Phone Case Printing: Techniques, Methods and Choosing a Phone Case Printer

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Phone Case Printing Guide
Phone Case Printing Guide Image source: flickr.com

In 2017, there are more mobile phones than there are people on Earth, making phone cases the number one must-have accessory when it comes to smartphones. So it’s no surprise that custom printing on these cases has become a big business.

For online and brick-and-mortar companies, taking advantage of custom phone case printing can potentially be very lucrative. What person doesn’t enjoy being treated like an individual, or being made to feel special?

Offering unique or personalized custom phone cases can help increase conversions because people love customized ‘stuff.’ It’s fun and creates an increased feeling of ownership.

If you’re part of a corporation, custom phone case printing is a great branding opportunity for small to large companies.

People are more likely to do business with companies that they’re familiar with. Therefore, providing your employees with the company’s custom design or logo helps branding consistency, allowing them to represent the business in your desired fashion.

Remember, your brand represents you.

Providing new contacts with a high-quality custom phone case will only add to your brand becoming more recognizable. If you’re able to offer such gifts; new contacts or customers will know what to expect from you – high-quality. Putting them at ease when thinking about doing business with you.

People use their smartphones every day, in fact, people look at their phones on average 85 times a day! So what’s a fantastic way to make a lasting impression? Offer them a promotional gift they’ll look at every day.

But it doesn’t have to only be about business and promotion. Maybe you just want something fun and personal.

If you don’t like having a standard phone case like everyone else, getting a custom print or design allows you to stand out from the crowd and show off your personality.

People who identify themselves with their phone want something that truly represents their personality. Getting a personalized design on your phone case gives you that sense of identity.

And what about as a gift? Yes! Custom phone cases make great personalized gifts that are suitable for all ages and genders.

Giving someone a personalized gift is always awesome. They can be very sentimental and are a great way to show affection. You’re able to print a photograph onto a phone case – inducing great memories for the receiver that they’ll treasure forever.

Honestly, there’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve absolutely nailed your gift; only to find out someone else have got them the exact same present!

You can easily avoid this by creating a personalized phone case cover, and guess what? They’re going to be so grateful, because not only have you shown that you’ve put thought into their present, but it’s super useful.

But, where do you even start when it comes to getting a personalised phone case printed?

How does it even work?

What type of phone case printing services is there?

Can you get phone cases printed in bulk, as well as small quantities?

Where do you find phone case printers and what do you even ask?

How do you decide what’s your best option?

If you have no clue where to start it could seem like daunting task. That’s why I’ve created this EPIC guide. You’ll get an extensive look into the world of phone case printing, where you’ll discover everything you need to know.

Chapter 1: Types of Phone Case Printing

You’ll learn about the different methods used for printing onto phone cases:the type of phone cases you’re able to print on using each method, and whether the method is cost effective for you. Finally, we’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each printing method.

Chapter 2: Researching Phone Case Printers

In this chapter you’ll uncover everything you need to know when it comes to finding and choosing your printer. You’ll learn the advantages and disadvantages of using a domestic or overseas printer. As well as, where you can look for them and what you’ll need to ask them once you’ve found potential printers.

Chapter 3: Choosing Your Printing Service

After reading this chapter you’ll understand about getting pre-production samples made and why this is so important. You’ll uncover tips for sending your artwork to your printer; how you can avoid mistakes, and help protect your intellectual property.

You’ll get an in-depth analysis of, ocean vs. air shipping, helping you decide what your best option would be.

Finally, you’ll learn when you should start the full production process and what you’ll need to include on your purchase order form.

Chapter 1: Types of Phone Case Printing

Image source: pexels.com

How do you choose your printing method? Well, it really depends on these two factors:

  1. Your design
  2. The quantity and style of phone cases

Your design is the most important element when it comes to deciding on which printing method you should use. If your design involves many different colours, variations, intricate details, or photograph images. Your printing method will need to be able to accommodate these.

This is the same if you have a simple design. You certainly won’t need to pay over the odds for a more complex printing method when you don’t require it.

Secondly, the quantity and style of cases you want is essential. If you’re looking to get phone cases printed in bulk, you’ll need to choose a method that’s optimized for larger quantities.

Some styles, like rubber IMD cases, can only be created in larger quantities. Similarly, if you only want a few phone cases printed, you’ll need to make sure you use a case style and printing method that doesn’t come with high MOQ’s (minimum order quantities).

In this chapter, we’re going to take a comprehensive view of the different phone case printing methods, covering:

  • How it works
  • What cases can be used for this method
  • Costs
  • Advantages & disadvantages

Screen Printing on Phone Cases

Screen printing, also known as serigraphy or silk screening, is a printing method with a long history dating as far back as 1000 years ago in China. A traditional method, it allows you to print on a variety of different materials, from t-shirt fabrics to wood through the use of stencils.

While screen printing is a type of printing, the process is vastly different from what comes to mind when most people think of printing.

A screen or mesh is very tightly placed over a frame (traditionally, this screen or mesh was made of silk, hence the name silkscreen printing). Today, most screens are made out of polyester, as they cost significantly less.

These screens are used to apply layers of ink onto your phone case. Your printing manufacturer will roll, press, sponge, or squeegee the ink over each screen until your design is complete.

