So you run a small design-shop and you need to drop-off some samples to a client. You wish you had a jacket with the name of your business. Or, the local chamber of commerce is holding a meet and greet for local businesses and you want to rent a table to generate some leads. You wish your staff had polo-shirts and hats with your company name and you wished you had pens and cups to hand-out.
On-demand printers to the rescue!
On-demand printers (also known as micro-printers) specialize in small runs. Whether its just 1 piece or 5 pieces, they can turn it around quickly and usually at a reasonable price. For reference, consider the cost of a printed T-shirt at Target. They are usually in that ball-park.
Many of these web-based businesses also support a growing community of artists who offer designs for sale on a variety of products. Everything from St. Pats T-shirts to cat magnets to political statements for every cause. It’s very diverse. With the support of these sites, artists can create virtual store-fronts to sell their designs. The artist in-turn receives a percentage of the sale as a royalty. These sites have become so successful that many music groups/garage bands have virtual storefronts to sell band memorabilia to fans. (For example, Zazzle.com has an official endorsement deal with Myspace to support any band’s Myspace page.)
These sites allow you to have your own logo printed on such things as shirts, caps, jackets, mugs, mousepads, magnets, buttons, bumper stickers, postage stamps, cards, calendars and the list just keeps growing. These sites will even let you upload your logo to see a “virtual” version of the selected product with your logo. Pretty cool!
What you will need:
- Your graphic in a digital format. How it prints will depend on the quality of the image. It is better to use a vector file (such as EPS, Illustrator, even Corel). Some sites will also use bitmap files (such as JPGs, GIFs and even PNGs).
- Digital Photos. You can also use digital photos. But remember, it will only be as good as the photos. Blurry photos made blurry prints.
- Exception — if you are just using text and do not care about the font, most of these sites will allow you to just “type” the imprint (what will be printed on the item).
Now it’s time to compare products and prices. Be sure to look at the number of colors allowed, turn-over time and the terms for shipping. As you may have guessed, my current favorite is Zazzle.com, and I have a photoframd store-front there. Zazzle has a great selection of products and their print quality is very good. Another favorite site is Mpix.com. Originally just a site for digital photography, Mpix has expanded their product line to include calendars, magnets, key-chains and more. If you are printing a photo, be sure to look at Mpix’s metallic paper. It is real Kodak photo paper with a metallic sheen that gives blues and greens a near-3D look.
But, shop around yourself. Also, check retailmenot.com for coupons!
Top On-demand Printers include: