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Tips for dealing with professional print shops

Marco Tabini, Macworld.com | May 18, 2011
Working with a professional print shop can be a daunting experience, but the main trick is to properly analyze the job you want done.

The printing industry is a curious mix of old and new—a world rich with history that harks back hundreds of years, but relies on technology that changes and improves all the time.

The bad part is that dealing with the challenges presented by a print job—from business cards to posters—can be difficult, particularly if you have never worked with a print shop before and don’t have the budget to contract a professional to handle the process for you.

The good part is that you probably have all the tools you need to produce excellent printed materials already installed on your Mac, so the real trick in establishing a successful relationship with your print provider is to know what questions to ask. For example, does your chosen vendor accept online jobs? Is your job in a format that your printer can handle? Have you chosen the right paper for the job? Do you have a preference for digital or offset printing for your job?

 

Consider your options

When it comes to printing, your choice of providers is virtually unlimited; while many professional print shops continue, even in this day and age, to cater primarily to professionals in the field of design, many have at least attempted to simplify their processes in order to become more accessible to customers with simpler needs and tighter budgets.

Therefore, before ducking into your nearest print shop or scouring through the Yellow Pages for a local printer, it’s a good idea to check Google for one that does most of its business online. You’d be surprised at how easy it can be to deal with them, and amazed by the great variety of products they are capable of producing. In many cases, you’ll also find that the quality of the end product is as good as the one you would get from a local provider, but at a lower price.

Note that many printers you'll find via Google, are also local providers in their communities—maybe your community—so while you may want to support your local printer, consider the possibility that your local vendor also does business online.

 

Know your files

The first important step toward a successful print job is sending your documents in the right format. Most online print providers have become adept at accepting a wide range of files—from Microsoft Word documents to bitmap images, but most of these formats have a number of pitfalls.

For example, Word documents only render properly if all the fonts they contain are installed on the host machine, which may not be the case for the computer your printer uses. Bitmap fonts, on the other hand, only support a fixed resolution and could make text and line art appear jagged.

 

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