Save hundreds of dollars by following a few simple tips
Affordable vs “cheap” vs competitively priced
When it comes to pricing, everyone wants to get the best product and affordable printing services for the least amount of money. Nobody wants to spend good money on cheap or inferior products.
You would not want your printing company to print your flyers on paper that was sold to them cheap because it is damaged, dirty, or yellowed by age, and passed that on to you as “cheap flyers”.
Nor would you want to pay more than you should without knowing.
Best deals are inexpensive, reasonably priced, and competitive.
Affordable printing offers high quality products and great service at a low price. It is good value for the money.
Generally speaking, the lowest prices for printing will be for the thinnest uncoated bulk paper, no bleed, in black only.
Some commercial businesses have inexpensive black and white printers dedicated to these jobs, using their high quality press only on more lucrative jobs. Smaller, independent print shops are more likely to do even these basic jobs on their quality press.
Choose lower prices, don’t sacrifice for them.
To get the best deal for online, you need to shop around. Here, we will help you navigate the lingo and options for online print shops to find the best deals. You don’t necessarily need to sacrifice on size, quantity, paper choice or colour to order quality printing on a budget.
Be creative in your Google search
The first challenge is to find the print shops you want to browse for pricing. A search on “print shops Canada” will give you some top SEO ranking and paid ad rankings. To see more options, try
- scrolling beyond page 1 to find great shops still working on their rankings
- searching on multiple terms. For example, “flyer printing Canada” may give you very different results than “referral pads”.
Find the print shops who post their prices online.
Many print shop web sites only offer you the option to request a quote. While they may have quality products and great service, only the shops who post prices give you the information you need.
Asking for a quote without knowing how to evaluate it doesn’t make sense. Do your homework with sites that want you to know their pricing.
Browse the store to find your product
If you are lucky, you will easily find comparable products in each of the online print shops. Some products, like business cards, will be easy to find. But in most cases, different terms are used by each store. At first glance, your product may not seem to be there at all. Before you give up, browse a bit.
Start with Categories
Just like a grocery store has a Produce section, an online print shop has departments. You may need to start a search for flyer printing. for example, by looking under “digital printing” or “marketing materials”.
Find the product by its common name
Check the menu for our product by name. If you don’t find it, think about what other names it may have.
- Check synonyms – “Flyers” are also called “handouts”, “leaflets”, or even “brochures”
- Use Canadian terms = a “tarpaulin” in the Philippines is a “banner” in Canada. What is called a “name card” in many countries is commonly called a “business card” here.
- Make sure the products you are comparing match. Don’t compare a folded product to an unfolded product, for example.
Look for the ways the product is used.
Often products are listed in online stores according to their most common use. Carbonless NCR form books, for example, may be called “invoices”, and 5.5″ x 8.5″ note pads may be listed as “referral pads”. Don’t worry if your intended use is different – that doesn’t matter.
Look for products that share the same qualities as your product.
If you can’t find a match in the online store by product name or use, compare them by description.
For example, if you want to print 8.5″ x 11″ flyers, in colour, single sided, on glossy paper and can’t find “flyers” in the store, look for other products that may be the same. Likely, you will find what you want listed under “posters” or “newsletters” or simply “quality prints”. Just find a product with the size, paper, and print options you want and go with that.
Request a Quote.
Browsing the online print shop you will soon see that the pricing and service options are competitive. If you haven’t found what you are looking for, contact the store and ask for a quote! They will be happy to help you.
How to compare prices of matching products
Finally, it is time to find out who has the best prices for printing.
- For each online print shop, select the same size and colour options. Most Canadian sites still put sizes in inches. Colour options will likely be 4/0 meaning “full colour on the front side and no colour on the back” or something like 1/1 for “black and white on both sides”
- Select matching quantities. Choose a quantity that meets your need. This is important, as some shops offer a quantity of 1500, for example, and others offer 1000 or 2ooo. In that case, if you need 1500 you need to compare the price of 1500 against the price for 2000.
- Compare paper choices. This is your most important step and why comparison shopping for print products is so difficult. Paper will be listed in thickness points (pt), or weight in pounds (lb) or grams per square meter (gsm). In addition, the paper will be coated or uncoated. Generally speaking, thicker papers and papers with gloss or matte coating are more expensive.
How to compare equivalent paper to find the deals
You can only fairly compare prices if you have matching paper. The table below offers a comparison of the various formats to help you. More complex paper weight equivalency guides are available online.
Let’s use the chart to do an actual comparison to see how it works. Below is a chart comparing flyer printing prices for three Canadian printing companies. There is two products for each.
