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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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Archive for October, 2011

Custom Printing Is Alive and Well in Ocean City

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

On a recent trip to Ocean City I made it a point to determine exactly what kind of custom printing market existed. I wanted to expand my print brokering reach into this Maryland city, and I was doing some market research. I was able to enter the environment as an objective observer and identify what was, and what was not, being printed and to see how this reflected the characteristics of the audience, the visitors to this ocean resort town.

In spite of the reading I had done over the past few years on the death of newspaper, magazine, and book printing, I decidedly did not see a scarcity of business printing products on my trip to the beach.

Tabloids Aimed at Niche Markets

Most major newspapers have been challenged recently, but in Ocean City I found a plethora of smaller tabloids. Most pertained to real estate (many people want to retire to Ocean City), the elderly (since those who retire to the beach are usually older), beach activities (understandably), entertainment (music and the visual arts), and conventions (since Ocean City, as a beach resort, is an attractive venue for meetings).

I found it enlightening to see that custom printing of smaller newsprint publications targeted to niche markets seemed to be thriving (at least in this one geographical location), even though larger broadsheets aimed at a more general audience (perhaps an entire city) were challenged by the Internet back here in the Washington, DC, area.

That said, upon my return to the DC area, I noticed a number of Spanish and Asian tabloids, again reinforcing my belief that it was not all newsprint publications, but rather the generalized, large-format broadsheet newspapers, that faced the most intense competition from the Internet.

Large Format Printing (and Small Format Printing) along the Beach Roads and in Grocery Stores

Wherever I went in Ocean City I saw large format printing. Ocean City is all about visual competition, with each shop vying with all the others for your attention. Making signs stand out is the first step toward a sale in Ocean City. Up and down the main road I also saw feather flags and other digitally printed signs flapping in the ocean breeze.

In the grocery stores I also saw an expansion of printed signage. Shopping carts had tiny printed signs molded into their plastic handles. There was also the ever-present point-of-purchase display: the cardboard cut-out with food of some sort stacked on its trays (a marriage of offset and flexographic printing). And there were shelf talkers, little signs attached to the grocery store shelves advertising the food.

New Technology Coexists with Custom Printing

Two examples of the newer technology stood out for me. I had not been to Ocean City in a while, so I was more aware of the changes since my last trip.

I saw more variable data electronic signage. Exterior LED (light emitting diode) signs grabbed the attention, reminding me of Las Vegas. These images moved, while other signs were static.

In the department stores I saw two new fixtures: digital kiosks and indoor digital signage (LCDs, or liquid crystal displays, like televisions playing silent ads over and over). What I didn’t see was any less printed signage. Marketing wall-graphics (large format printing) and custom labels on the clothing attested to the life still in “ink on paper.” Variable-data electronic media and custom printing coexisted in the same stores.

Try This Yourself

You may find such an excursion useful as you collect ideas for new marketing campaigns, or perhaps as you determine the correct mix of custom printing and digital media for your business or clients. Try to focus objectively on the use of business printing (offset, digital, large-format, and flexography) and its integration with the newer interactive technology. Think about the audience for the newspapers, advertisements, and signage, and even the restaurant menus. How do these various media images coalesce to “sell” the experience of a particular location?

It could be an enlightening experience.

Postcard Printers Mix Postcards with PURL’s for Maximum Effect

Monday, October 24th, 2011

People say that print is dead, but I know better. Every time I look in the mailbox, I have a stack of mail.

From what I have read in trade journals, direct mail magazines, on-line news, and Post Office publications, although the stream of First Class mail has slowed down (due to online banking and email), direct mail marketing has actually increased its scope. And what better, cheaper, and more effective mode of direct mail can you choose than marketing postcards? Particularly when combined with Internet landing pages.

Benefits of Business Postcards

Business postcards are cheap to print: Printing one page of anything is probably within your budget. You don’t need to choose the best paper. If you can’t afford process color, select a tinted paper stock and add one or two inks. A creative presentation in a few colors will grab the reader’s attention. (Think of Chipotle’s marketing materials: black only on a light brown card stock. These marketing materials work because the concepts are clever, direct, and relevant.)

Business postcards Postcards cost less to mail than letters or flats. If you have multiple copies (500 copies or more of the same postcard), you get a further discount. are cheap to mail:

Business postcards get an immediate response: Unlike a letter, which has to be opened, a postcard is already open. Your potential client sees your message immediately.

