How to I pay someone to clone this sticker?
January 31, 2007 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I have one (color, custom diecut) sticker. I want to turn it into many stickers. The sticker places on the web are astoundingly not helpful for custom work like this. Should I be chasing down a local printer, and if so, which one? There's some additional complication, too.

I've got a nice sticker from a long-dead company, Elephant Memory Systems, in great condition. Now I'd like to reproduce it as best as possible. This includes the image itself, a similar custom die, and the nicest quality material I can afford. I've never specified or purchased a print run of any kind from anyone, but I'm pretty sure if I just strut into Kinko's and say "turn this sticker into N-hundred stickers exactly like it," they're going to laugh me out of the store for several reasons:

First, I don't own the trademark for the logo or a copyright to the art. It's a dead trademark and Elephant has been out of business for years. I don't expect them to come back from the grave and hassle me, but I wouldn't know how to reassure a printer that nobody's going to sue them for making this stuff.

Also, I don't have anything approaching the type of original data typically used by printers to do their work. I have no files, no separations, no nothing. I have a sticker.

Similarly, I'm not interested in making an enormous, expensive run. These stickers are for my personal use and to give to friends and such over the next many years. As such, I can't imagine needing a quantity in the thousands at all. If the transaction goes relatively smoothly this time, I might consider placing another order for some nice Commodore C= symbol stickers, but that's for another day.

For the TLDR crowd, the actual question: So how do you, good folks who have dealt with custom stickers and can offer me advice beyond mere conjecture, suggest I go about printing stickers with a design I don't own, using only a single sticker as source material? I've looked at the various online sticker companies, and they seem to expect me to either be a print professional -- I'm very much not -- or offer fairly limited options in terms of cut, color, or design. Is a small local printer the right way to go about this? If so, that raises another huge question: which one? I live in the Bay Area and the number of little print shops out there is vast, yet I know nothing about them beyond that simple fact.
posted by majick to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Before you do anything, you need find out if anyone still owns the copyright.

Then, call a print broker. They are your best bet for finding a great local printer in your area to do custom sticker work.

If you print the sticker and you don't own the design and you are caught selling it. IT WILL COME BACK TO YOU and you will be liable to the copyright holder for damages and legal fees. Be safe, do a copyright search first.
posted by parmanparman at 11:36 AM on January 31, 2007

I really don't think a print broker will have much to do with such a limited quantity. For these kind of numbers, find a friend/source who can scan the sticker at high resolution, and then you can print them out on adhesive (sticker) paper. It won't be as durable as your sticker, but perhaps that's not an issue.
Also, YOU take the responsibility of copyright issues, it's not the printers. (I totally agree with parmen that you need to find out about the copyright).
posted by artdrectr at 11:41 AM on January 31, 2007

Response by poster: To clarify: The image in question is a dead trademark. The USPTO considers it "DEAD". The company no longer exists. I'm utterly and completely content to accept liability for requesting the print job and will cheerfully sign anything to that effect.

"If you print the sticker and you don't own the design and you are caught selling it."

I'm not selling the resulting printed product or any product containing the image. Apart from the purchase of printing services, there is no commercial aspect to this project whatsoever. The end result will be a drawer full of stickers for my personal use and that I might give to friends if they request one.

I'd be happy to print five or six of them, but I can't imagine a printer will even want to talk to me for such a ridiculously tiny quantity, so I'll buy a few hundred.

Now that the copyright scolds have had their say, can someone talk about printing?
posted by majick at 11:49 AM on January 31, 2007

For what it's worth, TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) says the various versions of "Elephant Memory Systems" are dead.

As for reproducing it, Contagious Graphics will do it end-to-end for you. Or you can do some of the steps (like scanning and converting to usable file format) to save some $.

Their minimum run on custom die-cut is 500 pieces.

Sign me up for one, btw.
posted by jdfan at 11:51 AM on January 31, 2007

Here's more info about Contagious' custom die-cut service. Note their recommendation for the "poor-man's die-cut".

I have used Contagious in the past for simple stickers (their least expensive service).
posted by jdfan at 11:54 AM on January 31, 2007

I work at a print shop in the Bay Area and I know a few sticker printers. I'm sorry to say this, but you're almost assured to be SOL if you're looking for quality work. Here's why...

a) As stated above, you don't own the copyright. Printer's have to look out for copyright infringement because they're partially liable if there's any legal questions. I have to constantly be on guard against people wanting to print images they don't have the legal right to copy. Already addressed, by the looks of things.

b) Provided you can find a sticker printer that's willing to print the stickers, the cheapest way to reproduce the image will be to scan it and print from the scan. This will most likely result in a very low-quality image. I have to do this all the time for people who have lost their original art or who have never had digital files in the first place, and the results are uniformly poor unless...

c) You can have a graphic artist friend recreate the art for you from a scan. If you ask the printer to clean scanned artwork up they'll likely charge you $50 - $75 per hour to do so.

d) Custom die cutting is hugely, hugely expensive. Expect to pay $100 for the die alone. Chances are you're going to have to skip this luxury.

e) If you're looking for a short run of stickers (less than 500 or so) you're going to want a digital printer, 'cause it won't be cost-effective for you or the printer to ink up the press for less than 1000 stickers.

Your best bet is to take a print-ready file into Kinko's and have them print the sticker on pre-cut sticker paper. I may be able to help you with converting the image to a high-quality, print-ready graphic if you have a scan already. My email and IM is in my profile if you want to discuss.
posted by lekvar at 12:05 PM on January 31, 2007

My fiancee's family owns a custom vinyl sign shop. Die cut and all... :) If you could send me the graphic, I could get a small run quote for you.
posted by santojulieta at 12:07 PM on January 31, 2007

Shot in the dark. If you get the artwork squared away (sticker scanned and cleaned up in photoshop) and then printed on a nice quality paper, perhaps something like this would satisfy your needs not too expensively. If you think one of the Xyron machines might work for you, look for a 40 or 50% off coupon from Joann Fabrics. I had one show up as a pop up just now, when I was searching the site.
posted by jvilter at 12:28 PM on January 31, 2007

Response by poster: jamaro: Thank you! The image you linked to depicts the sticker I'm hoping to reproduce; fortunately my sticker is in somewhat better condition than that guy's. At this very early starting point I certainly don't have original art, film, or separations: I have quantity one (1) sticker in good shape, and several objects I'd like to sticker it to.

I'm prepared to live with a certain amount of degradation in quality because of the limits of the source material, although it would certainly be nice to get better-than-hideous results.

Your pointer to Rollin Binzer as the designer is pure gold. Before I head much more down the road of production, I'll see if I can track this person down.
posted by majick at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2007

Response by poster: I've attempted to establish contact with Bob in hopes that he either (a) has a bunch of stickers already, which would be perfectly satisfactory for me; or (b) is OK with small-scale reproduction for personal use.

Thank you so much for the investigative legwork!
posted by majick at 4:01 PM on January 31, 2007

Wow! Blast from the past. I don't have anything helpful to say, but I had that sticker on my wall about 10 years ago... I think I picked it up at COMDEX.
posted by mmoncur at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2007

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