Micro-run offset printing for CD inserts.
December 16, 2013 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone offer opinions on reputable offset printers for CD inserts in short-run or micro-run quantities (50-100 copies)?

I'd like to do a run of anywhere from 50-100 (4/4, 2-panel) CD inserts to complement my Bandcamp page, but I'd like to do offset instead of digital printing. I see a few different places that purportedly offer the service, but I'd like to hear recommendations and first-hand anecdotes from the AskMe crowd. Your thoughts?
posted by mykescipark to Media & Arts (4 answers total)
Things may have changed since last time I did a project like this. But in my experience, all of the places that do short run "offset" printing are using "digital offset" devices like HP Indigos. The first time I did it, probably 6 or 7 years ago, I wasn't thrilled with the quality. The most recent one I did was about a year ago, and the quality was great. I'm not sure if that's an improvement in the technology, or just that the place I used the first time wasn't very good. But good quality is definitely available. Is that something you're interested in, or are you set on true, traditional offset?
posted by primethyme at 6:14 PM on December 16, 2013

Response by poster: No digital offset. Thanks for asking!
posted by mykescipark at 6:33 PM on December 16, 2013

In L.A. I use nextdayflyers.com. They're not that far from you and their website has great, easy to use templates for all their products. Minimum seems to be 100 for cd inserts, but in higher quantity the prices drop considerably. IIRC they use Heidelberg presses and the results are really top-notch and professional...great color reproduction and etc. If you have any doubts you could easily go there and look at samples.

(Note: not sure if 'traditional' offset printing is what they offer (pretty sure it's not) but the results are indistinguishable. Also, traditional offset printing has set-up costs that are out of your price range, trust me ($thousands...metal plates, photographic chemicals,proof runs), and are mostly being replaced/have been replaced by digital counterparts (like the Heidelberg) that are faster, cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and produce a better product...I think what you're actually trying to avoid is the (many) disreputable shops that try to pass off ink-jet printing as 'digital offset' ...I've been burned by them, too...Nextdayflyers knows what they're doing and their results look identical to what I see on the computer screen)
posted by sexyrobot at 6:58 PM on December 16, 2013

So wait. You're getting 50, 4/4, 5inch by 5inch squares printed. (Or did you mean 4 panel?)

A sheet-fed offset press will take sheets about 28x40 inches, so you'd get about 40up (per sheet). You want someone to make 8 plates, set up the press, dial in the plate colors, (which will take about 30 waste sheets to do, btw) and then run only 2 sheets through the press, let them dry, change the plates, dial in the inks again, run them back through the press, then cut them out? You might find someone willing to do this, but they would likely go ahead and print 100 sheets, then throw away the balance and charge you for all of it. Plus an annoyance fee.

I think it might be important to know why you're deadset on offset. I can think of 2 reasons: nostalgia or quality concerns.

If you're going after the nostalgia factor of offset, I'd consider finding an art screen printing or letterpress shop. They'd be expensive runs but probably cheaper than offset and you'd be paying for something way cooler. Hell, get someone to carve woodblocks, hand write, or do potato prints for just 50 books!

As for quality, you realize you could go get a 1400 dpi photographic quality print for way cheaper and way higher quality?

Having said all that, if you really are deadset on offset, at least design a cool poster booklet 24 panel, map folded. Throw a metallic or neon ink in there. Make a decent sized order. Pay $5,000+ for it. Get 50 folded, the rest flat. Stuff your CDs with the folded, and sell/give away/wheatpaste the flat.
posted by fontophilic at 6:39 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

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