Does Your Design Make The Cut? 
Wednesday, July 26, 2006, 03:46 PM - Bindery/Post-Press
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of graphic design is desingning for production. Not only does a product have to look good on the screen, but someone has to actually make it. There are many logistical factors to think about before you even begin to design. This can save a lot of time later, or prevent re-printing a job at your own expense.

Lets begin with how jobs get printed. Unless you are ordering a large poster or a whole press run, your job will be printed on the same sheet with other jobs. This is called a "Gang Run", because multiple jobs are run together. So if you order 1000 business cards, we don't print a sheet with 80 copies of one card, because that would only take 13 sheets. Instead, your card is on the sheet once with many other jobs and we print 1000 sheets, which is much more efficient.

A common assumption is that every sheet of paper we print on is exactly the same size. Actually, there can be a lot of variation in the size and shape of each sheet. However, for subsequent cutting it is essential that the image is in the same place on the sheet. As the sheet goes through the press the image is registered to one side and one corner. This is called the "Gripper and Guide". Also, the sheet can stretch up to 1/16" as it goes through the press, depending on the type of paper. On a 23" sheet this is not really noticeable, but worth mentioning.

At Wizard Graphics, we have extremely tight tolerances to reduce error as much as possible. Our cutter is accurate to 0.001 inches, and can easily cut 300 sheets of cardstock at a time. The many cuts required for a complicated gang run can be programmed so that 1000 sheets can be cut the same even if cut 300 at a time. In our business card example, when a gang run comes off the press as a stack of 1000 sheets, someone has to cut it out. The sheets are jogged into the cutter by hand to the gripper and guide so that the image will be in the same place on every sheet.

You might be asking, "Why does this affect how I design my job?"
In theory, it shouldn't matter at all, but in real life it is important to understand that people are involved and there must be some room for error. On that note, it is easy to design a job that does not account for this. Really thin borders or borders that are close to the edge are noticeable if cut even slightly wrong. Also, text cannot go right up to the edge of the page because it might be cut off. The easy fix is to make sure all borders and text have at least a 1/8 inch margin from the finished edge of the page. The bigger the margin, the less noticeable it will be if it is cut slightly wrong. It is also for this reason that we ask for 1/8 inch bleeds past the finished edge of the page.



In summary, this is not to discourage you from being creative in your design, but merely some helpful information to ensure that all of your printing looks the best that it can. Understanding every aspect of commercial printing including production is the first step to becoming a better designer.
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Overprinting objects and text with a white fill or stroke is a big no no 
Wednesday, July 12, 2006, 04:45 PM - Color Related
This doesn’t happen very often but we do have cases in which customers send us a file that has white text set to overprint. Objects or text with white fills or strokes should never be set to over print because there will be no white fills or strokes in that area; the white will disappear on the final piece. Example “A” below has a white fill on the words “Castle Rocks” and prints correctly because overprint was not turned on. Example “B” below is the opposite and should be avoided unless you intend to achieve that affect on your final piece. To avoid the problem on example “B” you should do the following before sending us your final file:

1. Select anything with a white fill or stroke and make sure your overprint for that object is turned off( if you have this option available). In programs such as Adobe Indesign and Illustrator you can select any object(s) and use the “attribute menu” to check and see if your object(s) overprints or not.

2. Turn your overprint preview option on ( if it’s available in your program ) and you will see what objects will be overprinting (refer to examples A and B above). If you want your text to look like example “A” above and your text fill is set to overprint, you might be surprised to find that your white text has disapeared (similar to example “B” from above) when your overprint preview is turned on.

NOTE: In Quark Express, do not create a new white swatch without setting all trapping settings to “Knockout”.

Where is the overprint preview located usually?
To turn the overprint preview on in Adobe Indesign, do this: Go to the “View menu” on the top of your document and choose “Overprint preview”. In Adobe Acrobat professional go to the “Advanced menu” on the top of your document and choose “Overprint preview”. We recomend you download Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0 from Adobes’ website. To turn the “Overprint preview” on in Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0, go into Acrobats’ preference menu, and click on “Page Display” on the left side of the menu when the preference menu pops up, and click the “Overprint Preview” option to check it. Next close the “Preference” menu. Your overprint preview in Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0 should be activated now.

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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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