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Litho vs. Flexo printing on envelopes?

Answered by Stephen Beals, Digital Pre Press Manager and Writer

I have a supplier who is trying to charge me an up charge for printing my envelopes Litho instead of Flexo. When the bid went out, it did not specify a print process. However, I did specify a level of print quality. What are the "industry standards" regarding this?

With regard to my situation, I intend to stand firm on my position that the RFP did not specify the print process nor allow for this type of up charge. I would just like to have a more thorough understanding as to what is considered the norm out there.


The charge may well be legitimate. There are many companies doing specialized printing services, and their pricing is based on the fact that they have a fixed process. If they must vary from that process, there are additional costs incurred. My company, for example, charges a lot more for business cards than you would pay to a company that prints thousands of sets of cards every day very economically by ganging them on large press sheets and using a fully automated pre-press system. If those suppliers printed the cards one up on a 2 color press, they would have to charge as much as we do.

You don't say whether the quote included the "up charge" or not, or if this was an unpleasant little "surprise" after the fact. If they quoted one thing and then charged another, you certainly can refuse to pay for a charge that wasn't mentioned in the quote (check the fine print!). But, you may have a difficult time asserting that your request for bid did not specify a printing method. It is quite possible that the print quality level you specified forced the company to select the litho printing method as opposed to the flexo method. Typically, litho is much higher resolution than flexo. The printer can't be faulted for using the printing method that would fit your quality specs instead of a cheaper method that would not.

Before you refuse to pay the charge, find out exactly what made them change the printing method. If it was their choice, you should not have to pay extra. But if they were merely meeting the specs of your RFP in the only way they could, the question really becomes whether or not it's a reasonable charge.

There are several considerations I cannot determine from your question. For instance, what was your exact specification for "level of print quality"? Did the printer's quote specify a print process? How much was the "up charge"? At what point in the process you became aware of the extra charge?

But the biggest problem as I see it is that you don't feel as though the printer is treating you fairly. That's more of a communication problem than a pricing issue. Make sure the printer clarifies for you the reasons for the charge. And be clear in your own mind where the quote process broke down. Was it all on their end, or should you take some of the responsibility?

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at

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