Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Local or internet print vendor?

There are advantages in using a local print vendor versus going to the Internet.  I suggest you create your own file or even better get a graphics designer to do it.  Then have a local print vendor produce your print material.  A local printer will offer personal service, guarantee the work and make sure you get quality print materials that improve the image of your business.

You can place your orders with an internet print vendor and possibly save money.  However, you will not have personal support if your file is of poor quality, and end up with an unsatisfactory product that you paid for in advance. 

Some internet printers accept U.S and international orders and print them as group runs.  These orders are not always printed in the United States.   Which means their color adjustments may result in wrong color shades.  A printed piece with a blue sky may come to you with a purple sky instead.  Internet printers place limitations on what they offer.  Clients have to pick their layouts, papers and ink colors and do not get custom printed pieces.  Internet print firms offer lower prices because they run many orders from different clients on large sheets.  This mass volume process is cheaper but lacks quality controls. 

Shouldn’t we be buying local to help the San Antonio economy? You may pay a little more but you will be in full control.  Your marketing pieces will turn out the way you want them, which will raise the level of your professionalism.     

Friday, August 9, 2013

So, who owns your digital files?

You do, but only if you created your own computer files.  This does not necessarily hold true if you have a designer or print vendor create them.  The print industry trade customs state that files are tools of the trade. 

This is no different than if you contract a carpenter to build a wooden porch for you.  Let’s assume you have agreed to have the porch built for a certain amount of money.  What happens when the job is competed and you find out that the carpenter has extra nails and boards?  Are you going to ask him for the left over items or allow him to put them in his truck?   Was there something in writing on the estimate stating that you would recover any unused materials? 

This is the same principle with trusting your print or graphics vendor who created your digital files.   It must be stated clearly on the written estimate as to who owns those files especially with complex projects.  You may someday want to use those files again in some other fashion. You could ask for a copy of the file but if your print vendor gives you an Adobe PDF it may be useless if you have to make future edits.  It gets worse if you get unprintable Adobe PDF files. An unprintable Adobe PDF file is a digital proof that can be seen on the computer screen but will print as a hardcopy original.

 It can become very interesting when you wish to change designers or print vendors. Don’t be shocked if your vendor argues with you on releasing the files or charges you for locating and transferring your duplicate files. There are some sharks in our industry like any other profession, so buyer beware.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

To Bleed or Not to Bleed?

It is important to understand what bleeds mean in the print industry.  Some of you are talented or daring enough to create your own graphic files and I commend you for it.

Some of your print images flow all the way to one or all four sides of the final sheet size.  This design process is referred to as bleeds in graphics and print terms. 

Larger sheets than the finished size are used to print when there are bleeds.  A designed file is usually extended by 1/8-inch or larger on all sides when there are images that bleed.  An 8.5x11-inch sheet with bleeds is usually printed on either an 11x17-inch sheet or printed two-up on an 18 x 12-inch sheet and cut to 8.5x11-inch as the finished size. 

The process requires extra paper, cutting and graphic charges.  You can avoid some of these charges by setting up your images larger than the finished cut size.  Your print vendor will appreciate getting a print ready file.  Imagine that a customer wanted to print full color flyers for marketing reasons.  Below is an example of a flyer without image bleeds.  Notice the white margins around the image. 

Let’s imagine that a designer wants flyers with bleeds on four sides.  By extending the image by 1/8-inch on all four sides you end up with a well produced file.

Designers that use the 1/8-inch or larger bleed areas create the perfect file for a print vendor to produce and cut for them.

I encourage you to bleed your designs because they give print collateral a great professional look. Print the file with bleeds on your desktop printer and see for yourself how the images automatically get reduced. 

I believe that designers who want to use bleeds should consult with their commercial printer on image set up.  As well they should ask their printer what extra costs are incurred with images that require bleeds. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Paper, Electronic or Both?

Inviting people by electronic means appears to be the trend these days.  Long gone are the days of writing personal notes or invitations.  Reasons given for going electronic are that it is quick, easy and cheap.  That approach is Ok if you are reaching out to your close friends.  Unfortunately you don’t get good response results when inviting strangers to your special events.  Most people are flooded with emails and are too busy to read them. 
In my opinion, many companies and non-profit organizations are realizing that keeping print materials in their budgets yield much better response results.  My suggestion is to use both methods of inviting or informing people in your inner and outer circles. 
You can continue with email blasts only but run the risk of getting poor responses.  Or you can double up on your special events with proper printed material and increase your chances of having a successful get together.  If your concern is that we will run out of trees, then let me put your mind at ease.  Paper mills are committed to planting three trees for every tree they harvest.  The answer is that there will be more trees around for future generations to enjoy than today. 

