A Better Reflex Blue (at least when you are printing 4-color process) 
Wednesday, July 12, 2006, 02:35 PM - Color Related
When asked for a recommendation for a good "royal" blue color, just about every small (1 and 2 color) print shop will point their clients in the direction of Reflex Blue. This is mainly because Reflex is not only a standard Pantone mixing color, but because most neighborhood printers wash up for Reflex Blue runs at least once a week; so the Reflex ink will already be in their presses. This is great for 1 and 2 color printers, because thay can run your Reflex jobs all at the same time. For this reason, many of our clients tell us that they frequently choose a reflex color to standardize their print jobs, and ensure consistancy and repeatibility of their blue colors. Unfortunately for us, reflex is a very touchy color to reproduce consistantly with 4 color process. It is very easy for reflex to tint purple. In fact, If we buy reflex blue pre-mixed from out ink supplier, and run it as a spot color, reflex blue still tends to go purple. The second problem with reflex, is that it just does not want to dry quickly. Whether built out of CMYK, or run as a spot color, reflex probably requires the longest dry time of any color, second only to very rich blacks.

There is an easy way around both of these problems, however. By simply reducing the amount of magenta used to achieve the blue tint, and replacing it with black, a designer can take out "an insurance policy" against both drying issues, and the risk of purple tinting.

Here is my recommendation.

On the left is the standard 4-color build for reflex blue, 100C,75M,0Y,0K. On the right is a great solution, 100C,65M,0Y,10K.

Both of these builds will come out looking about the same on press, but with the build on the right, dry times are reduced, and there is very little, or no chance of it looking purple.
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Stochastic (FM screening) VS. Conventional (AM screening) 
Thursday, July 6, 2006, 03:29 PM - Other
At Wizard Graphics, we use almost exclusively stochastic (actually staccato, Kodac/creo's 2nd generation version of stochastic) screening. Along with a handful of other new technologies, stochastic offers marked improvement over conventional screening processes.

First of all, you might be asking- What is screening? Screening is the process by which printers convert color images into halftones, or rows of colored dots. By printing dots that are the additive primary colors of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, we can trick the viewer into perceiving a full range of colors. This is what we call 4 color process printing.

Conventional (AM) screening has been used basically from the beginning of the modern printing industry. Originally color images were photographed using a color filter (essentially, a tinted piece of translucent plastic that only allowed C,M,Y,orK information to pass through to the camera aperature), in combination with a piece of clear film with actual screen lines imaged upon it. These films were later stripped together, to produce color seperations for the press. Conventional Screening is also referred to as Amplitude Modulation. This is because with this method, the dot size is varied, to achieve different values. Small dots make lighter tones, while large dots make darker tones.

This illustration shows a conventional dot gradient.

Stochastic (FM) screening is a relatively new technology designed to reproduce the same colors as conventional screening, but with higher fidelity. Stochastic is also referred to as Frequency Modulation screening. With stochastic, different screen values are acheived by varying the number of dots. Unlike conventional, every dot printed is the smallest dot that can be reproduced. To make light tone values, fewer dots are used, while darker tone values are achieved by printing more dots.

This illustration shows a stochastic dot gradient.

The difference in detail between stochastic and conventional can be seen in the following images.

Let's say that our photograph looks like this.

When we look at a magnified section of this image printed conventional, here is what we will see.

The same section will look like this when printed stochastic.

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Do I really have to save my images CMYK ? 
Friday, June 30, 2006, 03:39 PM - Color Related
I would strongly recommend always saving your files in CMYK color space for print. The first and foremost reason for this, is that CMYK is a color mode designed to represent the colors of images output using process printing inks. Every output device, (ie: your monitor, desktop printer, a printing press, a television) has what we call a destination color space (the range of colors that can be represented by that device). Most newer versions of professional graphic design software have features integrated for color management. While I could write an entire book on correctly configuring, using and maintaining these features; the actual principal of icc color management is relatively simple- ICC color management is a way to control color, to make images look as close as possible to the way that they are intended, reguardless of the device that they will be output on. That being said, if ICC color management features are used incorrectly, it can be much worse than if they had not been used at all. Another equally important reason to convert your print files to CMYK is GAMUT (the range of colors that can be reproduced by your output device. While CMYK process printing is capable of reproducing a wide range of colors, it can not display every color that can be seen on your monitor. Conversely, your monitor can not display every color that we can reproduce with CMYK printing. When you are designing for print, if you are working in CMYK, you can be sure that all of the colors you see on your monitor can be reproduced at least reasonably well in print.

The image below shows an example of an rgb color that can not be reproduced in CMYK printing.

When this color is converted to CMYK (SWOP v2, relative colormetric), the nearest color looks like this.

This can be very disapointing if you are expecting the first color.

