poster etc.

I ordered three posters from Zazzle and they’ve arrived.  Funny thing, when the first package arrived, I thought someone was returning one of my prints because it was packaged in the same kraft mailer, with the same “fragile don’t drop” sticker on it.  Had me confused was that usually someone will tell me before they return something – usually because it’s been damaged.  Anyway… the three posters arrived.  The second two came in tubes.  Packaging, as a rule is very good with Zazzle.

As far as posters go, Zazzle offers many times of media to print on.  I picked three different media that I thought would be most likely to work for the posters:

1. Plain Basic. By default, this is what Zazzle picks, but you can change the default as the designer, or as the customer.  One caveat, as usual, is that I’m only talking about black and white posters.  You may find that you love the color posters on the cheaper paper.  I have no idea, and obviously, not very interested in how color prints are reproduced.

But yes, it is the cheapest.  The worst.  The print had the most magenta by far of anything I have printed with them.  And it was a fairly dull rendition.

2. Silver Gloss UV: The best – by far.  It is glossy, but it gave a perfect rendition of the tones I uploaded.  I’ve gone back to the store and am suggesting this as the poster media, and also redoing each poster so that this is the default media shown.  Printing wasn’t absolutely perfect – i.e. – there are a few gaps where the printer wasn’t cleaned properly.  If I were going to give it as a gift I would probably have it redone.  But the overall “look” was the best.  No color shift at all and deep blacks.

3. Gold Canvas.  I know there are people who like this sort of thing, the cross-hatched canvas etc. but the ink soaks in, doesn’t have a high dynamic range, and just isn’t my cup of tea.  I can’t recommend it as photographic quality.

*Note, there’s still one that I haven’t tried, and that’s Bronze Matte Print UV (I’m going to order one today)  I suspect that may be okay also.  We’ll see.

**I’ve removed my name and the title from the posters.  So far, since no one is buying the posters, I don’t think they’re doing much for me.  The product business has its own rules and regulations which I need to figure out.

Okay, back to the main subject of this post – having someone else do your printing.

It brings up the major issue of having work done off-site and shipped without getting a chance to check it out first.  I have, in essence, been doing print-on-demand prints since the business began.  And even with me doing one print at a time, I still need to look at each one carefully before shipping.  And I need a system for cleaning the printer.  And even with all that – I can easily do a bad print.

As an example.  During the christmas rush, I did my usual nozzle check in the morning before printing, and then did my first print and while it was going, I walked off to make some tea.  The nozzle check had been perfect.  When I returned, I had a piece of garbage hanging from the printer, i.e. at least two black ink heads had clogged.  So the print goes to the garbage, I go back to nozzle cleaning – which now the first one comes out with clogs; and work on it until I get a clean nozzle check.

Lots more! Then print again.  This time the print is perfect but there’s a bit of ink on the side (white border).  Fortunately, this is going to be matted so I can trim that off and mat it and from there on I’m in business again and don’t have further problems for a few days.

But unless someone looks at each and every print carefully – junk will go out.

Now imagine that you are having thousands of prints on all sorts of media go out; and that you are using different labs; and your customer gets something that is, well – just okay.  Not bad enough to write you, but not good enough to buy another print.  You may never know about it.  And that is the problem with having your prints done offsite by a gigantic company.

On the other hand, when I do prints with a smaller company on the West Coast (WCI) it will cost three times as much, but they will contact me about anything that looks off, or if they have any issues at all with the quality of the print.  Which is all to say, you get what you pay for.