What makes this process so time-consuming, is that your printer will have to apply one color, remove the stencil, wait for it to dry and then add the next color. So the more colors used, the longer the process will take.

Because your manufacturer will need to use different stencils for each color means this method isn’t ideal for low-volume, high-mix, and quick-delivery production.

However, the process uses thick inks which produce vibrant colours. Even on dark backgrounds. Although, the method doesn’t allow for a subtle graduation of colours.

What Cases Can be Used with this Printing Method

Silk or screen printing gives you the opportunity to print on most styles of phone cases. The most popular being the gel/TPU soft rubber cases.

You’re also able to print on hard plastic, wood, and metal phone cases.

Costs

Screen printing is better used for high-volume orders as the minimum order quantity tends to be higher than other printing methods. This is due to the extra labor time and number of materials needed. Your manufacturer will have to make custom screens for every color you wish to use, as well as waiting for each color to dry before moving on (this also increases production time).

You could potentially reduce your costs by using fewer colors and ordering a higher number of custom phone cases.

Advantages

  • Ideal for larger volumes
  • Bright, vibrant colours (due to thicker ink)
  • Many possibilities for design placement
  • Potential for high-volume discounts
  • High-quality printing
  • Ideal for printing logos and non-gradient designs with 4 or less block colours
  • High-quality prints in large quantities are significantly cheaper than other methods

Disadvantages

  • Limited colours
  • Cost per unit usually increases by the number of colours used
  • Limited amount of detail
  • Cannot print photographs
  • Not ideal if you need small quantities
  • Rarely available for print on demand
  • Slow production time
  • Less durable: your design and logo can scratch off over time (can depend on the type of material you are printing onto)

Digital UV Printing on Phone Cases

Digital UV printing is a method that uses ultraviolet light to dry and cure the ink as it is printed onto your phone cases. Whilst the printer applies the ink, the specially designed UV lights follow close behind – instantly curing the ink.

A process that was originally developed for quickly drying nail polish during manicures, this method has quickly expanded into the industrial and commercial markets. The UV lights cure any printed ink immediately which is great, because the dots of wet ink don’t get a chance to spread once printed – resulting in your getting much finer details on your phone case design. The faster drying speeds also make for a faster production time.

The flatbed printers that your manufacturer will use keeps your phone cases stationery whilst the printheads move over them to print your design. This allows for multiple layers of printing simultaneously, including white ink or spot varnishes on the highlighted areas.

This process is actually healthier for your manufacturer and the planet. Unlike solvent-based inks, UV inks don’t require isopropyl alcohol and emit very low (in some cases zero) volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. Because of this there’s no odor that needs venting, creating a pleasant environment for the manufacturer’s staff.

Happy staff can mean higher quality work.

Digital UV printing offers good durability. Your phone case designs will be resistant to wear and tear, scratches, and sun exposure. However, it is possible for your design to scratch off as the ink’s not permanently infused with the cases unlike other printing methods.

The great advantage, is that you can obtain high-quality and complex print designs, on almost any material.

Your manufacturer won’t have to double pass or re-run your phone cases through the press, which helps to reduce labor costs. UV printing allows for high-gloss levels and vibrant colors because the UV inks sit on top of your phone cases (rather than being absorbed). The end result is a sharper and crisper image.

What Cases Can be used with this Printing Method

You’re able to print on a wide range of materials with UV digital printing, as the UV-curing bonds the ink to almost any surface. You can print on wood, metal, plastic, concrete, and apparently people have even used it to print on toast!

The UV inkjets will produce consistent images across all materials, even if they’re dark or transparent.

Costs

UV-curable inks offer you the optimal adhesion without your manufacturer having to add a pre-coat. This means that your manufacturer can buy non-treated materials that save costs. The only exception to this rule is if you wanted to print on glass, but why would you make a glass phone case, it’s about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Faster drying times means faster production speeds. Your manufacturer will be able to pump out more phone cases with impressive speed and accuracy – lowering the cost of labor.

Most UV printing doesn’t require laminating, which again helps to reduce costs and production time. UV flatbed printers can print directly onto your phone cases which eliminates the time and cost of mounting.

Advantages

  • Fast curing speeds leads to faster production
  • High-quality prints with complex patterns
  • Can print on almost any material
  • Many creative possibilities
  • Eco-friendly
  • Low minimum orders
  • Cheaper than most other conventional printing

Disadvantages

  • Although the print quality is high, generally, it’s not in the same league as sublimation or IMD/IML printing
  • Difficult to print right to up the edges of your phone cases
  • Can fade over time compared with other inks
  • Can only print onto premade cases
  • Possible for your design to scratch off

Embossing and Debossing Phone Cases

Embossing and debossing are the processes where your manufacturer will create raised or recessed images onto your phone cases. An embossed image will be raised against the background of your phone case, while a debossed image is sunk into the surface.

Embossing alters the surfaces of your phone case by providing a three-dimensional raised effect. The process requires the use of two dies: the first die is raised and the second is recessed. When your manufacturer creates the dies, they will engrave your desired design into several metal plates. These embossing dies are used on the press.

The two dies perfectly fit into each other so that when your phone cases are pressed between them, the raised die forces the material into the recessed die. A specific level of pressure is applied to the dies in order to squeeze the fibers of your phone case – creating the permanent embossed impression.