Marketing studies have shown that people read their mail. In fact, with the barrage of on-line advertising, people seem to relish the quiet experience of reading their US Postal Service mail. It gets them away from the computer monitor and gives them a tactile experience. This is particularly true for catalogs, but it’s also true for business postcards.

Mix Your Marketing Postcards with an Internet Landing Page

The current buzzword is “multi-channel marketing.” It means combining multiple avenues for targeting your prospects. That may include signage, email marketing, direct mail, and even vehicle wraps on buses and cars. When you can touch your prospect, or client, in a number of ways, you can strengthen your brand message. Your logo and the values it represents become more immediately recognizable to your clients. The repetition of similar images and presentations across multiple channels reinforces your message.

Other important marketing concepts include “personalization” and “relevancy.” When I was young, we knew our neighborhood vendors: the grocer, the dry cleaner, the pharmacist. And they knew us. Shopping was a personal experience. Over the past forty years, shopping has become somewhat impersonal. Combining marketing postcards with Internet landing pages can make a sales call a more personal experience tailored to the individual buyer.

If you do your homework and identify a list of people who might want your product or service, and you target these people offering relevant information that will lead them to your product or service, you will increase the likelihood of making the sale. If your business postcards grab the attention of your prospect, and if a “call to action” comment leads her or him to a version of your website tailored exclusively to them, one that offers something of value (information about your particular industry, a white paper providing a solution to a specific problem, or more information about your product or service), the chances of their buying what you are selling increase significantly.

The targeted Internet landing page of which I speak is the “PURL” (personalized uniform resource locator). Using the information from your database, it creates a personalized Internet experience for your prospect. As your prospect interacts with your web page, the database further tailors the experience in order to deliver the exact information the prospect needs. As it gathers more information from the prospect, the database can even initiate future interactions through both direct mail (for example, it might trigger the mailing of a catalog) and the Internet.

Why Would Your Prospect Participate?

If your prospective client is interested in what you have to offer, as stated in your marketing postcards, a PURL is a less time consuming way to ask for more information. It is quicker and it offers the client more control than calling your office or filling out and mailing a business reply form.

Why Would You Participate?

Working with IT staff and printers to create a PURL campaign integrated with printed marketing postcards allows you to collect data (everything from names and addresses to buying patterns) that will help you serve your clients while making all future contacts more personal and relevant. And this will increase your sales. Pure and simple.

How do you begin? Ask printing companies you know and trust about the following terms: multi-touch marketing, multi-channel marketing, integrated marketing, cross-channel marketing, and PURL’s. These are all buzzwords in the new marketing lexicon. You may also want to do an online search using these terms.

The field is new, and not all printing companies will know what you’re talking about, so persist. I would venture to say that all printing companies can help you initiate a campaign based on marketing postcards, but it will be more challenging to find a proven IT professional to manage the PURL landing pages. So start your research with business printing vendors you trust.

Book Printing Case Study: Digital vs. Offset Printing and Paper Opacity

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

A client of mine recently reprinted a small booklet. It actually wasn’t due to any errors. The book was just very popular, and she had run out of copies. My client had initially printed 300 each of two versions (one in Spanish and one in English) at a custom printing vendor with both offset and digital equipment.

The initial book printing run of both versions had been digital, due to the page count (52 pages) and the short press run (300 copies). A local book printer had produced the job on an HP Indigo digital press. The photos had been brilliant and alive, and the heavy coverage solids were vibrant and consistent.

That said, the second book printing run involved significantly more copies (1,500 of the Spanish version and 300 of the English version). Since the book printer wanted both versions to be of equal quality, he offered to gang the two jobs and print the entire run at a discount via offset lithography.

The problems my client found

My client found two problems in the final product: too much show-through (the paper was not as opaque in the second press run as in the first), and minuscule white spots on the solid ink coverage within the text. The second problem was minimal, and was due to dust on the printing plates. And, in all fairness, my client brought both flaws to my attention as minor ones. She accepted delivery and used the books. She just wanted me to know she was not completely satisfied.

The research I did to get answers

Since my client had asked why the paper was thinner in the reprinted book than in the first book printing run, I started by measuring the caliper of the paper with my micrometer.

