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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 June, 2020

Custom Printing: Printing Silver and Gold on Glass

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

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

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

Here’s what I learned from my research.

Sedak Ceramic Digital Printing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features of Sedak Glass

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

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

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

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

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

What You Can Learn From Sedak’s Promotional Materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think this is definitely a winner.

5 Considerations to Make When Choosing Printing and Binding Services

Friday, June 26th, 2020

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

Aesthetics Matter

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

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

How Long Will it Take?

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

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

How Efficient is Customer Service?

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

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

The Pricing Needs to be Justified

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


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

In Conclusion

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

5 Best Custom Printing Services to Drive Business Growth 

Friday, June 26th, 2020

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

Stickers can Promote the Business Brand

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

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

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

Business Cards are Effective Tools for Starting Marketing Conversations

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

Branded Gifts Induce top of the Mind Awareness

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

Postcards Add a Personal Touch to Communication with Clients

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

In Conclusion

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

Plethora of Custom Printing Companies For Your Business

Friday, June 26th, 2020

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

You will only get to interact with qualified print companies

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

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

Printing services should focus on trending products

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

Get brochures printed to promote your business

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

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

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

Commercial Printing: The Final Stages of Print Buying

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

The Backstory

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

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

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

So what did I learn from this?

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

The Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

Next, Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

What Can We Learn from This Case Study?

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

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

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

Custom Printing: Novel Digital Foiling Options

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

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

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

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

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

Here’s Some Context

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

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

The New Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

4 Things To Remember When Hiring A Printing Service Provider

Friday, June 19th, 2020

Are you in search of a printing services provider for printing your magazine? To ensure that you get a satisfactory quality of service, you will need to choose one of the best magazine printing companies. First and foremost, identify the service that you need. Figure out the exact type of service you require before hiring a company. All printing companies do not require the same companies.

Check the quality of material that the company is using. Ask them to provide you with some samples. Search for a company that offers a satisfactory quality of customer service. The firm you hire should address your concerns related to the project and ensure that it is completed according to your specifications. Keep the cost factor in mind. Ensure that the organization you hire offers a high value of service that justifies their service charge.

4 Advantages of Hiring A Professional Printing Service Provider

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Do you need professional assistance to publish a book? If you do, then you should look for a company that offers thebest online print solution. Online printing service providers offer high-quality printing. Therefore, you can rely on them to ensure that the end product you receive lives up top your expectations. These companies will provide you with options to enhance your project, based on aesthetics. Their layout artists will make your book look more appealing.

The quality of printing material will reflect the image and level of professionalism of your company. So, it is essential to have premium printed materials which you can take pride in. By hiring the services of a reliable company, you can get a large volume of books printed and save a lot of your valuable time.

Commercial Printing: Ways to Save on Paper Costs

Monday, June 15th, 2020

So, you’ve completed the design of your brochure, print book, poster, or whatever other offset or digital print project you’re working on, and it’s time to choose paper to print it on. What’s to choose? It’s just paper, right?

Not so.

If you’re a graphic designer, you’re probably well aware of the nuances of paper specification, everything from the texture to the opacity to the whiteness vs. brightness of the paper. Is it coated? Or should it be uncoated, and what does this imply about the brand values of your company? Many designers even have preferred brands of paper and specify these directly to their paper merchants, asking the paper merchants to coordinate paper purchases with the mills and the offset or digital commercial printing suppliers.

Some of this attention to detail and paper selection can add up financially, particularly if paper costs are a large portion of the overall commercial printing budget. (For example, selecting an expensive paper for a perfect-bound print book with a page count of 512 pages and a press run of 60,000 copies can really drive up the overall manufacturing cost of the book.)

What can you do to save money?

Select Paper Based on Its Specifications Rather Than Its Name Brand

Printers and paper merchants (who negotiate directly with the paper mills and have a vast knowledge of paper) can often get good deals on commercial printing stock. In addition, most printers have “house sheets” within various categories of paper. That is, they may have an uncoated stock like Cougar or Lynx that they buy in bulk and use for the majority of their perfect-bound print books. The printer’s house sheet might be just fine for your needs, but if you insist on another brand, like Finch Fine stock, you may wind up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more.

