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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 March, 2018

Custom Printing: Thoughts on Promotional Magnets

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

A friend and colleague in the commercial printing field recently brought to my attention a flyer from a magnet company, or, more specifically, a manufacturer of magnetic paper used for custom printing.

At first glance this seemed like a mundane topic. After all, everyone has magnets on their refrigerators, (calendars or ads for some car company or plumber). But as I thought about it further, I realized a few intriguing things.

Magnets Are Effective Marketing Tools

The effectiveness of a promotional item is directly proportional to the number of times a client sees it. Think of it as a form of subtle hypnotism. If a potential client to which you have sent a calendar magnet refers to this calendar every day for a year and then needs someone in your particular field for an upcoming job, whom do you think he or she will call? Who will be “top of mind,” as the marketers say. You. And your phone number will be immediately available because you will have included it on your refrigerator magnet.

Magnets Can Be Printed in a Number of Ways

The particular flyer my friend and colleague sent me included the following kinds of custom printing for which its magnetic paper would be ideal: “laser, flexo, offset.” After reading this, when I was doing further research on the Internet, I also saw reference to gravure and inkjet printing, as well as to serigraphy (or custom screen printing).

What this means is that you have a lot of options for printing on magnetic paper, ranging from extra long press runs (with “static” imagery; that is, type/art that doesn’t vary) on gravure equipment to extra short press runs or even one copy on digital printing equipment. You can even personalize each and every magnet. Your magnet printing job can therefore be economical because the technology can be directly tailored to your budget and business goals.

You Can Even Print Magnets Yourself on Your Office Printer

Upon further research, I also learned that you can buy small-form magnetic press sheets that will fit in your home or office digital laser or inkjet printer. Some of these come from the stationery store on a pre-die-cut sheet, so after you print the job, you can just peel the backing and scrap away to reveal a die cut oval or other standard-shaped magnet. Other options for magnetic paper might not have this die cut feature, but given the relative thinness of the magnetic sheet (a thin plastic substrate just a bit thicker than a heavy-weight business card), you could just cut it with a scissors.

Or You Can Have Your Commercial Printing Provider Print and Diecut the Magnet

One of the printers to whom I bring my clients’ commercial printing work has a Mimaki inkjet press and plotter. When you go to the printer’s website, you can see a short video of this equipment both printing the magnets (it can also produce die cut labels) and then trimming the intricate contours of the magnets with a plotting knife. I believe lasers can be configured to do the same thing on some other digital presses. What you get in this case is the expanded color gamut of your printer’s inkjet (up to seven or eight colors) plus the custom magnet shapes such large format print-and-cut equipment can produce.

What Are Some of the Options?

I mentioned calendars before, and these definitely are great for reinforcing your brand, but there are other options as well.

You may have one or more trucks in your business. For those who don’t want the added expense of “car wraps,” painted signs, or other high-ticket marketing options, you can spend relatively little for large, durable magnets you can just attach to the left and right doors of your truck. While not as striking as a car wrap, this product will still make a professional statement while displaying your phone number to prospective clients. And the car signs I have seen are also durable: 30pt in thickness.

Magnetic business cards are another option. These can stick to the metal on your desk and be immediately available when you need a phone number. Larger versions of the same thing (i.e., postcard-sized magnets) may be of interest as well. Since they are larger than the business card format, they will command more attention.

Things to Think About

About a year ago, I presented a nature seminar about magnetism. It was for the autistic students with whom we do art therapy. So in preparing for the seminar I learned quite a bit about magnetism. Interestingly enough, I learned that heat kills magnets (just as banging the magnet against something kills the magnetism). For some reason, both the heat and the jarring of the magnet cause the electrons to reposition themselves, which reduces or eliminates the magnetic charge.

In light of this, what I find interesting about digital printing on magnets is that manufacturers seem to have resolved this liability. After all, laser printers expose the magnetic sheets to especially high temperatures to fuse the toner to the substrate.

That said, storing the magnetic paper would still probably require a reasonable room temperature.

Another thing to consider is that some magnetic paper can be magnetized by the user. In the case of the flyer that my friend and colleague sent me (for Flexible Magnet Company, China), a special tool can be purchased and rolled across the surface of the magnetic paper to magnetize it either before or after printing.