First Press Run
Cover .080”
Text .042”

Second Press Run
Cover .072”
Text .040”

The book printer checked the specifications for the paper, and confirmed that in fact the books had been produced on the same cover and text sheets in both the initial printing and the reprint. I asked if there had ever been any variance in the thickness of different lots of paper he had received from the mill, and the printer noted that this did happen from time to time. However, based on measurements with the micrometer, the paper was still “in spec.”

My next thought was that the apparent difference in opacity—allowing images and text from the back of a page to be slightly visible through the front of the page—might have been due to a paper mill variance in quality. Again, the printer noted that the paper opacity was still within acceptable tolerance.

An “aha” moment based on the research

Several facts about the paper came together for me:

  • The paper was 80# Sterling gloss text and cover, thick enough to minimize show-through but still not an opaque sheet (a printing sheet specifically formulated to minimize show-through).
  • The text and cover of the booklet included large areas of heavy ink coverage and large photos, design elements that—all other things being equal—would magnify show-through problems.
  • The books had been printed using different printing technologies. The first book printing run had been digital, the second offset.

The meaning of the “aha” moment

The fact that the printing paper was not specifically an opaque sheet, combined with the heavy coverage, made sense to me as characteristics that would magnify ink show-through. But I wondered about the inconsistency. Why had there been problems with paper opacity in the second book printing run but not the first?

Digital printing is relatively new, and many printing companies either don’t have both offset and digital capabilities or they are not yet sensitive to the nuanced differences between them.

Both jobs were printed on a coated sheet, so the pigment of the ink (offset technology) and toner (digital technology) should have adhered to the paper surface and not seeped into the fibers (which makes show-through more visible).

However, the thickness of ink on one side of the sheet also increases or decreases the ink show-through from the other side of the sheet. I wonder if the thickness of the offset ink film exceeded the thickness of the digital toner.

The book printer noted that the text pages had been varnished to minimize scuffing. He thought this might have led my client to think that the paper used in the offset book printing run was thinner than the paper from the digital run. This may have been true, but it didn’t account for the problems with opacity. Rather it just accounted for the differences in perceived thickness of the paper.

I don’t have answers here, just questions. But what is certain is that even with the tremendous improvements in digital printing over the last several years (after all, my client did not note any differences in photographic image quality between the digitally printed and offset printed photos), there are still differences between an offset printed product and a digitally printed product.

The outcome of the events

The custom printing vendor was generous. He realized that although the flaws were minor (and not even out of acceptable industry tolerance) and did not detract from the usability of the book, my client was not happy. She needed something. He was generous and gave her a ten percent discount, knowing that she printed multiple titles each year, and that she would be likely to return if she felt she had been understood and treated well. My client was happy. We moved on.


If any PIE Blog readers have any ideas as to what accounted for the perceived difference in opacity, please leave comments on the blog and let me know your thoughts.

Book Printing Case Study: Getting Bids for a Coffee-Table Photo Book

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Normally I can get coffee table book printing costs for my print brokering clients rather quickly and easily. I work with printing companies of every sort (printing services that specialize in books, large-format banners, marketing collateral, etc.). But a unique project came to me recently that posed challenges, a small book of photographs. The photographer had solicited pricing from various on demand book printing suppliers she had found on the Internet and had opted instead for higher quality and a lower unit price.

Specifications for the book printing run

My client wants to print a 6” x 6” case-bound book, 200 pages in length, with process color throughout, in a press run of 500, 750, or 1000 copies. The cover will be printed and will have no dust jacket. The text will be printed on a silk-coated text sheet. My client also wants a “ribbon placeholder” (like you see in Bibles and appointment books). This is a coffee-table book requiring the highest production values.

Focusing only on book printing suppliers

For coffee table book printing costs estimates, I chose eight book printers that I had worked with at one time or another. I only approached book printers, since I knew they would be proficient in the case-binding component of the job, and since I knew they would provide the most competitive pricing (i.e., they would be cheaper than commercial printing services).

I compared my short list of printing companies to a list of book printers across the United States that I had found online. To be safe, I just used the list to jog my memory. I only approached book printing vendors I had worked with before and trusted completely.

Surprised by the response to the bid requests

To my surprise, five of the eight book printing suppliers “no-bid” the job due to the process color usage throughout the text. The majority of book printers either produced black-text-only books or primarily black-text-books with process color inserts (one or only a few signatures printed in color with the balance of the text pages in black ink or black and a PMS color).

