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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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The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

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Blog Articles for

Tips on how to design an appealing business card

July 10th, 2020

Posted in Business Cards | Comments »

Many businesses and companies struggle to come up with features that they should include in their business cards. Do you also find yourself struggling about what to add on your business card? Don’t worry, we have made a list of important tips that you can use to make your business card more appealing and eye-catching.

Here is the list of things you need to consider before you hire online printing companies for your business cards:

  1. Your Name

This allows your client in knowing exactly who to contact. This allows your client to know you in person. Along with the name, you should also add your designation as well. You should add your credentials in such a way that it removes any kind of confusion as they read the content displayed on your business card. Also, make sure that the font is neither too small or big to read.

  1. Business Card Title

It is important to develop an attractive title that is easy to remember for your clients. It should evoke the feeling of subscribing to the products and services you provide. The title of your business cards should make your clients feel that you are the best alternative they have.

  1. Business Logo

It is best to place your logo top center of a business card as it will then catch any eye instantly. People usually look at the logo first then they read the name of the business. Your clients will remember you by looking at your logo. It is best to keep it in the center of the business card so that it catches the eye instantly.

Don’t make the mistake of printing the logo on the back of your business card. Most people don’t even look at the backside of a business card. Try to put little to no information on the backside of the card.

  1. Contact Details

Contact details and address allows your client to contact you when they need your services. It is important to include the following details

  • Physical address
    • Email address
    • Phone number (both office and mobile)
    • Website address.
  • You can also add your LinkedIn (Correct Name to correct) or any other media links as alternate communication avenues.

You can also add your linked name, which makes it easy for your clients to connect with you on social media.

  1. Products and Services

The aim of a business card is to inform your clients about your product and services. You can either use small images or graphics, which makes it easier for your clients to understand what you do.

  1. Color and Templates

Color choices are also important when it comes to any business card. The color choices should complement logo colors and business themes. Understand how important it is in choosing colors that are easily read. In creating a dark screen in using dark colored ink words will be quite difficult in reading. Thes same words reversed in white, will read much better.

A business card is an essential tool and you should only use relevant information. So, next time when you decide to make new business cards, remember the above-mentioned points.

Posted in Business Cards | Comments »

Tip to Use Postcards Like a Marketing Pro

July 10th, 2020

Posted in Postcard Printing | Comments »

Being able to see and feel benefits from your postcard marketing campaign requires planning. Vetting your graphic designer in creating the perfect message is critical.

Providing accurate and error free graphic files is very important regarding any pre-press department within postcard printing companies when opening up your postcard files.

Thus, here are some great tips in becoming a Postcard Pro.

Impress with The Front Picture

Here is why you should carefully choose the postcard printing companies. The first impression is very important. When the recipient pulls out that card, the picture should be appealing and entice them to open the card. Picture quality is important. The right printer will be vital in making that first impression.

Choose a Catchy Headline

Writing headlines are plenty harder than you may think. A headline needs to grab attention.This headline should drive home your primary message with clarity and accuracy even if the reader does not go beyond your creative headline.

This means you should do the following.

  • Make if concise
  • Offer a solution to their problem
  • Include a benefit Make it Easy to Read

Make It Easier to Read

When one digests your message, they need ease in performing or an easy read. Postcards messages need to be short and sweet. Every new idea should be placed using precise wording in sequential order as the reader then can quickly review. Within any postcard, your messages should complement it’s headline.

Always Have a Call to Action

Without a Call To Action, your not marketing properly. The purpose of your postcard should be targeting the recipient in taking a particular action. Your message clarity is important for the reader in taking action. The Call To Action should also restate whatever offer is being provided.

Highlight Benefits

People will take action if they know what’s in it for them. This is why you need to highlight benefits. The headline may have enticed them to open the card, but now you need to channel that interest towards the call to action.

Concisely listing benefits will ensure that the recipient clearly understands what they will gain from taking action.

Make an Offer

When one absorbs offered benefits, they may still need more convincing with your Call To Action. Presenting simple and clear offers will help them in deciding to move on your Call To Action. In offering a discount or a FREE coupon service gift, by stating an expiring date will help your Call To Action. By customize your marketing postcard design directly to the recipient personality ( name, gender, age ) traits will help one directly relating to a post cat Call To Action. This type of postcard marketing strategy is called ” Personalized Marketing. ”

Present them with an offer that makes it seem like it is much easier to get those benefits by taking action. Usually a discount, free coupon, or a sample will be enticing. Offers, however, need to have a time frame attached to them so that people will act with a degree of urgency. Adding something like “offer valid while stock lasts” may do the trick, or you could try something more original.

Customize your postcard to suit your audience. Everything in there should be attractive to the kind of person you are sending it to and add a personal touch by referring to them by name.

