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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

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Custom Printing: The Magic of Thermochromatic Inks

September 22nd, 2020

Posted in Promotional Products | Comments »

Purchased from …

I was digging around in the cupboard a few days ago, readjusting the coffee mugs that were often stacked three cups high. My fiancee’s second favorite thrift-store item after clothes is coffee mugs, so I’m usually greeted by pithy statements about life when I open the dish cabinet door.

In this particular case, I saw one that was entirely black, except for some faint words around the periphery of the mug printed in blue. Since “Bioluminescence” was one of the words I saw (and since I had just done some research on deep sea fish and their light sources for our art therapy group for the autistic), I was intrigued.

The Magic Mug

Then I knew. This was a promotional mug that used thermochromic ink to change color based on temperature. (Apparently these are all the rage because the inks are no longer toxic, and the changeability they afford to the marketing message is a show-stopper.) They really grab the viewer, so they can “capture client share and ensure brand loyalty.”

In this particular case the use of thermochromic inks was ideal (that is, appropriate for the ultra-deep-sea, miles-below-the-surface, no-light-anywhere ambiance of the subject matter). On the bottom of the mug there was a “cheat sheet,” a drawing of about eight deep sea fish. One of them I recognized from the art therapy project: the angler fish. I knew I was onto something.

So I turned on the tap and put some water in the mug. Then I put the mug in the microwave. Thirty seconds later the same drawing I had seen on the bottom of the mug was visible on the side of the mug (only larger and more colorful). However, the top half of the mug was still black. Apparently, this was because the top half of the mug had not yet reached the temperature needed for the inks to change (or more specifically for the black ink to turn clear and reveal the image printed below it). Way cool. Fortunately I was smart enough to lift the mug by its handle, which was still cool to the touch.

Why This Works

So I went to school on thermochromatic inks. The “thermo” part means temperature. The “chromatic” part means color. (I had Latin in high school, but not physics, and this is why I found this mug so unique. It’s also why I missed the note on the bottom of the mug about not washing it in the dishwasher.)

To simplify all of the technical, scientific information, there are two ways to achieve this color-changing effect with heat: by using thermochromatic liquid crystals (TLCs) and by using leuco dyes.

Quoting from Wikipedia, “At lower temperatures, these liquid crystals are mostly in a solid, crystalline form. In this low temperature state, TLCs may not reflect much light at all, thus, appearing black.” Heat applied to the TLCs changes the spacing between them, and this changes the way they reflect light (thus changing the color of the substrate). Mostly TLCs are used for things like thermometers, since they are harder to use successfully than their alternative, leuco dyes.

Leuco dyes, like TLCs, are microencapsulated into three- to five-micron-size droplets that protect them from interacting with other chemicals. (This makes them ideal for use in inks: water-based, solvent-based, epoxy-based, etc. You can even blend them into paint.) When the leuco dyes are cool, they reflect color (like the black of my fiancee’s coffee mug). But once heated, they become translucent, so you can see what is beneath them (words, colors, whatever you have printed).

TLCs are more temperature specific. Hence they are great for thermometers and such (they require a black background for the most vivid coloration, which is not a problem when designing a thermometer). Leuco dyes, unfortunately, will change form (and therefore color) over a larger window of temperatures: 5 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit but usually “within 6 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit…of the intended temperature” (Wikipedia) (This is fine for marketing work.) And, as noted, leuco dyes are easier to use.

Technical Applications

As noted earlier, thermochromatic inks can be used in thermometers. They can also be used as a security device for doctors’ prescription pads and bank checks. In addition, they can be used in battery-charge indicators. They can show whether a food has been heated to the proper temperature (and is therefore healthy to consume), or they can indicate whether a cold product has reached a dangerous temperature (think about what heat sometimes does to mayonnaise-based products outdoors on a picnic).

In the realm of interior design, some ceramic tile custom printing vendors have even used this technology with shower tiles. As the water temperature rises, the originally black tiles change to vivid, bright colors. These thermochromatic items can even be positioned near lights, so the heat of the lights can change the colors of the home décor items.