One of the three printing companies that did provide a bid, planned to produce the job in Mexico to remain competitive, and stipulated a thinner text sheet than I had requested. This book printing vendor also could not add headbands and footbands to the book, but could add the ribbon placeholder (by hand, which would be expensive). All changes to the specs were suggested by the printer to keep the pricing competitive (i.e., this is what their Mexico plant could handle, and this printing plant was their best bet for the job).

The two other printing companies bid on the specs exactly as presented. However, their prices were twice what I had expected. Here’s why:

  • Process color throughout is very expensive.
  • It’s more expensive to print a press sheet and laminate it to chipboard than case bind a book in fabric and then add a printed dust cover.
  • The ribbon placeholder would be hand-work, which is always more expensive than an automated procedure.
  • The endsheets of the book would be printed (heavy ink coverage), which costs more than adding unprinted (white or tinted) endsheets.

I was actually surprised to find that, for one custom printing vendor, the makeready estimate alone exceeded the cost of makeready for a 700-page, black-only-text, case-bound book they had just printed for another client of mine—by 50 percent–due to the specs noted above.

A few printing options for my client

I received two suggestions from printing companies that approached the job in a different manner. One printer bid the job in a 5” x 5” format (rather than 6” x 6”) on uncoated Finch Fine paper. This printer’s price was a little over half the high bid (granted, based on slightly different specs).

A few printing companies that had “no-bid” the job actually came back to me with suggestions. One offered to print the job on a web-fed inkjet press. A different printer suggested a sheetfed digital press based on electrophotographic technology (i.e., color xerox). In both cases, I said I would need to see outstanding printed samples.

Finally, a printer that had “no-bid” the job came back to me with a price for a perfect-bound version, instead of a case-bound version. The total cost of the perfect-bound option, even with color throughout, would be less than a third of the high bid for a case-bound option.

What we learn from the eight vendors

  • Printing process color throughout a book is very expensive. Not all book printing vendors will do such a job. Most are used to producing only color inserts.
  • Hand-work (the ribbon placeholder) is expensive.
  • Printing heavy-coverage ink on book endsheets is expensive.
  • Headbands and footbands seem to be best for longer books (more pages).
  • Laminating a printed cover sheet to chipboard is expensive. In some cases it’s cheaper to cloth bind the book and add an extra printed dust cover.
  • It’s wise to ask the printer what technology is more economical based on the page count and press run: digital or offset.
  • This is not an exact science. The printing companies made changes to the specifications based on their own equipment (size and format of their presses) in an attempt to do the work in-house and keep their prices low. You may approach other printing companies and have a completely different experience than I did.
  • Ask a lot of printing companies to bid on your job, and keep your specifications fluid as long as possible. You may have to change certain specifications to keep within budget.
  • Finally, keep looking. There may be a printer out there that can do your “exotic” job for a good price.

A final stroke of good fortune

The printer with the highest price just contacted me today, as I was finishing this article. His plant had looked at the job again. Instead of printing the book on a 40” press (28” x 40” press sheet), they could print the job on a 51” press (38” x 51” press sheet). This would allow for larger signatures (more pages per signature and hence fewer signatures, fewer press runs, fewer plates, fewer wash-ups, etc.). They would drop their cost by almost half.

So now my client has a number of options.

Custom Label Printing: Inkjet Technology Provides Accurate, Durable Labels

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Digital printing is making inroads everywhere, and custom label printing is no exception. Not long ago, if you wanted to print custom labels, your best option was to look for printing companies offering flexography (printing with inked, rubber relief plates). Issues to consider included ink rub resistance, and how to imprint individual barcodes or sequential numbering on the labels. Digital printing is an ideal solution, given these requirements, although not all printing companies have this technology yet.

Epson has recently developed the SurePress short-run digital custom label press. Here are some of the specifications for the press. I will follow up with an explanation of how they will benefit you.

Custom label press specifications

The Epson SurePress, which is clearly just one of the first of an upcoming line of short-run custom label presses, will print on a range of substrates up to 12.6 mm thick and 80 to 330 mm wide. The substrate will not need to be precoated to accept the water-based, pigmented inkjet ink.

Substrates will include coated and uncoated label paper as well as film, and the press will switch automatically between the two black inks (regular or matte) depending on the substrate.