Posted in Postcard Printing | Comments »

This is how to get magazines printed affordably

July 10th, 2020

Posted in Magazine Printing | Comments »

One way in sharing different stories from different parts of the world is publishing a printed magazine. When a magazine graphic designer chooses interesting high-resolution pictures related to articles, the article will then stand out better in accenting copy content. What makes any manage attractive is choosing an appropriate paper substrate in promoting provided subject matter. Other important points in choosing a magazine printing company is meeting your schedule and, in a cost, effective manner.

Get the best prices from around the world

Today, you can contact magazine printing companies via internet. There is no need today in physically making appointments nor visiting

magazine printing companies around the world. In selecting a magazine printer, the three items they need in delivering are – Price; Quality; and Service. For FREE, offers this type of service to Print Buyers in seeking quality magazine printing companies.

Top quality paper

The top magazine printing companies house the best quality paper substrates in providing you high end magazine printing. If needed, magazine printing companies will counsel anyone in suggesting a proper paper substrate in receiving your best results related to your magazine subject matter and required quality levels

For this, you can choose from the following types of paper:

1) Gloss Coated Substrates – provides appealing reflective eye effects especially 4-Color pictures

2) Matte Coated Substrates – provides a Flat White effect on a coated stock

3) Silk- These papers have characteristics of both matte and gloss papers. They are smooth like matte and intense like gloss. In comparison to gloss, their ink does not appear dry.
4) Supercalendered Uncoated Substrates. An uncoated thin stock ( 39/60 grams thick ) that is buffed to extreme resulting a look of a coated sheet. Used usually in Sunday published newspapers as tabloid multi page inserts as ‘ Special Sale ‘ marketing. E.g. Home Depot or grocery store special sale

5) Wood Free Coated Substrates – Premium quality magazine papers can be printed in bulk using them. These papers are well recognized due to their durability to tears, resistance and longevity.
Common demands of print buyers
If you are a print buyer, you are likely to ask your printing company to meet one or more of the following requirements:
• Must be accountable- Since a printing company is taking responsibility in delivering to you as required within your provided graphic art files, they are responsible in correcting any printing errors. Sooner or later and of you print plenty, you will experience a printing company error. A true magazine printing company test is just how fast and how accurate a printing company

resolves any issue.

  • Always tell the truth- Printing companies should not think that lying to the print buyer will help you get away with delays or poor quality. As customers, print buyers are entitled to be told the truth at all times.
    • Should be kept in the loop- Print buyers must be kept in the loop and told about updates in status of work, if any
    • Alternatives should be offered- Companies must offer alternative solutions, even if not requested by customers

Posted in Magazine Printing | Comments »

Custom Printing: Some Functional Elements of Packaging

July 5th, 2020

Posted in Packaging | Comments »

Readability. Utility. Precision. Some commercial printing work is not meant to persuade or educate, but rather to convey information clearly. It’s called functional printing. The printed keys on your keyboard fit into this category. So does the package of eyedrops my fiancee just received from her eye surgeon. She will undergo cataract surgery in a few weeks, and the pre-operative information she just received has to be unquestionably clear.

The Custom Eyedrop Kit Packaging

Here’s a description of the packaging for my fiancee’s eyedrops with a focus on utility:

  1. The interior packaging is a cross between “clamshell” packaging and “blister” packaging. Two parts of a fold-over case are joined with a scored, central hinge, just like a muscle in an ocean clam. This allows the user to lift the top cover of the clear plastic box and then lower it again to close the box. The bottom half has four thermoformed wells (presumably created by placing the sheet of clear plastic over a super-heated mold). In this way, the bottom half is more like blister packaging (with bubbles or wells or chambers). The top portion locks down tightly over a ridge on the bottom half, ensuring the safety of the plastic bottles of eyedrops my fiancee will need prior to her cataract surgery.
  2. A Crack ‘N Peel label printed in black, green, and red has been hand-marked in pen with the dates of the eye surgery and the required numbers of eye drops for each date. The most important information is printed in red, but due to the simplicity of the sans serif typeface, plus the limited number of colors and the contrast between the handwriting and the printed type, it is very easy to instantly grasp all pertinent information. (The increased type leading and the type size also facilitate readability.) The bottom line: there’s just enough information, and the design and coloration of the type enhance readability by anyone of any age.
  3. The screw-on tops of the eyedrop bottles are color coded. Two (coded in green) are larger than the third, which has a red top. Each bottle label has clear, sans-serif type, and the most important type has been reversed to white out of a solid green printed bar. All of the custom printing is on Crack ‘N Peel labeling affixed to the bottles. Clearly the goal was to use the proper type (sans serif) at the most readable size for the elderly, who have compromised sight, to avoid a dangerous misunderstanding of the instructions for the use of these drugs.
  4. In all cases, there is contact information for reaching the pharmacy. This is not only useful for my fiancee, but it also reinforces her confidence in the whole eye surgery procedure. Hence it supports the branding of the pharmacy.
  5. Much of the information on the labels is very specific, such as expiration dates for the medications. Hence, we can assume that digital commercial printing technology was used rather than offset printing technology.
  6. On the top of the closed plastic packaging shell are laser printed (I checked with my 12-power loupe) Crack ‘N Peel labels printed in black toner noting everything from the pharmacy contact information to my fiancee’s contact information to the kind of medication, lot number, and expiration dates for the medications. In addition, there are three strips of color (magenta, yellow, and cyan, with black surprinted type noting when the medications expire, how to store them, and that they were made according to the doctor’s prescription). So your eye is attracted immediately to the colored, printed strips (and the information contained therein), and then to the information on the other two labels. All necessary information is contained (in its entirety) on the front panel, and is repeated in bits and pieces inside the packaging.
  7. Therefore, the interior packaging protects the medications and tells my fiancee how to use them. None of this is unattractive. It’s just that functionality is paramount. (And the package design is based on the marketer’s knowledge of how people best consume and process written information.)
  8. Now for the exterior wrap. This portion of the package focuses on two things: the user’s confidence in the reliability of the product and the pharmacy’s branding. And of course these are intimately connected.
  9. The wrap feels like 14pt or thicker cover stock, printed and then scored to wrap all the way around the interior plastic insert. (That is, it’s a sleeve with open ends.) The wrap front panel includes a large eye printed in 4-colors but desaturated overall to look like a black halftone or quadtone. However, the iris of this eye retains its intensity of blue coloration, making it look like a black and white eye with a hand-colored blue iris. Above this is a solid green bar out of which the name of the drops (plus a brief description thereof) has been reversed.
  10. On the back of the cardboard sleeve is the name, logo, address, website, fax, and email for the pharmacy. The logo and name are very large and prominent. In an emergency, or even if you have a question, you’ll know just how to contact someone who knows what to do.
  11. To the entire outer package sleeve, the commercial printing supplier has applied a flood UV coating in high gloss. The whole thing feels very competent, clinical, locked down and ready for the surgery. Even without the printed content, the paper weight and the coating would convey an air of gravitas and competence. Hence, the packaging elicits confidence and therefore supports the pharmacy brand.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. Ensuring readability depends on understanding how people process information. This involves understanding which fonts and colors are the most readable and what people of various ages can read, depending on the health and flexibility of their eyes.
  2. It also depends on understanding how to gather and group information so that it will be read (i.e., in small, understandable chunks). This is especially true for scientific information, especially when making a mistake can threaten one’s health.
  3. Functional printing opens the field of commercial printing way beyond promotional products, labels, print books, and large format signage. There’s informational, functional printing on almost everything. That means, as a graphic designer, you can always be relevant.
  4. That said, all functional custom printing still either enhances or tarnishes the company brand. If your functional type is unreadable, that’s a problem. Think about cheap computer keyboards with printed letters that are flaking or rubbing off. Personally, that makes me feel less comfortable about both the durability of the keyboard and perhaps even its accuracy (I’ve noticed that some cheap keyboards skip letters when you’re typing quickly).
  5. So the bottom line is that functional printing embraces everything from graphic design to branding and marketing, to ways to facilitate communication, to the operation of the human eye. The more you understand all of these, the more skilled and useful you will be as a designer.

Posted in Packaging | Comments »

Custom Printing: Printing Silver and Gold on Glass

June 30th, 2020

Posted in GlassPrinting | Comments »

Image by

What you see above is silver ink on glass. I’ve increased the contrast a bit to make the texture and radiance a bit more obvious, but overall the concept is pregnant with possibility. When you add digital custom printing to the mix, gold as well as silver ink, and layering of glass to protect the ink from scuffing (and apparently tarnishing as well), you have the recipe for luxurious success.

Sedak (Gersthofen) has done just this. And as their promotional materials attest, you can even create curved glass with intricate patterning, fine lines, and gradations. It’s clearly prime time for this technology.

Here’s what I learned from my research.

Sedak Ceramic Digital Printing

First of all, this is done with actual silver and gold. As Sedak notes in its press release, (“Real Gloss in Digital Printing: Sedak Presents Its New Technology,” by, 06/24/2020), fine particles of gold or silver are suspended within a special solution and then applied with flatbed digital printing equipment (or, for single colors in a flood coating, Sedak uses roller-coaters). These are ceramic inks that will withstand the high heat (600 degrees Celsius) that will permanently bond the precious metals to the glass. The glass can then be further treated to be insulating and safety glass. It can even be curved to enhance its design and presentation.

Initially, the pigment is applied to “float glass.” Once printed and tempered with heat, “the printed side is placed on the inside of the laminate towards the film interlayer and is thus protected by the glass” (“Real Gloss in Digital Printing: Sedak Presents Its New Technology”).

What this means is that the images printed on the glass are protected from scratches and from environmental damage. The panes are also UV-resistant.

