Printing & Design Tips: APRIL 2007, #69

Using Wax-Free Inks Under Book-Cover Laminates

When you plan to coat the cover and spine of a book with liquid laminate or film laminate, tell your printer early. He will have to use wax-free inks to ensure that the laminate properly adheres to the printed cover stock.

Laminates Vs. UV Coatings for Book Covers

If you plan to "paint the sheet," that is, coat the cover of a book with heavy ink coverage, consider requesting UV coating for cover protection. It adheres better to solid ink coverage than a liquid or film laminate does.

If, on the other hand, your cover design involves minimal ink coverage, consider requesting a liquid or film laminate, since laminates are more durable than UV coating.

I recently asked several printers which process is more expensive: UV coating or film lamination.

One said the following: For coating the covers on 5,000 books it's probably a wash. For very short run books (under 1,000) it's actually cheaper to film laminate a book cover than varnish or aqueous coat it. Under 5,000, it's probably cheaper for film laminate. Over 5,000 it's cheaper for UV.

Another printer said UV coating is cheaper than film or liquid laminate (approximately 30 percent of the cost of a laminate on a run of 5,000).

From this little survey, this is what I gleaned. Different printers have different equipment, so not all printers can provide both coating options (either at all, in some cases, or economically, in other cases). The relative pricing of one or the other process also varies depending on the quantity. To be safe, discuss cover coating options with your print provider early in the printing process.

In addition, the previous discussion assumes your book is perfect bound or saddle stitched (soft-cover). Nevertheless, some hard-cover books (case-bound books) do not have removable dust jackets loosely wrapped around binder boards. Rather, these books have a printed, heavy paper stock attached directly to the binder boards. These hard-cover books can also be coated with a liquid or film laminate or UV coating.

Picking a PMS Color for Type

Your eye perceives color within context. If you choose a PMS color for type, your eye will respond to the color of the type based on the color surrounding the type.

In the simplest case, this might mean choosing a color for type that is significantly darker than the paper stock on which it is printed. You might choose black or a dark blue, brown, or green, for printing on a cream or white stock. Conversely, you might avoid printing text in a light brown ink on a medium brown stock. The difference in the value of the type and the surrounding paper would not be great enough to make reading an easy and pleasurable experience.

For the same reason, you might not choose a blue type color for an orange (or anywhere near orange) paper because complementary colors, such as blue and orange, vibrate when placed side by side, minimizing readability. This is also true of the following pairs of colors: red and green, and yellow and purple.

All of this makes sense and seems rather simple. What complicates matters is the degree of contrast between the type and the surrounding paper. If, for instance, you pick a green swatch in your PMS book for the type color and then print it on a cream stock, the type printed in the green color will appear lighter (as words on a page) on the paper than the solid swatch appeared in the PMS book.

Why is this? Because the thin strokes of the typeface take up a minimal amount of space compared to the solid swatch of color in the PMS book. There is less surface area of the type color surrounded by more of the background color. This will make the words on the page appear lighter than you had imagined and may therefore impair readability.

So what can you do about this? Personally, I would pick a color that I think would be appropriate and then choose a slightly darker hue of my initial color on the same page of the PMS book. I would compensate slightly, knowing that the hue would be different from the initial choice but that the type would be more readable.

The exact opposite is true when picking a color for a solid or screen. If you pick a color you like from a PMS book, the swatch is usually about 2” wide by ¾” high. This is very small. If you paint an entire sheet, or a large portion of a sheet, with this color, it will seem much darker than you had initially envisioned, because there will be significantly more ink on your 8.5” x 11” page than on the 2” wide by ¾” swatch. In this case, it’s often wise to pick a slightly lighter color than your first choice would dictate or screen back the color to less than 100 percent.

If you want to see sample hues on many sample backgrounds so you can be more confident of your choices, visit a graphic design supply store and look through the various Pantone Matching System (PMS) books (or other graphic design books). Books of this kind display sample type of various colors on solid and screened background colors. In some cases, the books even show type surprinted over halftones. It would be too expensive for your offset printer to provide actual printed samples of your job, because he would have to set up the press for an actual print run. (That is, he would provide a press proof.) However, ink-jet proofers today are usually an adequate representation of your final printed piece, so when in doubt, proof early and often.

[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.]