Apparently an electric charge from this special roller tool brings the electrons into alignment in the paper to infuse it with a magnetic charge. This seems to be a major selling point, since time can also erode the magnetism of a product. I had a stack of printed refrigerator magnets to be used in a future art project. They were in the (hot) art studio for a number of years, and when I checked them out recently, their magnetic charge had diminished significantly. Such a tool as Flexible Magnet’s magnetizing product can ostensibly turn otherwise useless inventory back into functional magnets.

Finally, printed magnets are cheap. They are the postcards of magnetic marketing (lots of bang for the buck). The business card magnets, postcard magnets, save-the-date magnets, and heavy duty car magnets can project a professional brand image even for a business on a limited budget.

Book Printing: Thoughts on Choosing Printing Paper

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

I found a perfect-bound mythology book in the thrift store this week that I had last read and loved in 1981, so I bought it for a dollar. But what struck me even more than the surprise of finding it again was the publication date (1976) and the fact that the cover, cover coating, and interior paper showed absolutely no sign of age. None.

Unlike many other print books I had seen recently in the thrift stores, both the text stock and the cover stock of this book showed none of the yellowing around the edges that I was used to seeing in much more recently printed books. All of the photos on the crisp uncoated stock were pristine and exactly as I had remembered them from my first reading of the book thirty-six years ago.

This brought to mind a few thoughts about paper.

First of all, reading a book is a tactile experience, and for me the thickness and feel of the paper and gloss cover coating as well as the roughness of the paper and even the thickness of the book were relevant to my overall reading experience. None of these qualities can be replicated on an e-reader.

My next thought was that certain qualities in the paper made this print book look as good as the day it had been published. Since there was no discoloration or yellowing, I made an educated guess that alkaline paper had been used. This is considered to be of archival quality, in contrast to other books I have from the 1970s that are now yellow and brittle due to the highly acidic content of their text paper. These are not considered to be of archival quality.

When you compare these two paperbacks to some of the hardcover books printed and bound in the late 1800s, it is interesting to see that the older print books in many cases seem to be in much better shape than the paperbacks from the 1970s. Again, this has to do with the quality of the materials used.

Paper is not cheap, and alkaline paper is often more expensive than acidic paper, so the paperbacks I had collected in the 1970s were probably meant to be read and then discarded, or at least not kept for the ensuing forty years. This is fine. I paid very little for them.

How Does This Relate to Contemporary Book Printing?

In recent years, a large percentage of books have migrated from hard-cover and paperback format to electronic media only, as files for e-reader devices. This has been leveling off or decreasing recently. People are not giving up on print books. But in many cases publishers are choosing a print format to highlight particular print qualities not available in electronic media. Many of these involve properties of printing paper that will improve the tactile experience of book-reading. Therefore, it behooves designers and print buyers to learn a bit about commercial printing paper.

Here’s a starting point.

On another trip to the thrift store I found a paper handbook from the 1980s. It was specifically written for those who sell or buy paper. I’m sure contemporary paper mills, printers, and paper merchants can provide similar books. All you have to do is ask. Here are some of the subjects the book addresses.

Paper Properties

These include “whiteness, brightness, color, surface texture, finish, opacity, stiffness, flexibility, grain, and gloss” (Walden’s Handbook for Paper Salespeople & Buyers of Printing Paper, Second Edition). These are just the visual properties. More tactile qualities include thickness, bulk, resistance to tearing, smoothness, opacity, ink receptivity…. The list goes on and on.

If you were to boil down this list into a few key concepts, they might be:

  1. The thickness and stiffness of the paper as it feels in your hand (and the appropriateness of the thickness for the product you’re printing).
  2. The color of the paper (whether it has a bluish-white or yellowish-white tone, or whether it has a more intense color altogether like a dark green tinted sheet used for a holiday invitation and printed with silver ink).
  3. The quality of the paper, or its formation (its consistency across the sheet when held up to the light), since an even paper formation allows for evenly printed halftones and text.
  4. Whether the paper is coated or uncoated, and if coated whether it has a gloss or dull finish.
  5. The runnability of the paper. That is, does the paper possess those qualities (such as dimensional stability) that will make it run through a commercial printing press easily without causing problems. A related concept would be ink receptivity, or whether the paper absorbs ink evenly into the paper (if uncoated) or whether the ink sits up on top of the paper surface (if coated).

