Question to Ask Before Pricing Wide Format Printing

Is wide format printing really a high-margin business? It can be. But it depends on how you approach pricing wide format printing and how you market the ancillary services.

If you’re expanding into wide-format inkjet printing to escape the fiercely competitive pricing of commercial printing, think about how to capture some of the higher margins that experienced large-format graphics producers earn.

Unless you plan to simply sell a few standard sizes of banners and posters, don’t automatically use the same pricing structure you use for sell sheets, booklets, postcards, or brochures. Many large-format print jobs will involve fast-turnaround printing of many different sizes of graphics on different types of materials. Then, your client may expect you to ship different sets of these wall, window, shelf, display, and floor graphics to various locations throughout the country.

The most successful large-format printing companies have stayed in business because they use a value-based approach to pricing wide format printing. Their prices take into account the importance of the job to the customer, the complexity of the assignment, and some of special risks associated with each project. On some large-format printing jobs, there is plenty of room for errors and mistakes can be costly. Many jobs require expertise in materials selection, color management, logistics, and installation. You also need a “can-do” approach to problem-solving.

So how does all this affect pricing? Well, it should prompt you to think beyond the cost of ink, media, and press time required to deliver 50 or 100 copies of a print. Some multi-graphic requests will require you to think more in terms of project management. How much will the finished and installed project be worth to your client?

Consider these questions:

How valuable is it to your client to have perfectly matched colors on everything from their business cards and sell sheets to trade show graphics and wall murals? One reason commercial printers are being encouraged to expand into wide-format printing is because many customers want colors to match on all of their printed goods. Color matching is difficult to guarantee when customers have to send a portion of the printing to a commercial printer and other parts of the print job to a wide-format graphics specialist or sign shop.

But because wide-format graphics involves such a wide range of different materials, color management can become tricky. Getting colors to match on many different printing devices requires additional investments in software, and employee training.

Will your customers pay more for a type of graphic they can’t get anywhere else? Large-format printing equipment is so versatile that you can print or decorate almost any type of surface or object you choose. If you have a particularly creative design team, you can produce one-of-a-kind tables, chairs, floors, pillows, window blinds, labels, packages, and vehicle wraps. You can help marketing managers gather data about the viewership of the printed graphics.

The owners of thriving wide-format printing companies understand the value of continuously educating their clients about new types of graphics and support services. But a lot of “design thinking” and product development research goes into creating new types of signs, displays, promotional products, and decor accessories. So if you offer your client a type of display that is unique to your company, expect them to pay a premium for it.

Will your customers pay more for graphics that will be installed for a long time?

Are you printing marketing collateral that will only be used for a three-day trade show? Or are you printing wallcoverings that will help your client create a branded environment for his or her store? If the printed graphic will be installed for years, charge a higher rate. You will need to make sure that the job is installed perfectly, looks spectacular, and that the materials will last the promised length of time.

Will the job involve complicated logistics?

Problems crop up on wide-format printing projects that involve shipping different mixes of wide-format graphics to different locations. Clients who aren’t prepared to do it themselves will pay extra to have you handle this phase of the job, too.

How much would it cost to reprint or re-install a supersized graphic?

If you choose to specialize in grand-format graphics for events and trade shows, keep in mind that if the prints get damaged during finishing, shipping, or installation, you may be asked to reprint them at no charge to the client. Reprinting a huge banner is more costly than reprinting a fw sell sheets or brochures.

For more advice on some of the nuances of pricing wide format printing, ask for a demonstration of the wide-format module in Ordant Software. It’s simple to use and can be easily customized to handle different pricing models. You could set up one set of pricing rules for lithographic and digital press jobs, and a different set for wide-format, grand-format, and sign projects. We have helped all types and sizes of printing businesses bring more intelligence to their estimating process, and we can help you too. Visit to schedule a demonstration.

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