Debossing is similar to embossing, but recesses your design rather than raising it. The process involves the same dies, but applies the pressure to the front side of your phone case – forcing the material down from the surface.

There are a number of different embossing styles you’re able to choose from. Here’s an overview of each one:

Embossing Styles

Blind Emboss

This style does not include the use of ink or foil to highlight the embossed area. The change in the dimensional appearance of your phone case will be the only noticeable difference. Blind embossing will give you a clean and distinctive or subtle image.

Foil Emboss/Print

Foil embossing, also known as foil stamping, is a printing method that uses heat, pressure, metal dies, and foil film(s). The foils can come in a variety of colors, finishes, and optical effects; metallic (gold and silver etc.) being the most commonly used.

Your manufacturer will create the dies in the appropriate shape for each color; they’re then heated and applied using pressure. Each color has it’s own foil, meaning your phone cases will have to go through multiple runs if more than one color is being used. Finally, a die is created and applied to emboss your desired design.

Registered Emboss

A process that places the embossed image in alignment with a printed graphic that is already on your phone case. Resulting in an embossed graphic design.

Combination Emboss

This involves the imprinting and aligning foil over an embossed image to create a foil emboss. The process requires great attention to detail as your manufacturer has to keep the image and foil matched perfectly.

Pastelling

Also known as leaf embossing, the process uses a combination die to provide a subtle antique appearance that’s embossed and foil stamped. You can obtain a pearl, clear gloss, or pastel foil finishes that provide a soft two-color antique look. Lighter colors work best to provide a soft contrasting effect.

Glazing

The embossed area on your phone cases will have a shiny or polished appearance. A result that is accomplished by applying heat with pressure in order to create the shiny impression. Dark colored heavy-weight materials generally work best with this as the polished effect is much more noticeable on dark colors.

Scorching

Scorching does exactly what it says on the tin. As the temperature of the die heating plate is increased beyond the normal temperature a scorched effect is created in the embossed image. This process is best used with a lighter colored phone cases so you can achieve a unique two-toned appearance.

Caution: It is very easy to burn your phone cases if too much heat is used.

What Cases Can You Emboss?

Just about any material that is thin, flat, and malleable can be embossed. Including, hard leather, wallet, and flip style phone cases.

Essentially, any phone case made from polyurethane (PU) or real leather is suitable. PU leather tends to generate better results due to the man-made consistency being more malleable.

Costs

The manufacturing process of embossing can be extremely simple and cost effective. Once the dies are created, your manufacturer will be able to use them over and over again.

It could be considered one of the cheapest ways to enhance the look of your phone case.

Advantages

  • Creates dimensional depth and detail
  • Cost effective
  • Variety of styles and patterns
  • Quick turn around (once dies are created)
  • Consistent quality
  • Great for subtle branding

Disadvantages

  • Adds cost to printing job because it is an off-press process
  • Thin serifs do not emboss well
  • Can only emboss malleable materials. So no hard, gel, or TPU phone cases
  • No photographic images
  • No Colours (unless you use foiling)
  • Could burn your cases (if you use scorching)
  • Dies must be custom built

Heat Transfer Printing on Phone Cases

This process involves your design being printing onto a special release paper using a plastisol-based ink. This thermoplastic ink is necessary as it allows you to obtain the high temperatures needed to cause the molecules to adhere to your phone cases.

Your printed design is placed onto your phone case and subjected to high-temperature and pressure for a short period of time. Once completed, your phone case is left to cool; after which the release paper is removed and your design will have been transferred onto your case.

Using this process allows you to print complex images (including photographic images), with a wide variety of colors and intricate designs that are durable, won’t fade, bleed, or peel. However, this print method is not usually practical for large quantities of printing, the process is time-consuming as each design must be cut one by one.

What Cases Can be used with this Printing Method

A great advantage for heat transfer printing is that it can be used on most materials. You’re able to obtain high-quality images on plastic, metal, leather, polyurethane, or wooden phone cases.

Costs

Advantages

  • Print complex images and designs
  • Print photographic images
  • Cost effective for small orders
  • Durable designs that won’t peel, bleed, or fade
  • Can print high quality complex images and designs onto leather and polyurethane leather cases
  • Can print on ‘wallet style’ leather cases

Disadvantages

  • Not suitable for large orders
  • Slow production speed
  • Expensive to set up

2D and 3D Sublimation Printing on Phone Cases

Considered to be one of the most advanced printing methods currently available, sublimation is a chemical process whereby your chosen design goes from a solid to a gas – skipping the liquid stage.

The process starts by printing your chosen design or logo onto special transfer paper using dye sublimation inks. Once your printer creates the transfers the difference between 2D and 3D printing comes into play.

For 2D printing, the next step is a more traditional printing method. Your chosen logo or design is positioned against a metal (usually aluminum) sheet and subjected to high temperatures and pressure (where the sublimation process happens). Once the image has transferred on to the metal sheet, it’s carefully stuck to a premade case.

The result being that your phone cases have a custom print on the back.

3D printing uses a special 3D vacuum heat press that allows printing on the sides and back of your phone cases. Once your design has been printed onto the special transfer paper, it is placed on your phone cases in the vacuum heat press; where the sublimation process takes place. The ink will transfer to your phone cases by turning into a gas and then back into a solid once is it on the surface of your phone cases.

