Choosing a print provider: What matters?

It’s clear the print world has gone through a sea change over the past decade. Advances in design and imaging software, the emergence of a PDF workflow, and the new presence of online printing have produced an industry that veteran designers hardly recognize.

The industry appears to be splitting into two camps. The first camp offers “good-enough quality” with speed, a 24/7 interface and/or low-cost defining the value proposition. The second focuses on high quality, technical support and customer service with marketing impact delivering the value.  Both offer value to the print buyer, but in different ways.


We’d like to know what capabilities and resources are most important when you evaluate a printer for a project.  Does your criteria change depending on the project or client? Feel free to mention special features that make your favorite printer stand-out.

Please give us your insights in the comment box and we’ll follow-up with a summary. Thanks in advance.



3 Discussions on
“Choosing a print provider: What matters?”
  • I like to see some real printed examples – what the printer is most proud of so I can see the quality and care they take with their customers.

    I often ask for guidance from printers – the ones that really care are the ones that collaborate with you from the start to make sure you get the absolute best result on press.

  • On our most important projects, we are very selective about who we give the job to. We use a small circle of companies we work well with and who consistently produce great results. When we do decide to bring in a new supplier, or if our clients ask us to work with their printer, we ask these questions:

    1. How good is their color department? We rely on the printer to handle retouching and color corrections and experience definitely shows that some are better than others.
    2. Are they G7 certified? If they are, we know they calibrate their presses a and fingerprint them for different paper stocks. They are also able to generate accurate proofs, especially on uncoated stock.
    3. Is the sales rep knowledgeable and in touch with all aspects of the job? And do members of the management team stay involved as the job progresses?
    4. Do they have enough presses to handle jobs with multiple forms and long runs. The ability to run press approvals on more than one press at a time can reduce those wearying through-the-night press runs.
    5. Finally, and most importantly, do they treat the job like it’s their own — doing what it takes to maximize the finished result — rather than just pushing it far enough for the client to say OK.

    Of course, other features are nice, such as functional customer lounges and lunches at great restaurants, but not nearly as much as the others.

  • Of course, seeing printed samples is key. I need to see that they can do a great design justice with great printing before I can trust them with one of mine.

    I love working with printers that can be (and want to be) hands-on from the beginning of the design process. I might have a great idea of how something should be structured, but they’re the ones that can tell me if it will work like a charm, or if the final product won’t come out as I had envisioned.

    For high-end jobs (and particularly jobs printing on uncoated paper), I look to the prepress department for help with preparing images to print their best. There’s only so much I can do on my end to prepare photos to run well on their equipment and on a particular paper. They know exactly what adjustments to make to avoid muddiness, bring out the best color, deepest blacks and sharpest detail.

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