Where to go for high quality printing?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by 212rikanmofo, Feb 9, 2011.

  1. 212rikanmofo macrumors 68000

    Jan 31, 2003
    I'm curious to where big Fortune 500 companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Acura, Lexus, etc get all their marketing material printed?

    I am in search for a new place to get all my stuff printed from that I can fully depend on. Seems like a lot of these local print shops in my city are very inconsistent when it comes to quality and color matching.

    The place I work for sends its file out to a printer and puts it on a gang run. I was told that this is how most printers do it to save time, money and cut down costs and that they usually don't accept just 1 business card. I'm not too familiar with how these print shops work. Maybe someone can educate me here so that I know who to avoid.

    I absolutely love the quality of brochures and most printed materials I see at places like the car dealerships, the quality is definitely there. I am desperate to finding a good printing place that can give me results like that each and everytime I send them my job for printing.
  2. jeremy h macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2008
    Just because a company is big doesn't mean they use the best printers! Basically it's all down to price. Jobs are ganged up to offer a reasonable print service at a cheap price. Most large companies will have a range of printers they use. Some companies will be used for the bulk cheap work, some for digital and they'll usually have a few that are expensive but great for those quality jobs.

    It's all relative and depends on your client demands.

    Where are you? (I'm guessing the US?) Might be worth posting your location and asking for some recommendations. (If you were in the UK I could recommend some.) Things are so tough for printers at the moment that I'm always glad to recommend good ones to other people as I want to keep them in business. Most of my best printers have come via word of mouth.

    Also - bear in mind that you often only find out how good a printer really is until there's a problem with a job. You want someone who works with you to sort the problem and is open in the last resort to financial recompense to you or your client. Those are the ones I'd really recommend.

    If you find a good one they're normally delighted to show you around and explain everything (the good ones are proud of their kit). You just need to ask.
  3. Toppa G's macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2003
    The exurbs, MN
    Large corporations like Apple and car companies are likely using printers near the top of the Printing Impressions 400. Generally, these printers are not set up to take small orders, nor will they likely give the same attention to your project that they would to Apple's project, unless you're printing 10K+ pieces.

    Most online "get business cards cheap!" printers do gang printing of items - it's really the only way to make printing 500 orders of 250 business cards a profitable endeavor.

    That said, there are tens of thousands of printing companies in the United States, many who can meet or exceed the quality seen on the brochures you reference. If there's a look you want to achieve, it's best to have examples of that to share with the printer so they can advise on the best stock/ink/coating combination to get your desired result.
  4. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    If you love the materials at a car dealership or other local business, then you should ask the responsible person at the business for information.
  5. 212rikanmofo, Feb 10, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2011

    212rikanmofo thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 31, 2003
    Yes I am located in Houston, TX. I was looking online at places like modernpostcard.com to see if they're any good. I've been sending some of my work to bcthouston.com which uses a Canon 7000VP digital press and the quality seems bad. Dark gray text on a white background appears brown, and the font don't look sharp and crisp, but seems kind of blurry. Also this other place I use to go to uses a Heidelberg Offset Press, and the quality and color was horrible as well.

    I see a lot of nicely designed and printed business cards on here and was curious where most of them get their stuff printed. I am in the market for a new job and trying to update my portfolio. I want to make sure my stuff comes out nice this time so I'm very concerned about quality. But there's no way I need to print in high quantities. 1 or 2 copies at most since this will be placed in my portfolio. I have business cards, brochures, postcards, posters, etc.

    It seems kinda strange that I get even better quality than offset and digital printers by using the laser printer in my office. Which we use for proofing. The text is sharp, color is pretty accurate. We have 2 big laser printer/copiers and they are the Xerox DocuColor 242 and an Ikon Business Pro 550c. These are just standard laser printers that our company leases and yet the results are better then full commercial offset or digital printers. Why is that?

    What kind of printer would yield better results, a commercial offset or a digital press?
  6. djbahdow01 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 19, 2004
    Northeast, CT
    Ok, you don't give your background, but you seem to have some knowledge in the printing world. Anyways are all your files compliant with the print house? CMYK, RGB, ect. Are you using a color book? Calibrated monitor? Remember the colors on your screen may not correspond with the printing. Tough to give any advice when we don't have a full understanding of your knowledge.