The products are for 1000 8.5″ x 11″ flyers, printed on matte paper one one side only (4/0). Prices shown do not include any finishing options, shipping or taxes. The price is for printing only and standard production times.
Cells with the green background represent the paper type offered in each company store.
Decoding the paper options.
- The lowest price is for the first product for Printer B; however, 2olb paper is bulk copy paper.
- Printer A offers a much heavier paper for only a few cents more than Printer B’s best price. But Printer A and Printer C’s first paper is of higher value (thicker) than printer B’s second one.
- Printer C is offering the same product as Printer A for almost twice the price.
- Print Shop A’s prices are in the middle of the pack, but the value of their flyers is far superior to the others
- Print Shop A offers “Quality Flyers”, Print Shop B offers “Custom Business Flyers” and Print Shop C calls theirs “Cheap Flyers”. LOL.
Fee or free?
When you are looking for good value and affordable printing, it is important to look carefully at all of the options and fine print for extra charges.
It is easy to see a low price and just go with it, only to find out later that you need to pay more to get what you really wanted.
Included in price, or not
When your artwork has content that meets the edge of the page, the print is produced on oversized paper and cut to the finished size. Most printers include this cutting in the price on the screen.
No bleed products
In some cases, the print shop offers deals or products that are printed on paper sizes that do not make edge to edge colour possible. The price may be good, but the product does not compare to full bleed printing.
Adding a bleed
Online print shops assume that the artwork submitted will be print ready. Most commonly, artwork is submitted without bleeds.
Since it is the customer’s responsibility to provide print ready artwork, print shops may handle this in several ways:
- reject the file: you will need to resolve the issue before processing resumes
- print it as is: white edges may appear along the edges after cutting
- print it as “no bleed”, leaving a white border around the edges
- fix it by modifying your file before printing
The first three scenarios will either add time to your project or reduce the quality of your finished product.
The fix option may also add some time, often days, to your production time and adds to the cost. Print shops typically charge $25 and up for basic adjustments to layout.
Only one print shop includes this service in the pricing and production schedule.
A print ready submission for a double sided flyer or for a 4 page newsletter will be one file with the appropriate number of pages. Some online shops charge extra if more than one file is submitted.
Production is an important aspect of print pricing. Typically, printers provide a number of production days for them to comfortably complete the job. If you want your product faster, rush fees are added.
When looking for cheap printing, look for fast standard production times. In that case, you will only pay extra for super fast service.
In our paper comparison example above, Printer C offers their “cheap flyers” in 6 to 9 business days (add a weekend in there to mean 8 to 11 days). Printer A’s standard is 5 business days.
To get Printer C’s cheap flyers in the same amount of time as Print Shop A, you will add another $44 to the price of the order.
Save money on printing and reduce waste with online print shops that allow you to order flexible quantities.
Imagine that you are looking or some cheap flyers to distribute to a particular area of town. You need 1764 flyers.
You have a choice online to select a print shop that allows you to order 1764 flyers or a print shop that forces you to order 2000 to get what you need. Compare and save.
Black and white for the cost of colour
Black and white printing costs less to provide. If the print shop does not offer a black and white or provide it for much less, consider asking for it.
About Online Design Tools
Many online print shops offer a convenient tool to help you with your design. It does not work to use their tool and download your file to submit to another printer.
The file you download is generally low resolution, proof quality, without bleeds. The system is designed to submit print quality files only to that particular print shop.
A safe option is to use a free design tool that allows you to download print ready files that you can send to any print shop.
Guide to Finding Affordable Printing Services: Summary
It pays to shop around
When selecting an online print shop with whom to form an ongoing business relationship, you can save significant amounts of money by doing fair comparison pricing.
Online print shops use Search Engine Optimization and advertising to get to page 1 in your search results. But as illustrated here, if your search for cheap printing doesn’t include actual comparison of product pricing, you may be paying more than you need to.
Extend your online search to find and compare prices at several shops.
Compare apples to apples
It is not fair or appropriate to compare only lowest price to lowest price. You may end up overpaying for a budget product instead of getting the value you deserve for the same price.
Reputation vs Reality
Beware of loss leaders. Sometimes, cheap business cards may be the only affordable product in the online shop! The company creates the illusion of affordability with a few products, but actually has super high prices on everything else.
Gauge Value with Paper Thickness Points and Coating
Use the paper guide provided here to help you determine the best deal. In general, the measure of thickness in points is a great comparison. Thicker and coated papers cost the print shop more to buy and print on.
If an online print shop is offering thicker paper for a lower cost per unit, it is better value. Similarly, if a gloss and a matte paper are offered for the same price, the gloss is typically better value.
Add extra charges before you compare
Make sure you have added in all of the charges to the product price before you compare the product in one shop with that in another.