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Where can I find information on industry trade practices or standards?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan, Founder, Print Buyers

Where can I find information on trade practices? What exactly is commercially acceptable work? What's to stop a buyer from saying they won't pay for a job because they don't like the color etc.? Are there any industry guidelines that might be helpful to me?

S. B.

I believe that you may be asking about printers’ Terms and Conditions for Sale – referred to formerly as the industry trade customs. If so, this is a document that was developed for printers and was revised by the Printing Industries of America (PIA), National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL), and the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) in 1994 and then again in 2002 – and is now called "Best Business Practices for the Printing Industry." Quoting from the most recent document: "These best industry practices, terms and conditions for sale, and glossary of terms are voluntary and are provided for the purpose of helping printers and their customers avoid misunderstandings concerning their rights and obligations." Printers may modify this document, so be aware that each printer may claim different guidelines on what is acceptable. Printers often provide a copy of their terms and conditions for sale to new customers and some include the document along with price quotations. Many printers use this document as part of the contract for work and expect that the customer will follow these guidelines.

Please know that these guidelines favor printers' rights -- as they were developed by associations that support printers. Since there isn't an independent association for print buyers, you'll need to develop your own print standards or guidelines. Even if you agree with the guidelines established by your printer, creating your own Print Standards is an important and proactive way to establish and clarify your needs and expectations for your print suppliers. Print Buyers has created a sample Print Standards document to help you think through some of the issues that are important to print buyers. You may copy our document and modify it to suit your needs -- just make sure that your printers are in agreement with following your Print Standards. Go here to see PBO's sample Print Standards:

What’s to stop a buyer from saying they won't pay for a job because they don't like the color? That's a tough one. The Best Practices for the Printing Industry say that "a reasonable variation between the color proofs and the completed job is to be expected." What's reasonable? From the print buyer's point of view? From the printer's point of view? Here are a few groups that attempt to address this issue and create agreeable guidelines for both printers and print buyers:

  • GRACoL -- General Requirements for Applications in Commercial Lithography (

  • SNAP -- Specifications for Newspaper Advertising Production (

  • DDAP -- Digital Association of Advertising for Publications (

  • SWOP -- Specifications for Web Offset Publications (

  • and BRIDG's -- Basic Requirements for International Design and Graphic Solutions (

You'll probably find most of these resources to be helpful. However, the best protection that you have is to create your own detailed Print Standards, discuss these with your printers, and apply it to each of your print jobs.


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