The six-color ink set for this digital press includes orange and green as well as the four subtractive primary colors used in custom printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This allows for a wide color gamut, which is essential in reproducing corporate identity colors in logos.

In addition, the patented print heads allow for both rapid print speeds and detailed imaging, including fine graduated screening.

Specialty inks ensure the durability and brilliant color of the custom printed labels.

According to company information on the press, the new Epson SurePress AQ Inks are pigment based and resin coated, allowing for quick drying and strong adhesion to the coated, uncoated, and film label base. Heating units that vaporize the ink solvent reduce the drying time and therefore improve productivity.

What benefits does this new custom label press offer?

Unlike a brochure or annual report, a label is primarily functional. It needs to be readable, accurate, and durable. This involves the following characteristics:

  • Water-Fastness: The label needs to be usable regardless of exposure to varied temperatures or moisture. Think about custom bottle labels. Wine bottles that are chilled and then brought to room temperature will produce water condensation on the surface of the glass. If the ink is not water fast, it will run, and if the adhesive is not water fast, the labels will fall off the bottles.
  • Rub Resistance: Industrial labels need to be printed with an ink that won’t rub off. The resin inks and the drying process of the Epson label press ensure good rub resistance.
  • Accurate Color: Many labels include corporate logos. Corporate colors are often difficult for printing companies to match with a standard C,M,Y,K ink set. Adding orange and green to the inkset dramatically expands the number of colors the custom label press can accurately match.
  • Detail Work: Labels often include bar codes and small type. If the barcodes are not crisp, they will cause errors in the bar code readers. The precision of the output provided by the Epson printheads ensures readable bar codes and small type.

If you need short-run labels, start researching this Epson press. Most business printing services will not yet own one. It is very specialized and new. However, representatives of the printing services you trust may be able to point you in the right direction.

Brochure Printing: Design Tools to Help Position Your Brand

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Think of your next brochure printing run as an advertisement. Everything you design and print is really an ad because it presents your company, or your client’s company, in a certain positive light. The paper choice, typeface, choice of colors, even the way you fold the brochure, all say something about the values and goals of the company. When potential clients pick up the brochure, they either like it or they don’t. If they like it, they read further and ask themselves, “What’s in it for me.”

Look closely at the design of brochure printing samples you like.

You have a blank page before you, or on a computer you have a blank screen. Where do you start? One way to approach this task is to collect samples of previously designed brochures from the company that will use the final printed job. After all, a reader should be able to identify the company by seeing the similarity among all printed collateral from that company. There should be a visual congruence when you look at the company’s identity package, marketing collateral, and even publications such as newsletters, books, magazines, and directories.

Address these six critical elements while designing the brochure printing job.

With printed samples in hand, you can begin to deconstruct the design of those that appeal to you the most. Consider these variables:

  1. What kinds of images are used? Are they photos, illustrations? Are the images presented in black and white, full color, perhaps as duotones (two colors)? How would you describe the subject of the images, and their tone or feel? Are they images of people or things? Are they cropped very tightly, or is there ample space around the subjects of the photos?
  2. What kinds of typefaces are used (hopefully just one or two, to keep things simple)? Are they serif fonts (with tails on the letterforms: easier on the eyes for reading lots of copy)? Are they sans serif fonts (with no tails on the letterforms)? How would you describe the overall tone of the type? Playful? Serious? Upscale and trendy?
  3. How is color used in the brochures you like? Are the photos full-color? Are spot colors (PMS colors) used to highlight type?
  4. What kind of paper was chosen for the brochures you like: coated, uncoated, perhaps a tinted sheet like a cream paper stock?
  5. How does your eye travel around the brochure. Think about where it goes first when the brochure is open on the table. Maybe your eye goes to the photos first, or maybe the headlines. Notice how spot color leads the eye around the page. Notice how even the direction people in the photos are leaning, or where they are looking, influences how your eye moves around the page.
  6. Now close up the brochure. Look at how it is folded. A brochure can be wrap folded (around and around, as though it were wrapped up panel over panel). Or it can be folded in a zig-zag pattern (called an accordion fold). It can even be folded in half and then in half again (double parallel fold). At its simplest level, even a flat flyer is a brochure, of sorts. You just put all of the information on the flat sheet, with no folding—just like an ad in a magazine.