Another common problem seen when files are submitted in RGB color mode, is a profile mismatch. Profile mismatches occur when the incorrect profile is assigned to the file before converting it to a new color space. This can be as easily done as opening the image in a different program, or on a different computer, that has color management configured in a different way.

(I don't expect you to know exactly what I am talking about with the details of the color mismatching in the following examples, I am just trying to demonstrate that things can teribly go wrong)

For example, if a photo should look like this:

But was saved using an SRGB profile, but mismatched to an Adobe 1998 profile before converting to CMYK, it will look like this:

Or was opened up by a program using Pro photoRGB for it's working space, but did not have the correct SRGB profile assigned when importing, it will look like this:

That last one is pretty hard to sell to your customer!!!

To make matters worse, If you remember it or not, when you first installed Photoshop, the program had you pick a setting for your working space. Odds are that you chose either Adobe 1998, or SRGB IEC1966-2.1 (these profiles are totally different!!!) If you forget to assign the profile that you used when saving your file in RGB, you have a 50% chance of your images printing correctly. I don't know about you, but 50% is not good enough odds when I am spending money on a quality print job.

The best way to avoid these problems is to send us your files in CMYK (we use SWOP V2 for our profile calibration because it is the most common, and is assigned by Adobe applications for your CMYK working space; regardless of which default that you choose when installing the program for the first time- Thus 100% chance of successful color.

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A great design piece can become ugly at the cutter 
Friday, June 30, 2006, 02:48 PM - Page Layout

Designing a job for print that will cut correctly at the cutter is very important because an excellent design piece that's cut wrong will be rejected by the customer. The most important part of designing is knowing the final cut size of the job and determining whether there's bleeds on the page or not. Bleeds are extra space of art work that extends off the edge of the trim area of a page. We recommend that our customers give us 1/8 inch of extra bleeds on jobs that have art work extending off the edge of the trim area. The graphics above are a good example of a business card with bleeds included by the designer (top left) and the same business card not having any bleeds (top right).

For the sake of this demonstration, let's use the business card on the top left of this page as reference. The top left busines card is a good example of a job submitted with bleeds. The standard size of a business card is 2 by 3 and a half (2x3.5). Let's do a quick tutorial on creating bleeds by using the top left business card as an example.

STEP 1: Make the page size of your file 2 inches high and 3.5 wide. The orientation of your page should be horizontal because this card is a horizontal card.

STEP 2: Draw a square box that has 1/8 of extra space on all 4 sides and center the square so that the center point of the square and the center of your page are at the same location. The size of your square should be larger than your page size ( your square size should be 2.25" X 3.75" ).

STEP 3: Once your square is centered correctly with your page size, the size of the square is your bleed size. The card in this case will be cut 1/8 inch smaller on all sides and the final cut size will be 2 by 3 and a half inches.

The background image of the business card above was created in Adobe Photoshop and the height and width of the image is: 2.25 X 3.75.

STEP 4: If the width and heigth of your image with bleeds is the same size as the square you drew, you should be able to center it with the square you've created and they both should line up correctly.

In the example above, I used Adobe Indesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. What I did was I drew a box that was 2.25 by 3.75 in Adobe Indesign and centered it with my page size ( 2 by 3.5 ). I imported the backgound graphic with crop marks and type into the box I created in Indesign. I then selected the graphic inside of the box I drew, press and held the command and shift key on my keyboard and then press the letter "e" to center the graphic automatically inside of the box I drew. I've already type set the text and created the cropmarks with the background graphic in Adobe Illustrator and saved the file as an EPS. The crop marks you see on the the top left example about were created in Illustrator by making a box 2 by 3.5 inches, centering the center point of the box with the back ground graphic and converting the box into crop marks using Illustrators crop mark filter. Keep in mind that I turned off the fill and strokes for the 2 by 3.5 inch box before I converted it into crop marks.

We recomend crop marks to be created automatically and not manually. The are options in most layout programs to automatically creat crop marks. The amount of inches the crop marks should offset from the bleed should be larger than 1/8 (.125) inches. We use .125.
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All That Glitters Isn't Gold (Ink That Is) 
Friday, June 30, 2006, 02:15 PM - Color Related
One of the questions most asked by customers, is for a recommendation for a gold ink build. While there is now substitution for the real thing. We have through some experimentation, found a build that works pretty well. I would not recommend this for heavy coverage solids, floods, or reverses (if you wand a large gold solid, I would recommend shelling out the money for a 5th color PMS). But if you want some headline text, an icon, or a starburst, etc. to look like gold ink, this build does a good job. In fact after applying an aqueous for scuff resistance; I can hardly tell the difference, in areas of light coverage, between the cmyk and the real thing. Here it is. C-35, M-45, Y-100, K-0 This is closest to PMS 873 on coated paper.
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