Using the sublimation printing method will leave you with extremely durable designs. The ink impregnates your phone cases so that the prints can’t become damaged, wear, flake, or crack.

This process involves a continuous tone output during printing, resulting in smoother brighter colors with more variation. You’re able to print high-quality photographic images and patterns.

What Cases Can be used with this Printing Method

3D sublimation printing will only work if your phone cases have been specifically made for the purpose, otherwise they’d shrink… not ideal. This means you’re only able to use the sublimation method with hard, gel, and TPU phone cases.

Using 3D sublimation printing allows you to print on your phone case if it has a raised surface, opposed to traditional printing methods that can only print on flat surfaces.

2D sublimation is typically printed onto a metal sheet and then carefully inserted or stuck onto a preexisting phone case.

Costs

Advantages

  • Print with vivid colours
  • Print photographic images and complex designs
  • Your prints impregnate your phone cases making them incredibly durable
  • Smoother and brighter colour transitions
  • Print on both hard and gel/TPU cases
  • Good for small quantities

Disadvantages

  • More steps in the process means additional labor
  • Less efficient in terms of ink usage
  • An expensive process means this method isn’t good for large orders. If you’re looking to get over 250 phone cases printing, IMD/IML becomes a better cost-effective choice.

Water Transfer/Hydrographic Printing on Phone Cases

Known as water printing or hydrographic printing (as well as hydro dipping, hydro imaging, fluid imaging), this is a 3D decorating process. Your manufacturer is able to print complex patterns such as carbon fiber, wood grain, and camouflage onto your phone cases.

Before the water printing begins, your phone cases will be pre-treated with an appropriate primer and base coating. Your manufacturer will carefully place a polyvinyl alcohol hydrographic film (which has your desired pattern on), over the water’s surface in the dipping tank. This film is water soluble and will dissolve after an activator solution is applied.

Your phone cases are then dipped into the tank where the surface tension will allow the pattern to curve around any shape. The pattern is able to transfer onto your phone cases through chemical components. The activator softens the pre-treated layer, allowing the ink to form a bond with it.

Your phone cases are then removed, washed, and hung to dry.

Finally, your phone cases will be treated with a clear topcoat. This will improve the covers durability, making it resistant to UV and protecting it against scratches and daily wear and tear.

What Cases Can be used with this Printing Method

The hydrographic printing process can be used for a wide variety of phone cases, including, plastic, wood, fiberglass, and metal. If your phone cases can be dipped in water, it can be printed on using this process.

Costs

Advantages

  • Extremely good for printing complex patterns
  • Can cover curved and rounded surfaces
  • Resistant to damage from exposure to UV lighting
  • Weather resistant
  • Suitable for plastic, metal, and wooden phone cases
  • Matte or glossy finish
  • Can be very cost effective

Disadvantages

  • Gloss finishes have been know to easily chip and scratch
  • Cannot use this on gel/TPU cases because they’ll bend
  • You won’t get the same level of durability as IMD or sublimation cases

IMD/IML Printing on Phone Cases

In-mold design (IMD) or in-mold labeling (IML) is a process where your phone cases are decorated or labeled during the injection molding cycle. When your phone cases are being created (through injection molding), your custom design or logo is inserted into the open plastic injection and held in place via vacuum ports, electrostatic charge, or other methods chosen by your manufacturer. When the process is finished your custom phone case is created with the design permanently attached.

This process offer design flexibility, as well as productivity advantages over traditional post-molding decorating techniques. Your design or logo is permanent, this means it’s impossible to remove and will remain vibrant or life – giving your final product greater durability. Eliminating the post-mold decorating process can make this a more cost effective choice.

Choosing IMD or IML means you’ll obtain more flexibility with your design as this process is available in a wide range of colors, effects, textures, and graphics. It’s even able to replicate the most challenging looks like stainless steel, wood grains, and carbon fiber.

What Cases Can be used with this Printing Method

Printing onto your cases whilst they’re being molded means you’re able to print on a range of different styles of phone cases; even if they have complex designs like ‘wallet style’ cases.

The materials mostly used for this process are hard plastic, or flexible TPU cases.

Costs

Advantages

  • Wide range of colours, effects, textures, and graphic options
  • Long-lasting durable graphics that remain vibrant for life
  • Eliminates post-molding decoration, this can speed up production
  • Consistent quality
  • Minimal material waste
  • Cost-effective for larger quantities (generally over 250 phone cases)

Disadvantages

  • Can’t print small quantities (typically under 250 phone cases per design/style)
  • Production time can be longer (depending on orders in the queue)

Chapter 2: Researching Phone Case Printers

Image source: pixabay.com

How to Find Phone Case Printers and Suppliers

When it comes to looking for phone case printers and suppliers you have a number of options to start your journey off. Let’s dive in and take a look at the best places to start.

Domestic vs. Overseas

This used to be such a simple choice to make. Until only a few years ago, if you had to get something created you’d go overseas, and China was the main choice. However, everything’s changed. With the US industry catching up, it’s only 5% behind China when it comes to global manufacturing (China 22% USA 17%). This means prices in the US are now much more affordable.

Here’s an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of domestic vs. overseas:

Domestic

This is a phone case printer or supplier that is based within your own country.