    Lots of variables, and no way to really know what is the issue. Could be the print houses, but even then I've had pretty good luck on color from some cheap places and large places as well. Its all in trusting the profiles from the printers as well as having a really good relationship with the printer and color accurate monitors.
  7. Coheebuzz macrumors 6502

    Oct 10, 2005
    Nicosia, Cyprus
    If you want quality then offset is the way to go. I only use digital for things that require a handful of printouts, and frankly my inkjet can do a better job in terms of quality.

    Also the paper you choose to use will greatly affect the quality and price of the job. You can double or triple the price for a job just by choosing a different kind of paper. Then comes the finishing, like UV or laminating which give extra protection and a higher quality feel to your printouts.

    Each printing house has it's own process and specifications on how the design should be set up for offset so be sure to talk to them beforehand.
  8. mlblacy macrumors 6502

    Sep 23, 2006
    the REAL Jersey Shore
    the dirty little secret...

    A lot of designers use online printers...
    I live in an area surrounded by scads of printers in a 75 mile radius, many of which I have used at one time or another. Most are consistent with slow quotes, slow turnaround, and being a bit... expensive. About nine years ago I made a switch and started shipping jobs out of the area, and was pleasantly surprised.

    The tipping point was a fairly simple b/w job with a 4/c cover. It took almost two weeks to get a proof, it took another 2 weeks to ship the job. Ridiculous.
    I went online, plopped in the particulars, the run size... and I had an instant quote. Job was a lot cheaper, and was able to run in all 4/c as well. Job was actually on press a week earlier than I would have had my proof back from my other guy (who I had used for about 7 years).

    For very short runs, buy a decent printer. I have a Canon Pro 9000 mkII, that is VERY fast, produces gorgeous prints, borderless 13x19 stuff. Stick with OEM ink, and mostly OEM paper to avoid headaches. Yes, it sucks ink down... which is why you can find it pretty cheaply. The think it retails somewhere around $500, but I picked it up just under $300 using a discount & a $100 rebate. It replaced my old dog slow Epson, that could take 30 minutes to churn out a 11x17, and constantly suffered from clogged cartridges (and cost more than twice the cost).

    Avoid gang run printers if you can. Most are pretty upfront and honest about how they run their work. The digital presses have gotten better, but IMO are still way below offset or what you can print out yourself.

    I consistently use these companies, and you will find that some are more suited to certain types of jobs (as evidenced by their pricing), but there are tons of competitors. I expect to be treated professionally whether I am printing a run of 250, or 250,000 (and you should too).

    The downside is that the work is only as good as the quality of your files, and there is very little hand holding (although the customer service is pretty good). I can upload a job, and sometimes within minutes I have a PDF proof to send to press (which is much like how my larger web offset printing company works). You will pay for speed though, and cutting days off production or shipping at a faster rate will cost you... so try and stick with standard turn around (which vary from printer to printer), and ground shipping.

    It's a leap of faith the first time to move to a non-local vendor, but over the last nine years my experience has been great, and I wouldn't go back.
  9. Apple OC macrumors 68040

    Apple OC

    Oct 14, 2010
    I have worked in Print for over 25 years ... if you know what you want ... look at some Trade Printers (they also print for other Printing Companies so their quality is usually the best)

    And yes avoid gang printing as your projects will get no attention at all.

    Also I find for the best results ... try to find a company that will run your job a fairly new Heidelberg Press.
  10. btbrossard macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2008
    Two weeks to get a proof? That's crazy.

    If we get 24 hours to show a proof, it's a long time (for physical proofs). For online proofing, clients want their proofs within an hour or two of providing files, even at 3 in the morning.

    I would agree that looking towards the top of the Printing Impressions 400 is a good idea if you have any volume of work. Printers of this size didn't get where they are by screwing up work (and they also have the ability to stand behind there work if something goes wrong and make it right, fast).

    And you should NEVER allow your work to be gang run with other work. When the press crew is running the job, their only focus should be on the quality of your piece, nothing else.

    In today's very competitive print market, the client holds all the cards. Keep that in mind when looking at printing companies.

    I would recommend a plant visit for any new printer your looking at. If you walk in and theres buckets catching water from a leaky roof and there is duct tape holding the press together, walk right back out.
  11. btbrossard macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2008
    If your talking about price, digital is going to be cheaper. Plates are expensive, and, of course, you don't need any with a digital press.

    If your talking quality, offset (sheetfed for higher quality and heatset web for faster production) is going to look better (and rotogravure is going to look better than that).

    There, of course, are advantages to running digital. Up to 100% of your piece can change with each impression, something that can't be done with offset. If your running a flyer and want it personalized for each person it's going to, digital is for you.

