and maintaining them can become quite a hassle over time. This is the reason why many businesses find it profitable to outsource these requirements.

Choose the type and size of paper

One of the main advantages of getting prints online is that a massive amount of customization is possible. It is possible to choose from different sizes and types of paper. Irrespective of where in the world such companies are located, they can arrange deliveries for any company in the stipulated time.

Here is a look at the different types of paper:

  1. Glossy- Such papers have a shiny look and make text or photos appear lively. Captions and geometric designs can be showcased using these.
  2. Matte- It is a great choice of paper for black and white prints, giving a professional touch to all photo prints. Since they are anti glare, they look very elegant and classy.
  3. Metallic- The name comes from images or text being printed on metallic paper. Metallic papers are very popular among commercial photographers.

Lustre- Images here are printed on Lustre photo paper, delivering highly saturated prints

Posted in Color Theory | 2 Comments »

One of the effective marketing tool: color flyer printing

November 5th, 2020

Posted in Flyer Printing | Comments Off on One of the effective marketing tool: color flyer printing

It can be daunting to start on a business’ marketing campaign with a small budget. Either you prefer not to sell at all or mistakenly pick a tactic because it is reasonably priced. You fault yourself, or even worse, the product when the marketing attempts fail to succeed in the way you had hoped. Look no further than color flyer printing if you are looking for a reliable marketing option and fairly priced.

Why do you need flyers in color?

Color flyer printing is a compelling method for promotions. It is also the cheapest option you can find for publicity. No postage is required, unlike postcards. In comparison to brochures, the person carrying the flyer reads casually. In a snap, color flyers get the attention of potential clients. When used in ads, they should be viewed as a means of communication since a well-thought-out, well-designed flyer would talk to people before they have started reading what it says.

Flyers are an integral part of the growth of small businesses within the local community. Print advertising is a time-tested and cost-effective advertising tool with the potential to produce quick answers and boost revenue immediately.

Honesty is the safest strategy at all times.

You can always try never to pledge something that you do not expect or will not accomplish when determining what eye-grabbing deals or text to include in your flyers. Any customer reading your flyer will believe the deals and promises written on it to be valid. Some failure or snare can make you and your business feel troubled. One unhappy customer is required to spoil the business’s reputation — no matter how good it may be.

Go to a commercial printer of good quality that has a proven track record.

Small companies typically go to substandard printers for their color flyer printing supplies to save on printing costs. This is usually the incorrect step to take into account the decline in the output of your prints. The content of your flyers represents the image of your brand. So, ask yourself, do you really want your business to be portrayed by a distorted flier with dull colors?

Add Call To Action

Commanding a copy with a “Call to Action” such as “Order Now” is one of the most critical components of your full-color flyer style. It is a must-have for a provocative or catchy title written expressly to hook up the target market. Defining specifically what you expect your clients to do and urging them to respond immediately. Be sure that you let your clients know how they will profit from your goods or services. Encourage clients to use bonuses or discounts to act now.

Follow these instructions and try to adhere to these tips, and make better flyer designs as you are on your way. A bold, strong, and exclusive publicity strategy would be your full color printed flyer, guaranteed to impress clients and stand out from the rest. It will also allow you to produce a special and innovative full-color flyer that will leave a lasting impact on your clients by using a reliable online printing service with free flyer product templates. Regardless of their limited scale, printing color flyer will aid you with your marketing requirements.

Posted in Flyer Printing | Comments Off on One of the effective marketing tool: color flyer printing

Custom Printing: The Future of “Web to Pack”

October 31st, 2020

Posted in Packaging | Comments Off on Custom Printing: The Future of “Web to Pack”

Not that long ago (perhaps the 1990s to 2000), I remember sending out perfect-bound book printing jobs that took six weeks to produce and brochures that took five to seven (or even ten) days to print and deliver. That was the norm. Everything was analog (offset lithography). No one said the printers were slow because we had nothing digital to which we could compare the analog work schedules.

Then digital commercial printing went from the low quality laser and inkjet machines we had for proofing to full-fledged work horses, and the expected turn-around times on digital jobs got shorter and shorter. It even became possible to upload an InDesign or PDF file to a website (web-to-print), push print, and get business cards or flyers delivered within a few days.

So now, as I read “Is Web-to-Pack the Next Big Thing” by Pat Reynolds, VP Editor Emeritus, (dated 7/26/19), I am not surprised that a Shenzhen, China, firm called Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. allows you to order folding cartons online and get them in 72 hours.