How to get from a blank computer screen to a finished color brochure printing job

Becoming comfortable with design, and even becoming good at it, takes time. More than likely you will start with some bumps in the road. But as with most other skills, the best way to learn something is to look at what has been successful for others and then try to understand why. Then you can incorporate the same elements into your own work. So to recap, this is how I’d suggest that you approach your next color brochure printing project:

  • Review relevant samples of the company’s brochures and other collateral to grasp the overall visual “look” and feel of the company.
  • Consider the elements of design: paper weight, surface, and texture; typefaces; color usage; treatment of images; design grid; and folding.
  • Do something. Starting with a blank computer screen in InDesign or Quark, set up a grid with the proper number of panels, front and back. Place an image or two, import the text into the file, and start testing typefaces and point sizes. Experiment. Don’t censor yourself. Play a bit.
  • Print out laser proofs and compare your various attempts to the printed copies you collected and liked. Make changes (even if you mark up the proofs with a pen as you get ideas), and print out revised laser proofs. Show them to other people in the office, and get feedback. Revise as necessary.
  • When you get stuck or frustrated, go back to the building blocks of a successful brochure: consider the typefaces, design grid or structure, treatment of photos, paper choice, and folding.

Color brochure printing is something almost all printing companies can do for you, regardless of their equipment. Think about whether you will need a printer with digital equipment for your brochure printing run (if you will need fewer that 300-500 copies), or offset printing capabilities for longer brochure print runs.

Custom Printed 3 Ring Binders: Materials, Rings, and Printing Options

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

So you have been asked to design a binder and find a three ring binder printing company to manufacture the job. What are your options? Where do you even start? First, separate the job into two components, the binder boards and the rings or posts.

The main types of binder covers for printed 3 ring binders

There are three main types of binder covers. Think back to the blue canvas binders that were popular in grade school. These were composed of canvas stretched over chipboard. The canvas came up over the edge and was glued down onto the interior cover of the binder. Then a sheet of patterned paper covered the left and right interior faces of the binder. These are called “turned edge binders,” and various kinds of fabric and other materials can be glued onto the outside of these printed 3 ring binders. (A slightly higher-end version of this genre of binder is the leather, or faux-leather, binder. In this case, the seams are sewn, and padding of some sort is placed between the binder boards and the material covering the binders.)

Another popular style is the vinyl binder, which is also based on a chipboard structure (spine, front boards, and back boards), but instead of having fabric glued onto the outside of the boards, these binders are covered with vinyl. The vinyl is then heat sealed along all seams.

A third kind of binder, which is a relatively new design, is the poly or plastic binder. These custom printed 3 ring binders are just made of thick (but still a bit floppy) plastic with no chipboard structure. Other binders of this sort have thicker panels that are rigid. Your three ring binder printing company can screen print your logo, text, or anything else you need onto this surface.

The two most popular styles of rings for custom printed 3 ring binders

Custom printed 3 ring binders usually come with two options for rings: “O” rings and “D” rings. The “D” rings are often slanted. The rings can be attached to the spine of the binder or to the back of the binder, and the rivets holding the ring mechanism to the binder can be covered by the leather, faux-leather, or vinyl fabric, or they can be exposed.

In addition, the rings come in multiple sizes. You can get 1/2″, 3/4”, 1”, 1 1/2”, 2”, 2 1/2″, and 3” rings in your custom printed 3 ring binders. Some larger binders even have 4” rings.

The goal in choosing a ring size is to make sure your binder will hold enough pages. Just to give you an approximate benchmark, a 1″ ring will hold about 200 sheets of 50# offset paper.

Alternatives to rings

Most looseleaf binders fall into the ring categories noted above. However, if your goal is to collect a number of equal sized magazines (a year’s subscription of a magazine, for instance) in one place, you have two more options. If the magazines have been 3-hole drilled, then a “post binder” will collect all issues between the binder boards. Usually having a much wider spine than ring binders, post binders contain posts that extend from the front cover board all the way through the drill holes of all the magazines and then through the back cover board. Three sets of screws attached to the three posts hold everything together.

If your magazines have not been three-hole drilled, you have one more option. These binders contain a mechanism (called a “metal”) that holds a series of rods parallel to one another, from the top to the bottom of the spine. If you unhook the top of a post from the mechanism, you can slip the center spread of a magazine under it. If you do this to a series of 10 or 20 magazines, you can essentially bind these magazines into the metal mechanism and within the binder boards, yielding what looks like a case-bound book.

