Online Printing vs Local Printing

liz October 6, 2015
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online printing vs local printing

Finding the best printer for a project is often an overlooked task, but it can be just as important as the design. Over the past several years, online printers have become an easy alternative to local offset printers. When it comes to choosing the best printer for your project, you need to know the pros and cons associated with each in order to make the best decision.



ONLINE:  A Gamble. Most use “gang-run printing”, which means several projects are printing on the same sheet of paper in order to reduce printing costs. This means your project does not get individual attention among several other pieces running at the same time, so color accuracy and general quality can suffer.

LOCAL:  Great. Your project is printed and adjusted on press to match a proof that you already approved. Most online printers do not provide this option, and if they do, it costs extra and you have to wait for it to be delivered. Plus, they’re still running it with other projects.



ONLINE: Okay. Most will address an unhappy customer experience or bad print job, either by giving you a credit toward your next order, or reprinting it at no extra cost. Typically, there is no customer service unless you are not happy with the end result.

LOCAL: Great. Customer service is where a project begins. A local printer representative is available to answer any questions you have, will show you paper samples, will provide cost estimates and provide you with options to meet your budget. They also provide a proof of your job, as well as the opportunity to do a press check in some cases. Basically, they put in the work up front before your job ever goes to print to ensure they will likely get it right the first time.



ONLINE: More Affordable. You often have limited paper options which helps keep costs low. On top of that, most online printers only print using digital or 4-color process inks, which is another cost savings over printers who provide more ink options.

LOCAL: More Expensive. Local printers provide more options such as thicker paper, colored paper, specialty paper, spot inks, metallic inks, varnishes and die cutting. You will ultimately drive the final cost depending on what ink and paper options you choose. Along with this also comes customer service – someone to help you through the process.



ONLINE: As fast as you need. Since there are limited options to choose from, online printers are very automated and can crank out a job quickly. They also offer a variety of shipping and delivery options. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, you can get prints done overnight. However, expedited shipping can often cost more than the printing itself.

LOCAL: Longer. Because a proof approval process is in place before your job goes to print, and because your project may have to wait in line behind other jobs on press, it may take a few days longer to print a job locally.



Every print project has a different goal. If you are in a position where you just need something fast and cheap, and the quality is not a high priority, online printing may be the best choice. However, if you’ve invested in a quality logo design and branding pieces, why would you roll the dice on a cheap and fast print job? When your brand’s image is at stake, you want the best printing possible!

In many cases, our clients don’t want to handle making this decision, and may not feel comfortable dealing with terminology they don’t fully understand. So we will handle these decisions on their behalf, or provide them with the best options depending on the project.

Our recommendation is always a local offset printer, as we’ve developed working relationships with many of them in our area. But in some cases where we need to stretch a small budget, an online printer can be the best option.

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