Printing Job #1

Two weeks ago on May 14 I held the first ever Neat & Keen Open Studio. It went pretty well. Most of the attendees were people I knew personally, but one family stopped by and to my surprise had a printing job for me. And here it is:

Legendary Shack Shakers poster

Legendary Shack Shakers. Art by Brett Whitacre. 3-colors 11 x 17 inches.

I was a little hesitant to take on this job. I’ve not been advertising my printing services because
A) I wasn’t sure I was going to offer printing services. I’m more interested in printing my own work.
B) I am/was just on the cusp of being comfortable enough to take on jobs for hire.

However, I think it turned out pretty decent. The artist is Brett Whitacre and he arrived at the open house with his wife Kate and their daughter. Kate runs Beets + Beats Farm in Sycamore. The Legendary Shack Shakers show (for which Brett is the drummer) happening in DeKalb tonight is part of an effort to raise funds for the farm. And part of that effort is selling these signed gig posters.

Part of the reason I agreed to take the job was Kate told me that they had done screen printing before and just didn’t have time and space for it now. They also didn’t stipulate any exact color matching and both assured me “if you have some that are a little off register, that’s totally cool.” Their target budget was to be under $5/print. They wanted at least three colors and between 30 and 50 posters. All of that was something I felt I could deliver.


I won’t share the exact quote I gave on these posters because every case is different, but here is how it generally works.

Per color setup fee: For every color that that is printed a setup fee is incurred. This covers the cost of the materials to coat the screen, and time to expose, washout, tape the screen, as well as printing the films. I gave a discount on this because the posters they wanted were 11 x 17 inches and I knew I could get two films to a screen. This fee also helps prevent people from ordering very small runs of a print.

Cost per pull per color: This covers the cost of the paper, ink, and time to print each color. In my case it also covers trimming the prints to their final size.

Other costs: If I were doing the original artwork for a poster there would be a design fee. If I’m using a client’s files that needed fixing, there would be an editing fee. Designing for screen printing is not as simple as sending off a single CMYK file. Each color that is printed needs to have it’s own separation.

To be perfectly honest, the files I received to print this poster were not quite print ready. I let it slide for a couple reasons. It did take some time to fix, but it wasn’t a super difficult fix. When I quoted the price for a 3-color poster I didn’t realize that two of their colors were going to use the same separation. In this case the bubble gum pink is printed through the same screen as the the ruby red ink. That saved me the hassle of burning another screen. And finally this was my first experience printing a wholesale order for a client and I’d rather over deliver than gouge them. If I take on printing jobs in the future I think I will ask to see the print ready files before sending a final quote, but this time it worked out.

Another reason I’ve been hesitant to print client jobs is, well…clients. Some of them can be a nightmare. If you’ve ever worked in customer service then you know what I’m talking about. Fortunately Kate was delightful and most of the time when I had a question about how she wanted me to proceed with the print she left it up to my judgement. Trust your print professionals, people!

When I have a specific number of prints in mind I always do some extra just in case something happens. I delivered about ten extra prints with this job as well as a handful of test prints that I thought looked pretty smart:

Legendary Shack Shakers Test Print

Test Print. 11 x 17 inches. 3-spot colors on a split fountain base.

What’s Next? What Else?

Although this wasn’t my art, I feel like this puts me that much closer to my goal of designing and printing a gig poster this year. I hope to print up and distribute some promotional materials soon.

Also long overdue are some updates to other sections of the site and future entries. I’m hoping to do a “tools of the trade” post soon. Currently I’m investigating a new lighting setup for taking pictures of my work.

My Storenvy page is getting a lot more views than I ever did on Etsy. However, I’m not seeing a lot in the way of sales. I think the cost of shipping hurts a lot of prospective sales, so I may look for a way to reduce that soon even if it means eating some of the cost myself.

I’ve been putting in more overtime at the “regular” job than I would like to, but I’m not going anywhere so stay tuned!

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