Printing & Design Tips: November 2001, Issue #4

Avoiding Fuzzy Four-Color Type

Printing small type in more than one color can be a nightmare for printers. Keeping the type in register throughout the run is challenging and often impossible. For you, this means fuzzy type that looks bad.

You can minimize this risk in the following way. Whenever possible, print small type in one color. Failing that, print the type in two colors, but make one of them a very light color. An example of this would be a color made up of 100 percent magenta and 100 percent yellow. If the yellow is out of register, only a trained eye with a loupe will see it.

You can also minimize problems by setting small type in a sans serif face. Helvetica Bold type, for instance, set even at 7 pt. in 100 percent magenta and 100 percent yellow will be clearer than Garamond set at the same size in the same colors because of the absence of serifs and thin stems. As a rule, avoid setting multi-colored type smaller than 10 pt.

If you have the budget and are already printing on a five or six unit press, consider printing the small type, rules, and reverse type (and any other elements) in a PMS color rather than a process color build. Keep in mind that this can add significantly to the final cost if it requires your printing on a larger, more complex press.

Printing on Envelopes

Printing solids or halftones on envelopes can cause problems because at different parts of the envelope the press will be printing on one, two, or even three layers of paper. This can easily result in uneven ink coverage or painfully visible creases through parts of your halftones.

To avoid this you have at least two options. The less costly is to position the entire solid, halftone, or screen on a part of the envelope with a consistent number of layers. Particularly avoid the seams, and make a paper dummy, taping your laser printer output to an envelope, to make sure you have positioned elements away from folds.

If this is not an option, considering printing on a flat sheet and converting the sheet into an envelope. Keep in mind that this will cost more and will take longer. Many of the promotional pieces you receive in the mail in envelopes made of a gloss stock and printed in process colors with solids bleeding on all sides were printed first and then converted into envelopes. This option can yield a superior product.

[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.]