Printing on the binder covers

If you are decorating leather, canvas, or faux-leather custom printed 3 ring binders, you will probably choose some form of foil stamping or screen printing. Keep in mind that dies for foil stamping can be expensive ($350 to $500). To get an accurate cost, measure the area covered by the foil (in square inches), and tell your three ring binder printing company whether the front, back, and/or spine will be foil stamped. An even better option would be to give your supplier a laser proof or a mock-up of the job.

If you have chosen a vinyl binder, you can screen print on the vinyl, or if you have chosen a vinyl binder with clear pockets, you can print your type, logos, or other artwork on inserts (via inkjet equipment or offset printing) and then slip these inserts into the pockets (and even heat seal the inserts in place).

For the poly or plastic binders, you would normally screen print your design on the binder covers.

Don’t forget the sheet lifters

The 4″ (more or less) plastic inserts in front of and behind the paper sheets in a binder lift the binder boards away from the printed paper. In this way they keep the toner of the laser printing from offsetting from the paper onto the materials of the binder.

You can find a three ring binder printing company online or through a trusted offset or digital printing company.

Poster Printing: A Multitude of Imaging Options

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

A dramatic poster can take your breath away. Think of the building wraps you have seen covering entire exterior walls of high rises. Even smaller posters, such as those in movie theaters, can touch you deeply. At their simplest level, posters are advertisements for any number of products, services, or lifestyles.

Technology gives you flexibility in your poster printing run.

In the age of digital large format printing, you have a number of options when tasked with producing a poster for a client. If you need 1,000 copies of a poster printing run to promote an upcoming high school event, you may want to consider offset printing. After all, for longer press runs this technology would be the most cost-effective. But for shorter runs of perhaps 20 or 50 posters, or if your goal is to produce a single banner, flag, or vehicle wrap, you would choose digital large format printing on inkjet equipment.

Touchplates increase the number of printable colors.

If you choose to print your posters via offset lithography, your color choices include process color (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) or black ink plus a PMS match color. That said, you can pay a little bit more and add “touchplates” to improve the vibrancy of colors within the poster printing run.

For instance, let’s say your poster includes a large flower in multiple hues of violet and blue. Process inks can do a reasonably good job of representing these colors, but by adding a touchplate of an additional match color, you can get the violet and blue to really stand out. Some printing companies will even replace one or more of the process colors with a fluorescent cyan, magenta, or yellow to give the images even more zing.

Keep in mind that adding a touchplate is not exactly the same as including a fifth color (a PMS match color). An additional PMS hue is usually reserved for a background solid color or a logo: essentially a localized color placement. Touchplates of additional match colors actually enhance colors within the photographic images themselves, bringing out a yellow, orange, green, or violet portion of the photo that might otherwise be lackluster.

Digital large format printing creates color with multiple inks.

If you have chosen the digital route, you are probably producing your poster printing run on a large format inkjet printer. These machines approach the constraints of a limited color gamut (the inability to print certain colors) by adding additional inks to the CMYK color set. A high-end inkjet printer may add a light magenta, a light cyan, multiple versions of black, and even orange, and the additive primaries (red, green, and blue, the colors used to create images on computer monitors). Most inkjet printers don’t use all of these at once; rather, they include a few, or several, extra colors from among these options. However, to date, advanced color sets can include up to 12 inks. In all cases, the goal is to add enough colored inks to simulate as much of the color spectrum as the eye will perceive. No printing process can capture all colors, but digital large format printing comes incredibly close.

Substrates: what to print on

Your next choice is the substrate on which to produce your poster printing run. Offset printing is rather limited. You can print on various thicknesses of paper, either coated or uncoated stock. Digital large format printing, on the other hand, offers more choices. On a roll-fed inkjet press, you might choose to print on transparent film for backlit signage, canvas, fabric, vinyl, or archival paper for fine art prints, just to name a few. On a flatbed inkjet press, you might choose a rigid substrate, such as a GatorBoard, Sintra PVC Foam Board, aluminum, etc. The list goes on.

Consult your printing companies early and often.

Not all printing companies will have capabilities representing all of these technologies. Therefore, educate yourself on your options. Talk to printing companies. Do research online. And then discuss your goals for your poster printing run with a number of different printing companies to get the best results for the best price.


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