The Paper-Making Process

A paper handbook such as this will also explain the process of making paper, from the essentially liquid form in which it starts to the final cut sheets that are ready to load into the commercial printing press.

You will also find descriptions of paper flaws to look for (such as wavy edges) or the propensity of a paper for picking (having pinpricks of the paper—along with the ink–come off during the printing process). Dimensionally unstable paper is another flaw to avoid, as is paper that is not trimmed squarely.

Paper Tests

The Walden Handbook also describes a number of tests to ensure the quality of the paper, such as the burst test and tensile strength test, which relate to a paper’s propensity for tearing.

In addition, the paper handbook describes opacity testing (related to the light-stopping power of a particular paper). This paper property is particularly useful if you have a photo on one side of a sheet of paper and text on the other. Using an opaque sheet will ensure that you won’t see the photo on the back of the paper when you’re reading the text on the front of the sheet.

Charts Describing Paper Options

A paper handbook such as this will also discuss (and even include drawings of) formats for envelopes. (You can get the same information from the US Post Office.) In addition, it will include charts showing the relative thickness of different kinds of paper (text stock weights compared to cover stock weights, for instance). This is useful in converting from one type of paper to another. Usually, such a chart will also show the “basic size” to which these “basis weights” refer.

Information for the Printer

Such a paper book will also list the standard dimensions of cut sheets of commercial printing stock as well as useful information for printers regarding storage and conditioning of paper prior to printing. This section will include information on skid packing of paper, characteristics of paper rolls, and how cut sheets of printing paper will arrive in cartons.

All of this information may make your head swim. It’s a bit like reading a dictionary. However, over time you will start to recognize certain paper qualities, and the more your knowledge grows, the more precise you can be in designing printed products that benefit from different paper choices. You will also be better able to discuss these paper properties and potential pitfalls with your printer or you paper merchant.

Commercial Printing: Enlarging Low-Resolution Photos

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

A print consulting client of mine recently asked a question on Facebook regarding the best software package to enlarge photos that were not of sufficient resolution. I responded, voicing my concern that she might not like the results.

First, to give this some background, my client is laying out a print book for her father-in-law. She herself is a writer, and her background is somewhat spotty in graphic design and printing. Her print book is 220 pages plus cover, 6”x9” in format, perfect bound, with black-only text and a 4-color cover. It will contain a number of halftones, so her question on Facebook pertains to these photos.

With this in mind, here’s the response I posted on Facebook. I noted that all photos should have a resolution of twice the printed halftone line screen. That is, if the photo halftone line screen in her final print book will be 150 lines per inch, then she should make sure all of her photos are 300 dpi. In a pinch, however, I noted that 266 dpi would still yield a good halftone image.

That said, I told her that the resolution needs to be computed at the final printed size of the image, since, for instance, a 300 dpi image that is then enlarged (let’s say doubled in size) would otherwise have a resolution of half the original or 150 dpi. At this size the pixels would be visible. There would be a squarish, moasic-like pattern across the image, which would be the visible picture elements that make up the photo. At a smaller size, let’s say 300 dpi at 100 percent of the size to be printed, these pixels would be below the threshold of visibility.

Both enlarging and increasing the resolution of a low-resolution image, however, could cause problems. As noted above, just enlarging the photo would make the pixels visible. However, also resampling it (called upsampling when the enlargement of the image is combined with an increase in its resolution) actually creates picture information that is not in the original image. It fabricates color or black-and-white hues and tones based on averages of the pixels that are actually present, and this can cause visible irregularities, noise, and artifacts. So for important images, it’s usually not a good idea to upsample.

Options for My Client

As with anything else, rules are meant to be broken. It just helps to have some knowledge and to know what problems might occur.

Here’s one work-around I have used. I found this online.