Marketing Applications

The Wikipedia article on thermochromatic inks includes a photo of a football with a handprint on it. If you haven’t seen a multicolored handprint on a football before, this image will be permanently burned into your memory.

And that’s what makes this process great for marketing.

If you can intrigue the potential customer (get him or her to stop doing life’s activities automatically, without thought, for a moment), you will grab her/his attention. If you can pair this with something unique, you can increase awareness of your brand. People will think your company is cool. They will be more likely to buy from you. Or at least they will remember the cool, color-changing product and presumably also the name of your company.

And if your use of the thermochromatic ink is integral to the marketing message, you’re even closer to the sale. To illustrate my point: My fiancee’s mug focused on sea creatures from one, to many, miles below the surface of the ocean. It’s very dark there. And the mug reflects this theme of darkness as long as the overall color is black. It’s appropriate to the theme of the “magic mug” (which is what these are called if you research them online). When you apply heat, you reveal the aquatic inhabitants of the deep, dark ocean. I’ll bet the fish, the cool thermochromatic inks, and the name of the aquarium that originally sold this mug (before it wound up in a thrift store) will all be linked in the mind of the original owner.

More Marketing Uses

Back in the 70’s they sold “mood rings” based on these inks. They said they changed with your mood. In reality, they changed with the heat of your ring finger. Still, they became a marketing sensation.

A pancake syrup company used thermochromatic inks to trigger a message (visible through the window of the microwave oven) that the buttery syrup was ready to be poured onto your pancakes or waffles.

Coors Light beer did a marketing promotion on their cans using this custom printing technology. There were mountains on the can. When the can was room temperature, the mountains were white. But when you cooled the can, the mountains became a bright blue. As your hand warmed the can again, however, the mountains returned to their original white color.

The Takeaway

So the takeaway from all of this is that thermochromatic inks have serious potential.

  1. They are no longer toxic.
  2. They are easier to use.
  3. They have uses in functional commercial printing (security, protection of health, etc.).
  4. They have great potential for use in interior decorating (a hot venue for digital custom printing these days).
  5. And they have unlimited promotional marketing potential, particularly for pens, hats, clothes, and other give-away items (often called “tchotchkes,” a Yiddish term).

In short, they catch the eye in an otherwise undifferentiated sea of marketing materials. They allow the marketers to link a cool effect with the brand name. And potentially they foster brand awareness, brand affiliation, and brand loyalty. All with a little bit of heat sensitive ink.

Posted in Promotional Products | Comments »

Custom Printing: Printing Your Jobs with Less Ink

September 17th, 2020

Posted in Inks | Comments »

Photo purchased from …

They say that “less is more.” This is a truism.

But in commercial printing, it actually improves both the product and the process if you can print with less ink. It saves money, in some cases actually improves the final printed product, and uses less energy for the manufacturing of the printing ink. Reducing ink consumption also saves storage space in your printing plant.

In light of this, I recently found an article on, written by Kristin Adams and published on 08/04/2020, in accord with Kao Collins (The Ink Tank). It’s entitled “How to Use Less Ink When Printing,” and it offers a number of suggestions for printing with less ink and also addresses some of the benefits of doing this. Moreover, it also distinguishes among the various commercial printing technologies (such as offset and digital printing) when providing these suggestions. (To these thoughts and insights I have also added my own views.)

Printing Workflow Benefits

Kristin Adams’ article begins by describing the production workflow savings of using less ink, noting two benefits:

  1. Using less ink reduces drying time. If you’re using either a sheetfed press or a web press, less ink requires a shorter drying time, whether you are using LED lamps or heat ovens to cure the ink. Less drying time means shorter exposure times for the LED light or the drying ovens, and this reduces the overall energy expense. It also extends the life of the LED curing lamps and the drying ovens.
  2. Using less ink speeds up production. You can’t print the back of a press sheet until the printing on the front is dry. Although a web offset press does print both sides at once–so both sides do have to dry, and using less ink does improve the drying time–on a sheetfed press, once you have printed the first side of a sheet, you have to wait until the entire stack of press sheets has dried before you can “back up” the sheets (i.e., print the opposite sides). Using less ink speeds up overall print production because it reduces drying time. In addition, reducing overall printing time also reduces labor costs.

