Many of our clients weigh the pros and cons of online printing. How do you know if it’s right for you?
Compared to traditional printing, online printing is still in its infancy, having gained significant ground in just the last several years. Today, there is a plethora of companies that offer printing services online. With super-low pricing and quick turnarounds, they offer a highly compelling option for businesses looking to trim costs in challenging economic times.
But what’s the true cost of this option? To get a better sense, you need to understand how these printers operate and decide if the corners they cut are ones that you can live with (or without).
Online printers are all about volume. They run multiple print jobs on one large sheet of paper, often 30” to 40”. That means your 4”x9” rack card will be printed with a variety of other print projects: postcards, folded cards, business cards, etc. Sheets are rushed quickly through the press one after another, using methods that allow the highest level of efficiency, and presses are calibrated to just one type and weight of paper, so there’s little fuss. Using this type of printing, you’ll take advantage of quantity discounts usually reserved for high-volume orders, but here’s the rub: you’ll most likely sacrifice in the areas of choice and quality control.
As for choice, you’re quite limited with online printers, as they offer few options for the size of your printed piece, the paper it’s printed on, and the finish (coating) it gets. You’re often stuck with one paper color and weight, and forget custom inks, textured papers, or specialized printing techniques.
If you’re focused on quality and consistency, you’re likely to be disappointed with online printing. Colors and print quality tend to vary from one print run to the next, so you’ll need to be aware that the logo and brand graphics on your stationery package, for instance, may not look perfectly consistent from letterhead to business card to brochure. In addition, the CMYK (full color) printing by online vendors is created with a relatively low line screen compared to high-end local printers. This can cause photos to appear somewhat coarse, and fine lines, light text, and intricate graphics often appear less crisp or solid.
But other times they’re just fine. If you’re flexible on some factors, online printing may be a reasonable solution for you. We’ve saved a lot of money for our clients over the last few years using online print vendors, and our sophisticated design work often makes up for the lower quality of budget printing. Your timeline might also be a deciding factor that sends you to online printing. With some of these vendors offering 24-hour processing, we’ve made many tight deadlines that were not possible using a local printer.
So, if you’re fastidious about details and need your printed materials to reflect the quality of your business, allow for a bit more money and time and opt for a local offset printer. If budget or timing is more important, give online printing a try. For the best results, make sure to have Stride handle your print management, as we do all we can to ensure that each print job is handled with the utmost care.