The way around this is to learn the meaning of the paper characteristics and then ask the printer or paper merchant for a particular paper based not on the brand but on the specifications. A few paper specs to research online are:

  1. Whiteness (for example, blue white or solar white vs. warm white or cream). Whiteness pertains to the paper’s ability to reflect all colors of light (i.e., a pure white), as opposed to the amount of light it reflects.
  2. Brightness (specified in terms such as “premium,” #1, #2, etc.). This specification notes the amount of light (rather than the color of light, or its whiteness) the paper reflects. A premium sheet is brighter than a #1 sheet. But it’s not always necessary to print on a bright paper stock. For instance, for a trade magazine or a catalog, you might even choose a much lower grade (perhaps a #4 sheet or a #5 groundwood sheet). It wouldn’t be as bright, and you wouldn’t specify a #4 sheet for an annual report, but for a mechanic’s parts catalog, for instance, it might be ideal—and competitively priced, particularly when you’re printing a lot of catalogs.
  3. Coated vs. uncoated. A premium uncoated sheet might well cost more than a lower quality coated sheet (counter-intuitively), but usually coated paper costs more than uncoated paper. Discuss this with your printer or paper merchant. Decide what you really need and what is appropriate for your printed product. (Perhaps an uncoated sheet would send more of an Earth-friendly message about your company.)
  4. Surface texture. A matte sheet might be smooth enough for your needs. You may not need a dull sheet. On the other hand (if you’re specifying an uncoated paper), you might in fact want to pay a premium for a textured, uncoated sheet if you’re sending out an invitation to a fancy office gathering.
  5. Paper weight (related to paper thickness or caliper). Research customary weights for various projects. For instance, a corporate promotional booklet might go well on a 100# cover and 100# text combination (for the cover and book interior). In contrast, you might specify 50# or 60# text stock for the interior of a perfect-bound book, and if you don’t need to print on the inside front and back covers, you might choose a 10pt. C1S (coated one side) stock for the cover.
  6. Opacity. This is the light blocking power of a press sheet. Choosing a 60# opaque sheet for a perfect-bound book with a lot of photos will make it less likely that you will see the photo on the back of the page when you’re reading the front of the page. A regular 60# offset sheet wouldn’t be quite as opaque. Opacity is the quality of paper that minimizes what is known as “show through.”

So here’s what you can do with this information. Start with printed samples you like on specific papers you like. Then discuss the variables noted above with your printer and paper merchant (if you have a relationship with a paper merchant). Ask the printer for his suggestions based on what he has on the pressroom floor, what house sheets he buys, and what brands might be economical.

Or, if you’re in a pinch, choose paper from a paper merchant’s swatch books and then note on the specification sheet you compose for your printer that you would be interested in “suggested paper substitutions.” Another way to phrase this on the printing specification sheet is to say “such and such a paper, or comparable.”

Design Economically to Save Paper

This involves a number of considerations. First of all, ask your book printer about the best size for your particular custom printing project, based on the size of the presses he has on the pressroom floor. For example, you might be able to get a 16-page press signature (8 pages on each size) on his press with room for printer’s marks, the printing press gripper (which grabs the press sheet and moves it through the press), and even bleeds if you reduce its size from a 6” x 9” format to a 5.5” x 8.5” format. This change in size might allow for larger press signatures (and therefore fewer press runs) as well as less paper waste.

Probably no one will see the difference, and you will save money. Or, you could forego the bleeds (or confirm with your printer whether or not the bleeds will increase the price by requiring a larger press sheet size and therefore a larger offset press).

Reduce Paper Weight and Quality

Another thing you can do to save money on paper is reduce the paper weight of the project (as noted above). Or you can print on an uncoated sheet (as noted above, with all other things being equal, coated paper often costs more than uncoated). For instance, if you had been considering printing a book on a 70# gloss coated text paper, you might instead decide to print it on a 60# uncoated sheet. Lighter weight papers cost less than heavier weight papers.

As noted above, paper comes in various levels of quality, usually dependent on the brightness of the press sheet. You could save a lot of money by stepping down from a premium sheet to a number #1 or #2 paper. In fact, these days some #2 papers are indistinguishable (to the naked eye) from higher grade papers.