Advantages

  • Faster and easier to communicate. No language barrier and issues with time zones
  • If you’re looking to resell your custom phone cases: locally made products might have a higher perceived brand value. Sometimes customers are willing to pay more for “made in USA” products
  • Shipping is faster and cheaper
  • More payment choices
  • No custom payments
  • Lower chances of intellectual property theft
  • Easier to verify manufacturer and product quality in-person
  • Easier to get legal recourse in case of conflicts

Disadvantages

  • Labor costs can be substantially higher
  • Very few product types are actually made locally. It is especially difficult to find domestic manufacturers for low-tech products.
  • Might not be possible to reach scale. Many domestic manufacturers are not tooled for high volume (may not be a problem if you don’t want high-volumes of phone cases printted).

Overseas

This is a phone case printer/supplier who would manufacture your custom cases outside of your home country.

Advantages

  • Low labor costs – can be up to 80% less, but depends on the labor intensity of your design
  • Possible to get high-quality providing you’re willing to pay the cost
  • More choice of companies
  • Easy to find companies on established platforms
  • Access to more manpower can shorten production process

Disadvantages

  • If you’re planning on getting custom phone cases for resale, customers may perceive them as lower quality.
  • Higher chance of intellectual property theft
  • Communications problems. Language and culture barriers (although, people have been using foreign manufacturers for years is improving)
  • Not as easy to verify manufacturer or product quality
  • Shipping costs and times are substantially higher as compared to domestic
  • You’ll have to deal with customs (most manufacturers will be happy to provide information and guide you through this process)
  • Little or no regulation recourse in case of fraud or theft

It’s good to think about this now, but you’re not required to make the commitment. What can be a good practice is if you contact printers and suppliers from domestic and overseas. Speaking to both may help you when it comes to making your decision.

So where do you start looking for phone case printers and suppliers? Let’s take a look at your options.

Directories

An excellent cost-effective option, some of the best sources can be free online supplier directories. These can contain profiles for hundreds or thousands of manufacturers, suppliers, and printing companies.

Here are some of your best options when it comes to using free online directories:

Alibaba.com (China)

The world’s largest online directory of manufacturers and suppliers. You’ll be able to find thousands of Alibaba-verified manufacturers with strong performance ratings. Using Alibaba is a comfortable experience as they use a trade assurance rating. This will help reduce your risk.

Globalsources.com (China)

This is Alibaba’s closest competitor, however, there’s no trade assurance on Global Sources. But the site does use an extensive rating system that will help you when looking, so take your time to read the reviews. You don’t want to rush this process. Not on the same level as Alibaba, but it’s a good alternative if you can’t find what you’re looking for on Alibaba.

Makersrow.com (USA)

This site claims to be “the home of American manufacturing,” it boasts a comprehensive database of over 11,000 US based manufacturers and suppliers. You’re able to find in-depth profiles on every factory to help you choose the perfect partner.

Thomasnet.com (USA)

You can also pick this up as a physical publication. ThomasNet has a truly outstanding range of manufacturers and suppliers in the US and Canada. You’re able to browse approximately 700,000 options. ThomasNet is also able to help you with the industrial design which could be a big bonus.

Search By Google

Everyone’s first thought, and yes you’re able to find printers and suppliers through a Google search. Be warned, most manufacturer’s websites aren’t the most up-to-date when it comes to the latest Google algorithm and SEO techniques. You’ll need to be prepared to enter the depths of Google. Yes, that means going beyond page 1. In fact, it’ll be likely you’ll have to go way beyond page 10.

Referrals

Most people will claim their best leads have come from referrals. If you have any connections in the industry now is the time you take advantage of them. Use your social networks to get the word out, it’s very easy these days to for news to spread: take advantage of this.

Whilst you’re searching and speaking to different companies, you’re almost guaranteed to find some that aren’t the right fit. When this happens, make sure you ask them if they can point you in the right direction. It’s likely they will have great contacts and most will be more than happy to refer you to another printing manufacturer.

A Good Old Fashion Physical Search

The “on foot” approach, this tactic is not for everyone. It’s time-consuming and you’ll have to donate time and money to actually travel (sometimes to a new country) to check out a number of potential printing companies. The major benefit for this is that you’ll get a first-hand experience of their facilities, samples, and the people who will be producing your phone case designs. This can remove a lot of your concerns as you’ll feel more comfortable knowing exactly what you’ll be getting.

If you decide to take this route (especially if you’re looking to go abroad), here’s some tips to make the process smoother:

Find Manufacturers in Advance

Using sites that have been discussed, make a list of your preferred choices print custom phone cases.

Plan your questions

There’s nothing worse than setting up a meeting, making the journey, turning up, and then looking like a fool having no idea what to say or forgetting to ask some key questions. Use the questions listed in the ‘What to ask Your Phone Case Printers’ section in this document.

Set up meetings

Set up meetings with your preferred manufacturers in advance to save yourself time and hassle.

Use a translator (if venturing abroad)

If you’re concerned about the language barrier, it is probably worth investing in a trustworthy local translator to guide you through the meeting.

Examine the facilities

When you meet potential print suppliers make sure you examine their facilities closely. If you’re happy with them, ask to inspect a few sample to examine before going any further.

Build a Master List of Phone Case Printers

While you’re researching potential printers/suppliers, it’s important that you keep a list of every potential partner you find. You’ll want to record as many potential printers as possible, this will give you a much better chance of finding one that bests suits you.

