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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: Working with Your Printer to Correct Problems (Revisited)

I recently wrote a blog entry about a client who had produced a short, saddle-stitched booklet with an uncoated “Sand” (essentially beige) cover stock and white text stock. Things hadn’t gone as well as expected between the book printer and the client.

A recap of the goals and problems

My client had printed 4-color ink on the beige cover stock to simulate printing on a paper bag. She had accented various portions of the cover with opaque white ink (at the suggestion of the custom printing vendor), and had also printed both mid-sized type and small type in opaque white ink on the inside covers (C-2 and C-3). The white ink on the front and back cover worked well enough, although it was more subtle than expected and didn’t “pop.” Inside, however, the text was readable only under pressroom lighting (5000 degrees Kelvin, the same as sunlight).

My client, the designer, had not been happy with the results. She had expected more contrast between the small white type and the brown background in this book printing job. For the same reason, her client had not been happy. So I wasn’t happy.

The solution the business printing vendor proposed

We worked out an agreement whereby the end-client would send all copies back to the custom printing service. The printer would tear off the covers, reprint them and rebind the book, trimming the book slightly smaller than before. To avoid the problems with the opaque white, my client created a blue process color mix for the small type and mid-sized type. She also elected to print a process mix to create the brown background color rather than using actual brown (or Sand-colored) paper. Any part of the overall design she wanted to “pop,” she just left white (the background color of the press sheet). That way she didn’t need to print white on beige and risk having the beige show through the white.

Regarding the cost, the custom printing vendor offered to charge just under $800.00 plus shipping. He noted that the list price of this remedial work would normally be $2,400.00 (that is, he offered my client a $1,600.00 credit).

The client’s reaction to the finished product

This is what the end-client said: “I think it was worth the time and investment to get it redone. The text pops more and overall just looks better. I think using the “faked” brown paper was a good solution. You really cannot tell unless you pay close attention to the edge of the paper.”

My analysis of the whole process

Many print buyers would have blamed the business printing vendor and demanded a credit. Then they would never have used this printer’s services again. I wanted to avoid this. The custom printing service had done outstanding work for an incredibly low price, on time, repeatedly, over the course of the past year and a half.

It could be argued that the printer should have questioned the light type in the prepress department. It could also be argued that the light type on the press sheet should have been a red flag. Even if the printer had been able to read the type under the 5000 degree Kelvin pressroom lights, the type was still very faint. The custom printing vendor even admitted this.

Perhaps my client should have brought to the printer’s attention early in the process that she intended to use opaque white ink for small type as well as for portions of the background illustration. Or she could have avoided using opaque white for type altogether, because it is risky (light type on a mid-toned background is seldom as readable as you might expect).

Regardless, both sides gave a little. Going back to the end-client’s response, (“…it was worth the time and investment to get it redone”), we see how a partnership between a client and a business printing vendor can allow a problem to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. The client found the payment fair and reasonable for the additional work and the improved design.

It is all too easy to blame the vendor and kick him to the curb. In fact, the total cost (initial printing plus the reprint) almost exactly matched the next lowest bid.

If the client had been adamant and had asked the custom printing service to shoulder all the blame and the entire cost, the client would probably have lost any future goodwill of the printer (if he had decided to use the printer’s services at all). Given the quality and overall price of the printer’s work, this would have been a shame.

Everyone makes mistakes, including printing companies. A custom printing vendor that is a good partner works with a client to achieve a mutually acceptable, fair resolution to the problem.

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