Adams’ article then moves on to issues of print quality:

  1. Using less ink improves the quality of the printed product. Using too much ink on a web press, particularly a newspaper press, causes such problems as ink show-through or bleed-through (from one side of the sheet to the other) or muddy halftones and 4-color images, or even damage to the commercial printing paper. (There’s only so much ink that either uncoated paper can absorb or coated paper can hold up on the surface coating before the paper decomposes.) This limit for the ideal amount of ink is called total ink coverage or total area coverage, and using less ink minimizes the potential problems of over-inking.
  2. Using less ink improves images. For halftones (black and white or 4-color), the halftone dots that comprise the image will spread to a certain degree when printed. (This is known as “dot gain.”) It is normal, but too much ink makes dot gain worse. It can not only make the images seem heavy or muddy, but it can also change the perceived color (or even add a color cast to a neutral color composed of all four process inks, for instance). Using less ink minimizes this problem.

Environmental Benefits

“How to Use Less Ink When Printing” then goes on to mention the benefits to the environment of using less ink in the commercial printing process.

Using less ink means less energy is required to produce the ink. It also means fewer natural resources are needed for ink manufacturing, less plastic will be used for inkjet and toner cartridges (for digital printing), and less metal or plastic can be used for offset ink storage containers.

And as noted before, using less ink can reduce the required ink storage space and the associated heating and cooling costs.

How to Reduce Ink Consumption

The goal is worthy, but how do you achieve it. Kristin Adams addresses this question next in “How to Use Less Ink When Printing.”

But to begin with, Adams notes that a savings of up to 20 to 30 percent is possible. So in terms of reduced production time, improved print quality, reduced labor costs, and environmental benefits, ink usage reduction is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.

According to Adams’ article, here are some things to consider:

  1. Choose the right resolution for images and line art. If you’re printing a barcode, it has to be crystal clear to be read accurately. So use a higher resolution. On the other hand, if you are printing line art (text) and halftones, you can use a lower resolution (discuss this first with your printer). This is true for inkjet as well as offset lithography. Use only the resolution the reader’s eye will perceive. Choosing a higher resolution uses more ink.
  2. Consider both UCR (undercolor removal) and GCR (grey component replacement) in preparing and printing 4-color images. In different ways (but for the most part in shadow areas and neutral tones containing a lot of cyan, magenta, and yellow), both UCR and GCR involve using computer algorithms to reduce cyan, magenta, and yellow ink and replace them with black ink. When these changes are reflected in the resulting printing plates, the overall amount of ink used on press is reduced. One of the additional benefits of GCR is that there is greater “edge definition” (perceived edges of objects in the halftones where different values, or tones, meet).
  3. Be mindful when choosing fonts. Some fonts are heavy in appearance and therefore use up a lot of ink when compared to thinner fonts. For instance, a heavy serif face, with the extra flourish of the serifs, will use up more ink than a thinner sans serif typeface. This may at first seem to be a minimal savings, but ink usage based on these minor changes can add up throughout the course of a long book, for instance, with a long press run or on a long press run for a transpromo product (a combination bill and marketing mailer). Adams’ article does note, however, that a prudent designer will weigh ink savings with readability in choosing fonts. (For example, serif faces are easier to read in a book or other long document, so keep the reader—and the reader’s age and eyesight—in mind when attempting to save ink.)

