I’ve made my prints this year through a different company. The prints had just arrived today so I’m just going to relax from packing orders by typing up a storm here! (this photo is more contrasty than my actual prints because I can’t figure out the right exposure to use for my camera lmao)
So I was looking for printing alternatives since I’m not very happy that each time I print a picture through staples, the colours are different. That and 80lb glossy ledger prints at staples is like what $1.5 plus tax? Other than the fact that I can go there to print whenever I want, I figured if I have time to prepare I should really find a cheaper place, especially after my experience with looking for a book printer. So my friend Finni, who knows EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW IN THIS WORLD, recommended Fireball Printing with the bottomline of its prints being high quality and their cheap cost.
Cost wise, no contest. It is based in Philadelphia but they both ship and deliver. Their ledger (11×17) price is 50 cents, +10cents for 80lb coverstock or +15 cents for 100lb matte something I don’t know (check their site), and +10 cents for full bleed (my favourite feature). They print double sided as well but I don’t have a use for that yet. So I ordered 80lb coverstock glossy prints with full bleed which is 70 cents each. The shipping to me is $20-40 for prints in the hundreds but since each print is less than half the price of Staples, Fireball was still cheaper than Staples with shipping, and the posters are already better because they will have full bleed. They also don’t charge rip fees. I printed many copies of the same thing, but if you don’t want insane amounts of the same prints, I’m pretty sure you can get the same pricing as I did if you ran less copies of more variations. They just might not give you bulk discounts because of the extra manual labour.
Delivery wise, no problem, as long as you’re not doing it the night before. I’m used to ground shipping so I expected a few weeks of shipping time, so I ordered a month ahead of time. But the same day they gave me a call and took care of payment and delivery date. It was a Friday so they said the prints (I ordered like 500-600 LOL) would be shipped on the following Tuesday, and I would receive in on Thursday, which I did. They also gave me a discount which basically waived my shipping cost, making their price even more unbeatable. I could’ve had another month to draw more prints that I didn’t have time in May to make, but I guess it’s a good discovery because the one of my concerns for non-local printing services is shipping time and cost, both of which were not a problem here.
Service wise, I think they’re great. The girl who took care of stuff for me, Catherine, is really nice and helpful. I sent in the files without bleed because I forgot but they took care of it for me. Also, they were able to provide custom size crops for me. I’ve always had to crop my Basilica and Too Late prints myself every time I print them, because they were drawn with 8.5×11 ratios and don’t work on 11×17 sizes. I can’t even crop off the height on computer like I did for some other prints I have because of the composition of the drawings. So I would print them with white space on one side, and use a guillotine I bought a while back to cut them down to like 11×14. It’s a hassle because they happen to be my best selling prints so I have to do this a lot ): I asked if they could crop it down to the right size, since they’re doing bleed cropping anyway, and they said yes! The crop work was precise and it saved me so much time so more props for them.
The last part is the part I was scared of the most: Quality, because there is no concern with pricing, I was prepared to wait for shipping, and I don’t really care about customer service. This next part gets long because I tend to get redundant and specific about stuff like this LOL… so long story short, the quality is good. Not mind blowing, there are things that you can get picky about especially if you’re the artist of the print. But overall, without prices in mind, it’s on par with most Staples prints if you were lucky with Staples, and better than staples prints if you were unlucky with staples (which are most cases). With the price in consideration, it’s absolutely better than staples and I wouldn’t go back to staples again except for express prints.
The only reservation I have with printing abroad is because I can’t get proofs. (or well, I could’ve bought a few as proof ahead of time but that would’ve cost me extra and I did think each shipment would take weeks to arrive, so I didn’t think I had the time) But I was mostly relieved today when I saw the prints. I compared the basilica print because I still have them, and because it’s the one most sensitive to printing quality because of its washed-out colours and low contrast. I have a few kinds of basilica prints, one done at the Staples “hub” (that’s what they call it, I’m guessing a central printing facility because they only print my stuff there if I order way too many. But the hub’s printing quality is excellent, with less white border and very consistent colours), and the rest done at a regular staples copy center. I remember having jarring colour differences between each copycenter prints (really dark, really light, leaning towards certain tones, the usual problems) and I feel bad selling some of the poor runs especially when my display one is the best one. The Fireball print resembles the “hub” version the most which I’m happy about. It is slightly higher in contrast, which is also true about most of the other Fireball prints. But if I put my nose at both prints next to each other, I can see that the hub print is absolutely smooth, whereas the Fireball print is… how do I say it… slightly grainy? It’s not as bad as it may sound, and you really have to be pretty up close notice it.
Also, the near-blacks on my good bye and veloce pics were really dark. Colour consistency is one of my main concerns and I was a little sad that they were on the dark side (lawl no pun intended). It could pass by as just me painting really dark because the rest of the pictures get by fine as simply high contrast, but this is the one thing that the hub prints trump Fireball’s at. [edit: actually I just checked the last reprints and they matched the hub and file lightness nicely, just more saturated, so I don't know why to the veloce and good bye pics were so dark ): they were both the highlights of my new prints LOL CRY...] On the other hand, these prints are consistently more saturated than my other prints. You actually can’t tell that I draw with dull colours. I liked the hub prints a lot because they were able to reproduce that soft desaturated look my pictures have, but this is nice too because the vibrant colours are I guess more eye catching. If you use vibrant colours by default though, you may want to tone it down a little beforehand. I realize every monitor is different and your print/file match may be different from mine, but if you have previously printed, like me, and you’re sure that your monitor’s colours are accurate enough, like me, these would be my advice. I will have to print with them again to see if this is what they consistently produce, in which case I will make necessary adjustments to make preprint files brighter and less contrast-y, or if it varies with the season like regular Staples stores. One way or the other though, I will most likely not print with Staples again just because I can’t find a way to always get hub prints anyway.
In conclusion, I loved Fireball (thank you Finni XD) and I would recommend it to anyone who needs to do bulk printing in the future and more concerned about cost than breath-taking quality prints. For what I saved, they gave me more than I could ask for.