If you open the bitmapped image (raster file) in Photoshop and then open the “Image Size” box, you can check the “Resample Image” option and then choose “Bicubic Smoother” from the menu to its right. According to the information I read, the next step is to change the document dimension pop-up menu to any value between 105 and 110 percent. (You can enter percentages in this dialog box as well as actual sizes.) Then you click OK, and you’re done. Each time you perform this operation, the image increases in size. Photoshop does add pixels (as I noted before), but there is very little image degradation.

I myself have tried this work-around and have been successful. However, if you attempt this, make sure you only increase the size in small steps of five to ten percent at a time. This will yield the best results. Online information I’ve read stresses this last point as well.

The one thing I would add, from my own experience, is to encourage you (and my client) to view the resulting image in Photoshop at various sizes, especially at 100 percent of the size to be printed but also at larger sizes, to make sure you see (and can live with) any image degradation that might occur. Based on my experience and the articles I have read, if you upsample the images in this way, there’s a good chance of success, but I just like to be safe. It’s better to see the results on your monitor, where corrections can be made for free, rather than in a printer’s proof (or the finished print book).

Another Option

Another visitor to my client’s Facebook page suggested a different approach: using PhotoZoom Pro 7. I have not used this software package myself, but interestingly enough, an earlier version was referenced in the same article from which I learned the trick regarding the 105 to 110 percent successive enlargements. So I’d suggest that you research this software if you need to enlarge lower-res images.

That said, I still would encourage you not to take a 72 dpi image from the Internet and try to upsample it and make it usable for digital or offset printing. After all, it is important to remember that you are still creating picture elements (pixels) that were not originally in the image, so the final result will be less than optimal.

To give you some background on PhotoZoom Pro 7 (from the BenVista website), the software is for both enlarging and reducing the size of images, and it works both as stand-alone software and as a plug-in for Adobe products (Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom) as well as Corel products (such as PHOTO-PAINT and PaintShop Pro).

PhotoZoom Pro 7 is optimized both for final printed output and also for on-screen viewing (such as websites).

To quote from the product information: “PhotoZoom Pro 7 is equipped with S-Spline Max, a unique, award-winning image resize technology which excels at preserving clean edges, sharpness, and fine details.” It allows you to avoid the noise and JPEG compression artifacts that usually appear when upsampling images.

Furthermore, PhotoZoom Pro 7 automates many of the image manipulation options, so once you have tweaked the photo to your liking, you can batch process your other images using the same settings. (In the case of my client’s print book for her father-in-law, this would be most useful, given the potential number of photos the 220-page book will contain.)

In addition, PhotoZoom Pro 7 includes multi-processor support, 64-bit support, and GPU (graphics processor unit) acceleration. (All of this speeds up image processing time.)

So, as with everything else, rules were meant to be broken. Just understand the potential pitfalls and break them wisely.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

If you are a graphic designer, all of this information will not be new to you. The rules of resolution your book printer or commercial printer requires will still apply, but fortunately there is a work-around (or in this case actually two work-arounds) if you ever need to use a lower-resolution image. Also, fortunately, the flaws that usually crop up (artifacts, noise, blurry images, loss of fine details, and jagged edges that should be clean and crisp) can often be successfully avoided.

Beyond this, it does help to understand why the printer (digital or offset) wants you to submit the crispest possible images at the proper resolution and why upsampling is generally a risk yielding disappointing results.

My assumption is that in addition to PhotoZoom Pro 7 and the work-around I found (involving successive small increases in image size from 105 percent to 110 percent), there are more image processing software packages in the market that now do this sort of thing. Since I know nothing about them, I’d invite you to do careful research on your own before taking the leap.

Custom Printing: New Digital Print Technology from Kodak

Monday, March 19th, 2018

I was excited to see the new digital printing technology from Kodak, the NEXFINITY platform, referenced recently in the printing trade journals. I have been a devotee of Kodak’s competition, the HP Indigo, for years due to what I perceive as its superior color fidelity. However, I can’t help but believe that strong competition in the realm of digital printing technology will “raise all boats.” The new printing platform that Kodak has crafted will benefit all digital print buyers by encouraging the constant improvement of digital print technology in the marketplace.

The New Technology

The first article I read on the subject was a Kodak press release, “Kodak Launches the NEXFINITY Digital Press Platform,” published on 3/1/18. Here’s how they describe their new approach, called “Dynamic Imaging Technology,” which will be available in the spring of 2018.