Beyond the fact that China is a long way from here, this is still remarkable, as is the equipment footprint of this particular Chinese printer.

Here’s why.

What Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. Can Do

  1. First of all, Xianjunlong Colour accepts orders over the internet, so the process starts off with a bang. Presumably an increasing number of clients will now accept PDF proofs (as opposed to hard-copy proofs), so the overall proofing process can proceed swiftly and smoothly. Compared to earlier days in commercial printing, the time from file upload to actual printing would now seem to be negligible.
  2. Then a Heidelberg Primefire 106 prints the carton stock. This particular equipment accepts B1 press sheets, which are 40” wide. This means the company can impose multiple images on each press sheet (in contrast to smaller digital presses). More sheets (i.e., more images) can run through the press faster, so Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. can produce much more work for less money. The company makes more; the clients pay less (certainly less than locally produced jobs printed in the U.S.).
  3. A dmax 106 coating system from Steinemann with an in-line dfoil digital foiling module does in-line coating and foil embellishing. These two processes can occur simultaneously in one pass.
  4. Finally, a Masterwork Group Co., Ltd., digital laser system does the final creasing and cutting of the digitally produced folding cartons.
  5. Then the job gets delivered to the client by air carrier. Done. 72 hours. A game changer.
  6. According to “Is Web-to-Pack the Next Big Thing,” the Chinese company’s equipment footprint doesn’t stop there. They have 50 offset presses, “which makes them huge compared to nearly anything you’d see in the rest of the world” (Jordi Giralt, Sales Director of Primefire at Heidelberg, as quoted in “Is Web-to-Pack the Next Big Thing”). In my eyes, a company this large should be paid attention to. They clearly have done their homework, and they understand what customers want and in which direction commercial printing is going.
  7. The process uses food-grade inks. This means they are water-based and non-toxic, acceptable (presumably) to the FDA. So food packaging is an ideal target market for Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd.
  8. The digital laser cutter and creaser from Masterwork Group can do its work offline. Even though this sounds like a drawback (and is therefore counterintuitive), it is not. If the custom printing, embellishing, and cutting and creasing were all done inline, there might be bottlenecks. The cutting and creasing could slow down the work flow. As is, Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. has options. They can prepare and cut and crease one job while another job is being digitally printed, coated, and foiled. This speeds up overall throughput.

What This Means

Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. can accept, preflight, and correct jobs using cloud-based, industry-standard software, reducing prepress to a bare minimum and getting to the printing stage almost immediately. Over time, this might well eliminate the need for proofing entirely.

Then Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. can print the jobs on large format (B1-sized) digital inkjet equipment with food-safe inks—quickly and economically.

Then Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. can coat and embellish the jobs (apply foil embellishment) simultaneously.

Then Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. can crease and cut the folding cartons without metal dies in record time (avoiding the extra cost and extensive time involved in traditional die making).

Then Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. can deliver by air freight the folding-carton commercial printing work that rivals anything else on the planet. They can do this while taking advantage of all the digital decorating applications (various coatings and foils) available for packaging work (i.e., making short run jobs that are digitally coated and foiled look like they were embellished with high-end analog processes).

Why This Is Important

  1. Consumers are demanding shorter and shorter runs of personalized packaging. Digital processes are ideal for this market.
  2. There’s more and more packaging on the shelves in stores. Everything competes with everything else. It helps a brand stay relevant if it can change packaging for local initiatives or special events or even provide personalized packaging printed for individual clients.
  3. The “unboxing process” is also becoming more important. People are carefully studying exactly what happens when you take a product home and open the box. They are asking how the appearance and feel of the box contribute to the “wow” factor of the overall experience. (Think about how it felt to open a package on Christmas or Hanukkah or any of the other major holidays.) The fact that digital equipment can now add the gloss and textures provided by foils and paper coatings (dull, matte, glossy) allows manufacturers to make opening the carton a special event. Designers and marketing psychologists are now committed to learning the best ways to do this.
  4. If Xianjunlong Colour Printing Co. Ltd. has this kind of digital custom printing footprint in China, that’s a sure sign that digital folding cartons and web-to-pack are the future of the commercial printing industry.

Why You Should Care

If you are a printer, print buyer, or graphic designer, it behooves you to study all aspects of packaging, from “flexible packaging” to “corrugated board” to “folding cartons” (these are the industry-specific terms to Google). The more you know, the more useful you will be—in researching potential markets and selling these products and processes, in designing packaging, and/or in buying these processes for your company.

