Custom large format printing: how to choose the best supplier

By Richard Clark on Dec 6, 2021 2:39:45 PM

8 min read
Custom large format printing_3 x large format print posters with girl walking by

Most commercial printers work at high volume with small margins and a standard approach. Beyond the artwork you supply, barring rudimentary checks, you’ll simply get what you pay for, no more, no less. But what if you need a little more support when it comes to your campaigns? What if you want to push boundaries to impress your clients and win new business? 

If that's the case, you’ll want to look for a supplier with the tools and ideas to give your custom large format print campaigns an enviable edge, helping you exceed the brief and outpace the competition.  

Remember: an experienced supplier won’t just take your signed artwork, push it into the machine and press the print button. They'll go further, making valuable suggestions that elevate the look, feel and impact of your client’s creative campaigns. They will work with you, advise you on the most appropriate types of inks, materials and processes to use to ensure the artwork stands out, and gives you the killer commercial edge you need. 

So, what are the main attributes to consider when it comes to choosing the right custom large format printing supplier? 

Open Communication 

Firstly, you need to know that the company is established, reputable and can deliver. Beyond this, you need to know that your chosen supplier is receptive to your creative vision and happy to explore ways to help elevate the campaign so that it really stands out.  

Custom large format print tuk tuk wrap, promo counters and flags

Having this sort of honest dialogue helps build trust and develop working relationships that drive profitability for these key reasons: 

  • Better communication leads to a seamless workflow, less downtime and better results. 
  • Knowing you can trust your printing supplier means you can feel confident to focus on other aspects of your client’s campaign—or drumming up new business. 
  • Trusting your chosen supplier for custom print will outsource to competent third-parties to fulfil your projects saves you time and hassle. 

To succeed, you need more than a print producer, you need a print partner. A bespoke large format printing firm that treats your business as an extension of its own and provides three key things: 

  • High quality materials from carefully selected brands 
  • Reliable and accurate colour reproduction on all substrates 
  • Exemplary communication from the first point of contact to delivery fulfilment 

Your print partner should always be able to deliver a consistently high-quality finish on all chosen materials with brand colours sitting comfortably within your guidelines. In addition, all deadlines should be communicated then met, time after time, not just on the first job.  

Having a print supplier who is approachable and communicative is vital. When communication breaks down mistakes happen. And while servicing clients, you can ill afford to stomach the added costs of reprints and post-deadline remedial changes. Choosing a supplier that looks good on paper but fails to do vital checks will lead to problems that delay projects and damage your reputation. So remember to seek out a supplier that’s open to ongoing feedback and focused on helping you avoid print problems by always finding the right solutions. 

A quick word on brand guidelines 

A good large format printing supplier will want to know what your brand guidelines are and will seek your feedback before going to press. Expect to talk about things such as: 

  • Crop and bleed 
  • Colour guidelines i.e. CMYK and Pantone references 
  • Format sizes 
  • Brand Guide 
  • Final proofs and sampling 

If a least some of these words and phrases don’t fall into discussions with your print supplier, take this as a red flag. The last thing you want is to discover that RGB and spot colour files were supplied, not flagged and converted to incorrect CMYK values.  

Never underestimate the value of trust 

To ensure the success of your project, choosing the best large format print supplier for your needs is vital. But it can be a challenge to find the perfect print partner.  If you have a large format printing company you use already, can you rely on them to catch any curveball you throw at them and run with it? Are they committed to being your second pair of ears and eyes, sense-checking all printed elements of your campaign to make certain nothing important gets left out or overlooked? It’s this high level of quality control you need that will give you peace of mind and bolster your clients’ confidence in you. A good supplier will: 

  • Give you the best advice on inks and material quality to get the best print results 
  • Provide case studies and testimonials of  projects they’ve worked on in the past 
  • Demonstrate an emphasis on process and protocol 
  • Show commitment to meeting your workflow timeframes and ultimate deadline 
  • Show you their facilities and demonstrate how they can achieve a flawless finish 
  • Give expert advice on the best ways to customise capacity 
  • Explain, without judgement, anything you don’t understand 

Complex campaigns often require lateral thinking. Having not just a printing company you can use but a printing partner you can trust to be agile is a real asset. When you’ve found one that meets these criteria, you should hold onto them. Not only will they help you maintain your existing client relationships—they’ll also help you win new business.  

Custom large format printing_custom hot air holidays roller banner

Customising capacity - on-demand printing 

You won’t always want a large-scale printing run. Sometimes as part of your client service, you’ll want to scope out more bespoke printing projects and test out ideas that require greater customisation and control. On-demand printing is a more progressive approach that allows for this. Here are a few advantages of on-demand printing: 

  • Greater agility: you don’t have to wait for large scale printing setups to be in place before your print run can begin. 

  • Less wastage: particularly important where your projects are sensitive on issues of sustainability and eco-friendliness. 

  • No minimum print runs: print on demand is tailored to your needs, no more no less. 

  • Fast turnaround times: a well-organised supplier will have a detailed overview of their printing pipeline and will be able to quickly tell you when you can expect to receive your printed products. 

If you're looking for products for an outdoors campaign, checkout our blog Five top outdoor branding ideas for your business for inspiration. 

Quality Control 

If you’ve done all of the preliminary planning, you’ll want to get your campaign right, first time. With this in mind, expect your chosen print supplier to flag, at the pre-flight stage, any mismatched brand colours, spelling mistakes or resolution issues. Knowing your supplier is on the ball from the outset will give you the confidence you need moving forward. A large format print supplier that catches basic problems early on will ensure the finished product stays true to your original vision, and that small errors don’t snowball into campaign catastrophes.  

Prototype printing power 

Do you ever want to see a proof before committing to a project or scaling up? A conscientious print supplier will welcome the opportunity to assist you with requests like this. Not just to win the work, but to begin a long-lasting, fruitful business relationship. For a dedicated print professional, trialing print-based constructions using a range of products and processes, or creating one-off print samples are tasks they will happy to embrace.  

Remember: a good print supplier won’t shy away from technical challenges. When it comes to more complex large format printing projects, they’ll be content to talk you through the different types of materials you can use in your projects and even perform live-testing measures so that, when your campaign launches, you know all of your printed materials are fit for purpose.  

A print supplier who safeguards against common mishaps as standard is invaluable 

A knowledgeable and experienced large-format print supplier will have processes in place to cover every stage of your print custom print projectThey’ll run through their pre-flight checking process with you, explaining everything from file compatibility and resolution to margins, bleeds, and layouts . 

From kick-off to sign-off they will also be happy to  communicate regular schedule updates giving you peace of mind that timelines are being met and quality maintained at every stage. While this higher level of service and greater attention to detail might initially cost a little more, the extra investment will ensure consistent performance and happier clients.  

By establishing an honest relationship with a custom large format print supplier, your business then has the capacity to take on any new projects that arrive, creating new revenue streams. You’ll only be able to do this if you have a  printing supplier you can lean on—one that gives you the confidence to say ‘yes’ to new commissions, no matter how complex.  

In short, don’t think ‘printer’, think ‘print partnership’; this is the only way to grow and scale your business with confidence. Your investment isn’t in a print service - you’re paying for knowledge, feedback, expertise, insight and creative support.  

To check out our full range of LFP products Raccoon's print store has an entire range of items, complete with online design tools and an instant pricing calculator. 

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Richard Clark

Written by Richard Clark

Founder of Raccoon, a graphics company launched in 1992. Still working hard to help businesses and brands connect with their target market!