Paper & Ink – Searching for Printers

Believe it or not, it’s been three months since I started up Manylion Bach | Little Details Design and things are going well. There’s still a lot more work need to be done (mostly boring paperwork) but I’m getting a steady flow of work that is manageable while working full time.

There’s one task I need to do on a ‘sooner rather than later’ basis and that is finding and trying out some printing companies. So here goes…

In the last 18 months, I have been using a local printer to print wedding stationery for my customers and they have given me brilliant customer service and the finished printed items are just stunning. After being out of the graphic design industry for a few years, I was out of the loop in the latest and new printing techniques, developments in printing technology as well as what paper stock is available so I thank them for re-educating me and putting up with my stupid questions.

While I was working on own wedding stationery, I realised why I studied and loved graphic design in the first place – it’s the little details like using the best paper stock, doing special finishes like foil and embossing, folding and cutting techniques etc. And the whole printing process is really fascinating between digital and litho.

I’m a bit anal about print quality – I was never happy with the print quality of my Epson printer when I was a student so I spent a small fortune getting my artwork printed at my university’s Print Studio. I was always after a flawless printed finish to make my artwork look it’s best at my end of year exhibition.

I’m a great believer in investing time and money into a good printer and paper stock. You can have the best artwork or graphic design but it will look rubbish when printed onto a basic 80gsm white paper (typical paper you buy for your home printer). Investing in good paper stock and a good printer helps to make your artwork ‘pop’ or look luxurious.

Next time you’re out shopping, just look, feel and compare the difference of greeting cards from Clinton versus Papercase. Or the difference between the ‘Everyday Value/Basic’ vs ‘Finest/The Best’ food packaging in your local supermarket. See what I mean?

Finding a really good printer that can offer a range of paper stock and different printed finishes can be challenging as there are not many that can offer everything under one warehouse. I’ve been very lucky with finding my local printer as they can do more of less anything I have requested, from die cutting, embossing and foil finishes.

After reading a business article a few weeks ago about supply chain, I had a worrying thought:

  1. What would happen if the printer goes bankrupt?
  2. What would happen if the printer cease trading?
  3. What if they can’t deliver on time?
  4. What am I going to go if they can’t print my requirements?
  5. What happens when they have a two week shutdown for holidays and I need something printed urgently?

I needed a back up plan. I can’t rely on one printer for all of my printing requirements.

So, over the weekend I’ve done a fair bit of researching on the internet and found a number of local printers but many are specialised in high volume litho printing such as flyers and brochures, large format printing like posters or don’t offer special finishes. Not many offer small volume or small printed items or if they do, are not affordable for my customers.

There are a number of online only printers available and some may make my shortlist of suitable printers. They are:

Exaprint www.exaprint.co.uk

Exaprint Box
Exaprint Box
Paper Stock Book - swoon!
Paper Stock Book – swoon!
Exaprint Box - Catalogue, samples and paper stock book
Exaprint Box – Catalogue, samples and paper stock book

Instantprint www.instantprint.co.uk

Instaprint Sample Pack
Instaprint Sample Pack
Instaprint Samples - ooooh
Instaprint Samples – ooooh

Printed.com www.printed.com

Lovely love touchy feely paper from printed.com Wedding Collection
Lovely love touchy feely paper from printed.com Wedding Collection

By online printers, I mean they exclusive operate on the internet, you don’t have a account manager or a shop/warehouse you can turn up to see a staff member. A slight disadvantage here as you don’t have a dedicated contact at the printer or any face to face, telephone or email interaction, however they do send out a free sample pack of cardstock and previous examples of printed items.

I feel like a bit bad researching into other printers as I try to remain loyal and use local suppliers as much as I can. But, it’s also healthy to see what other printers are out there and what other services they can offer. I have to admit, I have been a bit lazy in the last few weeks by sending all of my artwork to my local printer and not shop around to get the best quotes. It’s partly down to being time poor – I’m busy and it’s easier to send everything to one printer.

However, after looking at the online printers I’ve listed above and requested for some example quotes, they all have come back significantly cheaper than my local printer. A bit of a face in palm moment, trying not to break down and cry. Yes, I’ve been a mug – I could have saved money by going elsewhere and passed on those savings to my customers. Oh well, it’s part of the learning curve of setting up a business I suppose.

Saying that, the online printers may be cheaper however the ultimate test is to test out their printing quality, speed of dispatch and their customer service. They have already won me over with sending me paper porn, sorry I meant sample packs, but the true test is to upload the artwork to their website, submit my order and wait for the delivery.

I feel quite passionate in finding and using the best printer available in order to gain a reputation of producing high quality yet affordable wedding stationery for my customers. Therefore, I may decide to pay more just for getting a better customer service experience.

Going forwards, I’ve decided that I’m going to test one of the printers in the next week or so with a wedding stationery order, where the customer has requested card stock with a shimmer/pearlescent finish but to a budget of £100. I’ve already obtained a quote from my local printer for this order and it’s way above budget, so this is the perfect opportunity to try out a new printer.

A review of the chosen online printer and showcase of the wedding stationery will follow in the next few weeks – watch this space!

 

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