How do I determine the right press size for my job?

I need to determine the right press sizes for my print jobs. If I send the job specs to printers, I’m afraid they will give me price information with respect to their presses -- but not necessarily the most appropriate presses for these jobs. Where can I find someone who has a comprehensive knowledge of presses and capabilities and will make an objective recommendation?


This is a great question; however, it can’t be answered simply. We know of no specific source that can answer this question because this seems to be the kind of expertise that print buyers develop as they do their jobs and gain exposure to different printing scenarios.

One reason why a printer may quote on a job that doesn’t fit its presses is because one single press size and color configuration (i.e., 2 color or 4-color or 5-color, etc.) does not always suit a particular piece’s size and quantity. For instance, a printer with a 4-color, 40” press might estimate a 2-color job as if they will run it on a 2-color press. In other words, they set different pricing structures for their presses based on the need to compete with other printers in the industry who may actually have 2-color presses. This is not dishonest. It is an attempt to offer customers the flexibility of running different kinds of jobs on their presses, to keep their customers happy and retain the business.

A reputable print shop will not do this unless it can truly run a particular job on that particular press for a competitive price without losing money on the job or compromising their relationship with the customer. Honest sales representatives will tell you when a job doesn’t fit their companies’ presses and then, hopefully, will recommend another shop to you with confidence.

If a print shop tells you it can run a 1,000-piece postcard job on its web presses, that would be dishonest. But most printers know better (especially these days). If you have established relationships with sales reps that you trust, you should be able to ask about the best press size for a certain job, even if they don’t have that exact press.

One thing you might do to increase your knowledge about which press sizes and color configurations best fit certain job sizes and quantities is to ask every shop to indicate on their estimates the press they have used to quote on your job.

Having said all of this, know that we may never have a complete understanding of which press is best suited for a specific print job. With the introduction of on-demand printing and the technological advances of printing equipment and presses, web presses are becoming more suitable for shorter runs and sheet fed presses for longer runs. Once you gain enough experience and knowledge about the basics, you can then ask for guidance from a trusted print supplier on anything you aren’t sure about.

Best wishes,
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