A client has requested that I supply a PDF of artwork I have previously designed and printed, about a year ago, for them so they can send to another printer to have more printed.

I have always had a good relationship with this client and have not received any negitive feedback on past work. I have also been told that our prices are very similar.

Is this normal for a client request? How can I stop this happening again in the future?

For one I am losing income but am also annoyed as I thought we had a very good working relationship. Should I charge to supply the PDF?

  • 1
    are you both a printer and a designer?
    – Confused
    Oct 9, 2016 at 20:52
  • A designer who can print short runs of digital print inhouse but outsource any large print jobs.
    – Andy
    Oct 10, 2016 at 7:30
  • Take a look at this: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/69444/… It is not a duplicate but it is a related case.
    – Rafael
    Oct 10, 2016 at 14:03
  • I only deliver PDFs... what's your contract with the client state about deliverables?
    – Scott
    Oct 10, 2016 at 20:42
  • At least you have had a request - I've had several clients bypass me and call the printer directly (i.e. the one I sourced for them originally) to cut me out of the re-print loop. My advice - stay close to your printers and treat this type of mercenary client the same way. In this situation my preferred printers INCLUDE a hidden markup for me within their re-print quote - play dirty with me, I do it back. This is my expertise, experience and historical resource being exploited. Don't get too close to clients. Smile, be professional but expect them to steal your ideas, time and contractors. Oct 14, 2016 at 14:05

6 Answers 6


This is probably a personal matter.

And you're best off agreeing to it, in no uncertain terms, because this will make it clear that you're not afraid of competition, at all.

You can't know the nature of the personal matter.

It could be anything from a family member (of the client) trying their hand at starting up a print shop to some vague rumour about you doing the rounds.

There's no way to gently ask, but there is one sure fire way to open the door to a conversation, and that's to instantly, happily and sincerely respond in a positive manner to their request.

You can't win them all, but you can lose with your reputation for good conduct and sportsmanlike demeanour well and truly intact.


It depends on what your business strategy is, and thus none of us can give you a ultimate answer.

Some designers never release any source files unless specifically agreed upon before the first contract, others do not mind as long as a release fee is negotiated and yet a third group releases the sources when asked or even unasked. This a bit analogous to going to a software company and asking for their source code some companies have no problem in code release others will never ever consider such actions*. You just have to decide what your business logic is and work from that end, it is purely philosophical decision on your part.

In either case it may not always be entirely trivial to release the files.

  • For example you may have used a font that is very expensive but you happen to have a license for. The client may not understand that they will be getting only the part that you did be less than impressed by a released file that they still need to pay 600$ to use the fonts.
  • Other similar occurrences may happen if you used external resources like a 3D Application then does your design also relate to the 3d files? If you made some code to draw your image does that code also come with your release? In essece is this part of the artwork or not.
  • Your design is not organized for your use by anybody other than you. It may rely on some intricate knowledge and secret sauce stuff that is of no use to anybody else.

So then the question is is release of files all sources ever used? Or is the the final flattened and expanded version, that is not really suitable for editing. In either case you may need to do a cleanup before release so its not necessarily a free action for you.

For this reason alone its best to draft a contract so both parties know what it is they are actually asking for and all suitable rights releases and clarifications are included in the text. Even if there is no fee, otherwise you will have some client coming back in future claiming they actually asked something you did not agree to.

* Imagine asking Adobe for source of Photoshop.


In my experience(I'm with a printer), most designers I deal with are hired to design a project. They are paid to create a design and once complete, that design is the customers. The designers usually handle print/press checks for the first print as they know the project and desired outcome the best. Most designers add a mark up to the print quote to cover their print management time.

But in most cases ,after that first print, the customer owns those files and isn't charged extra for the files they paid the designer to create.

This can of course depend on your agreement with said customer. For example, if they didn't pay for design because it was a regular print run they do, but you collect commission on each time they print.

Also, it often ends awkwardly if there is surprise charges for file delivery. Make it easy for them to continue to work with you.


1) If you separated the two concepts into different fees, A) Design, B) Print and the design has not any kind of deadline, yes, you can provide a pdf. But convert it to curves and flatten any artwork.

2) If you provided an "all included", Print+Design you can charge an aditional fee for the design alone, argumenting that you prepared a "package", and it did not included a design alone fee. But aditionally that if it was previously discussed, it would be aditional reprints of the project so you divided the design costs.

In any case do not provide source files, like the indesign or ilustrator images. That is an aditional fee.

Take a look at this thread: How to work out a publication working file release fee?


Your relationship with your client might have nothing to do with his appreciation of your services. There's no point in overanalizing the reasons why your client wants to print elsewhere unless you actually see the print quote he was offered.

It's not rare some printers offer free graphic design services to their clients (no matter how amateur it can sometimes be) and that's hard to compete with that for a designer or a reseller.

So here are your options:

1) Sell the files. That's how you compensate for the "loss of income". The price of the file should be high enough to make the client consider printing with you instead. Offer a printing quote for their project as well. If the client wants editable files, there's answers on this stack on how to set your prices. If you aren't 100% happy to sell the files, simply set a very high price and see.

2) Refuse to give the files and hope the client will decide to print with you because of that coercive technique (eg. "you print with me or you don't get any files"). You'll either get something out of this or nothing at all, and risk to never see that client again. That bet is up to you and only you know the value of the files and potential printing contracts related to your question.

Unless the project you are talking about has a very high value, don't make the mistake of thinking your client absolutely need these files. If you make things complicated for your client simply because you are not happy to see him try another printer, he might as well end up simply choosing to redesign the whole project with another designer and print somewhere else anyway. Sometimes selling the files and letting go a bit is the best way to see that client again in the future. You never know, your client could end up having a terribly bad experience/results with the other printer and come back to you.

The client could be lying too and in fact, your prices are way too high and there's no way he thinks you can match that quote. That's why it's also a good idea in your situation to offer a printing quote too and show you're opened to negotiate.


It really depends on if you gave them rights to work because if you didn't you don't have to you could just tell them to print it from you.
But is you have them rights to the work then you would have to give it to them

  • Well if they allready had the rights then they should allready have the file. The designer is under no obligation to work as a backup service. And if the client does not have originals then you dont need to share anything
    – joojaa
    Oct 10, 2016 at 8:11

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