Fireball Printing review

June 3, 2011 3:43 AM

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)
fireball.jpg

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.

23 Comments

  • Sorry to dig through your posts but I'm planning to use this printing service next year for a convention and I didn't want to sound random if I asked you on your new post …..and you get the pictures lol. Just wondering which is better for a 8.5×11 and 11×17 print: 80lbs cover or matte? Personally I don't like glossy prints because of the way they tend to bend but I wasn't sure if the 80lbs cover was the same as glossy… thanks!

    • you can ask for a glossy finish for 80lb coverstock ^^ some people already consider that too thick but I like it because it feels sturdy. They don't bend, it's not super shiny photogloss as you imagine, it just has a nice sheen that makes art prints look better.

    • Whoo that's a relief! photogloss would have been really annoying but I guess I can go and buy from fireball with its nice price :) I was thinking of getting prints the month before the convention but since I live in California, do you think they ship quickly? I can probably stretch the printing deadline a little bit further so that I can draw more stuff before the con

  • YAY! I'm so happy that you found a printer that works for you! I just watched one of your streams last night and it was SO helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to help a fellow artist out!

  • Just wondering, how many copies of each print do you order? And how many copies of prints do you recommend first time con sellers to sell?

    • I printed 70 copies of the new prints and the old best selling prints, and 30 of a few that I ran out of. I don't actually bring this many to a con since I don't sell much and it's impossible for me to bring too many, but I don't like to reprint, so I print about enough for a few cons while not too many in case a better printer choice shows up some time down the road (:

      Probably 5-20 copies of each is the average that I would recommend, depending on how well received the specific print is. You can only find that out by trial and error so if it's your first few times, make count and try to figure out which ones are good ^^ Some can be explosively popular for inexplicable reasons while others may not sell at all.

    • Thanks for the advice shilin! You're awesome :D And I can't wait until Carciphona arrives <3

  • THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS!!
    you (and finni) just saved my wallet so hard. printing at staples/ kinkos/ costco around here is like $3 per tabloid sized print :( with a slight discount in bulk but i'm no where near printing something like 600 copies, especially since i'm only going to Otakon (I WILL FIND YOU and buy those sexy blackbird prints unfff lol).
    thank you thank you thank youuuuu!

    • actually shilin i'm really curious about what you think of the new otakon artist alley rules!
      the 50/50 fanart/original rule isn't a problem for you but how will it affect other people you know that're selling too, and how is this gonna be enforced?? ..and what do you think of the 200 piece limit (doesn't this make it more unprofitable to sell small things like bookmarks/buttons/keychains)? and the ban on 3rd party selling next year?
      and i find it doubly insulting that they sent out this information AFTER tables were no longer refundable, and after this lottery system fiasco
      it sounds to me like otakon staff are trying really hard to lower the quality of work in the AA :(

    • are you working for otakon? XD these questions seem more like an interview than personal questions because I don't see how my opinion on them effect you haha

      about the lottery system, they are probably just trying to make it fair for everyone/prevent one person hogging multiple tables under many names solely for commercial purposes, as it has happened in the past, particularly in otakon. I think it's pretty retarded but from Otakon's history, I kind of understand why they thought this was a good idea (I don't think I've seen this problem with my own eyes in other cons)

      I don't know how the fanart law will effect other fanart sellers, it will 1) probably just force them to make more original art to balance out their fanart, 2) make them hang huge versions of their original art to make up for the numbers/visual display percentage, or 3) move to the dealer's room. I'm not even sure how people follow the 200 piece limit because no one follows them that I know of. But yes, it's most likely a lot more unprofitable to sell small items by that rule.

      I've never done any 3rd party selling, nor do I know anyone who has, but I guess they're trying to make sure that people who sincerely wants to attend the con in person to sell artwork and promote themselves gets a space, and discourage people who are just proxy selling there for monetary reasons. Personally I do go to AA to see the artists themselves, because if I want to see their art I can just go to their DA lol

  • Wow thanks for sharing shilin (and by extension, finni)! I'd never heard of that company before and they seem nice. I like the company I use now but I'll definitely try fireball since they're cheaper and sound nice. I'd love to one day be as successful at selling prints as you and finni (ordering 600 prints OMG and you're prints aren't cheap either xD) Thanks again!

    • haha I don't sell that well (at least not compared to finni) I just like to print a lot at once because I don't like to reprint, and thus having many colour variations of the same print lol ):

  • Freya

    Thank you so much for the useful printing info and sharing your experience! I'll definitely check them out for future printing ventures :D Also, thanks for the tip about the color saturation and contrast in the prints, I'll have to keep that in mind! >:)

    Ah, so the free proofs thing is only for local orders? or in the US? (ah, wait, there's still the shipping cost, so…) Then the only way is to make a separate order for proofs…ahhhhhh LOL, I still get paranoid with quality when ordering online because the product is not right-smack-dab in front of me :(

    • I don't think I ever mentioned free proofs? I was just saying it wouldn't be logical to get them even if I wanted to because I'd have to pay for shipping, making it very expensive XD

  • Your prints look great. Oh man, Finni is awesome, I remember posting on livejournal last year how I was going to try my hand at AN's Comic market but knew nothing about preparing my psd files for printing(besides the usual 300dpi settings) and she made all these replies with links to online print services, places to make business cards and all kinds of tips and tricks. She even points out thigs to me on twitter(WE NEED MORE PEOPLE WILLING TO SHARE THEIR SAGE-LIKE KNOWLEDGE) So if this Fireball Printing place has her blessing, it's worth looking into. Seems like every regular convention artist is doing the online printing, and if these places don't cost an arm and a leg like TPH, I'm all for it!

    • I think con artists (lol) are still like 90% printed at staples / fedex / kinkos, from what I've seen, based on the white borders on their prints since presumably most real printers offer bleed cropping. but then I don't approach fanart booths to stare at their prints so my estimate is probably off LOL

    • Finni

      GOSH GUYS QUIT GOSSIPING ABOUT ME LOL

    • oh shit she heard us

  • Ruina

    Ohh thank you for sharing!! *___* I really hope they're more consistent with their quality than staples (nrgh…), because it sounds like a nice place so far. I just looked at their site and noticed they print more things besides posters too. Dunno if I'll have use for those features but I'll definitely keep this place in mind! :D

  • Ahh thank you for sharing your experience with a new printing place! Such invaluable information~~ I'll keep that place in mind since I want to try making prints in the future.. if I ever get the chance to orz.

    lool the "Goodbye" picture was especially bright. While I think it looks pretty nice, it's still a jarring difference from your original version.

    • yeah it turned out very vibrant, almost like sun rise instead of sunset. fortunately for that piece, it may just work to my advantage because people might like the vibrant sky colours better!

  • Oh my god all the Blackbird prints I want to buy them but the shipping will kill me they already destroyed my punctuation marks

    But I am so glad to hear you found a good place for printing! A lot of artists I'm following seem to have a lot of problems finding the best cost for quality place so huzzah for you! :D

    • LOL YEAH I HATE SHIPPING UGH.

      honestly I'm fine with staples, especially since I found out their hub secret early on from ordering massive amounts of prints and I really liked their hub prints. but hey I'm not going to turn down something that is at 1/3 of the cost where the quality difference will go unnoticed with most of the viewers lol