Common questions I get asked about printing

Posted on March 5th, 2015 | Tags: Technical

It’s time again for one of my question and answer sessions. This time I’m looking at printing in general and answering some of the questions I’ve been asked over the last five years.

Can I print with one colour and get it cheaper?

You must have done printing with offset printers once upon a time. Back in the old days of plate printing, each colour had to be put down with a unique ink on it’s own ‘engraved’ plate, so more colours you had the more plates, inks, time and labour it involved, and the more it cost. Modern printing, even offset, use the standard cyan, yellow, magenta, and black colours for everything so there is no economy in printing just one colour. They just don’t offer that option any more. We do mark ourselves out from the rest by offering a black only option with our printing as we have that as a feature in our equipment.

When I print an A2 or bigger you charge for ‘coverage’?

The more ink used to cover a page the more you have to pay for it. We don’t get a flat rate on our consumables for the wide format like we do on our toner printer so we have to factor in the cost of every fraction of a millimeter used. The area being covered is bigger too, for instance a A1 is ½ a square meter of paper or 8 times the area of a A4. If you own an ink-jet printer yourself, you know how quickly the inks run out when printing a few standard sized photos (6×4” / 10x15cm), which are a quarter of an A4 in size or 1/32 the size of a A1. When you think how much a set of replacement inks costs, what we charge for a A1 poster is quite reasonable.

Why does the colour on the printed page not match the colour on the screen?

First, what you see on the screen is backlit. What you see of the page is front-lit. This makes colours on the screen much brighter and vibrant that the same colour codes on paper. Secondly, screens use an RGB colour set while our printers use a CMYK colour set – resulting in slightly different colour presentations. In addition, physical limitations of the technology limit the range of colours that can be produced, so particular shades of colours will end up shifting to the nearest one the printer can make. Each generation of this technology does give us bigger range of colours to work with, our older backup printer has ¼ the range of our main unit, but it will be long time before print can match the colour ranges of screens.

Why does what you printed for me look different from how it looked when I had it printed elsewhere?

That difference can be from: the method of printing (toner/plate/indgo), the manufacturer of the equipment, what system converts your file to instructions to the printer, how the printing company does their printing process, the type/brand/batch of paper being printed on, atmospheric conditions at the time of printing, how long it’s been since the machine has been serviced, etc. While we take every effort to match the mythical standard print finish, every print run at every print company will always be slightly different. It’s just part of the nature of print.

When you print my photos, why does it look different to the ones printed by photo labs?

Modern photo labs produce prints using specialised inkjet printers using photo papers, while we use toner printers on offset papers. They will be able to print a greater range of colours than we can, but we have the advantage when it comes to the cost of larger print sizes, having harder wearing prints, and can get you better deals on volume prints. I feel we compliment the photo labs not compete with them in this respect.

What’s this business about full bleed printing and why does it cost more?

Full bleed means simply that you have printing right to the edge of the page instead of having a white margin. No printer can print to an edge so we have to print slightly oversize images on oversized paper then cut through the printing to give you the correct sized page with the printing to the edge. You are paying for the extra material and labour costs to do that. (When personal printers do borderless printing, they print past the edge of the paper spraying ink around the inside of the machine. That’s fine for a sub $500 printer designed for a few 1000 pages, but when your printer costs more than a nice car and is designed for 1000’s of pages a day, you don’t want gum up the works and shorten it’s operating life.)

That’s been a few of the common questions about printing I’ve been asked. If you have a question, please do email us at and I’ll be happy to answer them.