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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Knocking Out Overprint Issues 
Friday, June 30, 2006, 01:47 PM - Registration
The purpose of the overprint feature on most graphic design programs is to make small black text and detailed black objects look sharper when using offset 4-color printing. Since not all black text is on a white background, it makes sense to overprint it on top of the other colors. There are, however, good and bad ways to use this feature.

See this example:

If this is what you want your finished product to look like, the black will print sharper if the fill is set to overprint. (Make sure your PDF settings preserve overprints)


Black channel turned off, no overprint:

Use the seperations preview to see what the document looks like with the black channel turned off. If it looks like the above image, the text is knocked out of the background and it is not overprinting. This makes registering the black to fill the white space difficult, and is not as dark.


Black channel turned off, with overprint:

It should look like this with the black channel off when it is overprinting correctly. The text does not have to be registered to the other layers and will print darker.


Don't overuse overprints:
-Do not use overprints for fill colors other than c0,m0,y0,k100
-Do not use overprints on large text or large black solids, especially when it is halfway off a background. (see example below)


The 12pt text would look fine overprinting. The larger 24pt text would look noticably bad because you would see the darker black where it is above the background.
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The Microcosmos of Printing (Registering Small Colored Text) [thanks Tony for the name] 
Friday, June 30, 2006, 01:18 PM - Registration
This entry actually came about through an e-mail correspondance with a customer, so I will just present it in that fashion.


Customer:
Hey Matt, I remember how we talked about it being hard to use rich black for smaller fonts. So Im wondering if there is a difference if I want to use a color build for small text sizes? (lets say that C/100, M/57 Y/0 K/12 you told me about) I'd like to use this blue for some text but the size is about a 12 pt condensed gill sans. What are the issues with printing small colored text sizes? does it basically have to be put on using a single plate, so to only be possible with a pantone color?

Prepress:
If the font is a color instead of black, it must be registered on press, making it more difficult, but still totally possible. For production sake, I would not recommend it for paragraph after paragraph of small text (below 8-12pt.), unless it uses 2 or less process colors predominately. In most cases, it can still be done, but with more care on press. Colored small text printed process will never be quite as sharp, as black or single process color text.

Customer:
cool, that makes sense. So that leads me to another question. Do you not register all press jobs? I am under the assumption that all jobs done on the press are registered. If a job is unregistered, does it mean you guys just throw the plate on to the press, without worrying about matching each plate exactly, but they are still fairly well aligned? and registered means that you run it through the press and adjust each plateposition till they fit perfect (or close to perfect) during the makeready stage?

Prepress:
We register all jobs to within a tolerance of a few microns. However, over the distance of a press sheet, other factors sometimes fall into play. For instance, as the sheet passes through the press, every printing unit that it passes through squeezes the sheet, causing the sheet to stretch slightly. By the time that the sheet reaches the last printing unit, the cumulative sheet stretch has actually made the sheet slightly longer than it was when it first went into the press. We add staggered packing to the printing cylinders, in an attempt to lessen the problem, but as different thickness of paper are used, the best that can be achieved is a happy medium for all stocks.

While the registration might only be off a fraction of a thousandth of an inch, when we are looking at extremely fine text, this deviation can cause the colored text to look "fuzzy" when closely inspected. If all of the extremely tight registration on the sheet is grouped into one area, the sheet stretch, will not affect the sheet enough that it can bee seen with even a loupe. When the tight registration covers the whole sheet, we must split the difference, and try to make it look the best that it can. Other factors that affect sheet stretch include, integrity of the paper stock being used, amount of ink coverage, even the humidity/temperature in the room. To wrap things up, we take great care to register all print jobs to an extremely tight tolerance, but there are some limitations to the physical manufacturing process. In short, understanding how offset printing works, allows designers to better set-up files to be reproduced more faithfully, and with fewer problems on press. The easier a job is technically, the more the operator can focus on color, and quality control; instead of just trying to make the job work on press.

Customer:
Wow, what a trip. Printing presses and microcosmos. It just keeps going deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. Yeah, I keep asking you all these questions so I can understand this better, thanks a million.
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