Due to the nuances of digital custom printing, Sedak can print intricate designs on the glass, including “fine dots, complex patterns, and even color gradients.” “The digital gold and silver printing can also be combined with ceramic color printing” (“Real Gloss in Digital Printing: Sedak Presents Its New Technology”).

Thus, you can expand the number of colors reproducible on the glass, although the technology as presented in the article really shines when it marries “the transparency of the glass and the brilliance of the precious metals” (“Real Gloss in Digital Printing: Sedak Presents Its New Technology”). Fortunately, also due to the nuances of digital printing, this process is economical (i.e., not as wasteful as, perhaps, prior technologies such as custom screen printing).

This is an elegant approach to interior and exterior decoration, and Sedak can print these glass panes in sizes up to 3.30 x 18 meters (10.826 feet x 59.0551 feet). (In other company literature, the process yields even larger glass, extending the length to 20 meters or 65.58 feet.) That’s a large pane of glass, clearly destined for architectural usage. Sedak can achieve this effect at a resolution of 1024 dpi, hence the company’s claims to detail in intricate filigree structures, gradients, etc.

Features of Sedak Glass

Here’s some of the features Sedak’s website highlights:

  1. “Translucent printing
  2. “Opaque printing
  3. “Printing in multiple coatings
  4. “Color transitions
  5. “Thin lines
  6. “Concentric circles
  7. “Points in different levels of intensity and opaqueness
  8. “Photo-realistic print”

You can even create a “double-vision effect” by precisely registering a second pass on the inkjet press. You can print one color on top of the other, making one color visible from the outside of a building and another color visible from the inside.

On a purely practical level, you can provide “sight and sun protection on the outside…and glare protection with an undisturbed view inside” (Sedak’s website) by using light color dots outside (presumably halftone dots) and dark color dots inside. The light color dots would then, if I understand correctly, reflect the sunlight away from the glass (presumably also reducing the amount of heat that enters the building and therefore saving money in summer cooling costs).

In addition, from a storage perspective and a manufacturing-cost perspective, the process saves time, space, and money. You don’t need to store screen printing materials and screens. The setup times are shorter. And there’s less waste than in custom screen printing.

What You Can Learn From Sedak’s Promotional Materials

All of this gets me thinking, particularly in light of what I have been reading online about the use of digital custom printing technology.

In the articles I’ve read, interior and exterior architectural design has become a major locus of growth for digital imaging. For instance, many of the articles have referenced digitally printed wallpaper. There have also been multiple articles regarding digitally printed fabric, which lends itself to everything from bedsheets and covers to upholstery. And anything can be personalized without raising the price.

Even before Covid19, I had seen a growing nesting instinct among people. I had been reading about stock market gains in such retailers as Home Depot and Lowes (and seeing proof of this interest when my fiancee and I have shopped in these stores). People want to make their homes special because they are spending more time there. Therefore, anything that provides both exterior and interior decorating capabilities has been increasing in popularity.

Beyond this, it seems that digital commercial printing is ideally suited to home and office decoration. Particularly for interior design, it is often much cheaper to replace wall coverings and even interior glass structures, when you want a new interior look, than to pull down walls and rebuild everything. (I believe the current jargon is changing the “skin” of an interior design.) Granted, for interior design, and particularly for exterior windows, replacing Sedak glass is probably not an inexpensive undertaking.

In addition, people love personalization. If you could prepare a home or office interior that completely reflects your own identity or the identity of your business, chances are it would appeal to you.

The same goes for the gold, silver, and glass elegance of Sedak’s work. People, in general, also want their home or business to reflect an air of success, beauty, and opulence. And the combination of the materials and the level of Sedak’s detail achieves this look.

Finally, digital custom printing is ideal because it eliminates the need for large manufacturing runs and materials storage while increasing the detail (when compared to custom screen printing, for instance) of the final design work. Visitors to your home or business can lose themselves in the intricate detail of filigree, gradations, and transitions from one color to another, while relishing the curved glass.

I think this is definitely a winner.

Posted in GlassPrinting | Comments »

5 Considerations to Make When Choosing Printing and Binding Services

June 26th, 2020

Posted in Binder Printing | Comments »

Some people imagine that all book printing and binding services are the same. When they want their book to be printed, they will simply call the first number for printing services and hire them. This is the wrong approach and it can affect the sale of the book. To choose the right company to do your printing and binding, here are some considerations to make.

Aesthetics Matter

Not every company that provides book printing and binding services can produce visually stunning work. The cover of the book in particular matters a lot. Think of the people you want to buy the book. Will they be comfortable holding a book that is not beautiful?

You need to seek out a printing company that will deliver quality work, right from the cover of the book to the pages inside. Quality should also be visible in the type of printing paper that is used.

How Long Will it Take?

So many factors can determine how long the printing and binding will take. Some printing companies have fast machines and staff so they can guarantee you that the work will be done in under 24 hours.

The best printing companies will not exceed 72 hours even for books with hundreds of pages. If you are in a hurry o have the book printed and bound, you need to find out from the service provider how long it will take them to complete the task.

