What are your tolerance levels for fine press work?

Without getting too much into it, I find myself having to print a long term project in a short amount of time, with limited access to my press, which isn’t exactly of the highest quality. I printed as much as I could today, and although I felt good about getting something done, I knew it was imperfect printing. if I had had the time, I would’ve spent all day making a perfect run with exacting makeready and ink- but instead I have to jam as many runs in as I can in three hours.

I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t do or die, so I’ve been feeling crappy about being stuck in a hard place between the need to get it done and the desire to not put middling quality work with my name on it out in the world.

I’ve looked at a lot of fine press work, and most of it makes me feel bad about what I’m doing.

What do you all think? Have you had similar experiences? Is there point to a fine press project that isn’t perfect?

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When this happens - just stop calling it fine presswork, and start calling it printing.

If the deadline and constraints are out of your hands, make it a point to inform your client ahead of time “I can do it, but it’s gonna be a rush and it’s not gonna be perfect.”
This generally smooths things over or makes them understand they’re asking for the impossible/improbable.

Best of luck to you on your project.

I agree with HavenPress. I will ad that most people have no idea of what all is involved. We are not a push button close the lid business. I have a sign on my counter that says “Your lack of preparedness, doesn’t constitute an emergency on our part. ” if a customers work is not a profitable job it’s not worth doing it. Your work time and your willingness to rush it, is worth something. An Informed customer is a better customer. Cut back on your choice also. To many can cause delay in production time.

Used to see a sign like this a lot;

Finest printing available,
Fastest printing in town,
Printing at a price you’ll love.
Pick one.

There are two painful scenarios associated with taking vs not taking work that can’t be done well, and I think they are just about equally crappy:

A- you do the work, the work is not properly done because it is rushed, and the client rejects the work.
This scenario leaves you having busted your ass for work that will not be compensated for.

B- you reject the work, because the work is not going to be properly done and cannot be finished in time without compromising quality.
This scenario leaves you with free time, but no work- and therefore, no compensation. It also requires you to be shrewd enough to explain that the work cannot be done in time, and that you’ll pass on it.
I have enacted scenario B dozens of times, even with a disclaimer saying that if I did accept the work I’d have to do so under a ‘no rejection- rush work’ contract/clause, and I’ve been called an asshole a few times. To this, I shrug and suggest they contact all my competition, provide them names and references of dozens of printers. It’s better to send someone like this to the competition if they won’t understand the variables as you lay them out.

It is tempting to go with A thinking “I’ll get paid even if the work is shoddy, because the client will understand” - in your case, I hope your client DOES understand and that you have apprised them of the difficulties involved, clearly communicated quality standard compromises as part of the project ‘scope of work’ communications, and established a payment schedule in writing that has you paid before the work leaves the shop.

It is sometimes tempting to go with B if you already have ‘some’ work in the shop, but this can give you a reputation as a difficult to work with operator (My personal preference!) under the gun- but in my opinion, I’d rather be seen with as thorough, fastidious, uncompromising, and accurate, with written communication to back it up- than I would to be seen as a second rate printer by any third party who comes across the work I’ve put out and sees it in the ranking of ‘second rate’ or ‘below standard’.

I’ve screwed up in the past, I’ve made mistakes, I won’t paint myself as perfect, but this is what I’ve LEARNED from those mistakes and how I see things.

Option C is you explain to the client that things will not be perfect, you get them to sign or communicate that they are willing to accept lesser quality because it simply must be done, and they give up the right to veto or reject work due to quality limitations. But then you’re staking your reputation of quality on work out in the wild that is beneath you?

In the past I’ve found advertising companies, certain kinds of designers, commercial entities with ‘big’ spans to accept this sort of a stipulation in writing.
Conversely, I find most clients like wedding invitations, fashion design professionals, or anyone with an eye for details to be lacking of understanding in these situations. This is generalization but again, my experience talking.

So, how did it go?

I hate to ask, but could you post a piece of your “imperfect” work? Just curious. Usually, I’ll get the clients OK when I feel forced to print a job with imperfections.

I have printed jobs that look like crap and clients loved them. I have printed jobs I thought were flawless and clients rejected them. I do agree that educating a client as to time nature of production is important, this is letterpress not Kinko’s. Not that a rush it will look bad but rather this is not the manner in which you like to do things. Lets face it most of our clients want a rush. Seldom does anyone bring in a job and says please take your time I don’t care when I get it. I good client will understand the effort you made to produce the hand crafted job on time.