How many mess-ups are normal? How to minimize?

I have been printed like crazy lately and am very happy with the actual printing results. I am even working on a 3 color job right now! I love it!

The problem is that out of a run of about 100 - I end up ruining about 30% of them. My husband asked me if that is normal as lettra paper is pretty expensive so I understand his concern ;-)

The biggest issue I have is keeping the paper clean - especially the Lettra white.

I wipe the paper cutter down before I trim down to printing size but still a few get dirty there somehow.

Then when I get down to print there are always a few in the beginning and end of the run that dont make it due to ink adjusting.

Then during the run a bunch tend to get dirty finger prints on them as well.

I clean the table prior to printing and wash my hands several times in the middle of my run but the press is just dirty.

No matter how many times I wipe off my gripper arms they still tend to get a few when I am using larger paper.

Then during final cutting I always loose a few.

Just wondering what is the normal amount of loss for a standard 100 print run? This question is more for people working by hand - not those with electric paper cutters or windmills that feed the darn paper for you!

Any tips on minimizing the mess-ups?


PS - did I mention that I am a perfectionist so if there is even the littlest thing wrong - I tend to throw the piece out - is that normal? I want to provide high quality!

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Use cheap scrap paper top and bottom to protect the real job when cutting. Both for prepress cutting and post press cutting. Also use similar weight, but cheaper paper for make ready until your happy with position and color. Then switch to the Lettra. Just watch you impression on papers not meant to compress as much as Lettra does.

What sort of marks are you getting from the gripper arms? If it’s rust or oil use a quick drying solvent and a white rag to clean them before the run. Keep wiping them until they don’t leave marks on the white rag. Same goes for the cutter bed and clamp.


When we first started printing we would blow through probably 25 sheets trying to figure everything out before we got a few good ones… then something else would screw up and we would have to start all over pretty much. We have since figure out all the little quirks and we usually use about 5-10 sheets before we start the run. Although, sometimes if the press isn’t cooperating, we will just use some previously used sheets for any registration or intermittent inking issues.

And I second the good cleaning! We spent about an hour wiping our press down from dust, grime, and grease build up… then we went back and oiled all the ports and it is running smoothly and we don’t have to worry about dirty fingerprints.

All above is good advice also the press will sweat depending on environment etc. I use paste wax on non oiled parts and wipe often and lightly. Emery cloth on your delivery suckers or fingers can help to prevent marking.

Thank you all SO much for the tips! I knew I was running a little high on mess-ups but these should help!

It’s crazy how many little things can really make big messes!

Thanks again,

Hi Brandi,

I am always finding new ways to mess up, and sometimes there are just those little pressroom poltergeists that won’t go away.

I have a photocopier, and I use it a couple of ways to save the good paper when trying to get the placement spot-on. First, sometimes I make a copy of my layout onto a transparency which I then flip over onto the form. Here’s an example:[email protected]/2144339968/in/set-7215760223469...

Second, for multi-pass projects, I make photocopies onto inexpensive paper of each successive run and use these to position the form for the next pass.

Using these methods I generally can get good positioning within one or two sheets. But of course there are so many more ways to mess up. I save all my mess-ups and use that paper for doing trial runs for things like color, ink coverage, and impression, printing on “clean” areas and on the back. If you’re a real paper miser like me you also can print good stuff on your mess-ups and trim them to make tiny little things like this:

And then there are bookmarks, too!


Wow, Barbara. I love your idea with the transparency sheet. I will have to try that! — Andrea

Hi Brandi—

Just for some perspective, I think the “trade conventions” of printing specify +/- 10% as satisfying the customer’s order unless specifically agreed otherwise. Most shops would hold their waste to a figure considerably below this. I used to advertise my ability to keep waste below 1-1/2% for most ordinary work.

If you are doing very high-end stationery, poetry, chapbooks, announcements, etc. I think you can expect more waste to maintain a very high level of quality. Compensate by ordering plenty of stock and charging a premium price. I have sometimes examined _every_ impression on a fine-quality job.

In our shop, we use a commercial hand cleaner frequently to avoid marring the stock. Maybe you can get a tub of “Goop” or somesuch.

Best wishes, Brian

You guys are always so amazing in offering help - thanks so much! Great tips Barbara and thanks for the figures Brian. I obviously need to seriously work on my waste!