How Efficient is Customer Service?

Like any other business, a printing company needs to have customer support. Right from the time you are searching for a service provider, you need to be certain that the company can respond to your questions and provide satisfactory answers. Find out what means of communication they use. Do they answer the phone when it rings? Do they respond to emails within a short time? Does the website have FAQs that would give immediate answers to simple questions like how long printing and binding take?

Try to make an order on phone or email and see how long it will take for the order to be confirmed and that will let you know how fast and efficient they are.

The Pricing Needs to be Justified

Pricing is key in determining just about every service. You need to find out what the common price for printing and binding is. If the service provider you contact is offering a price that is not within the average range, then consider finding another one. If the price is much higher than the rest, find out why that is and consider if that is justified. If it is very low, find out if it is a promotional price and if it isn’t, there is likely to be a negative reason for that.


Many people will say they prefer eBooks to hardcopies because hardcopies can fall apart. That is not entirely true. It mainly depends on the workmanship. Books that have been put together using quality material and expert workmanship can last long if they are not mistreated.

In Conclusion

Most of the considerations can be confirmed by asking other people for recommendations. It will make finding the service much faster. You can also add your own considerations to the vetting process.

Posted in Binder Printing | Comments »

5 Best Custom Printing Services to Drive Business Growth 

June 26th, 2020

Posted in Printing | Comments »

Most businesses today are looking at the digital world to provide solutions to gain an edge over the competition. What they do not realize is that custom printing services provide a cost-effective way of promoting a business and in turn drive growth through increased sales. Five of the following services have proved effective for different successful businesses.

Stickers can Promote the Business Brand

Stickers can be a low-cost billboard for a business, but unlike billboards, they are able to move around. If a business is looking for affordable custom printing services that still make a huge impact on their brand, then stickers would be a great option. The stickers however need to be well designed. They can be put on car bumpers so that wherever the cars go, they publicize the business and create awareness.

Brochures can Serve as a Presentation Even in the Absence of a Representative of the Business

A well-designed brochure will contain all the necessary information that a sales representative would use to make a presentation. These brochures can be left in strategic public places where people are likely to have time to read like waiting rooms. The more people a business can have read the brochures, the more presentations the business will be making, eventually, they may see increased inquiries from people who have been reading the brochures, even without a marketing team, brochures can make a significant impact.

Business Cards are Effective Tools for Starting Marketing Conversations

Business cards are often given very little thought and yet they are great conversation starters. A business can use a business card to provide a summarized representation of who they are. if it is catchy, that could be the start of a conversation that can lead to a marketing relationship. What’s more, business cards can be distributed to hundreds, even thousands of people and when those people need the service or product that business provides, they will look for that business card and contact the business.

Branded Gifts Induce top of the Mind Awareness

Top of the mind awareness is how businesses gain leverage over the competition. It may not be enough to simply give gifts and think that it is enough to get people to remember a business. Brand the gifts that you give out to friends, clients, and prospective clients, imagine the impact a branded calendar has on whoever is given one. Every time they turn to the calendar to see the date, they also see the logo of the business as well as contact information. The chances that the individual will call the business when they need their service is much higher than if they do not brand their gifts.

Postcards Add a Personal Touch to Communication with Clients

Direct mail is still an effective marketing tool. Clients can feel more appreciated when they get a personalized postcard. Instead of auto-generated messages of major holidays and on the birthday of a client, send them a personalized postcard. This can cement a relationship and ensure customer loyalty.

In Conclusion

There are hundreds of ways custom printing can be used to grow a business. With the right designs and branding techniques, this can help a business grow significantly.

Posted in Printing | Comments »

Plethora of Custom Printing Companies For Your Business

June 26th, 2020

Posted in Printing | Comments »

There are different ways to start off getting custom prints from a printing company. An acceptable way of dealing these days is to ask for quotes from different printing companies in the world. However, instead of you spending too much time, it is best if a single company acts as the intermediary between you and the print company. In other words, let the intermediary ‘Google’ the most suitable printing companies for you at the best prices.

You will only get to interact with qualified print companies

Once you start searching on Google, you will realize that there are far too many printing companies out there, which would be many times over the number you may have imagined. It is the job of the intermediary to shortlist the custom printing companies that are most suitable as per your requirement.

Any image that you want can be printed on a surface of your choice, and this is known as a custom print. Whenever you place an order for such a print, it will always be prepared exclusively for you. An average of 3-5 business days is required to complete these prints, on an average.

Printing services should focus on trending products

A lot of work is being done in order to keep businesses relevant during the current COVID-19 crisis. It would be great if reputed printing companies start considering the print of other products as well, other than books, magazines and the like. At this time, many people would be really interested in buying custom T-shirts for different fund-raising events. If you are providing groceries, as an example, you may require signages, which in turn will require printing services. In the current crisis, if you ask for various COVID utilities to be printed, these might incur high charges.

