Recommend an internet print shop?
March 19, 2008 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Recommend an internet print shop that offers the standard business cards and letterhead, but prints on an actual press and not just (gross) digital printing with glossy coatings?

Also interested if you know of any internet-based shops offering production effects like embossing. I know some are offering spot gloss varnishes at this point.
posted by wubbie to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if this counts -- since it's run by a physical print shop -- but I've had great results ordering business cards online from Forest Printing. I e-mailed them with a mock-up, and they e-mailed me a quote and proofs. The price was competitive, and as a bonus, they're union.
posted by rdn at 5:59 PM on March 19, 2008

Best answer: I've used several online printing companies and generally had good success on full color jobs of non-custom formats. One thing to note about using online printers vs. a local guy is that color can and will vary from print job to print job even if you give them the same file, so if you are a stickler, you'd probably be better off going somewhere local where you can do a press check or have your print rep watch over it carefully and compare it to previous jobs.

Most of these folks will send printed samples if you request them. - They do spot varnish, but it's not an option on their web site... you have to place your order, put it on hold and email them a black and white TIFF for the spot file. I've been using them for years because they are the only place I found that did it cheaply, but last time I ordered, they screwed up twice before I finally was able to get the job printed correctly.

They are generally good quality printers, but their turnaround can be wildly unpredictable. Sometimes it's a few days from order placement to having your product in hand; sometimes it's two.

I once had a client that needed cards for a weekend trade show; I placed the order early in the day on Monday with overnight delivery to make sure I'd have them in hand Thursday. They claim to have overnight turnaround on business cards (hence: overnightprints), but I didn't get them until a week later. I called them Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and, every time, their rep gave me a different story about when I could expect them.

I just had brochures printed there because they were cheapest, and their site said to give them three days to print, plus whatever shipping time it took (I figured five days for ground). I had a deadline, so I paid $60 extra for UPS Second Day. I placed the order Friday and had the brochures in hand across the country Tuesday! I honestly don't know how they did it, but my client was ecstatic. I was kind of annoyed at spending $60 extra on a $150 job, but it got there in time and that's all that matters. - They were the first internet printer I used. I stopped using them because their prices were higher than everyone else, but their quality was very good and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again. - I started using more after dropped the ball on that trade show business card my client needed, and I've been quite happy with both the quality and turnaround time. I really like them because they offer an online estimator that includes shipping, so I can just quote a job to a client in a few minutes. They also offer a lot of different products in a variety of different paper weights and finishes. I've used them for cards, postcards and brochures and their quality is quite good, and the prices are competitive with other internet printers. They're generally my first choice (unless I need spot varnish, which they don't do)... turnaround's not too bad and their customer service is good. - I'm a designer and get lots of solicitations from these online printers. I got a postcard from these guys and just about fell out of my chair reading their special price on postcards... 5000 full color two sides for $90! The next closest printer was more than twice that, so I talked to my client for whom I was ordering cards and he said he was willing to gamble on a new printer to save that kind of money.

The print quality was good, but they were pretty disorganized. Not that the customer service was bad... it just seemed like they have some kinks to work out. I placed my order on a Thursday or Friday and called Tuesday morning to follow up on it because I never got an email acknowledgment to let me know the order had been processed or printed. The rep I spoke to told me that they must have lost my order because they had no record of it, but she did apologize and offer to reprint and send it ASAP. That same day, UPS showed up with the original order, so I called to make sure they didn't run them again.

Not a bad experience, just a little chaotic. The price was just unbelievable, and my client was very happy with the printing.

Last one, sorry so long. - I found these guys through a Google search and I'm glad I did. Most internet printers have limited choices in terms of paper stock (usually it's smooth, coated or not, and maybe a choice of weights if you're lucky), but prints on twenty or so different stocks, even metallics. They do foil stamping, too. I talked my boss into letting me redesign her card as a test for them and they did a spectacular job... print quality was excellent, and they held the thin serifs on the foil stamp which is pretty tough to do. Pricing was good and included shipping. Turnaround including shipping was less than a week, and it shipped from Korea! I will definitely use them again when I have a client that wants a fancier grade business card.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:24 PM on March 19, 2008 [6 favorites]

Most of those online print shops are using actual 4-color presses. They gang your job with lots of others on their press plates. I think that digital printing (more like color laser printing/copying) is still not as cost effective as using a traditional press for larger jobs, or gang printed jobs.
posted by johngalt at 8:47 PM on March 19, 2008

I had really good luck with PSprint on my business cards. I'm a photographer and a pretty good print maker and the quality was pretty insane. I had a photograph but on the back of my card and it would be a challenge to make a print that looked that good.
posted by sully75 at 4:35 AM on March 20, 2008

The benefit of using an old fashioned press is that the larger the run, the lower the unit cost will be. It takes a lot of effort to set up a job, and almost no effort to do 10,000 more.

There are printing techniques that are between old school offset and cheapo laser printers on Office Max perforated sheets. I'd find a local print shop that welcomes retail customers. Not an easy task.

(My knowledge of printing is limited, but better than average. If you specify Pantone colors, you will get what you ask for. Or they will redo the job. If they don't, they are hacks.)
posted by gjc at 7:44 AM on March 20, 2008

As someone who buys a lot of printing both big and small, I can't recommend having some good relationships with local printers enough. I do all of my work either via web upload, ftp or e-mail - I haven't burned a disk for work in ages.

While they may not be as cheap as online, you'll know what to expect every time and have someone who takes personal responsibility for your job. I have a strong loyalty to 3-4 shops of various sizes and because of this, they'll often cut me discounts, match prices or even do some tiny jobs for free. That's not to say that online dealers aren't good - it just seems that loyalty is a good motivator to provide top-notch customer service.
posted by bucko at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2008

Just as an update: I got a look at the job that I had Overnight Prints direct ship to my client this week, and it was terrible... the color was way, way off. The client was happy with it, but I wasn't, and I won't be using them again.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:58 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Based on this thread, I used egprint last April for some business cards, and was happy with the work and price. But I just placed another order with them, for which they billed my credit card and which appeared from their web tracking to have been shipped. The box never arrived, and when I phoned to get the UPS tracking number they told me the order had been canceled (though the bill had not been), because I am not a print broker, and they only do work for the trade.
posted by Scram at 10:05 AM on January 6, 2009

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