Elements of Surprise: Why Your Printer Needs Your Time in Order to Achieve Your Goals

  • by Christine Batta
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"The printer makes your ideas come to life,” says Baltimore printing sales representative Kristen Cavey. The printer is the important link between the ideas of the designer and the final product used by the client. However, many nonprofit leaders and designers alike underestimate the effort that goes into realizing an idea in print.

Rather than being as instantaneous as clicking “print” on your office computer, professional printing process is complicated and can be unpredictable. Even though Jamie at HBP shares that the list of print production woes can be endless, planning time to account for these problems is your best weapon.

There are 5 main reasons our printers advise giving them a fair space in your project timeline.

1. Color

For projects that use 4-color printing processes, rather than the more expensive and limited Pantone inks, test printing will be necessary to ensure your color appears the way you want. Colors will come out differently on different days based on the ink and toner levels in the press in addition to the type of paper chosen.

Because, as Jamie says, “Printing can never be an exact science”, matching the way your project’s colors look on the computer screen is a process. If you want to get a specific color just right you may have to attend a press check to review the final output before the whole run is produced. To emphasize our point, this takes time.

2. Paper

Have you ever considered how long your project will take to dry before your printer can deliver to you? How inks lay on a specific paper will effect the drying time. Did you know some matte papers never dry? And that green and blue ink pigments take the longest to dry? Moisture in the air can impact anticipated drying times as well.

3. Content Edits

We bet you’ve been in a situation where an extra pair of eyes could have caught a crucial error in your print project. Rushed clients often overlook designating a buffer time between the completion of a design and the printer's deadline to receive the artwork. The printer cannot predict how many rounds of edits you will present to them, so they often will present you with a production timeline for all the work on their end which does not include the proofing stage.

The problem with catching edits after the files go to the printer is that you might not get to make the change, if you want your project on time. Or on budget! Rush feeds are added to the bill when a project needs to be returned quicker than the vendor’s standard production speed, usually around 5 business days.

4. Quality Assurance

Misprints can be created by unpreventable errors in the balance of ink colors, the color alignment or in the cutting of the paper. It is a relief when the printer catches these mistakes before delivering to your important event, but reprinting will delay the delivery date.

If you have a project with cutting as well as binding, or other finishing processes like embossing, there is the chance that a flaw in a later stage of the job can send the project back through the previous steps again. Even if at the time you don't feel concerned by a small flaw in the job, the printer whose livelihood rests on reputation and word of mouth is not going to send subpar work into the world. Competition is high among printers of various sizes, so if a printer has gotten your business they'll want to do all they can to keep it. Be respectful of their profession and give them the chance to be impressive.

5. All the Other Things We Can't Control

No matter how stellar your printing vendor's shop staff and customer service are, the machines create unanticipated problems. A problem with the machines will delay your project, even if the vendor is able to secure a spot in the schedule of an alternate press. Electric power can be interrupted by any number of factors; including the recent storms we've been experiencing. If you push your printer to the outer limits of their turn-around time, surprises like these mean you won't have your project in hand when you need it.

With these points in mind, why don't you carve out some time in the plan for your next printing project to coordinate great results?

Thank you to Kristen Cavey at RPM Solutions Group, Niko Tombros at House of Printing Jamie Bratten at HBP and Susan Wood at Uptown Press for informing this blog post.