Get brochures printed to promote your business

A brochure is an example of a custom print since it will not be used by any other company. You can make your brand really popular amongst your clients by giving them well-designed and printed brochures. No matter how much the digital medium grows, print brochures will always an impact on any customer. The use of colors in your brochure will impart a sense of professionalism to your company or institution. In fact, there are a number of brochure printing companies willing to take up such a job.

It is a great idea to have high resolution images in your brochure, as high quality and range of services will certainly impress clients about your company. At the same time, the logo on the brochure must be prominent but not too big. It would also be a good idea to put in pictures of your team, just to show the human side of your company.

To get a print done, all you need to do is a place a request with a reputed printing intermediary that acts as a middle man between the printing company and you. A variety of shortlisted printing companies will then send you their samples and price quotes, based on which you can select the most suitable one.

Posted in Printing | Comments »

Commercial Printing: The Final Stages of Print Buying

June 23rd, 2020

Posted in PrintBuying | Comments »

Sometimes you just have to go for it and make a decision: Printer A and not Printer B. It’s a bit of a gamble, a risk, particularly if it’s a high-ticket item.

I’m brokering a job for a designer whose client needs a complex binder containing 32 wood sample chips. Each is 1” x 2” x .5”. There are four interior pages of samples. The back sides of these pages are text pages or photos. When the inside pages are folded in (like a double gatefold), you have a 3” high binder, roughly 11” x 11” in dimension.

These will be quite expensive. Each book (in a 100-copy or 200-copy press run) will cost between $40 and $80, depending on the kind of product ordered and the specific commercial printing supplier chosen. At the moment, two manufacturers have provided bids reflecting what has turned out to be two different approaches to the same job.

For a first job with a custom printing vendor, how can you possibly make such a decision? Particularly when between $5,000 and $10,000 is on the line (along with your reputation)?

I’ll bet that you’ve been in a similar situation, if you’re a print buyer, designer, or a commercial printing supplier needing to farm out some specialized work that you don’t have the equipment to do in house. How do you make a choice like this? One that’s not just a spin of the roulette wheel?

The Backstory

First of all, this is what I’ve done so far to get to the point of having two legitimate bids:

  1. I asked a colleague and friend with decades of experience in the field of custom printing. He has contacts at the (only a handful of) vendors who can do this kind of work.
  2. I submitted specs to the Printing Industry Exchange to see if there were any other vendors interested.
  3. I asked one other colleague, a printer.

All of this yielded only two solid estimates. Both vendors came from my discussion with the colleague who knows multiple vendors (and the industry in general) and who had also been a print broker. What I learned from this is that a print consultant or broker may well know more about the overall commercial printing industry than an individual printer will know. The individual printer may be more focused on his own print shop than on the industry (i.e., more depth, less breadth, of knowledge).

So what did I learn from this?

Always go through people you know, who know the field. Granted, at this point I can check references for these two binder manufacturers, but actually my colleague’s referral is all I need (based on his contacts in the field and his level of knowledge). In your own print buying work, you might want to also check references. Just keep in mind that it’s human nature for a vendor to give you references from people who are cheerleaders for their work.

The Next Steps

This is what I did after receiving two solid bids for my client’s floor-sample-binder. I requested photos from the two vendors to show exactly what their products would be like (materials and construction). I also asked that the two vendors send printed samples of their work to my client. These would achieve two goals:

  1. They would show my client the overall level of quality each vendor could provide.
  2. They would show whether each vendor understood my client’s needs (based on the job specifications, my client’s overall description of her needs, and her photos) as reflected in the samples they would send her.

(Keep in mind that I had initially sent both binder vendors a list of specifications, a description of the binder my client envisioned, still photos of binders she liked, and her video of a sample binder showing how it would open and close and where the text and artwork would print.)

Furthermore, there was only one main difference in the two offerings from the two vendors:

  1. The first offered a turned-edge binder with an offset-printed litho sheet wrapped around chipboard. Inside the binder were rigid wells (i.e., a build and a die-cut cover sheet) into which the wood samples could be placed (and maybe glued).
  2. The second vendor offered almost the same thing, but the wells for the sample wood pieces were cut out of foam (rather than chipboard) and then covered with printed litho paper with die-cuts for the wood samples.

The second vendor’s offering was a little more classy. However, it would also cost almost twice as much as the first vendor’s product.

So the take-away at this point is that we have two estimates, two ways of approaching the job, and sets of photos reflecting each option. Furthermore, we now have printed samples on the way to my client.

What’s next?

Next, Next Steps

Both manufacturers will make prototypes. These will cost approximately $200 each. In my opinion, in the entire job, no other $200 will be better spent. This is an investment. Not a cost. It will protect my client. She and the client she represents will have no surprises as to how all the various die cut pieces of paper will go together. It will be a hand made prototype, but that’s irrelevant. It will show exactly how everything will look and feel and operate. Any logistical issues can be addressed in a revised prototype (for another $200–again, well-spent money).

