Printing and print buying encompasses such a wide range of projects and clients that no single press or process fits every need. Press selection is key to maximize the value of your printing.

First, establish a few factors that play an important role in press selection:

  1. End Client – Is the printing for Tesla or Yugo? Sizzler or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse? Ansel Adams or Bob’s Pix? Obviously the expectations and quality requirements for these examples are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Knowing the end client’s needs and expectations is a must.
  2. Project Type – Is the printed product a catalog or business card? A press efficient for large jobs typically wouldn’t be the best fit for small jobs.
  3. Project Size – Is the quantity 100, 1,000 or 100,000? Efficiency varies greatly depending on type and size of press.
  4. Project Deadline – Is the job due in an hour or next month? You can’t rush chemistry or physics. Ink curing time and speed of press may be the determining factor for your immediate circumstances, regardless of price, quality or anything else.
  5. Intended Use – Are the prints corporate collateral, hand-outs or mailers? Highest quality printing may not be necessary for throw-away marketing, but materials representing your brand should be of higher caliber and accurate color.

After project details, deadlines and client type have been established, I only see two reasons for determining what type of press your project should print on… Quality and Price.

Quality – You always want the best quality for your needs. What determines the quality?

  1. Printing processes such as digital, sheet-fed offset or web-offset each produce different quality products. Deadlines and prices may ultimately dictate your press selection, but knowing the quality of each printing process is key.
  2. Press manufacturers are not all equal. Know the quality and reputation of each manufacturer and their various press models.
  3. Paper type for your project is also key in determining which press is ideal. If you have a paper requirement, know which press works best with your paper weight, finish and texture. Synthetic, coated, uncoated, recycled and extra heavy stocks all have characteristics that may cause problems on some presses.
  4. Finishing processes may work better with certain types of presses. Cracking, curling, offsetting, registration and many more problems may arise in finishing or bindery depending on the printing process. Know what works best with your finishing requirements.
  5. Printer reputation typically reflects on the quality of their final product. Just because it’s a nice press doesn’t mean the quality matches. The press operator is extremely important. The press environment should also be controlled and properly maintained. The workflow must be tailored and managed. And the staff must communicate clearly so the important details don’t get lost in the process.

Price – I stress value, not price. But if we assume equal value, there are press choices that will affect price. First, know the most efficient printing process for your project. Second, understand that press size, speed, configuration and color options will affect costs. Then determine if price is more important than quality or deadline.

As you can see, printing is fairly complex, and there is much to know for commercial applications. Press selection plays an important role in the journey of taking your ideas to reality. A little familiarity of the process is a start to making the right decisions, and maximizing the value of your printing.