Printing & Design Tips: August 2001, Issue #1

Economical Use of Color

If your budget won't allow for four-color process printing, consider using one or two colors more creatively. Perhaps you could print a single PMS color or black on a colored paper stock, effectively creating a second color. Or you could screen back the color in places for more variety. If you have a more generous budget, add a second color and print a screen of one over a screen of the other. Print a blue and yellow to make a green. Talk with your printer early in the design process to see how these options will affect your final cost. You may be happily surprised.

Photos for Reproduction

When reproducing a photograph in a publication, consider your options carefully. You can give the printer "transmissive art" (slides) or "reflective art" (photos printed on RC paper). Or you can scan either yourself. Given the choice, you will get higher quality reproduction (crisp focus) and a greater tonal range (detail in deeper shadows and lighter highlights) from slides. And the larger the slide format, the better the image, particularly if you enlarge the image dramatically for a poster. If you can shoot the image with a 2 1/4" format camera rather than a 35 mm camera, take that option. The detail will be superior, and the grain will be less offensive because you won't need to enlarge the image as much. Whenever possible, have your photo lab provide a paper print of your image at the size of the final printed piece. Whatever the price, it will cost less than reprinting the publication if you made a bad choice: that is, if the photo printed from your 35 mm slide looked crisp through your loupe but really was grainy or out of focus. Think of it as insurance. When you're satisfied with the print, then go ahead and scan from the slide.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]