Friday, August 29, 2014

Promotional Products Work!

Digital printing has revolutionised the printing industry in a number of ways.  

One of the most important benefits is that you print-on demand so there is no wastage.  
Rather than printing for the most economic order quantities – you print only what you need and when you need it.

In other words there is no minimum order quantity.  If you just want one brochure it can be produced to the same high specification as a traditionally printed brochure – high quality print finish on a range of papers and cards with a gloss or matt laminate finish.

Now the same benefit can be applied to the promotional gift industry and Direct2Print have teamed up with a specialist digital producer of some of the most popular promotional gifts.  

This is ideal for the small business owner or even tradespeople who are interested in promoting their business without investing huge sums of money.

How about some stylish personalised iPhone cases?  With the rapid speed of growth of mobile commerce and the potential of mobile phones and tablet computers gifts such as this are beginning to replace items such as mouse-mats, pens and rulers and some of the other more traditional gift items.

The key to successful promotional gifts is to make them relevant.  Key fobs would have a practical application for a car dealer or an ice scraper could carry an interesting advertising message for an air conditioning supplier.

For example, we have one customer who has a business that occupies most weekends and he prefers time off in the week to play his favourite game of golf.  He can now obtain a wide range of promotional products for his friends and colleagues at the golf club that will keep his contact details in front of them whenever his services may be required.

Promotional products can also be used in so many other ways other than just to build awareness.

Some other possibilities come immediately to mind such as:-
        to say thank you to customers or staff
        to serve as a reminder of a tradeshow, event or exhibition
        to support the launch of a product, campaign or website
        to use as a "gift with purchase" to encourage sales or registrations
        to sell or to raise funds for a charity, team, a good cause or a project
        to hand out at Christmas or to celebrate other events or anniversaries

The possibilities are endless.  Have a look online at some of the products available.


You can easily compare products and get some idea of prices.  Simply go to the link is

You will also see how easy it is to create the artwork or you can upload your design.

And it would be of great help if you could let any friends or colleagues know about this new service – we all have a network of colleagues and many of them could seriously benefit from this service. 

For your first order or for any referrals to friends or family please contact me first and I will personally send through a voucher code that will discount the price you pay.

If you need any help with any aspect of ordering these personalised promotional goods do not hesitate to contact the Customer Services at the Direct2Print Business Centre free on 0800 0345 845 or our normal landline on 01384 376640.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An “A to Z” of Things That Could (Possibly) Go Wrong with Your Order! Part 2 - M To Z

Here is Part two of my A-Z of things that could possibly go wrong with your order: M-Z

M. M is for MARGINS

Margins, borders and tabs are often the cause of printing problems when presented with digital files for producing documents.
If they are not set correctly we can end up binding into text or can nudge the text on to the next line, paragraph or page.

Customers who design documents to the edge of each page often run into these type of layout problems. 

Remember to allow for plenty of “quiet area” around the edges of each page in a bound document or printed booklet.

N. N is for NOW

In an instant world some customers just want something done immediately. This relates to the Late Delivery problems but also customers who always seem to leave things to the last minute.

This is fine but is most annoying when they have been working or sitting on artwork for weeks and suddenly expect the printing to be completed on the same day!

A bit of forethought and planning can save a lot of stress and money and lead to fewer potential errors from our point of view.  We print and insert a Re-Order Form when we supply printed stationery, like letterheads.

We also pride ourselves in providing the fastest digital print service in the UK.   But we can’t do the impossible!

O. O is for ORANGE

Orange is one of the most difficult colours to match on a digital press.   To this day it remains as the reason for our only digital print order to be rejected on the grounds of colour quality.

Needless to say we have even managed to overcome this difficulty with our new equipment and who knows – one day we may even solve the problem of printing gold on a digital colour press!

P. P is for PROOFS

Proofing remains one of the main reasons for jobs going wrong.  

We can offer many examples of our own but perhaps the most humorous example was for an order of commemorative mugs for England cricketer Ashley Giles.  Rather than saying “Ashley Giles – King of Spin” he received a few thousand mugs proclaiming “Ashley Giles – King of Spain”!

Q. Q is for QUALITY

Quality is very subjective but appears to be no longer much of an issue with digital printing.  We offer a total guarantee with every job for quality – and never seem to have a serious quality problem.

Although with our machines calibrated on a daily or weekly basis there may be minor variations in colour for repeat orders.

Even when the file is stored in the memory of our press there could be a slight variation due to climatic conditions but this is rarely significant.


Registration is the term for lining up double-sided printing.  There is a certain degree of tolerance required and also an area for allowance for the guillotine.

