- What kind of printer do I need to start a custom button making business?
- What paper is best for making custom buttons?
- What is the cost of printing custom button?
- How can I lower the cost of making buttons
Original question: In your experience with button making what type of printer and ink would you use for a business level quality graphics? I know that over time ink can sun bleach and paper can break down, so for a good quality product for my customers any ideas? I have not started my button side of my business yet but looking to soon. Love your site btw and thank you for your time. Have a great day.
Paper choices for Button Makers and Button Making.
Button makers are mostly designed for standard 20lb (75gsm) to 32 lb (120 gsm)paper. There are some special photo button machines designed for thicker photo paper but in the digital age photo paper is a bit obsolete so the special machines are quite rare and not really necessary. I think the key to good buttons is that you choose a super white paper, the look and the way it prints being more important than the weight. That way when you print black (or any other color) on white you have the maximum contrast. I have also found that papers with a gloss finish print well.
When purchasing paper I have always found better prices and quality from commercial print shop suppliers rather than retailers like Staples. A standard pure white glossy commercial printer paper will do it. No problem.
Printer choices for Button Makers and Button Making.
Your choice is basically Ink Jet or Laser. Inkjet will give you better quality for photos and artwork especially if you get a high end Epson but you will pay dearly for the ink. Inkjet or bubble jet have higher resolution than laser. Laser printers are not as good quality but are generally reasonable quality and are much cheaper per page. I have tried many but I have not found a good quality entry level laser printer (Up to $800) that can compete with the big machines installed in copy shops. A good copy shop can give you really high quality results but don’t just go in and accept what you’re given. All print jobs need a little tweaking. Colours can be enhanced, saturation improved. Find a printer that cares and then give them lots of business. Remember the quality of the printing can make or break your custom button business. Once you’ve established your business it becomes time to consider the big expensive photocopier on a 5 year lease with a click charge per 18″ x 12″ print.
If you decide to print from your home or office with a $300 printer that can work too. Make sure you’re maximizing the page and remember you do not have to print right up to the cut-line. Save ink and take out any unnecessary color on your artwork that does not show – the buttons are not affected. See the example below. These are 1” buttons and 42 buttons fit on each letter size page. The cut size for 1” buttons is 1.313” but we cut the color short – the white does not show on the button.
Also speaking of saving ink, I personally have had no luck with refilling my ink cartridges. The colors coming out of my printers have always suffered. I am not supporting Canon, Xerox and the rest for overcharging for their cartridges and I have saved money by refilling cartridges locally but quality always declined. If color is not crucial it’s a good way to go.
Some companies, like Xerox have solid ink printers. These printers are not ideal for button making if you are making custom buttons for clients because the colors are way off and that can be a problem. Solid ink printers may be good (or not so bad) for the environment but people are often fussy about their corporate logos and business colors and that can lead to problems if your printer cannot match colors on the monitor.
Issues with bleaching and paper deterioration.
I have never found bleaching or paper deterioration to be a problem. I have a few buttons that are maybe 20 years old. Yes the paper changes color but that even adds to the effect for an old button. You could try using acid free paper but I don’t think it’s necessary, buttons are pretty durable. I had a store with a south facing window that got direct sunlight all day. I filled the window with a mosaic of buttons and yes after a year buttons began to fade and after 18 months it was necessary to change them, but that is exceptional exposure for a simple button.
Cost of button printing.
The cost of printing buttons varies tremendously. I calculated that some photo buttons using a cheap Canon printer ($400) with a 4 colour cartridge system ($440 for 4) were costing $1.30 for a full sheet. Ouch! But that was the luxury of doing it at home and not going to a printer and that meant printing costs of 3 cents for a 1” button (42 up) and 8 cents for a 2-1/4” button (9 up). These days I have an 18” x 12” Xerox @ 8 cents a sheet. That means the 2-1/4” button print costs 8 cents per 18 buttons as opposed to 8 cents each. The difference in the cost of printing buttons can be huge! But if you’re selling a custom button service print quality is key.