Printing & Design Tips: July 2004, Issue #36

Requirements for Embossing

What do you need to know when you emboss your job? What pitfalls do you need to avoid?

First, be aware that embossing is a mechanical process that manipulates the paper stock--and, by default, also manipulates your design. Also be aware that embossing follows the printing stage. Embossing before printing would provide a more fragile product that would be crushed by the press rollers during the printing process. With these facts in mind, do the following when planning for embossing:

  1. Set your type with more space between letters than usual. Once embossed, the letters will be slightly closer than you had initially placed them. This goes for small design elements as well. If you put them too close to one another, they can merge and become one element once the embossing has been done.
  2. To avoid wrinkling your printing paper, keep design elements away from the edges of the sheet.
  3. Set your type larger than 9 point. In fact, use this approach with all design elements, including rules. Embossing makes design elements look smaller and reduces the sharpness of smaller items. Rules that are too thin may also cut through the paper, so make your rules larger than 1/32 inch.
  4. Consider the heat and pressure an embossed piece will endure when you design anything that will run through a xerox machine or laser printer. Digital printing equipment will flatten your embossing. If you're feeling lucky, at least run a test embossed sheet through your equipment before committing to embossing the entire press run. Also, the depth of the embossing does make a difference as well.

Color Correction on Press

You're on a press check. The printer brings out a sheet, and the color of a key element is wrong. What do you do? How do you communicate the changes you want to the printer?

First of all, the printer is an expert at operating the press. Therefore, it is prudent to describe the results you want rather than the way to achieve these results. Specifically, if you tell the printer to increase the magenta 5 percent and this makes matters worse, it's your responsibility. If, on the other hand, you ask the printer to match a certain area of the proof because the color is washed out, the printer can use his knowledge and experience to make this happen without adversely affecting other areas of the press sheet. The best course of action is to give the printer an actual sample to match.

Remember also that all portions of a four-color image are made up of tiny dots of each of the four colors. Certain colors are often more prevalent than others in any one area. Therefore, if you reduce one color to minimize a color cast, you may actually be taking away dots that make up detail within a particular area of the four-color image. So you may have to compromise between detail and accurate color within your photo.

Compromise is key in overall color correction as well. Increasing the magenta to improve an image on one page may introduce a pinkish cast into the ad on the page immediately above your four-color photo on the press sheet. This is called an in-line color conflict, and you will need to compromise.

Decide which elements must be correct and which elements can deviate from perfection. For instance, you might want to tell your printer that holding the detail in the transparency is more important than maintaining absolutely faithful color. Or you may say that color fidelity in the ad on page 10 is more important than color fidelity in any in-line editorial photo.

UV Cracks with Saddle Stitch

It's true. It's up to you to deal with it. But how can you minimize the fact that UV coating cracks when you produce a saddle-stitched book?

  1. Choose a cover stock that is coated on one side only to minimize cracking.

  2. Fold with, rather than against, the grain of the paper.

  3. Score the paper first.

  4. Trim the sheet off-press with the coated side up.

  5. Avoid printing over the folds. In particular, avoid printing a heavy, dark solid over an area that will fold.

Nothing will make this problem disappear completely. These suggestions, however, will help.

[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.]