    Most of the car brochure things your looking at were probably UV coated or at the least, varnished.
  12. mlblacy macrumors 6502

    Sep 23, 2006
    the REAL Jersey Shore

    The single biggest factor in printing is not plates, but scale/size of the run... Which translates into your cost per piece output. On a small job, your set up costs are disportionally large, so a digital job may be cheaper. However usually digital jobs are priced basically flat, so printing 10 would cost the same as 10,000 per piece.... Whereas on an offset run, your cost would decrease as the size of the run goes up, and then paper would likely be the biggest cost area, followed by bindery manipulations. Plates would be almost negligible.

    While you gain the luxury of micro customization on a digital press, the cost per piece is usually fairly high, and the quality below offset, or even your own inkjet printer. Not saying there isn't a place where digital is the only option, but the advent of digital printers brought a lot of offset folks to reexamine their pricing and business practices... And usually printers will have both as an option.

    My web printer provides hard copy proofs the next day, and I won't work with anyone that takes more than 3 days to process and ship a proof if a physical one is needed. In many ways the client is finally is control, and if you are not happy with the quality/ service it is easy to find a printer who actually wants/values your business, large or small.

    Let me amend my statement a bit... The biggest factor on cost will be time. You can easily double the overall cost with rush charges and expedited shipping...

  13. btbrossard macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2008
    I was refering to smaller runs, which what I imaging the original poster was talking about.

    Yes, if your running a large run, $800 in plates is a small part of the overall cost (assuming 64 inch sheetfed plates, 4/4, at $100/each).

    If your running 500 impressions, $800 in plates would be a very large part of the total bill, if not more than all other parts combined (prepress, ink, paper, press and bindery time).

    And I do agree with you, Michael, that the client is really in the drivers seat in today's print market. Printers today are producing work at the smallest margins ever seen and undercutting everyone else's prices on work that they would have not even let in the door before.

    That is, of course, a good thing for the client.
  14. madebyfletcher macrumors newbie


    Feb 6, 2011
    If you're ever in and around Baltimore, the best printing place would be Jeffery Press. They are awesome at their job, and very nice people. I highly suggest them.
  15. mlblacy macrumors 6502

    Sep 23, 2006
    the REAL Jersey Shore
    not to split hairs, but I thought he was citing larger companies, and car collateral... none of which I would imagine is done on a digital press. When the digital presses first came out there was great hoopla. Pricing is high, except for the fact that you can do 25 or 100, which can save a lot... compared to the minimum orders for offset work. Quality still sucks, or looks off, at least in my opinion. Each of the companies I listed has their own sweet spots, and are way cheaper on certain types of jobs. They also constantly offer huge discounts when they are slow, on specific types of jobs.
    Discounts of 25-60% are not uncommon (on top of pretty aggressive pricing), if you are lucky enough to have a need that matches an available discount.

    It is a good time to be a designer if you are savvy enough to work the sales to your advantage. I routinely pitch jobs to my clients when specials pop up...
    and its a win win, client saves money, and I get a job out of it...

    The margins are scary tight, but the efficiency is hugely improved over the days of yore, and that is a good thing. I don't miss the monthly all nighters waiting for proofs & revisions camped at our prepress company at all...
  16. btbrossard, Feb 15, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2011

    btbrossard macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2008
    The last company you posted (www.printingforless.com) was just recently on the cover of Printing Impressions, I believe. Looked like a good company to work for, if you live in the middle of nowhere Montana).


    My original post had a quote about digital sucking in terms quality. I was going to defend true digital presses (and not xerox laser printers), but I just don't have the energy. It's 2:15 AM, CST, after all...
  17. DesignerOnMac macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2007
    Offset will always give you the best quality, but I have had posters done with my printer that I could not tell any difference.

    Since your in Houston, you might want to try:


    1.800.794.5594 Ask for Shane Savage. He can send you samples.

    I have done business with Copycraft for years and I have had no issues. And if they screw up your job, they will reprint it for free......

    They have done flyers for me, stationary, 3 page 4C tourism brochures, and trifold brochures for me. I have never been disappointed with there proofs or their printing.

    Hope this helps.
  18. starzplacez macrumors member

    Jun 25, 2008
    Small world, I live and work in Houston too and I send off about 100K pcs of work to print on a monthly basis. I use a shop locally name NXMedia. People are friendly and extremely knowledgable. Depending on your print job size and if you want high quality and fast turnaround, I would recommend their HP Indigo printing. Fully-digital and that thing is sick!