The technology applies “algorithmic adjustments to specific areas of an image,” enhancing the quality and consistency of the content within each portion of the printed page. That is, it can produce high-resolution type, crisp lines, soft flesh tones, and clear skies on the same page. The technology maximizes the image quality of each, even though all of these require different treatment.

The press release notes that this improved technology will benefit package printing, commercial printing, direct mail production, and publishing.

Moreover, the NEXFINITY platform can do this by utilizing “the industry’s highest information density at more than 1.8 billion pieces of image information per square inch” (Kodak press release). This produces consistent, flat fields of color and detailed imagery. According to Kodak, the NEXFINITY “can reproduce fine details on the fly, like highlight areas and consistency in mid-tones by adjusting the exposure levels….” Kodak’s press release goes on to say that “The LED writing system provides 256 levels of exposure on the imaging cylinder, compared to laser systems that only are on or off.”

Furthermore, the new Kodak technology allows press operators to change the order or combinations of digital inks depending on the needs of the specific job. This, along with closed-loop color control, produces outstanding results.

More Digital Press Features

Here are a few more items Kodak touts in its press release on NEXFINITY.

  1. The new Kodak press can be seamlessly integrated into existing workflows, so finishing operations can be done smoothly and quickly.
  2. NEXFINITY is compatible with existing digital workflow software (including PRINERGY, among others). The printing unit can be operated in stand-alone mode, providing imposition; trapping; color management; and print job specification, management, and reporting functions. Or it can be integrated into existing software utilizing JDF and JMF data. All of this allows for a smooth transition of the new equipment into the pressroom as well as quick, efficient production of all print jobs.
  3. One operator can successfully control up to four NEXFINITY units simultaneously, using a Kodak Multi-Press Station to coordinate all printing activities from a single console.
  4. In terms of runability, the NEXFINITY press can accommodate stocks up to 24pt. in thickness and 48 inches in length, and it can print between 83 and 152 pages per minute. In addition, the technology allows for fast “RIPing” of detailed imagery and complex variable-data jobs.
  5. In terms of substrate coatings, the NEXFINITY press can efficiently and cost-effectively print specialized coatings (including dimensional coatings, security elements, and special finishes).

The Implications of the Technology

All of these features reflect the following benefits:

  1. Flexibility, in terms of the varied substrates the NEXFINITY can image.
  2. Much higher speed and productivity, in terms of the kinds of jobs that can be efficiently produced, from short-run jobs (hundreds of copies) to much longer ones (thousands or millions of copies). This makes these digital presses better able to compete with offset technology in longer-run jobs.
  3. Integration, in that the NEXFINITY can easily link to existing commercial printing and finishing equipment. Therefore, it will complement rather than disrupt the current workflow, making the custom printing supplier more efficient. It can even make current staff more productive or reduce the number of operators needed.
  4. Access to new markets, due to increased press sheet lengths and paper thicknesses. For instance, the 48-inch press sheet can allow commercial printing vendors to produce large lay-flat photo books, and the 48pt. paper thickness can give custom printing vendors access to the burgeoning packaging and signage markets.
  5. Differentiation from computer-display-only products. Since NEXFINITY can efficiently and cost-effectively print specialized coatings, such as dimensional finishes and security elements, it can set custom printing jobs apart from their non-tactile, computer-screen-only counterparts.

What Does This Say About Digital Printing in General?

I’ve given thought to the implications of Kodak’s new technology within the overall commercial printing market. Here are some ideas:

  1. The focus on enhancing digital custom printing technology suggests that Kodak and other equipment manufacturers expect physical printing to be around for some time. Instead of abandoning print, Kodak sees opportunities for developing those capabilities only available within the physical print process.
  2. Many of Kodak’s developments improve the efficiency of the digital printing process. This allows digital printers to compete with offset printers in increasingly longer press runs. My expectation is that digital printing technology will eventually marginalize offset printing, making it still essential for selected products but no longer as pervasive as digital printing.
  3. Kodak’s Dynamic Imaging Technology, which allows for adjustments to specific areas within a printed page, reflects a focus on image quality, as does the expansion of the color gamut through extended color sets. I think the goal is to not only match the quality of offset printing but eventually exceed it. At this point, the variable imaging capabilities of digital printing will make it more attractive for many jobs than the static nature (printing the same page again and again) of offset lithography. Only by making digital presses run at comparable speeds to offset presses (and therefore making them as efficient to operate for longer press runs) can this actually happen.