 Yes, email blasts are inexpensive versus print and postage costs. But keep in mind, you get what you pay for and it may not be pretty. The last thing you want is to be the only one at your party!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Files: The good, the bad and just plain ugly!

Clients send me self created files that look marvelous on their high definition computer screen but these files look fuzzy when the files go to print.
Here are some tips that may help when sending files to your print vendor.

  1. The best quality comes from using TIFF, EPS or PDF files.
  2. To prevent ugly looking images, your file(s) should be a resolution no lower than 300 dpi(dots per inch) in grayscale or 1,200 dpi for bitmap (B/W) TIFF.
  3. Microsoft Office and Microsoft Publisher applications themselves are low-end graphics software. They will give you little to no control over several crucial settings and will not generate quality PDF’s.
  4. High-end graphics applications, such as Photoshop CS, Illustrator CS, Quark and Indesign are preferred. This software correctly creates PDF’s if you decide to submit them to your print vendor
  5.  If submitting a PDF, please make the file quality setting as “Press Quality” or “High QualityPrint”.
  6. Avoid sending JPG files, but do so if that is the only format available. Get with a graphics professional when quality is a must.  Customers should understand that JPG and low resolution Bitmap files will print as blurry images.
  7. Avoid scanning images or copying them from a website. This type of low resolution files look great on a computer screen but will not print very well.

     To prevent frustrations when creating digital files, calling a professional print            
      vendor for advice and help before creating your masterpiece.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Digital versus traditional printing.

Digital printing has been the buzz in the printing industry for several years.  Copier and software manufacturers introduced the process with the growth of personal computers.   In the last few years, color printing has gotten so good and affordable with PDF files that most customers overlook traditional printing.
The digital process uses four colors of dry powder toner to create all full color images.  The images are baked on paper sheets in the digital process.  In my view, there are two flaws with digital printing.  The process gets expensive when you get over 1,000 images per file.  The other is that that the images crack when sheets are folded since the images are baked on the surface.
Traditional printing involves oil or soy-based inks with water to produce clean images.  A plastic master sheet is created from a PDF file and used on a printing machine.  The machine creates clean images by combing soft inks with water and imprinting as the sheets go through, a rubber stamping process.  People of my generation may recall the mimeograph machines used in schools.  Traditional printing is a sophisticated process that replaced the old lead type presses and mimeograph machines.
Digital printing makes sense when a customer needs items right away and in small quantities.  The images come out dry and ready for wrapping. Traditional printing takes 24 to 48 hours for the images to dry before they can be handled without smearing. 
The example below will give you a rough idea of approximate cost of the two processes for most print firms. The prices are based on 8.5x11 sheets printed on one side in full color.
25 digital printed sheets will run around $12.25
25 traditional printed sheets will run around $250
1,000 digital printed sheets will run around $270
1,000 traditional printed sheets with run around $295
2,000 digital printed sheets will run around $500
2,000 traditional printed sheets with run around $375
As you can see, traditional printing becomes more cost effective over digital as the customer increases the quantities. 

Monday, June 3, 2013


There is much misunderstanding about the impact of paper and, by implication, print on paper to the environment. Here are some facts to consider before rushing to the conclusion that print on paper contributes significantly to the destruction of forests.
  • Trees from tropical forests are not specifically harvested for paper. Of all the trees cut from the world's forests, 53 percent is used for fuel, 28 percent is used for lumber, and 11 percent is used directly by the paper industry.1
  • Of the 11 percent for paper, overall, 33 percent comes from virgin trees, 33 percent comes from wood chips and scrap from sawmills, and 33 percent comes from recycled paper.2

  • 65.1 percent of the paper consumed in the United States in 2012 was recovered for recycling.3

  • Of the paper consumed in the United States, about 90 percent is produced here.4

  • 91 percent of the trees consumed in the United States to make paper comes from privately owned forests,5 which give private landowners a financial incentive to grow trees rather than sell off their land for other uses.

  • Private landowners in the United States plant about 4 million trees every day, as a result, forest growth exceeds harvest by 37 percent.6
In the end, from sustainable forests to the renewable nature of trees and recyclability of paper, the paper and printing industries have a positive environmental story to tell—one in which print on paper and healthy forests go hand-in-hand.
At my business, we are very conscious of how to use recycled papers for the best results.  If you have questions, please contact me.

1Causes of Deforestation, Direct Causes, Earth Observatory/NASA (2009).
2US EPA, Office of Solid Waste, “Where do the papermaking materials come from?”
3American Forest & Paper Association,
4Dan Burden, “Forest Profile,” Agricultural Marketing Research Center, 2009 (rev. by Milinda Geisler, 2011.
5American Forest & Paper Association,
6International Paper,