Printing Companies
  1. About Printing Industry
  2. Printing Services
  3. Print Buyers
  4. Printing Resources
  5. Classified Ads
  6. Printing Glossary
  7. Printing Newsletters
  8. Contact Print Industry
Who We Are

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.

Need a Printing Quote from multiple printers? click here.

Are you a Printing Company interested in joining our service? click here.

The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

We have kept the PIE system simple -- we get a monthly fee from the commercial printers who belong to our service. Once the bid request is submitted, all interactions are between the print buyers and the printers.

We are here to help, you can contact us by email at

Custom Printing: A Paper-Availability Status Report

Photo purchased from …

About a year ago I got a phone call from a large commercial printing consolidator (a company that buys and then operates print shops across the nation and sometimes in other countries as well). My contact said the consolidator couldn’t get paper for one of its clients. This would be a huge, recurring job involving custom printing, perforating, and die cutting labels.

It was a sweet job, and I had good contacts, one who could print the job in China and another in the US in the Midwest. But when all was said and done, I didn’t get the job and I’m grateful for that. Between the client’s demands for specific paper and that paper’s unavailability even among my contacts, I learned a lot about the current paper shortages, supply chain issues, lines of ships waiting to dock at US ports, and economics in general. I couldn’t have received a better education back in college.

That said, now it’s a year later. For those of you who produce recurring print jobs (as designers, print buyers, art directors), what is the current status of commercial printing paper?

The Current State of Paper Sourcing

With this question in mind, I went online and found several good articles, which I draw from (and quote) in the following blog posting. If you want to do your own research, you might check out “2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist?” by Toni McQuilken,, 02/15/2023, and “US Printing Paper Demand Slows Down in a ‘More Normal’ December as Panic Buying Ends,” by Renata Mercante, Fastmarkets, 12/21/2022. Both articles, and others, can be found online.

That said, here is the gist of what I have found.

In the past several years we have had shutdowns due to Covid, labor shortages, weather issues, higher costs for shipping, and general disturbances in the supply chain (both for US-based and imported paper). Also, many paper manufacturers in the US changed from producing commercial printing paper to producing packaging board. This reduced printing paper availability (some grades and weights more than others).

When combined with a healthy (and in some cases increased) demand for commercial printing paper (by customers and therefore custom printing suppliers), the reduced paper supply drove up prices (for the paper component of printing).

This year, 2023, according to John Crumbaugh, product manager of ColorPRO Technology, Media Operations, at HP: “The supply chain for producing printing paper is still tight, but there are signs that it’s beginning to loosen up and should be much improved in 2023.” “In North America, the paper mills are operating at or near capacity, but the analog market appears to be slowing, and imports are beginning to increase, so paper is more available than earlier [last] year” (John Crumbach, as quoted in “2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist”).

One reason the market is beginning to slow, according to this article and others, is that printers have slowed down their panic buying and are now using the inventory they had amassed. Since paper availability has increased and the end users (apparently) are a bit less demanding, printers have recently been able to both use what they have in inventory and also selectively buy paper to add to their in-house supply.

That said, paper imports have arrived a bit faster (with easier access to US ports). However, this is somewhat mitigated by the lower number of domestic mills producing paper (as noted before, a lot of them had been converted to paperboard making). So paper is more available, but its price isn’t coming down anytime soon.

Plus, the concept of “just-in-time delivery,” at least in paper sourcing, is not viable now and will not be for the foreseeable future.

According to Crumbaugh, as quoted in “2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist,” “Pricing for printing grades of paper have increased up to 40% over the past five years.” “Supply chain issues, transportation, and increased cost of production have driven pricing up very quickly. Pricing is likely to stabilize as opposed to dropping quickly, as many of the increased cost factors are still in effect.”

In short, paper is available, but the cost of the paper for a commercial printing job (and this can be a large portion of the total cost of the job—especially for print books) will keep overall custom printing prices high.

According to “2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist,” these are the paper grades affected (Toni McQuilken includes comments by a number of printers in this light as well). According to Crumbach (as noted earlier), these papers include “uncoated text and cover,” “some packaging grades, especially premium grades,” and wood-free paper grades. Plus, “Coated, as well, is difficult for both popular mid-range weights, as well as heavyweight point stocks” (John Crumbach, as quoted in “2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist”).

Importing paper has made things easier, but this has not completely mitigated the effect of many domestic paper suppliers’ having gone offline in the past several years.

At the same time, according to “2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist,” some papers that weren’t available a year ago are now more accessible, such as 70#, 80#, and 100# coated book papers (“mid-range weights, in general”) (“2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist”), and these are accessible in various sheet sizes for different-sized printing presses.

What to Do (for Printers)?

“2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist” suggests the following approach to the current state of paper sourcing, at least through this year:

  1. Think ahead. “2023: Will the Paper Chase Persist” encourages printers to plan for the workflow rather than stockpiling paper. This means keeping good relations (and open communication) with paper suppliers. McQuilken’s article especially notes that mills do not treat spot-buyers of paper as well as those who have developed mutually beneficial, repeat working relationships with the mills. McQuilken suggests that printers evaluate their projected paper needs for upcoming jobs on a monthly basis (rather than a quarterly basis).
  2. Don’t buy in a panic, but also don’t assume “just in time” sourcing will work.
  3. Be flexible. It is smart at this point to be open to alternative papers suggested by mills.
  4. If you are a printer, McQuilken suggests diversifying. That means perhaps even buying new equipment to be able to handle different commercial printing jobs in different ways on different presses, should paper for one press be more difficult to source. This will at least keep printers, and pressmen, from being idle in difficult times.

The Takeaway for Designers

Many of you who read these PIE Blog articles are not commercial printing suppliers, but rather individual print buyers in for-profit and non-profit organizations. Most of McQuilken’s suggestions will pertain to you as well.

In short, you will benefit from planning jobs earlier than in prior years. You can’t bring printers into the equation too early. Talk to your suppliers. Keep them in the loop.

And depend on their expertise. When they suggest alternative stocks that might work as well as your preferred custom printing paper, keep an open mind.

2 Responses to “Custom Printing: A Paper-Availability Status Report”

  1. There are many benefits to using custom product labels, including having the freedom to be as creative as you’d like, maintaining your brand equity through consistency, and providing a means for clear communication.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comment. I totally agree. I also think custom product labels can be even more distinctive if you include clear labels and even shrink sleeves as options. These can make a label seem to float, give it a sense of expansiveness due to the transparency, and in the case of shrink sleeves even add more room for dramatic imagery and product information.


Recent Posts


Read and subscribe to our newsletter!

Printing Services include all print categories listed below & more!
4-color Catalogs
Affordable Brochures: Pricing
Affordable Flyers
Book Binding Types and Printing Services
Book Print Services
Booklet, Catalog, Window Envelopes
Brochures: Promotional, Marketing
Bumper Stickers
Business Cards
Business Stationery and Envelopes
Catalog Printers
Cheap Brochures
Color, B&W Catalogs
Color Brochure Printers
Color Postcards
Commercial Book Printers
Commercial Catalog Printing
Custom Decals
Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
©2019 Printing Industry Exchange, LLC - All rights reserved