In-house Printing Vs Commercial Printing

You need a new letterhead for your recent or even ongoing business. You have not got a huge marketing budget so you deliberate over whether you should invest in an office colour printer and design the letterhead yourself (in-house), or whether to invest in a graphic designer and have the letterheads printed by commercial stationers.

A great quality letterhead is really important for your business and organisation for so many reasons. It is often something first seen by a customer and as they say: the first impression lasts. It is a representation of your brand and company and thus needs to look professional. Have you ever received a poor quality letterhead? What thoughts immediately crossed your mind? Probably: “Can I take this company seriously?”. “They don’t look professional. Not sure I really want to deal with these guys.”

Firstly, to produce a great quality letterhead it is advisable to hire a professional graphic designer to design your letterhead.

After you have your letterhead design then don’t let yourself down by going down the ‘cheap’ route attempting to print it out using your own in-house printer.

You really should invest some of your marketing/branding budgets on a reliable commercial printer so that you can achieve the best possible results. Getting a reliable commercial printer to produce your letterheads might not be as expensive as you think.

Below are some of the benefits of why you should go down the commercial printer route:

Print Quality

Typically, small businesses will invest up to on average £500 – £1000 on a colour printer. Commercial printers have the latest state-of-the-art high-end printing equipment worth tens of thousands of pounds. It’s no surprise then that a commercial printer will produce much better print quality with deep, strong colours and crisp fonts. Try printing very small text on your in-house printer. More than likely it will be eligible. Commercial printers are capable of printing very small text.

Very importantly for your corporate branding is the chosen colour scheme. Does the output of your in-house printer match the professional design created by your graphic designer? Commercial printers are able to match your colours much more closely than normal colour printers used by small businesses. This can be achieved using the Pantone system of colour matching whereby the graphic designer tries to match exact colours with the commercial printer.

Paper Choice

The choice of paper has an effect on print quality. Commercial printers will be able to advise you on the best paper choice for your needs. They often have a lot of options, different paper weights and coated paper to create better professional and crisp results.

Choosing a ‘thicker’, ‘weightier’ paper often means a nice solid feel vs holding something that feels light and poorly made. Purchasing a ream of premium coated paper can be expensive if you had to purchase from a stationery supplier – if you decided to print your letterheads in-house. Commercial printers offer many paper weights measured in gsm at very economical prices.

Commercial printers often supply a free sample pack of available paper weights, coated and matt for you to check before ordering any corporate stationery.

Amongst such samples, you will find many environmentally friendly options available from commercial printers, such as recycled and natural paper choices. Coated paper is often unsuitable for letterheads, as such paper is harder to write and stamp on. So for a guaranteed environmentally friendly impression it is better to switch from coated paper to recycled and natural options.

Turnaround time

It is true that one of the advantages of in-house printing is the immediate turnaround time but commercial printers do offer some excellent speedy services for a little extra cost.


Many people who wish to save money will try to design their corporate stationery themselves using software they already possess eg MS Word, MS Publisher and then proceed to print them using a relatively cheap in-house colour printer. Many designs incorporate images that go across and up to the edges of a page. When adopting the print-by-yourself approach there will often be a margin around the document as many of these printers are unable to print from edge-to-edge. This is often the case with laser printers. Commercial printers are able to print from edge to edge as they allow an extra margin which is cropped. This is known as a bleed. You just know if a letterhead you receive from a company has graphical elements that run across the paper, edge-to-edge, that they have used a commercial printer and thus gives them automatic credibility.

Other reasons

What if you do not own or have access to a colour printer? What if you constantly need to order toners or that the toners often are of poor quality producing smudging and in general poor results. The best option is therefore to use a commercial printer.

Great inspirational letterhead designs

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