Should You Expect Quality From Online Printers?
Online printers are becoming increasingly popular as a way of producing high-volume prints at low prices. Some online printers will even offer free printing if they can put their logo on your materials. Such prices appeal to small companies with tight marketing budgets that need to make every cent count.
Economies of scale allow online printers can offer their services so cheaply. These online printers take similar jobs and print them in bulk. In general, the more pieces they print, the cheaper each job becomes.
One of the most appealing features of online printing is that they accept orders 24/7, which can be convenient for groups that work in different time zones. It’s important to note that 24/7 ordering doesn’t translate to faster turnaround times, and when combined with shipping time, a local printer may be able to do the job faster than an online printer.
Online printing companies rely on ganging various jobs from many different customers into one print run in order to gain economy of scale. And typically, these jobs are run large offset presses that require metal plates to be produced and use less environmentally friendly inks. This means all the jobs in a run are looked at for overall quality of the run and not the quality of your particular project.
Online printers also don’t offer a guarantee on their quality. Quality checking would interfere with their ability to process thousands of requests daily. Instead, they rely on their process and assume that most prints will come out with acceptable quality.
Advantages of Online Printers
Online printers do offer some advantages over local printers. These include:
- Price: Online printers can offer cheaper prices.
- Convenience: Online printing websites allow you to order 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Economy on larger quantities: Due to their production methods, online printers can offer economical pricing on longer runs jobs.
The Drawbacks of Online Printers
Online printers rely on standardized runs of similar projects to keep prices low.
- Won’t accept non-standard sized projects
- Difficult to talk to anyone if you have questions about your order
- Many times, the shipping costs can add substantially to your final invoice
- Turnaround times can be longer when you add in the shipping transit time
- Quality can be an issue. If the job needs to be rerun you’ve lost valuable time waiting for the replacement batch
Lack of Customization
The most significant problem with using online printers is the lack of customization. Graphic designers and marketers want to make products that stand out, which becomes almost impossible when using online printers.
Online printers have set sizes that they accept, and they’ll reject anything that doesn’t conform to these sizes. The problem can get even worse, as some of the standard sizes used by online companies aren’t standard at all.
For instance, Vistaprint’s business cards are smaller than the standard business card size. Not only does this look cheap, but it means you have to adjust your design before sending it to them. Working with sizes outside the standard can be frustrating for experienced graphic designers who prefer traditional sizing.
This lack of custom printing extends to paper choices as well. In general, most online printers only have one or two paper choices. These paper choices can suit some uses but won’t work for others, and you don’t have the option to go with something else.
Lack of Quality Control
The only way online printers can offer inexpensive printing is by removing the oversight process. Unlike local printers, which often spend time tweaking the press to ensure your project meets the highest standard possible, online printers rely on getting massive quantities of jobs through their presses. As such, there is no time allocated for on press quality changes.
One of the most common issues facing online printers is color reproduction. It’s tough to accurately and consistently reproduce a specific color, even if you specify the CMYK values. Due to the batch production nature of online printing, you can’t be assured that your PMS 192 logo color will actually be printed with the correct values.
Consistency is essential in commercial printing, and it’s one area where online printers often fail. You may get an overall pleasing color but often that color can vary from one job to the next.
No Personal Contact
Custom printing jobs require communication between the client and the printer. Most buyers of print are not experts and often don’t know the lingo used in the printing industry. If you are placing your order online you’ll be forced to select job specs from a pull down menu and often you may not be sure what your being asked to select. Using a local you can pick the brain of your account representative who most likely has many years of experience and can make suggestions which result in a high quality end product.
If your business doesn’t have a dedicated graphic design team, you may find yourself missing the personal contact from a local printer. Local printers notice common design mistakes and stop them from going to print. You can’t expect to get that type of service from an online printer.
Why a Local Custom Printer is Better
When you run a “printer near me” search, go with the local printing company whenever possible. Online printers offer two advantages over local printers:
affordability and speed. However, while their products may be cheaper at first, you need to factor in shipping costs, too. If you live across the country from the online printer, you may find that it’s cheaper and faster to work with a local printer.
If you do a lot of custom design, a local printer has more to offer. High-quality printing requires experience and a willingness to put in the time and effort to get results. Local printers take pride in their work and are more likely to have the materials and printing equipment you need.
Local printers are more flexible than their online competitors. They offer a range of paper choices or other printable materials and can handle any size you throw at them. Most printers offer a wide range of services to suit your needs.
Even if you factor in cost and convenience, local printers often win out. However, local printers offer you one thing that no online printing business can: a relationship. Unlike online digital printing, where you’re one of the thousands of faceless clients, local printers get to know you and your business personally.
Creating and maintaining a relationship with your printer can be a huge advantage. Experienced printers pick up on small design mistakes and help you correct them before printing. They’ll also get to know your business and work with you to meet your custom printing needs.