If the number of printed pages (books, magazines, newspapers, catalogs) is declining, or if work is migrating to online media, that doesn’t mean commercial printing is dead. It just means that other venues are opening. Chief among these are packaging and labels, large-format inkjet printing, and digitally printed décor (an offshoot of large-format inkjet). With these markets actually growing (and especially with packaging work growing exponentially at the moment), there will be significant demand for what you know and what you can design and produce.

So any time spent studying digital custom printing technology, design, marketing and promotions, and the psychology of consumers is time well spent.

Posted in Packaging | Comments Off on Custom Printing: The Future of “Web to Pack”

Commercial Printing: A Thoughtful Approach to Direct Mail

October 27th, 2020

Posted in Direct Mail | Comments Off on Commercial Printing: A Thoughtful Approach to Direct Mail

By mid-morning I have upwards of sixty emails to read. In contrast, when I go out to my physical mailbox, I only find a few, well-designed mail pieces. In the first case, I do whatever I can to delete the emails without missing anything important. In the second case, I find it relaxing to look through the physical mail.

It looks like I’m not alone. I just read “How Much Does Direct Mail Cost,” written by Lynne Kingsley and published as an Ironmark blog. What it says about direct mail portends well for self-mailers, postcards, and other such commercial printing products. According to the research she includes, people tend to trust the permanent, physical nature of direct mail. It seems to stick in people’s memories better than email. They like its tactile qualities. And there’s a manageable amount to absorb, unlike online email.

So the hue and cry of several years ago that direct mail was ever so “yesterday” seems to be fading as direct mail printing makes a comeback.

What We Can Learn from Lynne Kingsley’s Article

(First of all, it bears reading, and it can be easily found online.)

What I found most helpful about “How Much Does Direct Mail Cost” was the mental to-do list it offers for planning and budgeting for direct mail products, as well as these two caveats:

  1. Direct-mail campaigns are recurrent, so plan for follow-up mailings.
  2. Direct-mail campaigns are incredibly effective, so consider direct mail an investment rather than a cost.

Here are some of the talking points from Kingsley’s article:

Consider your options. These include postcards, self-mailers, marketing letters, invitations, booklets, brochures, and catalogs, to name a few. Postcards have the benefit of a lower postage cost, plus they can be read without opening an envelope. If they are well designed, they can stand out from among the other mail and grab a prospect’s interest.

Things to consider include mailpiece size and thickness. Kingsley includes a chart, but what I would suggest is that you either research bulk mail online or visit a USPS branch and request a business reply mail book. Meeting the Post Office size requirements will save you lots of money, so consider the time spent learning about direct mail requirements to be a worthy investment.

Also, decide how you’ll be paying for postage. Research stamps, postage metering, and bulk mail permits (the mail “indicia”), as well as business reply mail permits in general.

Self-mailers go into the mail without an envelope. You start with a large, flat printed sheet, and you fold it down to mailing size. (Research this size. Too large, and you’ll pay a premium. The wrong aspect ratio of height to width, and you’ll pay a premium.) Heavy stock feels opulent. However, a mailer produced on cover stock will require more postage than a folded self-mailer printed on a commercial printing text stock.

Like postcards, self-mailers broadcast the mailer’s brand immediately, without the need to tear open an envelope. These days self-mailers are sealed shut with removable fugitive glue (a little like rubber cement). Unlike wafer seals (the prior method), removing fugitive glue doesn’t damage the printing.

Having designed a lot of these when I was an art director, I’d encourage you to follow size and paper weight specifications from the Post Office, and to make sure you’re not printing on areas of the self-mailer that should be left blank. This also pertains to wafer seal placement (if you use them instead of fugitive glue). (Research machinability and automated mail.)

If your self-mailer can go through all the automated mailshop machinery without causing problems, and if you have sorted and addressed the self-mailers correctly, you will reap postal discounts. It’s worth the research. (In fact, it’s also worth making friends with the Business Mail Specialist at your local Post Office branch. Show her/him your printed mock-ups for self-mailers, and ask for feedback.)

Kingsley’s article, “How Much Does Direct Mail Cost,” then goes on to discuss letters in envelopes. The only downside is this involves printing both the promotional letters and the envelopes. Plus it involves addressing the envelopes. One way around addressing the envelopes, however, is to buy window envelopes. If the address on the mailing letter shows through the window on the envelope, you don’t have to separately address the envelopes. This saves money.

