Work With a Print Shop, or Print In-House? 5 Questions to Ask Before You Decide

In-office digital printing has gotten easier than ever before. Between high-quality printers and the latest desktop publishing software, it’s downright amazing what you can create without leaving your office (or your desk at home).

When you’re sizing up a new print project, it can be hard to know whether you’re best off printing materials yourself or trusting the details to a professional. And there’s no simple answer—it all depends on the cost, level of quality, and type of project you’re after. Before you hit ‘print,’ ask yourself these questions:

1.      How many pieces do you need to print?

If you want to print a few dozen copies of a newsletter to share with your employees, you can probably get the job done just as quickly in your office as you could in a print shop. If you need 400 copies, on the other hand, think twice before you print in-house. If you pay a click charge for your company’s leased machines, large jobs can send your costs through the roof.

A high-volume project can also overload a standard office printer, leading to delays and potentially to damaged prints, paper jams and occasional frustration. For larger jobs, a professional printer will likely save you time, money, and hassle.

2.      Do you need design or proofing help?

Adobe Illustrator and InDesign, as well as Microsoft Word and Publisher proofing tools have made one-person design and publishing teams commonplace. And depending on the piece you’re working on, you may not need much design work at all.

But if your piece uses lots of graphic elements, text, and/or advanced design techniques, you may want to consult with the prepress department at a professional print shop. A good prepress staff can often spot errors that an untrained eye would miss, they understand how different file formats print best (.jpg, .png, .AI, .pdf and so on) and can make suggestions to make your piece look its best.

3.      Will the piece need to be bound?

Collating and stapling 30 copies of a packet? No problem. 300 copies? No thanks. Larger-run projects are best left to a print shop’s handy automated machines—especially if you need them bound. If you need book-style bindery, the choice is even clearer. At Oregon, we have a bookbinder attached right on the end of our digital press. So if you’re making a pamphlet, a manual, or anything else book-like, we can spare you lots of headache.

4.      What about other finishing effects?

Finishing is about more than just getting a piece bound. Have you thought about page scoring, folding, cuts, or perfect binding? Maybe even a foil stamped or embossed cover on that book? Chances are your office printer doesn’t have these capabilities. You can do these things on your own—but they won’t look nearly as uniform as if they’re done by machine. And again, if hundreds of copies are what you need, your time will be best spent if you leave the work to a print shop.

5.      Who’s your intended audience?

You know the way you present your business is important. And if the first impression clients get of you is through your print collateral, its appearance can speak volumes.

That’s why audience matters when it comes to choosing a print solution. If you’re working on an internal-use piece, you can probably settle for less than technical perfection. But if you want to produce a document where quality is important (a sales piece to share with customers, a fundraiser invitation), you may want to work with a professional printer.

An important choice

Many companies cover their printing needs in-house because they fear hiring a printer will be too expensive. But the truth is, tech advances have helped print shops, too. It’s more affordable now to order digital prints than it was years ago—and sharing design files online means prepress decisions can be made fast. Plus, print shops can archive your files electronically, so you don’t have to track down the correct file each time you need prints.

And if you need your print pieces to introduce your brand or make a sale, the choice is plain: professional-grade software, digital/offset, and finishing technologies offered by leading print shops ensure a level of quality that office printers just can’t achieve.

Next time you’re deciding how to handle a print job, keep these questions in mind. They’re sure to help you save time, money—or both.

Still unsure what print solution is best for you? Call Oregon today for a free consultation. 

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