[Dogfight]: Shanghai Printing Companies
Finding It: Located in a compound of offices and is semi-difficult to find. To get to their office, you have to go inside a garage and ride up the elevator.
Service: Service is station-oriented; we moved from one station to the next and talked to three staffers during our visit. The whole process took about 30 minutes. The people were polite and professional, but the delivery of the product took the longest to arrive—about 4-5 business days, versus the 1-2 day average. Basic English OK.
Quality: Product was everything we asked for and looks good—colors and quality all pretty much spot-on. The paper they used feels flimsy, though. That means this booklet was significantly thinner than the other ones we received.
Finding It: Not hard to find if you can read Chinese. It’s your average Chinese printing shop on the side of a busy street. Its windows, doors, and really, any space possible, are plastered with advertisements. Inside is packed with machines and chairs randomly squished into the tiny office.
Service: Owner is Canadian, but never in the office and the two shopkeepers don’t speak any English. The two girls that worked in there were eager to help at first, but after hearing that we only wanted one sample book, they reluctantly agreed to help us and complained one too many times about how they are losing money over this transaction.
Cost: 200rmb wasted*
Quality: Hilariously disappointing. This cost us 200rmb, though. Not so hilarious. Just offensive, really. This piece of crap was most certainly printed on a mid-range home printer and bound by someone with the DIY capacity of a middle schooler. They managed to make this usually attractive lady look like a corpse too.
Finding It: Easy to locate and quick to get to since they are located right by metro station Loushanguan Road (Line 2).
Service: One of the best received from companies on this list. We sat down with a designer who helped us one-on-one. He was attentive and made suggestions on improving the design of the book. We didn't take his advice, but nice of him to offer it anyway. The whole process took 15 minutes and delivery was next day. Really efficient and painless compared to the other companies. And, this was the only place that followed up/emailed before and after the product was made. Basic English OK.
Quality: Colors are great, and the paper is thicker and sturdier than that used by the other companies. It makes a big difference—this booklet from EP China just feels like its higher quality than some of the other ones we received. But, that seems to come at a cost, since EP China was one of the most expensive.
Finding It: Easy to find. We went to the one in Changning, which is not too far from the Songyuan Lu metro station (line 10). The office looks tidy, professional and well-organized.
Service: Slow. So, so...slow. We spent two hours here, first waiting in line, then being led from one station to the next and one person to the other, with lots of waiting even as we were getting helped. The workers are polite but kind of robotic and detached, which creeped us out a little. Basic English is OK.
Quality: There’s a reason it’s popular in Shanghai. For a low price, the product was great. They delivered on what we said we wanted and we received the product the next day. BUT, the guys at ToneKing took it upon themselves to tweak the color saturation of our book cover so that the sunset looks over-dramatic and fake. We would have given them full marks if they hadn't gone and stepped all over our design game.
Finding It: The hardest place to find on this list. The office building is old, dark, and located inside a maze-like alleyway. Once inside, it was a new mission to find the office itself. There are no signs; we had to ask their neighbors before finally knocking on a closed door. We wouldn’t suggest going in personally if you don't have to.
Service: PX2 calls itself a "fine art printing studio" and kept telling us that it was not suitable for small-scale printing. On our first visit, we were told by the receptionist that the owner would contact us via phone the next day. Afternoon came the next day and nothing from her, so we called her. She was pissy from beginning to end. We said we needed one sample book, and she quoted 900rmb. Then she changed her mind and said they don’t provide that kind of service and told us to go try elsewhere.
Quality: We are too broke to know.
Finding It: It’s a small shop within an office building near Jing’an Temple. Easy to find. The storefront is actually an office that houses five designers—the actual printing is done off-site.
Service: Hongmo says it distinguishes itself from competitors because it's a green printing company that uses soy ink. English speakers OK. Service was professional. We sat down one-on-one with a designer who was nice to us even though we interrupted his lunch time. Hongmo is also opened on weekends, which not all professional printers are.
Quality: Colors and concentrations all great. Paper is just slightly thinner than we would have liked. And, they forgot to give us the glossy cover that we made a point of asking for several times. We got a matte cover instead.
THREE STARS. (Minus one for the slip-up)
Finding It: Ugggggh, difficult to find. It's located inside an alleyway, and you have to go behind a building to reach the elevators. Spaces are tight—there's a reception area and five designers cramped behind it.
Service: Their website is under construction, so calling or emailing for more information is a must. Polite and professional service, though. The designer we worked with was really good about making sure she got all the details just right. She even called the next day to double-check all details before the file went to print. Delivery is fast, just two business days. Basic English OK.
Quality: Not bad. Pretty much got everything we wanted, but the colors seem a bit dull compared to the other booklets we got back. Somehow the bold colors just look less saturated and don't pop out as much.
Finding It: Relatively easy to find, as long as you don’t get lost in the outlet mall next door. Note that the entrance to the shop is at the side, not the front, of the building. The office is small and clean, with only two to three designers.
Service: These guys run a full-service company, so they can do graphic design and printing, from paper products to things like canvas bags and mugs. English speakers OK. Service was personal, one-on-one with the designer. He was attentive and the whole process was quick and efficient. Delivery is fast and they are open on Saturdays.
Quality: One of the best booklets we got back, but we noticed that they also went ahead and "enhanced" the colors on our cover page. No, they did not ask us or notify us of the change. It's not nearly as dramatic as ToneKing's tweaking, though, so we forgive them. The only thing that could’ve been better is if the cover pages were thicker, as there isn't much difference between the thickness of the inside pages and the cover.
Finding It: We don't know. This was the only company that didn't require us to come in to their shop to discuss the details of our print in person. We did everything over email and the phone.
Service: Good. Simple and direct. We were glad to save the trip to their office for yet another meeting. Basic English is OK and even though communication is all kept digital, their staffers respond pretty quickly.
Quality: Really good. One of the best ones we got back—colors, quality, binding, paper, all good. And the price is right too. Considering that it was one of the most straightforward companies to deal with, we'd probably go with them again.
*Note: Sample prices vary according to your project and requirements. These prices are just for reference for our specific project. Big thanks to Nancy Bai for her work on this article.