Large Format Printing: Printing Art and Photos on Canvas

Monday, March 12th, 2018

I read an article yesterday by a company that prints clients’ photos on canvas. The article, entitled “The Rise of Canvas in Art: From Oil Paintings to Photo Prints,” written by Jessica Stewart and published on on 3/6/18, got me thinking not only about the history of canvas but also about the sense of importance and permanence it conveys.

On a related note, my fiancee and I do art therapy with the autistic, and many of our projects, such as collages of photos, fabric, and paint, could be prepared on paper. For the paintings we do, we could hand out canvas board (panels with canvas glued to chipboard). However, we have found that the autistic members with whom we work get more of a sense of pride and accomplishment when we give them stretched canvases stapled on wood stretcher strips. This three-dimensional substrate showcases their work. To quote from Stewart’s article, it gives the work “a sense of prestige.”

Jessica Stewart’s Article About Canvas

Stewart’s article provides a brief history of canvas, noting that it is “a rather recent development in art history.”

In Venice in the 16th century during the Italian Renaissance, painters started using canvas for two reasons. First, it was better than applying paint to wet plaster (in frescos), which had trouble drying in the humid Venetian environment. It was also better than applying paint to wood panels, which tended to warp and crack in the humidity. And canvas was plentiful in Venice since it was used to make sails for ships.

There was one other benefit, which had nothing to do with the humidity of Venice in the Italian Renaissance. Since canvas was thin and light, it could be attached to the wood stretcher strips in a very large format. It could also be removed from the stretcher strips and then rolled up.

The Spanish followed in Italy’s footsteps and started to paint on canvas, and by the 17th century this new substrate for painting was being used throughout Northern Europe and had become more prevalent than wood panels as a base for artwork.

Jumping forward to the present, if you attend a street art fair, you’ll now see large, stretched canvases with brilliantly colored photographs inkjetted onto their surface, as well as reproductions of paintings produced with large format printers on stretched and framed canvas.

What Is Canvas?

“The Rise of Canvas in Art: From Oil Paintings to Photo Prints” then goes on to explain exactly what canvas is. Stewart notes that the word “canvas” comes from the Latin “cannabis,” since it used to be made from tightly woven hemp, or in some cases linen. Both of these were more expensive than the material that came to be used for canvas in modern times: cotton. In addition to being less expensive than hemp and linen, cotton will stretch, which protects the artwork from cracking. Depending on its weave, it is also very strong. That said, many artists today still prefer to use linen for their canvases.

Once the canvas has been stretched onto wooden strips (and tacked or stapled in place), the artist primes the canvas with “gesso.” This base layer keeps the oil paints from actually touching the canvas and therefore prevents the decay of the canvas substrate.

While I was studying painting just after college, an art teacher of mine had us prepare our own gesso to apply to wood panels. This traditional ground included rabbit skin glue (an adhesive that also served as a sizing) and chalk or marble dust, (or in our case titanium white paint, due to its brightness and opacity). Since this gesso was not flexible, we had to apply it to wood panels. In contrast, the acrylic gesso you’ll find on prepared canvases in art and craft stores is based on an acrylic polymer medium, calcium carbonate (chalk), and titanium white paint. This kind of gesso is flexible, so it is ideal for priming stretched canvases.

Inkjet Printing on Canvas

Large format printing on canvas is an ideal way to showcase photos in a dramatic but flexible format. It is also ideal if you’re a fine art painter or print-maker and you want to produce multiple copies of your work in an easily frameable format. (Granted, they won’t be as valuable as the original painting from which they have been made, but depending on the materials and inkjet custom printing technology used, they will still be works of art.)