Between the printed samples and the prototype, my client will learn:

  1. The level of quality to expect.
  2. The good points and bad points of each vendor’s specific approach to the design issue (not the artwork on the binder but the binder itself as a physical, operating product).

My client, the designer, recently asked me which vendor I would choose. My response was that I would choose neither at the moment. And in your own print buying work, when faced with a similar progression from bids and photos to potential prototypes, I would encourage you to make the final decision at the last possible moment, when you have as much information as you can possibly collect.

In my own client’s case, I’d encourage her to have her client (the floor supply store) commission both vendors to create prototypes before choosing one or the other. Price plus reputation (based on my colleague’s advice), product photos, and the prototype will eventually make the overall decision of one vendor over the other relatively easy. And in either case, at this point, nothing but time and the cost of the prototypes will have been spent in gathering enough information to make a prudent choice. It’s still a little bit of a gamble but far less so than it could have been.

What Can We Learn from This Case Study?

Here are some things to walk away with and ponder when you’re buying commercial printing from a new vendor, particularly if it’s a custom product that will cost a lot to produce:

  1. Start with a description of the product you want.
  2. Turn this description into a list of printer’s specs: printing, binding, coating, foil stamping… (all prepress, press, and finishing operations). But also keep the general description from which you made the spec list.
  3. Take photos of any samples you like, and send these to potential vendors, requesting estimates and schedules.
  4. Review bids. Compare everything to everything. See what unique approaches different vendors offer to your design problem.
  5. Request and review printed samples.
  6. For anything complex, pay for a prototype. It protects you from any surprises. (It actually also protects the vendor from your displeasure, so it’s mutually advantageous.)
  7. Depend on references, but get these from people who know the field intimately: knowledgeable people you trust completely.
  8. Make your final decision later rather than earlier. The more information you have, the better.
  9. Proof early and often. That is, carefully and thoughtfully review the prototype, the printed samples, the printer’s template for your artwork (for decorating the product, in my case the binder), the PDF proofs of the art (or even physical hard-copy proofs if you want them). You cannot proof too much.
  10. Everything you see before you tell the vendor to go ahead and manufacture the entire press run will help you. If you take these steps, your decision of one vendor over another will, for the most part, make itself.

Then, all you can do is jump. At some point, that’s what you have to do. Just make sure your choice is a well-thought-out educated guess, not a gamble.

Posted in PrintBuying | Comments »

Custom Printing: Novel Digital Foiling Options

June 23rd, 2020

Posted in Foiling | Comments »

When it rains, it pours. And when this truism pertains to commercial printing, I’m intrigued. More digital embellishment options mean OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are focusing on post-press finishing equipment. And this portends an expansion of digital commercial printing in general.

It’s like the transition from the early plastic, copier-like digital presses to the huge, digital laser and inkjet presses built on heavy-metal frames by OEMs that used to only manufacture offset presses.

So I was pleased to read an article about “Sleeking.”

Sleeking is a digital finishing process, or more specifically a digital embellishment process, that uses pressure and heat to bond foil (from a roll) onto heavy-coverage digitally-printed ink laid down by an HP Indigo press. (An HP Indigo is a digital laser custom printing press that uses toner particles suspended in liquid ink.) Sleeking allows you to lay down the foil digitally, then run the substrate back through the Indigo a second time to print either adjacent to the foil or even on the foil.

Here’s Some Context

It used to be the case that a metallic finish had to be applied using a metal die. The process was called hot foil stamping. You would pay maybe $300 to $500 for a die that would yield one static image (the same on all copies). This would add to the manufacturing time as well as the cost and would require subcontracting this portion of the job to a specialist. Then your printer would use the metal die along with heat and pressure to punch out the foil from a roll and adhere it to the substrate. (For instance, you might do this to foil stamp a book title on a hardcover print book cover.)

Or, you could do cold-foil stamping (a more modern process that does not require metal dies). Cold foil stamping involves first printing a UV-curable (hardened by ultraviolet light) adhesive on the substrate using a printing plate. This UV light makes the adhesive tacky. Then, a roll of metallic film is applied to the tacky adhesive. Foil adheres to the sticky image areas, and the scrap form the non-image areas will stay on the liner sheet (the roll). The benefit, for the most part, compared to hot foil stamping, is that a metallic effect is achievable without a metal stamping die. The process also allows for detail, such as screen gradations, small type (down to about 5 pt. type), and thin rules. You can also laminate or otherwise coat cold-foil stamped material. (If you’re interested in the process, you may want to research the Scodix process or Vivid3D, which seem to be very similar to cold foiling.)

The New Process

With “Sleeking,” you first lay down a heavy coating of liquid HP Indigo ink (I mean really heavy: 400 percent, or four clicks on a digital press) on the substrate. (To put this in context, your offset printer might request no more than 280 percent “total area coverage” among the four process inks—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—for an offset printed job.)