Address Publications-Management Issues

If you’re thoughtful in your approach, how you manage the overall press run can save you money on paper costs.

For example, you could:

  1. Make PDFs of the job available online and therefore reduce the total number of printed copies needed.
  2. Reduce acceptable overruns (usually up to 10 percent overs are acceptable). Negotiate this with your printer.
  3. Clean up all mail lists and be more selective in bulk distribution. Fewer names equal fewer copies going to more precise and accurate addresses. Think about where you make your print product available in bulk as well. Do you need to deliver that big a stack of catalogs to the neighborhood stores?
  4. Print your publication less often. If you combine such a reduction in publishing frequency with an increase in online marketing and editorial content, you can still retain your customers’ interest and loyalty. If you research this suggestion online, look for “multi-channel marketing.”
  5. Print fewer pages. Granted, this requires editing and writing discipline and design/layout acumen, but it can save a lot of money. Reducing a periodical by even four pages and multiplying this by (perhaps) 50,000 copies will save a lot of paper. Fewer pages will cost less to print (sometimes resulting in even fewer press runs for the same product) and will require less paper.

The Take-Away

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Go to school on paper. Learn as much as you can.
  2. Discuss your paper needs for your various projects with your printer.
  3. Develop a relationship with a paper merchant. Consider attending a paper mill tour to see exactly how paper is made.
  4. Collect paper swatch books. But keep them current. It can be frustrating to pick the perfect paper and then learn that it has been discontinued. (Check the dates on the back of the paper books.)
  5. Collect a swipe file of printed products you like because of their paper qualities as well as their design.

Book Printing: Short-Run Digital Case-Bound Books

Monday, June 8th, 2020

For the most part, the title of this blog post is an oxymoron: “short run digital” usually doesn’t mesh with “case binding.” That’s because of the complexity of case binding, the make-ready process, the skill level involved, and the post-press finishing equipment needed. The list goes on. Short of binding the books one at a time by hand, the elusive goal of a short press run of case-bound books seems more akin to the proverbial unicorn everyone seems to be seeking.

But my client needs this. And you may, too, at some point when buying book printing. This is how I’m going about the task.

First the Book Specifications

First of all, the book is 8 1/2” X 10 7/8”, with a quantity of 300 vs. 350 copies, 302 pages plus hard cover. The text paper is 60# white offset. Endsheets are 80# Rainbow Oatmeal Antique. And the dust jacket is 100# C1S, with gloss film lamination.

Interior press work involves K/K ink only, with no bleeds. And the dust jacket prints 4/0.

Finishing is more complex. The book requires adhesive case binding with .098″ boards, with colored endsheets, and a flat back (with board in spine). The wrapping material is Arrestox B (Fern L535). The printer must stamp the spine, back, and front cover with one impression of gold foil, from printer furnished dies. Then the printer will wrap the dust jackets around the print books, possibly shrink wrap them individually, and then carton pack them.

A Quandry

While all of these specs sound reasonable enough, they reflect some potentially conflicting client requirements (although they can still be remedied by the right book printer).

First of all, the book is long enough (302 pages) that in past editions it would have been printed either by sheetfed lithography or more usually by web-fed lithography (i.e., a web press or roll-fed press). This was back when the book (a yearly title for this particular textbook-printing client) was 600 pages in length with a press run of 1,000 copies. Those specs more closely matched a web printer I used to work with many years ago. In fact, that particular vendor might consider a short-run book (and probably would be competitive), but their minimum order is 1,000 copies, not 300 or 350 copies.

Moreover, this particular vendor could conceivably send the book to their digital plant (note that this printer has multiple book plants, with digital capabilities as well as sheetfed and web-fed offset presses on their pressroom floor). But to remain competitive, this printer has only limited materials for their digital books. Their covers, for instance, are produced with a few generic paper stock options laminated over binders boards (i.e., not fabric). Basically, they tell you what you can have. Since their prices are spectacular, their limits are reasonable. This is particularly true when you consider that this book printer only has such good prices because they buy a massive amount of only a few brands of printing and binding materials. In my client’s case, if this particular printer produced a short-run case bound book, it would not be bound in Arrestox B (Fern L535) casing fabric. Rather it would be bound in whatever the printer was offering to keep the prices down.