P.S. No orders since I removed the matting option from the store a few days ago (I think).  Could just be that it’s the Christmas lull.  I’ll need to be patient and give it at least another week but not sure that patience is my strong point; but if nothing happens, order-wise, I’m sure I’ll be adding mats again. Or, if I can’t wait (likely) I’ll add mats again – but only up to size 16×20 which is the easiest to deal with.  I guess there’s no reason to remove mats just because those 20 x 24 mats are the big pita that they are.  I could be wrong – but the special touch of having the artist mat the print and sign it – may be related to the idea of having prints done off-site.  In general, the few people I’ve spoken to who are using labs to do their printing and send directly to the customer, are not fairing well.  As mentioned above – there is something to be said for the personal touch.  For example, sometimes people write to me asking if I’ll send a birthday card, and have me write something in it.  Or they want to make sure that no invoice in enclosed as it’s a gift etc.  There’s also a fair back-and-forth (often) between the potential customer and myself – wanting to know what prints go together etc.  Mats, off-site printing, the personal touch – it’s all related, though I can’t prove it.  Just something that I feel over the years.  It doesn’t matter for things like cards, calendars, keyrings, etc. – but it may matter with posters, . and with prints in general.  And it’s something that I can fully understand though can’t fully explain.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.

5 thoughts on “poster etc.”

  1. Thanks. Yes, the calendars have been fine – mostly. It’s those posters that I’m up against now. If someone chooses the wrong media to print it on – they are going to be disappointed. I discovered that with the shirts you can limit the colors of what someone can buy – so I limit them to dark colors and that should be fine. But you can only suggest what media the customers should use for the posters..

    So besides making the default media the Silver Gloss, I put up a notice in the poster section: Hopefully people will read that before making a purchase. Anyway – so far the posters haven’t sold well at all. Cards, mugs, and calendars have sold the best. And I’m still adding shirts; and eventually mouse-pads.

  2. “During the christmas rush, I did my usual nozzle check in the morning before printing, and then did my first print and while it was going, I walked off to make some tea. The nozzle check had been perfect. When I returned, I had a piece of garbage hanging from the printer, i.e. at least two black ink heads had clogged. So the print goes to the garbage, I go back to nozzle cleaning – which now the first one comes out with clogs; and work on it until I get a clean nozzle check.”

    A little “OT” as they say, but: is this an Epson thing? I mean, the nozzle checks. Does HP have the same issues? I’ve been using HP since my first Epsons (a few years back) kept clogging etc. But I’m using an older HP dye printer.

  3. Mike, the HP’s and Epsons use two pretty different systems. For example, when you run out of ink with the HPs (at least the recent large format ones) you also change the print head. The issue with the HPs is (at least last time I looked) is that they are matched for HP papers that swell up and then settle down — i.e. it’s an entirely different ink / paper application. I used an HP printer with this system for a while, but I’ve always returned to the Epsons because they can print on a wider range of papers; and when everything is working – the results are the best I’ve come across.

    The Epsons squeeze out very tiny droplets of carbon based ink onto just about any kind of media. As far as I know, any printer that works this way will have clogs. There are newer Epson printers (I’m using the 7800) that are supposed to clog less, but I don’t know if this is true, or just a marketing thing.

    And finally – there is the system where the print has the chemicals on it – like the old days – but is exposed to LEDs to make the print. You don’t need to deal with some of the inkjet issues, but to make quality prints, you still need to have knowledgeable people maintaining the system.

    I guess the other inkjet player is Canon – but I don’t know much about them – i.e. pigment or dye inks – what sorts of paper etc. But yes, the Epsons, which I’ve used for a very long time, will start off great – and after six months or a year – they really need a thorough cleaning. That’s another topic altogether – i.e. there are various magical ways of cleaning them, most of which I’ve tried at some point or other. So it’s an Epson thing in the sense that they are using carbon pigment inks and forcing them through a lot of tiny holes onto all sorts of paper. If there is another line of fine art printers that use carbon ink and spray it onto the paper and don’t suffer from clogs – or ultra-expensive ink – I’d like to know about it.

    The irony is that the most reliable prints are still darkroom prints. Unless you mix up the chemicals wrong – or are working in a hothouse – there’s just not much that can go wrong with them if they are processed properly. Once every few years you may need to change the bulb in the enlarger, or maybe there’s an earthquake and the enlarger goes out of alignment, but that is by far the most reliable system (uhm I don’t think I had a problem with that system for twenty plus years – when I needed to change the enlarger bulb.) I try to explain this sometimes to people who are under the impression that digital prints are simpler because all you do is press a button. Oh – if that were only the case.

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