By LAURA VATALARO  Reprinted from

As a graphic designer that primarily focuses on print projects, I usually provide print service quotes to my clients. Recently, I have noticed one question has been coming up pretty often when it comes to print projects – Why not use an online printer or outsource the printing? While these types of printers are perfectly adequate, I do not recommend online printers or outsourcing printing to my clients.

Do I still use them? At times yes, because I have to keep my clients happy, and deliver what they want to stay in business. However, I feel there is good reason to not go the online or outsource route when it comes to printing. Here is an overview of why I prefer to use local print shops, and why your may consider it for your print needs as well.


I spoke with my representative, Royce Gregory, at Walls Printing in Dallas about this topic and asked him what his number one reason to use a local print shop would be. His response was service. When you print online or outsource overseas, it is difficult to speak to a representative about what the best option for your project would be. It is also hard (and costly) to get paper samples, print proofs, and have a full understanding of what will be delivered ahead of time. For some projects, this may not be all that essential, but for a large scale print job, this is a vital step in ensuring your money is well spent.


There is always a risk when you release your credit card information to an unknown third party or online. If you have been given a recommendation from a colleague who had success with an online or offshore printer, this isn’t as much of a factor. But there have been multiple online and offshore businesses that collect and disappear without delivering. If this does happen, there is very little you can do to get your money back.

Most local print shops accept payments in increments or after the project has been delivered. This establishes a higher level of trust. The printer does not get paid until the project is right. If you receive the project, and it isn’t what you wanted, you don’t have to accept it and can request a rerun of the project at no cost (given that the printer was in error). If you never receive the final product, the printer does not get paid in full.


Different paper stock can print color differently and react differently to different inks. When using an online printer, you get a one size fits all approach to the print process. The result is adequate, but not quality. Online printers only offer digital printing, which is less expensive, but is not always the appropriate print method for every project. This also limits the kinds of paper you can use when printing (for example, you cannot use a thick paper stock when printing digital because it will not run through the machine).


Online and offshore printers cannot deliver color proofs or paper samples as easily as local printers, which makes it difficult to adjust your project to ensure the color and content work well with the paper selection. Shipping charges for print proofs can be expensive and timely, and usually involve an additional print charge. Paper overseas is different then the paper in the U.S. and has a tendency to print more yellow, making color matching an essential, timely, and costly step when outsourcing printing.


I recently attended the HOW design conference. I was very moved by one of the sessions entitled the “Blue Q Method of Making Stuff”. The ideology was that when creating a product, you should consider the full impact of your actions. Specifically, when you work with a print vendor, you should know the kind of working conditions in place and be aware of their business practices. If you cannot see the print facilities, there is no way you can know if they are implementing proper safety measures for their employees. In the words of Blue Q Art Director Mitch Nash, is it really worth compromising someone else’s well being to save a little money on production cost?


Working with a local print shop is also a more sustainable practice. Because the printing is done locally, there is not shipping involved, and therefore less emission cost on the project. Because paper selection can be more specific, you can opt to use FSC certified sustainable papers. You can also choose to work with a printer that uses environmental friendly processes, like recycling paper and inks, minimizing water waste and disposing of inks properly.


If the recent recession has shown us anything, it is that small businesses are the back bone of our economy. As a small business owner, I encourage my clients to support local businesses and use local print shops. When you support local business, you are helping your local economy succeed, which in turn creates a better community and can even create more jobs.


Most business decisions come down to one simple factor – money. Fortunately, many local print shops are pretty competitive with their pricing. More times then not, the quote I get from a local printer will beat an online printer price. Many online printers advertise low prices, but once you factor shipping, setup charges, and other fees, the project becomes much more expensive then anticipated. Also, if you tell a printer a price quote received elsewhere, many times they can bring down the cost to better meet your budget needs.