Tuesday, 12 October 2010

7 Things To Know About Print

This example will be based on a model for lithography printing, however litho is the most common form of printing and most of what is discussed here is applicable to all printing.

I will be looking at the practical, technical and economical aspects of printing and the four main areas of commercial print production.

Colour Models
The way colour is generated in print is completely different from what you see on screen. If you don’t grasp this you will never be in control of what you design.

CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black
RGB - Red, Green and Blue
Hexachrome - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black also including 2 extra colours; two different shades of Cyan and Magenta. Adding two extra colour increases the gamut.
Spot colour - The colour to be printed is the colour in the tin. 
PMS - Pantone Matching System

Understanding format options and limitations will help you to be more creative and economical when necessary.

Standard ISO paper sizes - A4, A3, A2 etc.
A & SRA - A is normal size and SRA is the paper size printers work to. Because of bleed ad cut marks the paper needs to be slightly bigger so the paper can be trimmed after printing.
Tabloid, Broadsheet and Berliner - Small, medium and large (e.g newspaper sizes).
Envelope 'C' sizes - Envelopes are measure in 'C's for example C1, C2, C3...


The correct weight and finish of a paper or substrate are crucial to the feel of a job. If your knowledge only goes as far as 80 gsm photocopy paper you’re no serious about design.

Weights (gsm) - Grams per square meter.
Finish (gloss/silk/matt/coated/uncoated) - Coated is thicker and stronger then uncoated.
Laid/Wove - how the stock is made and put together, the grain.
Plastics and Acetates 

Preparing artwork correctly for print is the sign of a professional. It will save you an the printer a lot of grief if you know what needs doing and check it twice. Get the client to sign-off the proof, it offeres some insurance if things go wrong.

Document set up - Right colours, paper size
File formats & Fonts - If you chose to use your own font for a job and the computer you print from doesn't have it the printer will substitute it for another font.
Spellcheck - Get your work to be signed off by the client so that if anything has been miss spelt it has already been checked through and therefore it is not your fault.
Colour Specification - RGB, CMYK etc.
Pre-Flight Check - Before you print check everything is as it should be.
Printer Marks - To show where the paper should be cut and what colours have been used.
Mock-ups - Ideas should be printed out at a low cost on low standard paper to see what they look like at a glance before printing the final design.
Proof - Of your work.
Sign-off - Client will sign off the work and say that it is fine to print therefore it is their fault if things don't print properly or are incorrect. 

Print Processes
You should know very early on in your design which print process and finishing is appropriate for your job. There are nuances in artwork specification that you may need to be aware of… find out before you’ve gone too far.






Six Colour

Laminate - gloss/matt

Foil Blocking


Spot UV Varnish

This is very closely linked with the print process and should always be discussed with your printer as they are likely to do this In-House. If not they will still commission and manage it as part of the job.

Binding - what type?
Folding and Creasing
Die Stamping/Drilling

Get 3 quotes and check the the specification is the same on each one otherwise it’s impossible to see who’s providing the best deal. 
Be aware of the impact special sizes, finishes etc have on the overall cost. Sometimes a ‘finish’ can cost nearly as much as the the rest of the print. 

  • Get a quote very early on, before you start the job in earnest in possible
  • Identical specification for three print estimators to work to.
  • Learn roughly what things cost (unit cost).
  • Understand viable minimum quantities.
  • Extras/Authors/Corrections.
  • Delivery?

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