Final Thoughts

“How to Use Less Ink When Printing” ends with some more technical information on saving ink:

  1. Make sure your printheads (for inkjet equipment) are clean. When ink dries in the printhead, it takes extra ink to clean out the clog. So the ink drying time is an important consideration, particularly with solvent inks used in large-format inkjet printing.
  2. New ink and toner cartridges are often more functional than remanufactured cartridges. If a cartridge fails, the ink still in the cartridge is wasted.
  3. Bulk ink and toner containers are apparently more efficient in using the last bit of ink and toner. (That is, if you leave a little bit of ink or toner in multiple small containers, this will add up to more waste than the little bit of ink or toner left in a single, much larger bulk container.)
  4. Choose the correct ink for the substrate on which you’re printing.
  5. Track your efforts at saving ink. You’ll see what does and doesn’t work within your own commercial printing workflow.

Posted in Inks | Comments »

Commercial Printing: Thoughts on Color Reproduction

September 13th, 2020

Posted in Color Theory, Prepress | Comments »

Color is tricky. Not only does everyone see it slightly differently (from my reading and experience, apparently women see color slightly better than men). Not only does color look different depending on surrounding light (color seen in sunlight differs from color seen under fluorescent light, which differs from color seen under regular incandescent light). But color even varies from what you see on your computer monitor to what your commercial printing supplier can provide in a print job.

Wow. Why even try to learn about color? Because you can understand it and control it to a reasonable degree with a few key concepts and rules, and color enlivens a poster, banner, print book cover, and any other commercial printing project.

Your Monitor vs. the Printing Press

The first rule of thumb is that color on a computer monitor is created with light: red, green, and blue phosphors. In contrast, color on your commercial printing job is created with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. Inkjet printers and laser printers also use the CMYK color space.

What you need to know about this is that the two color spaces (RGB and CMYK) do not match exactly. And what this means is that you can create colors within the RGB color space, on your computer monitor, that your custom printing supplier cannot match.

Therefore, here’s the first rule of thumb to use in your own graphic design work. Adjust your photos in the RGB color space (or the CMYK color space), but always convert the files to CMYK before placing your images in your page composition file (i.e., InDesign). This way, you will see any color shifts on your computer monitor before the job goes to press.

At this point I will suggest a caveat. Always request a physical proof for color work. It’s worth the extra cost from your commercial printing vendor to see a replica (for offset lithography) or exact copy (for digital printing) of the final printed output. This is because however close you come to matching colors on your computer screen to your expected final output, they will never match precisely.

That said, you can calibrate your monitor to make it more accurate. You may want to research this online. It usually involves extra software and hardware to analyze and then adjust your monitor. If you choose to do this, you will also want to consider the ambient light (room light). In printers’ prepress departments, there are no windows (no sunlight changing the perceived colors onscreen), and there are hoods on the monitors to keep any room light from changing the perceived color onscreen. Beyond this, often the walls of the prepress department (and the walls in the viewing booth where you can check press sheets in your printer’s plant) are painted a neutral gray for the same reason.

Two More Color Models: HSV and HSL

You may have a PMS swatch book from which you choose match colors for your print design work. Better yet, you may even have a PMS color to CMYK color “bridge” (a color swatch book that includes PMS colors alongside their closest possible 4-color process builds). You can use these, along with the color applications in InDesign and Photoshop, to tell your computer, your monitor, and your custom printing vendor exactly how your colors should look. Then your printer can send you a physical color proof (as opposed to a virtual, PDF screen proof) to show you how your final printed output will look.

But beyond the CMYK and RGB color models I have described, you may also want to research two more color models online. HSL (hue, saturation, lightness) and HSV (hue, saturation, value) color models are very similar. They are both representations of the RGB (red, green, blue) color space that creates color on your computer monitor. HSL is more a reflection of human color perception, whereas HSV represents how colored paints create color.

What makes these two color models useful to a graphic artist is that they help you visualize the hue (the named color, like red or blue) as a position on a circle of colors.

To illustrate this point, imagine this color circle as only a cross section of a cylinder (like a thin slice of a carrot cut out of the center of the root vegetable). At the top of the cylinder is the color white. At the bottom is the color black. Midway is gray.

