What is Fluting?
publisher recently lost a long-term advertising client because
the paper on which the ad was printed looked wavy and therefore
cheap. It looked as though evenly spaced parallel ripples
ran vertically along the magazine cover. What happened,
and what can the publisher do about it?
The technical term for this flaw in
printing is "fluting." After a lengthy study of
this phenomenon, the Web Offset Association has confirmed
- Fluting occurs in web offset printing
because the moisture absorbed by the paper during the
inking process is evaporated unevenly by the driers as
it passes through the press ovens. The paper weight, paper
type, and design (i.e., ink coverage and placement) significantly
influence the presence or absence of fluting.
- Nothing can be done to eliminate
this problem, although over time the waviness relaxes
somewhat and the paper lies flatter. Nothing can be done
once fluting occurs; and, until the job is on press, there
is no way to know whether fluting will occur.
These are rather forbidding findings.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize fluting, so keep
the following in mind as you design your web offset publication:
- Lighter-weight paper shows
fluting more dramatically than does heavier-weight paper
(although the magazine noted above had more fluting on
the heavier cover signature, but for other reasons).
- Heavy ink coverage on the front
and back of a press sheet shows the most fluting (the
ad in question was a full-page bleed with heavy coverage
on the inside front cover of the magazine; the front cover
was also a full bleed with heavy coverage). If you print
heavy coverage four-color process work on one side of
the sheet, consider limiting the other side to one color.
- Uncoated stock shows fluting more
than coated stock.
- Position heavy coverage pages
in line with one another. Areas of heavy ink coverage
above or below blank pages of a publication (as viewed
when looking at an unfolded, cut press sheet--one side
of a signature) will increase fluting..
Don't Skimp on Overs
Every mechanical operation in printing
involves waste, or spoilage. If your mailing list includes
20,000 prospects, for instance, and you have a letter, an
outgoing envelope, and a business reply card as a response
vehicle, you would need to print more than 20,000 of each.
This is because each successive manufacturing
process--including printing, personalization, data processing,
etc.--renders a certain percentage of your total press run
unusable. Some of these processes require as much as 10
percent over your targeted total mailing (referred to as
ten percent overage).
Skimping by ordering minimal
overage is not smart. In fact, it is much cheaper to throw
away 5,000 sets of overs than to go back on press because
you underestimated the press run. Ask your printer and your
mail house for estimates of necessary overage to account
for spoilage at each step of the production process.
Discounts for Long-term Printing Contracts
If you produce a periodical with a
regular publication schedule (and, of course, if you are
satisfied with your printer's work), consider signing a
long-term contract with your print provider. Such a contract
could save you money.
By committing to a contract--of three
years, for instance--you ensure that your printer will receive
regular work within a mutually acceptable schedule, and
you can often receive significantly lower pricing in exchange
for this commitment. With such a contract, your print provider
may also be able to get better lot pricing on the paper
for your magazine, particularly if it is a specialty item
and not a house sheet.
[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.]