Again, this is a lot easier on the latest equipment where accuracy can be adjusted to within a percentage point or two.

One job that went wrong in our early years was for some personalised playing cards for a training company which formed part of the course – trying to print so many different files double-sided with little margin for error whilst trying to keep to a very tight deadline for a next day order.


When a file is scanned the quality is never as good as a copy saved from an original file.  
We often have to watch out for scanned pages that are not centred or are not clear when we prepare documents for printing.

And even the best OCR software can make mistakes – one of which resulted in our getting the post code wrong on some invoices – the customer spotted the mistake some six years later!


We can digitally print on all sorts of textured stock – and printing on a linen paper and card gives fabulous results.  Some artists frame the prints and they look like original oil paintings!
However, some textures are not brilliant for digital printing.  Hammer embossed or contoured papers and cards can prove difficult for toner application.

And there are some specialist papers that can do some real damage if they wrap around the rollers of the machine.


Why do Europeans and North Americans have different standard paper sizes?

So many customers still have their default paper size set as US Letter size rather than A4 on their computers.  We usually make a couple of quick adjustments and the problem is sorted.
Occasionally though someone actually needs the job printed on US Letter paper!

We printed a thesis for submission to a US university on A4 paper in error – and then had to carefully trim the document to A4 size afterwards.

V. V is for VAT

There are so many discrepancies with which items are zero-rated for VAT that all online orders are charged with VAT.

Offline certain items can be zero-rated.  These include (very, very briefly!) – newsletters, leaflets, brochures, books and booklets, circular letters, programmes and orders of service for funerals.

And yet they all have to follow some very complicated set of criteria – such as the thickness of the paper, whether there is a tear-off portion etc. 

Again, why can we not simplify VAT for all us confused printers?  Perhaps by making all printed items zero-rated!

W. W is for WYSIWYG

Our general rule is “What you see is what you get” with a PDF file sent for digital or document printing.  However, there are exceptions.

The monitor may not be calibrated and there may be a host of issues with any fonts, images or diagrams you have incorporated.  

Two regular customers seem to have problems with their PDF’s and we check them very carefully now before charging ahead – we have learnt from experience!
But in most cases…


Finding something starting with X is difficult.  But these days we are more likely to be presented with some miniscule memory disc from a mobile device or camera.

However, we do get files to print presented on XD data cards – they can be used but we have had some issues in the past.

Therefore, we prefer to operate from the traditional USB sticks or a CD / DVD – or even better a digital file uploaded or emailed over to us.

However, on one computer we still have a “floppy disk drive” – just in case we are presented with some seriously old artwork.  

Y. Y is for YULETIDE

OK – Christmas!  Christmas cards from any specialist printer rarely go according to plan.  And they seem to attract delivery problems.

Specialist card printers are probably the most inefficient of all forms of commercial trade printers.

This is why every printing business will try and print all greetings cards within their own premises.  

Our view is that if we remain in control of the whole production cycle we can usually overcome traditional problems that occur at this typically chaotic time of the year.  
And despite the problems they are still a very valued appreciation of thanks to customers and suppliers.


Just a small point but the artwork layout for letter folding does not always work for Zig Zag (or Z) folding.

It takes a while to get your head round but we have found that if we print out a small mock-up to explain the difference it helps.

It is always better being sure rather than sorry!

Monday, August 4, 2014

An “A to Z” of Things That Could (Possibly) Go Wrong with Your Order! Part 1 - A To L

The last Blog on printing from a PDF got me thinking about some of the jobs that have gone wrong over the last 30 years and some of the reasons why.  

Fortunately, they are few and far between these days and developments in technology have helped to overcome particular problems.  

Some things that went wrong were due to factors that were totally outside of our control and on other occasions we had to hold our hands up and take the blame and claim responsibility.

So here – to try and cover the wide range of possible problems - is a quick A to Z of just some of the things that have gone wrong or caused us problems in the past.

It is by no means comprehensive but shows the complexities of getting the printing right first time!

A. A is for ARTWORK

Firstly, let me start by saying that with digital printing or document printing this is not as big a factor as with traditional offset lithographic printing. 

It is not quite idiot-proof but these days there is just a big green button to push and if the print settings have been correctly configured you should just have to collect the finished product at the output tray.

See my previous blogs for potential problems with commercial printing problems – issues such as RGB files, no bleed, and low resolution images etc. etc.

Suffice to say that probably 90% or more problems with printing are artwork –related!

B. B is for BINDING

Binding is a relatively straightforward process but we have learnt to concentrate on the quick and easy methods of binding – again see my previous blog on these.

