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The Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Printer for Your Design Project

One of the final steps to a great collateral design project is having the opportunity to print your work for your Client to showcase. Regardless of how beautiful the design may look digitally, having it published, and by the right company, is where you have to do some research. What’s the big deal with proper print jobs? Accolades and ultimate customer satisfaction! So, where do you start? If you don’t already have a trusted printer, you may just open up your browser, Google “printing company” and be completely overwhelmed by the millions of results that pop up. Then, you start seeing all these crazy numbers and paper types that throw you down a bigger rabbit hole. Do you need a 4/1 print on 100# semi-gloss text? Or did the Client say they wanted a 4/4 print on 14pt soft touch aqueous coated cardstock? What do all these numbers mean anyway?

If you are asking yourself these questions before you even find a printer, you are following the process backward. The first step before you start any print job is getting clear, concise direction from your Client on specifications, final copy and assets, and a print budget. Once you finalize these elements, you are ready to find the right printing company that can answer all those crazy number questions for you and delivers a final product that your Client will be thrilled to show off. So, what does it take to find the right company? Here are some guidelines our team has followed when qualifying printers:

Tour a Facility (or two…or three)

Even if you decide to go with an online printer (make sure to get samples beforehand!) you will benefit tremendously from touring an actual print house. Seeing the variety of machines and watching a print run will give you knowledge for future printing projects of the process involved with each design. It will also give you an idea of how your job is being produced and give you a feel for the vendor as a whole. Is the vendor polite, well-spoken, answers your questions and doesn’t try to push you out the door? That’s someone we would recommend establishing a relationship with because their hospitality is a good indication of the customer service you will receive down the line.

Check Their Previous Work

Whether you are choosing an online printing company or a local print house, make sure to always get samples of their paper types and previous print jobs. If you are at the facility, you can quickly ask for samples there, and they may even pull one hot off the press! If you are thinking about an online printer, you can request samples from their website to receive a labeled paper sample book or even overrun samples from old print jobs.

Why do you need samples? You want to make sure the company is credible, produces stellar work, and is high quality. Bend the paper samples you receive, does the paper tear easily? Look closely at the old production samples, does the print appear pixelated? Drop some water on the paper, does the ink run immediately? Asking all of these questions before you commit to a printer will save you time, money, and Client satisfaction in the long-run!

Date Around & Compare Vendors

Once you have narrowed down a few printer companies (we recommend a minimum of three), dig deeper into their background and who they are. You can do this by reading reviews online, asking for references of other companies they have worked with, and checking their social media accounts to see how engaging they are. Once you find the right printer, make sure to stay loyal. Finding a trustworthy printer that knows what you expect and building a relationship can be mutually beneficial. Also, the more you print, the better the incentives could be – faster turnaround time, volume discounts, and even multiple proofs at no extra cost!

Embrace Green Printing! (Not Literally)

Creating a paperless environment is heavily stressed in many businesses, but for marketing collateral or other essential documents, using paper as a tool is still prevalent. However, going green at the printing level, where any little bit that you can contribute back to Mother Nature, makes an impact. Look into your printer’s green credentials – do they have partnerships and certifications with FSC or SGP? Are they offsetting their carbon footprint through Carbonfund or Sterling Planet? These affiliations show that even though the printer is, well a printer, they are still doing their part of being as “green” as possible.

Choose the Correct Format

When you determine your Client’s specifications from the beginning, the step of finding a printer that has the right size requirements for your print job narrows down your list significantly. Are you just printing a small quantity project? Digital printers are the best option for lower quantities because they print straight from your file, with minimal setup on their end. Large-scale printers, though higher quality, are more expensive in this case because they have to create custom plates, and cost-wise, it doesn’t make sense for the quantity you are printing. There are tons of smaller print houses that specialize in digital print jobs.

Are you printing a large quantity project? Larger print houses utilize offset lithography to help you create gorgeous, vibrant results in large quantities with fun additives such as spot colors, foil embossing, and even glitter prints!


Choosing the right printer can seem overwhelming when you consider all the factors above. It can be tempting to go with the cheapest, fastest option, but that’s not what this process is about. Finding the right printer is about going the extra mile for your Client’s to show them that from initial design to printed product, your company can create a work of art.

Author: Justin Tucker

Project Ninja, the Man Behind the Curtain, your not-so-average jawn, Justin Tucker does just about everything at eMedia except wear shoes. As Operations Manager, Justin makes sure our clients and employees are happy, oversees all designs that go out the door and stays on top of projects.

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