    PM me if you want some contact information over there. And no, I don't work for them.. :eek:
  19. dazarooney macrumors newbie

    Jan 1, 2011
    Well said, I couldn't agree more.
  20. josh1231 macrumors regular

    Feb 24, 2010
    I have no idea on your quantities, but if you are doing extremely small runs of less than 10k, try a company like VistaPrint, or a small mom and pop printer that isn't using huge presses. When you're printing 1000 sheets a minute, and it takes 4 minutes to notice a quality problem, you're going to end up with some bad sheets.

    For small runs, use a small shop. You'll get better service, and more consistent quality.
  21. jeremy h macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2008
    Actually having read the OP's further posts - I think it sounds like they want just one or two prints of each job for their portfolio.

    I'd suggest they make friends with some one who's got a top notch inkjet with a postscript rip. Say a designjet or something.

    Get some proper inkjet heavy matt stock and you should get some brilliant results. (There will probably be some swearing and cursing at the Rip software and the usual inkjet frustrations with jammed paper - ink running out after 6 prints etc.) but the results will be great for a portfolio.
  22. mlblacy macrumors 6502

    Sep 23, 2006
    the REAL Jersey Shore
    If that is the case... I would buy a Canon Pro 9000 Mark II...
    Edge to edge 13x19s, speedy fast, beautiful output (drinks inks like a devil though). Use OEM ink and paper for easiest & consistent matching. You can find them pretty cheap on Ebay (new, in boxes). There was a promo that gave them away with the purchase of a certain camera back about six months ago. Canon also had a rebate program for $100 off for awhile (feeling guilty about the voracious ink consumption I'll wager).

    No RIP needed for most things these days (at least for print work). No jamming issues, as it has a straight feed tray you can use an an option. I run high rag watercolor paper with no problem. Just love the thing. My Epson took 30+ minutes for a 13x19, this is under 5 minutes... priceless.
  23. BBrandDesign macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2011
    I also love the quality of most printed materials, because quality is always better than quantity. MisterMe you said right. If you love the materials at a car dealership or anywhere locally, you must ask the responsible person for information. If you find a good one that shows you around and explain everything then you just need to ask.
  24. priceshirley macrumors newbie

    Feb 27, 2011
    My experience with an offset printer was bad. And I agree with ' jeremy h’ that though the company is big, it doesn’t mean they have the best printer. Cost always matters. Best quality material generally comes at a comparatively higher cost. Some of them may have their own printing equipment, but most of them give their printing jobs outside.
  25. 212rikanmofo thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 31, 2003
    Thanks to everyone for your advice and opinions. Let me clear a few things up. Jeremy is correct. I am only interested in printing maybe 1 or 2 copies of each job whether they are brochures, business cards, postcards, posters, etc. They are going in my portfolio so I don't need large quantities. With that being said my next question for you guys is, how do avoid putting your work on a gangrun? If I were to get let's say 2 copies of a brochure or multipage catalog at an offset printer, wouldn't it cost insanely high since I am not printing in high volume? At my work place we have leased 2 laser ink jets to do in-house printing for small jobs. Would it be a better idea for me to use the printers at work to print out stuff for my portfolio since I am only requiring a very low quantity for each job? The printers are a Xerox DocuColor 242 with a built-in fiery controller and the other one is an Ikon Business Class Pro 550. The odd thing is when I print a proof on those printers using RGB color in my print ready file, it comes out looking very vivid and vibrant whereas when I set my file to CMYK the printout comes out very dull and washed out. I'm guessing the only time you need to set your file to CMYK is when sending it out to an offset printer or digital press? Otherwise stick to RGB when printing on office laser jets or home inkjet printers.

    Another option would be for me to print my stuff at home since I already own a canon inkjet printer. It's your average all in one machine so it's nothing special. However my concern with that is, would it be possible to use heavier stock like 12 or 14pt for business cards and such? I'm not really a fan of that shiny UV coating and prefer the normal look which I assume is a regular non-gloss stock. I don't think I'll be able to print much from my home inkjet since most of my jobs would be printed on a thicker stock. So I guess printing at home is out of the question. Perhaps brochures would be the only thing I can do since that doesn't require thick stock. Not to mention printing a double sided job would probably be frustrating trying to get both sides to line up accurately. I guess my only bet is to do it at work then. Or perhaps kinkos?

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