Specifically, a large-format inkjet printing device can be bought with an expanded inkset (more than just cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). Some inksets include two shades of magenta and two shades of cyan; and/or different black inks; or even orange, violet, and green ink. Whichever colors are chosen, these additional inks greatly expand the color gamut. That is, you can print a wider range of far more intense, color-faithful, and fade-resistant hues than you can with the usual CMYK inks. Color gradients are also smoother, and the apparent image resolution is higher.

In addition, as Stewart’s article notes, you can choose special archival paper, canvas, or vinyl as a substrate for custom printing your artwork. Therefore, you can produce and sell prints that are more intense in their color and that have a much longer lifespan than those made with lower-quality materials. Because of this, in the 1990’s Jack Duganne (a printmaker) coined the term “giclée” (which comes from the French verb for spray, spout, or squirt) to distinguish prints made with pigment-based inks and archival papers from prints made with standard inks and papers.

The initial giclée prints were produced on an Iris printer, a large format, high resolution proofing device used by commercial printing vendors. This term later was used in reference to all high-end inkjet prints, including Canon, Epson, and HP proofs.

While not cheap, giclée-level, large format inkjet printers can be within the financial reach of many individual artists. Therefore, with a good scanner and skill in Photoshop, they can produce individual prints on canvas, watercolor paper, or another substrate that are color corrected and otherwise enhanced with fine attention to detail. Artists can also produce the prints on demand, so maintaining an inventory (and storing the work) becomes unnecessary. In addition, the art can be printed with latex inks, which are water-based, solvent free, and environmentally friendly.

From the perspective of the buyer, this process is ideal because it makes art affordable. Even though giclée prints are more expensive to produce than standard inkjet images (up to $50.00 per print, not including scanning and color correction, vs. $5.00 per print for an offset-printed image–as per Wikipedia), a customer can buy a work of art for $60.00 to $150.00, rather than upwards from multiple hundreds to multiple thousands of dollars.

What You Can Learn From This Discussion

First, keep in mind that there’s only a thin line between fine art and commercial art. Such fine artists as Andy Warhol, Ben Shahn, Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Piet Mondrian also produced commercial art and illustration.

Another take-away is that custom printing a work of art on canvas gives it a sense of prestige that sets it apart from works on paper.

Finally, take the time to find samples and study the effects of an expanded inkset on inkjet custom printing. Compare the enhanced color gamut to those colors available through 4-color inkjet and even 4-color offset printing. Then apply this to your own graphic design work to enhance the intensity, fidelity, and brilliance of the colors you use.

Custom Printing: Thoughts on Adding Inserts to Your Magazine

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

I received a magazine in the mail yesterday from AAA, the roadside assistance company. I like to read this periodical because it tells me about exotic locations while also discussing practical matters such as insurance.

To my surprise, when I opened this month’s magazine, I found a little magazine in the center of the book. This supplement (which looked to be about 7.75” x 9.5”) was bound into the center spread of the host magazine (which looked to be 8” x 10.5”). Moreover, it had it’s own saddle stitches (it’s own binding staples), so when I pulled the supplement out of the main book, it held up as a fully-bound, independent publication. Basically, it was an upscale, 8-page listing of AAA’s products and services, complete with dynamic photos and drawings. I was impressed. It was attractive and useful. I wanted to keep it.

What We Can Learn from This Supplement

First of all, I have seen many such supplements over the years. In fact, when I consulted for a local publisher of government magazines, we used to add supplements to the magazines on a regular basis, so I became conversant with their options and specifications.

You may ask why AAA inserted such a short publication in the center of their magazine rather than including the information directly in the pages of the main periodical. Because the information stands out more dramatically this way. When I opened the magazine, I was immediately struck by the addition. It felt like a surprise, a gift, so I pulled it out immediately and saved it. Clearly it had won marketing points for its format.

But not all supplements are formatted in this way. Some that I have seen have been the same size as the host publication. Personally, I don’t like this approach. Particularly when the paper stock is the same. I think it defeats the purpose. You can’t immediately grasp that the booklet is a special addition to the overall magazine. You don’t even necessarily know where the supplement begins and ends if it is the same size and on the same paper as the host publication. In fact, if the numbering of the pages is different in such a supplement, it can be downright confusing. You jump into the supplement and then back out into the main magazine without knowing where one ends and the other begins. This is particularly confusing if you’re depending on the host magazine’s table of contents and page numbers.