Since my client has been printing and selling this book (at a premium) for decades, it’s important for the final product to look as close to the older versions (produced on a web offset press and bound with high-end bindery materials) as possible. So this particular vendor is not an option.

Two Alternatives

I have approached two other vendors. Plus, I have put the specs up on the Printing Industry Exchange website to see if any new printers might show interest.

One of the two book printers promotes itself as offering prices close to those of Asian printers without the risk. I have found this to be true for the most part. This particular printer is actually a representative for two different dedicated book printers, one on the East Coast and one in the Midwest. One of the printers specializes in black-text-only printing. The other does primarily 4-color work. But what both printers have in common is that they focus almost exclusively on print books. Therefore, they have all of the printing and finishing equipment anyone could need for book production.

To clarify this, I have found over the last forty years that most printers have on-site saddle-stitching equipment. Some but not all have perfect-binding equipment. And only a limited number have case-binding equipment. This makes sense. The goal is to keep all printing and finishing equipment running all the time. Since most printers would not need to run perfect-binding and case-binding equipment all the time, they don’t buy it. Instead, they farm out this work to other printers who do have this specialized equipment. Or they go to companies that only do binding.

But dedicated book printers are a different breed. And I have two vendors in mind (accessible through one representative, who is not quite a broker because he represents the printers rather than the clients, as I do). His two printers have all of this equipment. Therefore, their prices will be lower (i.e., I’ll be more likely to win my client’s bid), and the turn around will be faster (subcontracting not only costs more but takes longer, too).

But I also have one more option: the printer who has produced this book as page counts and press runs have declined from 600+ pages to 300+ pages, and from 1,000 copies to 300 copies. This book printer has done the job for many years (they are motivated to keep it). They are a dedicated book printer, so they have all equipment needed to produce it onsite. (In fact, if they determine that the combination of page count and press run would be more economical on a digital press, they can print the book this way; and, if they determine that web-fed offset, even for this short a run, works better financially as well as in their schedule, they can print the job via offset lithography.)

In most cases, printers with this much equipment are “consolidators.” They buy up multiple printing plants and offer everything to all clients. When work comes in, they send each job to the appropriate plant (like the printer noted earlier in this article). But in this particular case, the printer is smaller, not a consolidator, still has all the equipment in-house, and has provided aggressive pricing for years (and doesn’t want to lose the client). In short, it’s a perfect fit (hopefully my client will agree).

And there’s one other reason the printer has lower prices. It’s in the Midwest in a location that has a lower pay scale than here on the East Coast (for good or ill, this does make a difference).

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. Keep an open mind. A printer halfway across the country might be the perfect match. If you like their pricing, ask for an equipment list. You may see why their prices are lower based on what printing and finishing equipment they have in-house. That said, since you can’t necessarily visit the printer if something goes wrong, it’s very important to perform all due diligence. Get printed samples. Talk with references. Do careful research.
  2. Think about what kind of technology is most appropriate for your book-printing job. If you’re not sure where the sweet spot is for short-run digital work based on your page count and press run, ask your printer.
  3. Some book printers have tabletop binding equipment. They can be competitive on smaller press runs because they don’t necessarily have to cover the cost of large and expensive equipment (at least for the short-run print books).
  4. Ask colleagues. A lot of the information you need will be in the printers’ equipment lists, but nothing is better than one printer’s recommendation of another vendor who might be more appropriate based on your printing needs.
  5. Large printers with multiple plants may not be as attuned to your particular job needs. In fact, to keep their materials costs down, they may offer only limited options for printing or binding styles. Sometimes a smaller printer who really needs you to be happy is a better choice.
  6. Keep in mind that, across the country, the press runs and page counts of book printing jobs are declining. That said, print books are not going away. Readers and publishers still want a high-quality product for a good price. And the market drives vendors’ offerings. So it is quite possible to find vendors who will print short-run, multi-page books and bind them to your specifications. You don’t need a lot of vendors. You just need to find one or a few.

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