(Research #9 and #10 envelopes. Your outgoing envelope will be a #10 envelope, and it can contain a #9 business reply mail envelope along with your marketing letter. Don’t rule these out. These are very effective, even if they involve printing the mailing letter and also buying envelopes. A few other things to consider are the size of standard vs. custom envelopes and the products they contain, how thick the envelope paper should be, and how many inserts the envelopes will hold.)

Kingsley then goes on to discuss invitations. Consider whether you want flat cards or fold-over cards. Make sure you’ll have room for the invitation, the reply card, the envelope for the reply card, and any inserts you want to include. Also, I’d encourage you to consider paper weight (24#, which is comparable to 60# text stock, or 28#, which is comparable to 70# text stock). When I used to design these, I’d make paper dummies of all inserts, make sure everything (based on size and thickness) fit in the envelope, and then hand off the mock up to the printer to make sure everything was printed and then inserted (mailshop work) as intended.

I’d also consider paper color and texture. There are some elegant or fanciful paper stocks out there to choose from.

Booklets, brochures, and catalogs! These days, intriguing design, including creative paper choices and unique use of gloss, satin, and dull coatings, can make booklets, brochures, and catalogs a real knock out. People can carry them anywhere and page through them at their leisure. You can even use these printed materials to direct clients to your website to further the marketing conversation. People trust the permanence of print. Take advantage of this, and also use the tactile benefits of these three sales tools to your benefit. (Play to the strengths of print: those qualities that set print apart from digital media.)

But, again, be conscious of size, thickness, and weight requirements of the Post Office. (Research postcard, letter, and flat.) If you keep to the size constraints, you’ll save money. If not, you might wind up sending a “package” or “parcel” by accident, which will cost you more (particularly over the course of a large mailing). Check these requirements online and/or discuss them with your USPS Business Reply Mail Specialist.

(Most printers now have not only mailshops in house but also postal employees right in the commercial printing plant preparing the mail for drop shipping. So you may do well to ask your printer about all these issues as well.)

Overall Costs to Consider

Finally, Lynne Kingsley discusses production costs. I found this most useful as a mental checklist:

  1. Creative (writing and design): Assume $75 to $125 an hour, and plan for one hour per page of anything your designer creates. This is just a starting point. If you make lots of changes to the design and copy, the price will go up. (I personally would not skimp on this. You can pay less, but how your printed product looks and how dynamic the copy is will determine the success rate of the marketing initiative.) Remember, this is an investment, not an expense. Personally, I’d base my choices of writers and designers on references from people I trust.
  2. Printing: Kingsley’s article, “How Much Does Direct Mail Cost,” notes $.10 to $2.00 per piece as a starting point for your budget. The cost will depend on everything from paper choice (consider printer’s house stocks) to number of inks printed, from page count to special bindings and paper coatings. I’d select a few printed pieces you like and find out what one or two printers you trust would charge to produce the number of copies you need. Then draft a specification sheet and share this with a few more custom printing suppliers, and you’ll get an idea of the total cost of producing your direct mail package. This is the time to find out whether your printer can perform all of the mailshop activities and then enter the final promotional pieces into the mailstream.
  3. Mailing Lists: Kingsley suggests that you assume up to $.30 per record (per potential client name/address). But if you use your own list, it’s free. Either way, make sure the mailing list has been cleaned (bad addresses removed), sorted, and CASS Certified (i.e., everything has been done to ensure accuracy and USPS formatting requirements). If you rent the list for multiple uses, the price (i.e., the average cost per record that you pay) will go down.
  4. Envelopes, Labels, Postage, and Fulfillment: “How Much Does Direct Mail Cost,” assumes $.25 to $2.00 per piece. You should get estimates, but this is a good starting point (a good list of necessary processes to consider when budgeting). Personally, I’ve used both dedicated mailshops and mailshops in commercial printing establishments. So I’d encourage you to shop around. In all cases, finding a knowledgeable, responsive advocate is more important than saving a few dollars.

The Takeaway

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Direct mail is making a comeback. People increasingly prefer printed mail to the overabundance of digital marketing mail they receive.
  2. Direct mail drives sales. It is an investment, not an expense.
  3. Don’t fight the US Post Office. Learn their requirements for size, weight, sortation, and mailability, and you will reap postal discounts.
  4. Find someone more knowledgeable than you to help with the process (a commercial printing sales rep, Business Mail Specialist at the USPS, etc.). But also research the intricacies yourself online and/or through USPS publications. Take the time to study, and you will reap postal savings.

Posted in Direct Mail | Comments Off on Commercial Printing: A Thoughtful Approach to Direct Mail

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