But in this case, the supplement was smaller, and this made everything easier.

I have also seen small inserts that don’t fall in the center (top to bottom) of the center spread of the host periodical. Some “jog” to the “head” (the top of the page), and some “jog” to the “foot” (the base of the page).

If you’re specifying a bound-in insert such as this supplement for a magazine, you will need to speak with your commercial printing vendor about the binding requirements and options for inserts. Among other things, you will need to know whether the inserts will jog to the head or the foot of the page or, as in the case of the AAA publication, if they will float in the center.

If they float in the center (top to bottom), they will probably not fall exactly between the top and bottom (or head and foot trim) of the page when actually bound. That is, it’s easier to be precise when the insert aligns with the very top or bottom of the page. In the case of the AAA booklet, if you look closely, you’ll see that the stitching holes where the insert is bound into the main book are not exactly positioned between the head and foot trim of the supplement. However, no one would see this if they weren’t specifically looking for it. (Instead, they would be focused on the little magazine in the center of the host publication.)


As noted before, the insert had its own staples. Not all inserts do. Some depend on the staples of the main book. Once you pull out such a supplement, the pages will fall apart.

Another issue is where the insert will fall within the host publication. In the case of the AAA supplement, the insert fell right in the center spread of the magazine. But it didn’t need to. The magazine designer could have placed it anywhere between press signatures (the 4-, 8-, or 16-page groups of pages on a single press sheet, folded and trimmed into the nested “booklets” that comprise the overall magazine). Inserts must fall between signatures. It’s a rule based on the physical requirements for saddle stitching nested groups of press signatures into a full magazine.

However, as I mentioned earlier, inserts don’t need to fall in the center of a magazine. In fact, they also don’t need to be stitched into the magazine. The AAA designers could have chosen to affix the supplement directly on an outside page of a press signature using fugitive glue (like rubber cement). Or they could have used a “hanger” (a piece of paper that slips between the saddle stitches and to which the supplement can be fugitive glued).

A hanger has a “low-folio” side and a “high-folio” side (the former in the front, before the center spread of the magazine, and the latter in the back of the book, after the center spread). A hanger gives you something to which you can attach an insert so it won’t fall out of the main book.

The benefit of using fugitive glue in such a case is that you can peel the supplement off the hanger without tearing the paper. Like rubber cement, when you pull carefully with even pressure, the fugitive glue bond releases. Then you can roll up the glue with your finger to remove it.

More Options

If the insert were smaller, say a small return mail card, you could even refrain from binding it into the book entirely. You can add a “blow-in” card that is just thrown (by machine) randomly into a section of the host publication. Among the other benefits (which include its being an inexpensive option), blowing in an insert does not require placing it between signatures, and you don’t have to add staples, position the insert precisely, or use fugitive glue to attach it to the magazine. That said, it’s also not very precise, and you would only use this option for a small, light, single-page card. You may have noticed when you have opened a magazine at a news stand that sometimes the blow-in card will just fall out and drop to the floor.

What About Perfect Binding?

Bind-ins, blow-ins, and other inserts can be added to perfect-bound magazines as well as saddle stitched ones. (In the case of the AAA magazine, the host periodical was saddle stitched.) Instead of stitching the insert between nested press signatures (or fugitive gluing it), you would just place it between “stacked” signatures, and the binding glue placed in the print book spine by the perfect-binding equipment would keep the insert in place. For a multi-page supplement, you would just perfect bind a hanger into the spine and then fugitive glue the supplement to the hanger.

Talk with Your Printer Early in the Process

Your commercial printing vendor’s binding equipment will have requirements for inserts such as these. This may include size, position, and even whether there is a “lip” or “lap” (one longer side of the insert that will allow the saddle stitching equipment to better grasp the insert, pull it from its pocket on the stitcher, and affix it between signatures). Using a saddle stitcher or perfect binder is a complex, physical operation with various rules and regulations to make the process work (i.e., to make sure the insert doesn’t fall out onto the floor during binding). So make sure your insert has the blessing of the printer. In fact, it’s wise to send your custom printing supplier an actual sample of the supplement or a trimmed color proof for testing (with lots of lead time, before the actual press run).


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