The reason we the master list is so that you can keep track of your progress. Not only will you be able keep all of your research in one neat place, you’ll be able to record their contact details, who you spoke today, and what you spoke about. This will help you immensely when it comes to making your final decision.

The best platforms for building your master list are Excel and Google Spreadsheets. Google Spreadsheets is free and saves everything on the cloud, so you’ll never have to worry about losing all of the data you’ve collected.

Here’s an example of what headings you will want to use for your master list:

Print Supplier’s Name Website Contact Details Date of Contact Contact Person Notes

 

Print Supplier’s name

Pretty obvious here, in this column you want to record the names of the different print suppliers you find.

Tip: Try to keep your list in alphabetical order, it will really save time when searching for a particular supplier you’ve already recorded. If it becomes too much hassle, use ‘command F’ for mac users or ‘control F’ for windows users. This will bring up a search box and you’ll be able to find the print supplier’s name.

Website

Again, very simple, if the print supplier has a website record it here.

Contact details

Recording their contact details will speed up time when you start to calling and emailing.

Date of contact

This is important, you’ll be talking to many different phone case printers. Keeping track of when you spoke to them will help you if you need to follow up on any details.

Contact person

Recording who you spoke to is essential. You don’t want to be talking to new people every time you call, it can slow the process down. You want to find out who is the best person to speak to, and keep speaking to them.

Notes

This is where you record all of the information you gathered from each phone call. Maybe, they told you they were going to email you the breakdown of costs by Friday of this week. Recording this means you can always keep up-to-date and stay on top of things. You may be speaking to a number of different printers and you don’t want to fall behind or forget any key information.

Keep Updating Your List

It’s important to update this list as soon as you find and talk to phone case printers. This will stop you from potentially missing out on a great partnership. Updating what you’ve discussed is key to getting all the information you need so you can make the best possible choice between them.

There you have it, building a master list is a very simple process that’s essential to staying up-to-date and on-top of finding the perfect phone case printer.

What to Ask Your Potential Phone Case Printer

Now that you’ve researched a ton of different print suppliers, hopefully you’ve recorded all of their contact details. Your first point of action is to contact your potential suppliers and ask for references.

This is a very important staged that shouldn’t be skipped. You need to be sure that the printer you choose is reliable and won’t leave you out of pocket with no awesome custom phone cases.

Your potential print suppliers should be happy and excited to provide you with lots of happy customers for you to speak to. If not, take this as a BIG red flag and remove them from your list.

Here’s a list of questions you should consider asking the references:

  • What printing process did they use?
  • How was the final quality?
  • If there was a problem with shipment, did the print supplier make a restitution?
  • Were deadlines met? If not, what did they do to make amends?
  • Were all promises met?
  • How long have you worked with this person/supplier?
  • How many orders did you place?
  • Was your contact easy to work with?
  • Are they responsive to emails/calls?
  • What type of printing do they excel in?
  • What time of products were printed on?

Contact as many references as you can. It will only help you in the long run.

Key Questions to Ask Your Potential Phone Case Printers

Once you’ve narrowed down your list and found printers that have good feedback from previous customers, it’s time to start contacting them again to ask further questions. Here you’ll be able to find out which companies can provide you the best service for your budget.

In no specific order, here’s a list of questions you should ask potential print vendors:

What are my choices?

You need to ask your printer what is the best option for material and style of phone case you want printed. Quantities may determine the style of printing you choose, so you’ll need to find this out so you can determine the best option for your budget.

Minimum order quantity (MOQ)?

This can change depending on the method of printing you choose. So you’ll need to determine what fits with your budget.

Can you send me Factory samples?

Each printer should be happy to send you some of their samples. Compare samples from the different suppliers to see who has the greatest quality.

What are the sample prices?

Before you make your final decision, you will need to get a sample of your printed phone case made to inspect its quality. Prices can range from supplier to supplier.

Production costs?

Ask your printer for a full breakdown of costs. Including the costs for time, shipping, tariffs, basically everything they are charging you for.

What are your supply requirements?

You’ll need to know if there are any color profiles you should be working to.

What file formats should I use?

You need to know what file types you will be having to send to them so they can actually use it.

Do you have templates?

Some print manufacturers will have design templates. This will allow you to enter your design to their exact specifications and avoid problems in regards to bleed and trim accuracy.

What are your bleed settings?

It’s common that most manufacturers will have the same bleed settings, however, some printers may reduce the amount of bleed to save on waste materials.

Can I get a sample proof and do I have to pay?

Before your run full production it is good practice to get a sample of your custom phone case print, than to risk losing a lot of money.

Will my prints be consistent? Will you notify me if the printer changes?

This is a very good question to ask. After you send a print to a printer they will send you a proof sample and you approve the print. However, if your printer then changes the printer they used, or outsources your phone case prints to a different vendor; it can affect the print quality and color accuracy. You need to confirm the exact printer that will be used so you get the best and most consistent prints.

Is any of the process outsourced?

If your printer will be outsourcing any of the work it is imperative that you know. Especially if you need to complain or fine tune anything. If you’re unaware of this and your printer is not representing you well enough, things can get tricky and add time to the deadline.

Can you confirm you will not edit my design once I send it to you? If it needs editing, can you let me know what you are doing, or better, let me do it?

