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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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Book Printing with Online Printing Companies: How to Settle a Dispute So Everyone Wins

No matter how long you’ve been buying custom printing servcies from online printing companies the time will come when something goes wrong. Online printing companies are staffed with human beings, who are fallible, so from time to time it will become necessary to work through a difficult job, to find a solution the digital printing service can provide that will satisfy your needs.

A client contacted me today, disappointed with a job that had just been delivered. I looked at the samples that I had received and noted that opaque white letters on the inside covers were barely visible on the beige uncoated cover stock.

Doing the research

I took a breath. Then I did some research. My client, the custom printing vendor, and I had discussed adding opaque white, but the two options the printer had proposed were to print the opaque white under the image on the front cover as a “ground” to keep the beige paper from darkening the transparent process ink, or to use the opaque white as an accent (spot placement within portions of the cover art). We had not discussed using opaque white for any text.

I reviewed the collection of sample promotional books that I had received from paper manufacturers, looking for information on (and examples of) opaque white usage. I found a sample of opaque white lettering (a large headline) on a deep blue stock, and a description of how to use opaque white as a ground for printing process color images. The white ground (or base) made the images “pop,” or stand out from the surrounding tinted paper stock. In both promotional sample books, the opaque white had been printed twice (a “double hit”), yet the effect was subtle. When I checked under a loupe (a high-powered magnifying glass used by printing companies to view fine details on printed press sheets), I could still see flecks of the blue substrate through the white headline letters.

Talking with the online printing company

I asked the printer why his prepress operator had not flagged the white type as potentially problematic, and why the pressman had not commented on the barely legible type on the beige paper during the press run. The surprised printer noted that the type had been faint, but still legible, under his pressroom lighting.

This got me thinking. Pressroom lighting is 5000 Kelvin (which is the same color as sunlight). It is not the same as the light emitted by my LED desk lamp or the fluorescent bulbs or incandescent tungsten filament bulbs in the house. I went outside. In sunlight, the text was light but readable. I went back inside and called the printing service. I explained my findings. The CEO agreed that the text was too light. He wanted the client to be happy.

Working together toward a solution

To keep costs down, and because the text of the booklet was beautifully printed, we determined that the best way to proceed was to reprint the covers, tear the old covers off, and attach the new covers. The online printing company agreed to do all work by hand to keep the variance in retrimming to 1/16” or less. (Retrimming a book that has had its covers removed and replaced risks making the head, foot, and face margin uncomfortably tight, since retrimming makes the book slightly smaller than it had originally been.)

The client would pay to have the books sent back to the business printing provider, and the printer would do all work “at cost” (about half the retail price). We also discussed the schedule. We wanted to make sure the client could mail the books in a timely manner.

In addition, the designer decided to change all white type to blue type (it is always a risk to print small, serif type in a light color on a middle-toned, tinted press sheet). She decided not to risk this. If she had wanted to keep the white type, the custom printing vendor could have improved the ink’s opacity by adding silver ink to the opaque white ink. He could also have used white metallic foil instead of opaque white ink for the text, but this would have required an additional stamping die (at the cost of approximately $500.00).

Unfortunately, the beige paper was a special order item, adding to the cost of reprinting the covers and also lengthening the schedule (acquiring paper would take three days). So I suggested printing the beige of the background as a process color screen on white uncoated cover stock. After all, there were no flecks in the paper. It was easy to replicate the “sand” text sheet with process color inks. The client and printing company agreed. The reprint cost and timeline were both abbreviated.

Working with online printing companies as partners

We all worked together as partners, finding a workable solution at a fair cost (shared by the custom printing provider and the client) within a workable time frame. It was clear to me that the client felt taken care of. And both the online printing company and the client can now work together comfortably in the future. Ironically, the printer’s prices had been so good that, even including the additional cover reprint cost, the total price of the job still matched the next lowest estimate for printing the booklet in the first place.

Custom printing is an art, as is negotiating. Problems occur from time to time. Approaching the business relationship as a partnership and seeking ways to resolve the problems yields the best results for all.

4 Responses to “Book Printing with Online Printing Companies: How to Settle a Dispute So Everyone Wins”

  1. Custom print says:

    I like your style. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it, and I am looking forward to reading new articles

    • admin says:

      I do, but it is a labor of love. I am fascinated by offset and digital printing, as well as the integration of the Internet into the newer cross-media communications initiatives (web-to-print, social media, blogs, PURL’s, etc.). I’m glad you find this blog useful. Please come back regularly, or set up an RSS feed for automatic updates.

  2. I found this informative and interesting blog, so I think so it’s very useful.


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