This is the base that will accept the foil (which comes on a roll). In fact, some (powdered) toners can even be used in place of HP digital ink. (Since this is a new process, experts are still testing toners, hot roller pressure, substrates—coated and uncoated—and the actual amount of liquid toner coverage needed prior to adding the foil.)

The foil can be laid down as a spot application or a flood application (the whole sheet). This process is even good for variable data. (For instance, you could lay down 400 percent Indigo digital ink for an invitation, changing the name of the addressee on each printed sheet prior to the Sleeking process.)

Once you have applied the base 400 percent pass of Indigo ink (from a separate layer in your InDesign file), and have allowed the job to dry (some printers like to take six to eight hours for this part of the job to ensure total drying), you can feed the press sheets into the Sleeker and apply the foil from a roll.

Heat and pressure adhere the foil to the (dry) 400 percent coverage of Indigo ink, but the non-image areas do not remove the foil from the donor sheet. (A GMP Foil Laminator performs this step.) This is actually an economical process, since you can rewind the foil roll and use it again (as long as you’re using other parts of the sheet from which no metallic film has been taken for the Sleeking process).

To me this sounds a bit like the cold foiling process.

Sleeking will allow you to apply spot foil or flood the whole sheet. It can be a simple, clear gloss or matte finish or a metallic gold or silver, or it can even be a holographic image of type, a graphic pattern, or variable data.

The third step is like the first. After printing the base 400 percent toner and then Sleeking the job on the GMP Foil Laminator, you can bring the press sheet back to the Indigo digital press for another pass. You can print the rest of the job next to the foil (think “trapping,” in which the foil and remaining ink do not touch), or you can even print the HP Indigo Ink over the foil. This approach yields colorful metallic results that far exceed the original gold and silver foil of the Sleeking process.

Some Considerations

Paper choice is very important for this process, and experts are already busy testing press sheets. Coated paper seems to work better than uncoated (to ensure adequate adhering of the foil to the dry HP Indigo ink). Papers must have been approved for use on an HP Indigo press, whether they are coated or uncoated, to ensure success.

Variables to consider include how much total ink coverage to print prior to Sleeking, and how much heat and pressure to apply. Some printers experimenting with the process use more than one hit of ink (called a click on a digital press) in a particular location. Uncoated paper seems to complicate the process, sometimes causing speckling, but some printers like the fact that the uncoated paper has texture, and they don’t mind the “grittiness.” (I found a good article on the subject that you might want to read, called “So What Is Sleeking?” by Jeff Truan, published on 5/3/18, on

If you think this is a multi-run process, you’re right, and this can be a consideration when choosing paper. After all, you’re printing four hits of HP Indigo ink on a press sheet, then adding foil in a Sleeker, then going back to the HP Indigo and printing the whole sheet again. That can be hard on a press sheet. Therefore, it may be wise to use cover stock rather than text stock for the job (perhaps use Sleeking on a poster, business card, book cover, or a self-mailing marketing piece). The process as noted in Jeff Truan’s article can accept up to 18 point board, which should hold up well.

Trapping can also be an issue, according to “So What Is Sleeking?” by Jeff Truan. More specifically, printers who create foiled areas surrounded by white can sometimes see a black halo around the foil, where the preprinting extends slightly beyond the foiling. In these cases, commercial printing vendors experimenting with the process have replaced the 400 percent black underprinting with 400 percent yellow Indigo ink, which seems to solve the problem.

Akin to trapping, register can also be problematic. Aligning foils and inks perfectly when you’re printing a press sheet once on an HP Indigo digital press, then adding foil on a GMP Foil Laminator, and then printing again on the HP Indigo leaves room for error in precise fit (alignment, register). Therefore, it’s wise to keep this in mind and design wisely for the process.

The Takeaway

What can you, as a designer, print buyer, or printer learn from this process (which is actually more than a couple of years old by now)?

  1. Anything that catches the eye will be more likely to capture the imagination of the viewer or reader. This is particularly true when you think of all the images we see every day, including all the marketing mail in the mailbox, all the product packaging, and all the signage.
  2. Foil stamping used to involve making a metal die, which increased the overall cost of the job as well as the production time needed. If your job press run is less than 1,000 to 2,000 copies, this new foiling process might be right for you. However, for longer runs, making the die the traditional way may still yield a lower cost per unit.
  3. Between hot-foil stamping, cold foil stamping (and similar technologies such as Scodix, Vivid3D, and Sleeking), it’s clear that manufacturers are addressing the need for digital finishing options to pair with digital custom printing options (particularly to avoid bottlenecks). All of these developments in digital finishing show that digital printing is being taken very seriously.
  4. Sleeking, or Scodix, or Vivid3D, which might be right for your job, has the distinct benefit of allowing you to vary the foil image for each individual product you print.

And this kind of personalization can go a long way in speaking directly to your customers.

Posted in Foiling | Comments »

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