Sometimes printers can take liberties to fix production problems you could have missed, or they might assume you’ve made a mistake. Highlighting to them that you don’t want them to make any changing on their own is ideal. There tends to be more than one way to overcome a production problem and their solution may not be one you feel comfortable with.

What is your typical production time?

Knowing the production time can be a huge help when deciding who you want to use.

Do you have a specialty/niche?

This could be the tipping point. If you have some printers that you are happy with, but one of them specializes in phone case printing, or in the style of print you want you’ll likely end up with a better final product.

What are your payment terms?

Some may offer you credit if you qualify, others may require a down payment, then full payment later. It’s important you determine what the printers policies are when it comes to payment. If they want full payment upfront, this should be considered a warning sign.

Under what circumstances could my prices change?

Talk to them about market changes and what could affect your prices. This will help you when it comes to budgeting.

What kind of additional fees can I expect?

Ask upfront about additional fees that could be added on. Trust me, you don’t want any nasty surprises.

What the FOB point is?

This can vary from supplier to supplier, so you’ll need to determine when your custom phone cases will officially become yours. The easiest way to do this ask what the FOB point is. The FOB point is when you will take official ownership.

What are you certifications?

These demonstrate their standard, experience, and priorities. When quality is a concern, you will want printers that utilize the best industry practices.

For example, a G7 compliant vendor will conform to the industry-leading specifications and ensure your phone cases will adhere to those standards. A Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forest Initiative Certified printer will ensure it uses to most environmentally-friendly materials.

What other companies do you print for?

If you’re talking to a printer who prints for some leading companies with global brands, you know their facilities have been visited and audited by major companies. They’ll likely produce high-quality work.

How big is your facility?

The bigger the factory and the more employees they have, the longer they’ve been in the business. This will help tell you how much experience they have in this field.

What steps do you take to ensure quality, and how many points throughout production?

The more quality assurance steps they take, the lower the risk of defective products.

Will you be upfront with me?

Being able to trust your chosen printer is vital to a successful job. Sometimes things go wrong, deadlines are missed, shipping is delayed, etc. It might be annoying, but they happen. It’s much better to hear about truth upfront rather than being given the runaround. It’s always best to know right away so you can factor any delays into your own timeline.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you ask the same questions to every printer you speak to. This way, you’ll be able to make a direct comparison between each on and decide on your best options.

Final Thoughts on Questioning

Take your time, this is an important stage. Taking your time and properly vetting your potential printers will help eliminate headaches further down the road. You can lose a significant amount of time and money by not ensuring you are picking the right printer for you. Do your homework, ask as many questions as you feel necessary. Not only will this help you find the right printer for your phone cases, but it will show the printer you mean business and pay attention to the details.

Chapter 3: Choosing Your Printing Service

Image source: pixabay.com

So now that you’ve taken your time and gone through the process of speaking to potential printers, receiving and validating factory samples, you will have a some printers that you’re excited about working with.

Your next step is to start asking for pre-production samples.

Getting Pre-Production Samples

This is an incredibly important process you cannot skip. The pre-production samples will help you verify whether the print vendor actually has the capabilities to produces the design to your specifications.

You should note that this is also a learn process for your and your printer, so don’t get too impatient is they don’t get it right first time. You may find that your chosen printer will say they’ll be able to produce it exactly how you want first time, sometimes this happens, but more often than not this isn’t that case.

What’s important to remember here is to be open and honest with your printer. When you find problems with your phone case design, take pictures, keep details notes, and make copies to send to the print services. This is the phase where you iron out about problems so that you avoid expensive costs during full-production.

It’s vitally important that you make any adjustments in collaboration with your printer, check and double check they understand everything. This will ensure you get exactly what you want.

This process can take a bit of time.

It’s part of the process, maybe they won’t be able to produce the quality you’re looking for. This is why it is always good practice to have some backup options in the event your favored choice falls short.

It’s critical that you provide your printer with detailed specifications before the production starts. Never let your printer fill in the gaps for you, as this can result in substandard results. This document will be passed between engineers, material suppliers, etc. so it is crucial that they are extremely clear and simple to understand.

Do not leave anything open to interpretation.

Pre-production samples are so important, you should never move into full-production until your have an approved sample, you’re 100% happy with.

Tips for Sending Your Artwork Files

You should discuss with your print manufacturers exactly what they need, what files you should send them in, and the specifications. Here’s some tips that you should consider when sending your design files.

Only use Quality Tools Designed for Printing

Avoid using word processing software to design your phone case print. Only use programs that have been specifically developed for creating professional designs.

Convert Fonts to Outlines

If you’re using any fonts in your case design, it’s important that you convert them to outlines before sending your artwork to your printer. Doing this changes the font into a shape layer – helping to avoid any font issues that may impact the design.

Send the Files in Your Printers Chosen Format

This will usually be in a PDF format, as they’re the easiest file for print manufacturers to work with. When you save your file as a PDF, it lets you include crop marks, bleeds areas, and ensures you’re saving your file at the right resolution.

Clearly Show the Cutting Guide

Seems silly, but it’s so important. You need to make sure your cutting guides are clearly show. Don’t think, “oh, they’ll know what to do”  it never works out. You can do this by using a clear color for the cutting guide that contrasts with your design.