However, problems do arise and experience has taught us to purchase only quality materials.  
Good quality binding really makes a big difference to your final document’s appearance.

When we had to produce over a thousand wire bound books within 24 hours we purchased a batch of cheaper clear acetate covers which turned out to be a false economy.  

It took twice as long to bind - simply to pull each one off the compacted mass and then the static when placed on paper made the job twice as long as it should have taken.

C. C is for CUSTOMS

I have a large number of contenders for C – including Couriers, Christmas Cards and Customers which will all have to be dealt with elsewhere in this alphabetical summary.

However, the Internet has made the world smaller.  And customs clearance is a particular problem when sending printed documents to some parts of the world.  

In Brazil the recipient needs to pay a tax before the parcel is delivered – in an attempt to stop Internet shopping competing unfairly with local suppliers.  As a result we still have parcels awaiting collection because the tax to be paid is worth more than the document enclosed.

Switzerland is outside of the European Union and their Customs seem to delay any imports as a matter of course.  When we sent time-critical documents for a training course – we ended up getting them printed in Geneva.  Even toners for a printer/copier are frequently held back as a potential “suspicious substance” allowing local distributors almost a monopoly position.

D. D is for DRILLING

We have had our problems with manual drilling in the past – including having to reprint a complete set of menus for a Chinese restaurant chain because we drilled the wrong side of the paper.

But when it is online it should be fool-proof!  But one of our old colour printing presses had an online hole- punch that worked well for the first few copies – but for some reason the position of the drilled holes varied during the course of the job.

When the documents were inserted into the lever arch folders the pages were all out of alignment. 

After many tests and replacement parts, we eventually gave up on the process and replaced the machine as soon as possible.


Following on from previous point – make sure you have good printing and finishing equipment. 
Like cars – there doesn’t seem to be a bad piece of equipment these days but investing in quality has always paid dividends for our business.

We had been squeezing the last remaining life out of some pieces of equipment and the quality was not good.

And we now only use manufacturers to service our equipment, dealers seem to have a vested interest in just making a profit from their service contracts.

F. F is for FILES

Refer to my comments in the PDF blog – but we have been sent work with all sorts of file extensions that have not opened or been recognised.
Also files are easily corrupted and we have tried to recover and repair wherever possible with mixed results.

We have also been sent files that have an incredible data size far out of proportion to their contents.  Sometimes we have waited an hour or more for a file to be processed in the printing machine – often when there is a deadline to meet!


Gradation refers to tones and the quality of tinted shades (usually in background).  They used to be the best way of testing the quality of comparable printers.  

The problems associated with our offset press have largely been overcome now we are predominantly a digital printer. But tones could appear banded and streaky when digital printing was first introduced.

But as we have moved from 600dpi to 1200dpi to 2400dpi the quality has improved – so we seem to have cracked this one!

H. H is for HUMIDITY

Paper storage is an important consideration for all forms of printing – paper absorbs moisture in the air and performance can be seriously affected by atmospheric conditions.

We now have a de-humidifier built into our colour press because of the problems caused by humidity.

Machines jammed, there were “blank” spots on copied documents and certain papers curled up, created static or just stuck together when passing through the press.

I. I is for IMAGES

We are often asked to print a file that contains low resolution images.  

These are usually downloaded at screen resolution from the Internet and the client expects them to be enlarged to poster size with amazing results!

When the printing is pixelated it is usually our fault of course!

J. J is for JPEG

Saying that – JPEG’s remain the second best piece of software after a PDF for a printing business.  

They can be very useful and we have even been known to print some pretty good business cards or leaflets from just a JPEG file.

K. K is for KONICA

Originally we were loyal to both Canon and Xerox, we then moved onto Ricoh for reasons of cost but now our Konica Minolta machines offer pretty good print quality and value for money.

We have now moved onto our second generation of Konica machines and the standards have been enhanced with a few more bells & whistle added in the process.

Hope this is not going to change now!


Couriers are often the weakest link in our supply chain.  They probably make up most of the other 10% of our problems after artwork!

There is nothing more frustrating when a customer is awaiting a parcel – the situation can be complicated by factors outside their control – like traffic, accidents, weather problems etc.  But it is wise to always build in a contingency for any urgent order to be really safe!

We can now track most of our consignments online.  We have had to introduce a £10 delivery charge for small value orders and keep to free delivery on orders over £50.  The Royal Mail parcel service is a waste of time and is rarely worth the risk.

It doesn’t happen often but occasionally a consignment is lost or badly damaged in transit.  This is why we place great emphasis on selection of the most reliable courier and good packaging and labelling to minimise the risk of a problem.