Picking a Digital Print Partner: Finish Strong

By Bob Charboneau
Senior Production Manager, Dixon Schwabl
As a production manager at a full service advertising, marketing and public relations firm, it’s my job to meet with clients, account executives, art directors and designers to review our clients’ needs and to help source and qualify print vendors. I do this by reviewing each provider’s printing equipment, finishing equipment and processes, capabilities and customer service/technical support model.
Over the past few years, the marketplace has seen the entrance of some exceptional digital print technology with output nearly indistinguishable from that of offset . There are a lot of shops making great use of this technology, with many printers not only having great equipment, but also outstanding workflow, pre-press departments and solid customer service.  Where I typically see a point of differentiation is in the finishing department.
Some printers have better scoring, folding, die-cutting and bindery than others. Years ago when digital printing first became mainstream, I would notice a lot of “cracking” where a digital printed sheet would crack on the score line when folded or when saddle stitching (aka stapling) two or more pieces of paper together, the staple would smash the spine of the piece and create a flat spot.
Today’s many print providers have raised the bar and have enhanced their finishing capabilities to better suit digital print….but some are still struggling. When partnering with a digital print provider, it’s important to consider all pieces of the printing process – so you can finish strong.
Another point of consideration is the substrate chosen. Making the right paper choice, in terms of weight, color and finish – can dramatically influence whether the final output conveys the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ you intended. . There are certain papers made for digital and as a good rule of thumb, it’s always best to ask your print provider if they have a “house stock” that is used with their equipment or ask the manufacturer if they certify specific papers or substrates that you can use on your project.
Paperspecs.com is a great resource for all things paper. I had the pleasure of meeting the site’s founder, Sabine Lenz, in 2009 at the How Conference in Austin, Texas. She is very knowledgeable on the subject matter, offers a variety of tips, highlights cool projects and offers free webinars on a variety of design and print subject matter. For a few dollars, you can become a pro member of her site and get expert level tips that can take your paper game to the next level.
Today’s knowledgeable print providers, armed with the latest in digital print technology, allow agencies and our clients to push the limits of our creativity and implement new ideas. It’s important to remember to never stop innovating, continue experimenting, and never lose sight of the importance to finish strong!

Bob Charboneau is a senior production manager at
Dixon Schwabl. Bob is also a member of the Rochester Advertising Federation board of directors. 

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