Dealing with printers

The first thing to remember about printers is that they are craftspeople. They know about printing (especially in their area of expertise - as colour printers, book printers, package label printers etc.) Tap into their expertise by establishing a working relationship with them. Discuss your needs. They can be very helpful and are great sources of advice. Be assertive, but not pushy.

The second thing about printers is that they are busy, usually over-worked, tradespeople. They aren't artists or editors. You can't expect them to exercise any discrimination or think for themselves about the subtleties of you publication, they've got enough to think about with the printing. They'll do what you tell them to, no more. That's why your instructions should be in writing - so they can easily follow exactly what you want them to do. Your instructions should be super-clear; write whatever is needed on each piece of artwork and again on a separate covering letter. Don't be ambiguous. If you are not sure discuss it in detail with the printer. Don't be ashamed to show your ignorance - keep asking questions until you understand.

The third thing to remember about printers is that you are in a contractual relation with them. Your instructions to them are part of your contract. That's another reason why all instructions should be in writing. Keep a copy.

Choosing the right printer

Always get two or three quotes from different printers. Prices vary widely. Generally instant printers are cheaper for short print-runs and traditional printers cheaper for long print-runs. Screen-printers are for very short print-runs.

Never send work to a printer without a quote in advance. Make sure the quote includes tax (20% on everything except books, unless you are tax exempt). Books may be eligible for Book Bounty (see box on page 17).

Different sorts of printers suit different types of jobs-

If your job is -

  • A few hundred sheets of A4.
  • it yourself on a photocopier.
  • A print-run of 200 to 2,000, without photos, or full-colour, sizes of A3 or less.
  • instant printer is best.
  • A print-run of over 2,000 or where photos or full-colour is required or where size is larger than A3.
  • a traditional ("offset") printing company. Shop around for the best price.

Leave enough time

To be safe give printers advance warning of your job so they can book it into their printing schedule. Printing times vary according to the type of job -

Instant printers:

  • unfolded fliers: 2-3 days
  • more complex jobs: 3-4 days.

Other printers:

  1. Black and white leaflets or magazines: 1-3 weeks
  2. Colour brochures: 2-5 weeks depending on complexity.
  3. Books: up to 8 weeks.