This post is a long time coming. In fact, I think I’ve started writing it three or four times over the last two years but have never gotten around to finishing it. But since starting the Backdrop of the Month Club (woot woot), I get the following question multiple times a day, ‘Where should I get my backdrop or printables printed?
Before I share all my printer experience with you, know that this post is in no way sponsored. I’ve spent years working with different printers to get the results I want and thought it may be helpful to those of you who print a lot. So while there may be affiliate links in the post, no brand or company is paying me to promote their services.
So here we go. Let’s break down the printing services I’ve used and what I think are good, better and best options!
Let’s start with at home printers!
THE BEST AT HOME PRINTER
A few years ago, my husband and I wrote this post about Best Printer for Printables. Our view hasn’t changed much, I still use the Xerox 6500. I purchased it in 2013 for over $300 and still use it EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. You can now purchase the 6500 for $189 on Amazon which I think is the best.deal.ever!
I use my Xerox 6500 for all my 8.5X11 printing. I use it for all my teacher appreciation gifts, neighbor gifts, fliers, handouts, paper crafts, etc… Almost 100% of the printables you see on my blog were printed with the Xerox 6500.
Here are it’s PROS and CONS:
– The color is vibrant, saturated and almost glossy. It has a VERY professional feel.
– The ink lasts FOREVER. I change my cartridges probably every six months after printing items every.single.day!
– Ink is SUPER cheap. I buy refills on 123inkjet.com for around $13/cartridge.
– Prints great on cardstock.
– It’s super fast.
– It’s not wireless. Again, I purchased this four years ago before wireless was all the rage. It would be nice to be able to send things to the printer without having to plug in my laptop.
– It curls card stock. This annoyed me more at the beginning, but I think the print quality helps me overlook the annoyance of having to straighten out my prints.
So overall, I personally think the pros outweigh the cons. I’ve though about upgrading to a newer model, but why change what works? I really love this printer and would buy it again in a heart beat.
#1 A PROFESSIONAL PRINT SHOP
This is 100% my preferred printing recommendation, especially for large scale projects like backdrops and party games like Pin The Horn on A Unicorn. When I move to a new area, I research local printers and go check out their shops.
I always looks for print shops that have large flat bed printers, have on-site staff that understands Illustrator and design files (I actually prefer shops that refuse customers that don’t know how to format for printing) and has a large selection of papers.
I like building a relationship with the printer so he/she and I can chat about what I’m looking for and he/she can make suggestions of options I haven’t even thought of. I think there is a misunderstanding that professional print shops are only for companies and businesses to use? You’re money is just a green as any! They are a great resources for moms looking to print a backdrop for their child’s birthday, or the teacher who wants a welcome back to school sign for the first day of school! Don’t be intimidates, give them a shot! I promise you will be SO happy you did.
I printed both my March Madness Bracket and my Jingle & Mingle Backdrop at two different professional print shops. The color quality is fantastic and both were printed on heavy, gloss paper that made them both super sturdy so they could easily be used over and over again.
For reference, I believe the Pin The Horn On The Unicorn Activity cost $50 to print, the March Madness Bracket was $130-$180 (but was HUGE….I’m scaling it down for those interested in buying it in the future so it will be around $85 – $110 depending on the printer) and the Jingle & Mingle Backdrop was $65. Those prices revival (and I think are actually better for the quality) large printing chains.
In a crunch or when my professional printer can’t complete my job in time, I turn to Alphagraphics. They are a national company with franchised print shops across the country. They have shops in most states. I’ve use Alphagraphics for both my BACK TO SCHOOL Backdrop and my daughter’s baptism invitations and have been happy with the results.
I like that you are assigned a service rep who is great at calling, communicating options and providing samples of the product. Turnaround is usually same day or next day which is AMAZING, especially for someone like me who likes to add on extras last minute.
For reference, the Back To School backdrop cost me $75 and 75 baptism invitations and envelops cost me $80.
I would definitely recommend Alphagraphics. Especially if you are intimidated by reaching out to a Print Shop. Their website makes it easy to upload a file and order your prints/backdrop. I received a confirmation email within minutes of submitting my design and got a call later that afternoon confirming the paper type, size, etc…
Now Costco Business Printing was brought to my attention a few days ago by my husband. It seems like a super cost effective option for backdrops, but I personally have not used their services.
It looks like they have just a few printing options: business cards, banners, postcards, flyers, brochures, envelopes, letterhead. So they are not a great choice for invitations, printables or your everyday printing needs, but for the purpose of backdrops, they might be fabulous.
You can get vinyl banners (or what could be party backdrops) for a super reasonable price:
2.5′ X 4′ – $24.99
3′ X 6′ – $35.99
4′ X 8′ – $59.99
The only problem is you have to adhere to their size requirements, but for the price that might be worth it.
I’m definitely going to try this one out and get back to you!
VistaPrint is an online print shop that offers LOTS of printing options. I personally have never used VistaPrint, but will give it a try to let you know.
The prices seem reasonable. It looks like you can print a 36″ X 48″ poster/backdrop for $34.
They do require you to use their size requirements and formatting which can be frustrating for a designer or user.
I’ll report back on the quailty and shipping time after I get a backdrop and some printables printed.
When I first started my blog (before I owned a printer and knew much about professional printers), I used Staples for all my printing needs. There are definite pros and cons of Staples.
– Locations close and everywhere
– Quick turnaround
– Print quality is mediocre
– Backdrop or posters are super expensive for the size and the quality of printing goes down the bigger the printed item.
– Staff is often unexperienced with files, printing procedures and often mess up the order
– They can only print certain sizes.
So in a pinch, I think Staples is a decent choice for your everyday printables. Especially free printables, or party printables that are 8.5X11 inches. But if you want super high quality printing (especially for weddings, special events or parties) or large prints, I would spend the extra time and find a Professional Print Shop you love or go with Alphagraphics. You’ll actually spend less money and have better quality at a Professional Print Shop.
When I lived in Austin, I found the world’s BEST PRINTER (American Color Labs). Seriously, I dreamed it…they made it happen. I loved working so closely with their staff and was always 100% confident that my prints would be perfect.
When I moved to Dallas, I decided to start from scratch. I decided to approach finding a printer like most of my readers do….not knowing where to go and looked to the internet for answers.
FedEx popped up on Google and it sounded like an interesting option. I know a lot of my customers have used the services and decided to try it myself. I liked that you could pick up your order at a local WalMart and that the prints would be available next day.
So I uploaded my Football Touch Down Backdrop (although I was frustrated that I had to size my backdrop to their poster requirements rather than print the design as is) and went to pick it up the next day.
I picked it up and was SO, SO disappointed with the results. The paper was super duper thin (easily 20lb) and the color was TERRIBLE! The black was spotty, I could literally see through the backdrop.
I know it may not seem like the quality is poor in the picture below, but that’s because I had to saturate the picture to make up for the poor quality. But how awkward is that size?
So I spent $84.99 on:
1. A backdrop whose size was wonky.
2. A backdrop I couldn’t possible use again because of the quality and cheap paper.
3. A backdrop whose coloring was terrible and made the whole tablescape look cheap.
But…I think similar to Staples, FedEx is a decent choice for your every day standard printables.
Ok, those are the printers I’ve had personal experience with. If you’ve have a printer you love, tell me about it! I’m always looking for new options. Or have you had any really bad experiences! Those are probably more common. I’m sure we’d all love to hear and be warned who not to go to in the future.
And question, would you like a tab where I link to my favorite printers on my site? From across the country? Would that be a good resource?
And if you are a printer looking to get the word out about your services, send an email my way. I’d love to collaborate on a project.