7-step guide to buying print

Oli Burrows

Customer Services

7-step guide to buying print

Even in the digital age, there are few organisations that don’t need to get something printed at some point. These 7 quick tips will help you get print buying right – and ensure you get the service and print quality you deserve from your local printer.

Print minder colour checking poster with magnifier

Our tendency to rely so heavily on online communications these days makes receiving a printed letter, invitation, or company brochure something of a rare and memorable experience. More and more businesses are seeing print as a marketing differentiator, and are using it successfully to cut through digital ‘noise’.

Large companies that consume very high volumes of print often employ print buying professionals. But in most organisations buying print is an occasional requirement and can fall to anyone in the business.

If you are new to ordering print or choosing a printer feels daunting because you don’t understand the technical jargon, you’re probably not talking to the right printer. Here are 7 basic tips for print buying to keep in mind when looking for a good printer:

1. pre-production: before choosing a printer

A good print job begins even before you brief your local printer – at the pre-production stage. Use the best creative ingredients you can afford. High-quality design, imagery, and copywriting will always show through in the finished result. And if you don’t have the creative skills to develop your print design fully, choose a printer with an in-house design studio. Check out our tips for supplying artwork for printing.

2. consider all your printing options

Talk to your printer about your project when it is still at the concept stage. They may be able to suggest adjustments to the design that will save you money or propose a solution you hadn’t considered. A good printer will take the time to understand what you want to achieve and may have created something similar for another client.

3. take a factory tour

If you can visit, ask your local printer for a tour of their factory and see their printing presses in action. Besides being a fascinating experience, it will help you to understand the processes involved, and get a feel for your printer’s capabilities. Ask to see samples of work they’ve produced for others. A factory visit will also confirm that you are not dealing with a ‘print farmer’ – a company that acts as an intermediary, buying and selling print but not actually printing themselves.

the Holywell Press factory

4. bust through print jargon

Like most industries, printing has its own ‘language’ and you may not be familiar with some of the terminology a printer uses. Expect your local printer to explain everything to you in plain English. When you get something printed, you should understand each stage of the production process. If there is something you don’t understand, don’t be embarrassed to ask and to have it clarified.

5. take stock of the stock

Ask your printer for a sample of the material (‘stock’ in print speak) that your job is going to be printed on. The paper stock can make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of the finished printed piece. It’s OK to ask to compare options and be able to touch and feel the quality of the paper or card for yourself. A good printer will be able to show you samples of your chosen stock as used in print jobs for other clients.

Ben Burrows in the Holywell archive

6. explore options for best-value printing

When you request a price for printing, it may be worth asking your printer for ‘run on’ costs. When a job is being printed lithographically (rather than digitally), a large part of the cost is for setting up the press and getting the job ready for print. This means that the difference between printing a short run and printing a long run is often very little. If you are printing something you will need more of in the future, and you have storage facilities, it can be more economical to opt for a longer print run.

7. get a print dummy – don’t be one!

It’s not always easy to imagine what your printed brochure, folder, or book will look and feel like, especially if it’s an unusual shape or involves complex finishing. Your printer should always be able to provide you with a ‘mockup’ of your job – an unprinted, hand-made sample or ‘dummy’ so you can see how it will look. There may be a small charge for this service but it’s usually well worth knowing what your printed items will be like when complete. And if you want to make changes to the format, you can before the printing presses start.


Perhaps the most important thing to remember when buying print is that you are not simply buying a commodity. You are purchasing a service to support you with help and advice throughout the printing process. Print buying requires an investment of faith and trust, so it's important to find the right partner to work with – a partner that has the right tools for the job, that you can genuinely relate to, and that you’ll enjoy working with for the long term.

If you have a print job you need help with or have any questions about printing, please call 01865 242098 or contact us using the button below.

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