Use High-Resolution Images

Just because your image looks good on your screen, doesn’t mean it will look good when it’s printed. Printing requires a much larger resolution, usually around 300 dpi (dots per inch).

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

During this process you’ll be sharing your information, such as logos and design files with your printers before they can make the sample.

It’s normal to have concerns about having your ideas stolen, especially in you’ve chosen to have your printing done in China.

It’s always good practice to get your print vendor to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Choosing to do this is good for a few reasons. If your chosen printer refuses to sign, then you should consider no longer working with them. Secondly, you want to protect your company logo or custom design.

However, these agreements can be hard to enforce without professional legal assistance, which can be too expensive for some.

But, it is advisable to have an NDA in your pocket opposed to nothing. Although it may be hard to enforce, it helps set the level of expectations with printers and shows you should be taken seriously.

Shipping Your Custom Phone Cases: Ocean Freight Vs. Air Freight

You have two choices: ocean or air shipping. Which one is best? Which one should you choose?

It’s hard for us to tell you what you should definitely do, everyone has different preferences and budgets. Therefore, we’ve broken it down into four parts: cost, speed, reliability, and environmental impact, so you can make an educated decision.

Cost

The first thought that probably came to mind when you thought about which shipping method you’d prefer. The bottom line is, you have a budget and you’ll want to stick to it, so naturally you’ll need to know which is the cheaper option. Typically, shipping by the ocean is the cheaper option, however, this is not always true.

So you can make the best decision, it helps if you have some knowledge about how carriers charge for international shipping. Airlines will bill you by what is called chargeable weight. Chargeable weight is calculated from a combination of the weight and size of your shipment.

Ocean sea carriers charge per container rate, the most common container sizes being 20’ and 40’. While weight can be a factor of the price from ocean carriers, their charge tends to be based on the volume of shipment. So for a larger and heavier shipment of phone cases, ocean freight is often the cheaper option.

The smaller and smaller the shipment is, the margin between the prices gets smaller, and sometimes air will even end up being less expensive.

You will also need to account for destination charges. Whether shipping by air or ocean, there will be customs and destination fees. While the actual cost of ocean freight is usually cheaper, the warehousing fees at seaports are more expensive than those at airports.

Speed

Almost every time air freight will be a much faster option for you. If time is money, and you’re working on a tight deadline this could more than make up for a higher cost. Many ocean freights can take around a month to arrive, whereas this can only be a few days with an air shipment.

Note: Technology keeps moving forward in the international shipping world, ships are getting faster, and canals have created shorter shipping routes. Some ocean freight shipments are being delivered in as few as 8 days.

Reliability

Something that you will definitely want to consider: how does ocean freight shipping compare to air freight? Although ocean freight shipping has a much longer history, air freight tends to win the battle of reliability. Flights can be delayed due to weather etc. but airlines tend to be very on top of their schedules.

Ocean carriers have a reputation for being bad about this. It is not uncommon for a ship to fall behind on schedule. For most, a day or two won’t hurt cause serious damage, however, you’ll need to take this into account if you are very strict on your deadlines.

Airlines usually work on daily schedules, back and forth between major cities, so if your cargo misses a flight, it doesn’t cause too much of a delay. Whereas, ships tend to work on weekly schedules, so missing a cutoff means a longer delay.

Environment

This may not be a big concern of yours, but for some companies and individuals it’s extremely important to lower their carbon footprint. If your company has a negative impact on the environment it can change the way people view your business.

Ocean freight is the most environmentally friendly option here: Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are much higher during air freight transportation. Publicly available statistics shows that 1,000 kilograms of air freight will on average emit 500 grams of CO2 per kilometer on a standard cargo airplane. If your cargo is shipped by sea on a modern container vessel, the emissions are reduced to 15 grams per kilometer.

Full-Production

Once you’ve gone through the process of testing, and you’ve got a sample in your hands that’s exactly what you want; it’s time to place your order and enter the full-production process.

It’s very likely that you’ll have to provide a purchase order form (PO), this is a legal document between you and your print service provider, and it’s vital you include everything. If you accidentally leave out any important information you may have no leg to stand on if anything goes wrong.

When writing your form, you should be aware of local holidays and customs that could affect your order and it’s delivery.

Here’s what to include in your PO:

  • Full contact information of the person who follows the order in your organization
  • Full manufacturer company information
  • The complete beneficiary Bank Account Details
  • Unique PO number, PO date, corresponding PO number of your print vendor (if any)
  • A list of your phone case order with quantity, unit price, and total price
  • The specifications of your phone case designs
  • Terms of purchase: currency, incoterm, loading port and receiving port, shipment date promised by manufacturer, payment terms, and penalty for late shipment
  • If you have a quality control plan, refer to it on your PO
  • Most important of all, get the PO stamped with the Red Round Chop and have the general manager sign it

End Result: Your Very Own Custom Phone Cases

Getting your phone cases printed with a custom design can at times be stressful, frustrating, nerve-wracking, and it’s definitely going to be time-consuming. But, as you move along the process, everything will become easier and less intimidating. Hopefully, the information you’ve read today will put you in an excellent position when it comes to getting your own designs printing.

I promise you this…

When you receive your very own phone case, with its custom design precisely how you want it, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment you never thought possible.

If you want to know more about phone case printing, find out more or contact us here

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