How to Choose a Print Vendor
The print industry is a vast landscape of complicated machinery, print practices and skills. That’s why we’ve put together this list of things to look for in a commercial printer – so that you don’t have to be an expert to hire an expert.
What you’re looking for may shift depending on your role and objective, but generally, we find there are 4 key characteristics that separate the print-professionals from the imitators:
A vendor’s ability to discuss project details, like timeline, budget and application is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a printer. Often when things go wrong it’s because of an assumed understanding or the lack of clear explanation. Great communication will reduce errors, confusion, create faster turnaround times and greatly increase the chances of your project turning out the way you envisioned it.
Different print jobs require different kinds of print shops. Ask if your print vendor has experience with the type of printing you need done. This is especially important with more complicated projects like custom car-wraps or certain types of retail signage.
Experience equals trust. Trust that your job will come in on time, on budget and without any 11th-hour complications. If a printer doesn’t have experience with the kind of job you require, we recommend leaving additional time for any unforeseen complications.
Does your sales rep answer when you call? What is the print shop’s proofing system like? Can you submit your graphic files online? When deadlines are short and budgets are tight, mistakes can carry significant consequences. Chances are you have enough on your plate to worry about without having to wonder if your call will be returned in time or if the files you sent are in the right format.
What constitutes high quality? That depends on what you’re having printed, but some basic things to ask about when determining how good print shops are:
- Color: If you’re printing a one-off, color may not be that important to you. If you’re printing multiple versions of the same thing, color and color consistency are crucial. Ask your printer about color management and what they do to ensure consistency across multiple print processes.
- Material/Media: A good print vendor will ask you about your project, then help you choose the right material, media and/or inks for the job so the finished product lives a long and productive life, giving you the most return for your investment.
- Installation / Kitting & Fulfillment: Finishing the job is one thing. Packaging, delivering and installing the finished product is something else entirely. A late delivery or bad installation can end up costing you time and money. Ask about your printers kitting and fulfillment process, as well as if they have experience installing your type of job.
At the end of the day, the relationship between a printer and a client should be a partnership. Your printer should work with you from start to finish, making sure the end product is the best possible solution for your needs.