If you pick a position on the circumference of the circle (let’s say a particular red), and you move up and down (lengthwise) on the surface of the cylinder (up to white or down to black), the particular red you have chosen will get darker or lighter. That quality of lightness or darkness is called “value” or “lightness,” depending on the model (HSV or HSL).

How is this relevant to a graphic designer? It models the transition of a specific color from a lighter to a darker version, and it helps you understand how this happens (by adding black or white). This is true whether you’re a printer or a painter.

The next quality has to do with the purity of a color. It is called “saturation” (the “S” in both the HSL and HSV models). It is also called “intensity.” It has to do with the vibrancy, purity, or amount of uncontaminated color, or hue, within a particular color you have chosen. (The purest color includes no gray; it is just the pure hue.)

If you go back to the model of a cylinder with the colors all around its circumference and white at the top and black at the bottom of the cylinder, you can imagine gray in the center between the black and the white. Imagine moving inward, from the outside of the cylinder to its core. (Or, again, you can picture this as a circle, a thin slice of the cylinder, like the thin slice of carrot mentioned above.)

All the way around the circle you see all the colors of the rainbow. These are the purest (most saturated) versions of the color. But as you move inward, the gray in the center contaminates the colors, makes them less pure, less intense. This is fine. You may want these more neutral colors. Certainly they show up in most if not all 4-color photographs, at least to some degree.

But if you are a graphic designer or a printer, the way these two color models can help you understand, analyze, and specify color is by demonstrating how color behaves, how you can add white or black to lighten or darken a hue, and how you can make a color more or less intense (i.e., saturated), by not adding (or adding) gray.

(As an aside, you can also tone down a color, or reduce its saturation, by adding the complement of that color to the mix. Complementary colors are exactly opposite one another on the color wheel: the outside surface of the cylinder noted above. For instance, you can desaturate red by adding green, or you can desaturate blue by adding orange.)

Other Color Models

There are many other color models. You may want to Google “CIELAB,” “Munsell,” and even “color models” in general. Some color models replace the cylinder I described above with two cones, one on top of the other, joined at the widest part with either end coming to a point (picture a child’s spinning top). Keep in mind that these are only approximations of the reality of color.

If you understand these color models at least somewhat, you will find them referenced in everything from the color picker in your word processing software to the more detailed versions in page layout and photo editing programs. Therefore, you will better understand why you need to specify numerical values to define these colors, or how you can change a color by dragging a pointer over a rainbow colored circle in a graphics program.

But before I stop, I want to describe one final color model noted above. CIELAB, often known as LAB or more specifically L*a*b. This model is useful when you’re touching up color photos in Photoshop because it separates the value (light vs. dark) of a photo from its color information. The “L” stands for “lightness,” while the “a” and “b” channels represent the “green vs. red” component of the color and the “blue vs. yellow” component of the color respectively.

What makes this useful to a designer is that you can adjust the black component of the photo without altering the color, in order to sharpen the image, remove noise (a grainy appearance in a photo), and correct other image flaws. Of course, it is important to translate the image back to RGB and then to CMYK (or directly to CMYK) before transmitting your job to the printer.

What You Can Learn from This Discussion

This is highly conceptual material. It will probably give you a headache. So here are a few take-aways to consider.

  1. Color on the monitor (created with light) is defined within the RGB (red/green/blue) color space.
  2. Color created with ink or toner is defined within the CMYK (cyan/magenta/yellow/black) color space.
  3. These two color spaces do not exactly match. CMYK commercial printing cannot approximate all RGB colors you see on your monitor.
  4. Therefore, check your images in CMYK and hand them off to your printer (within the InDesign file) in CMYK format.
  5. If you study other color models, you can learn to alter color to make it lighter or darker, more saturated or less saturated.
  6. If you study (and use) the L*a*b color space, you may find it much easier to fix color casts, sharpen images, and reduce noise in photos than by using the traditional curves and levels commands in the CMYK or RGB color spaces.
  7. Always convert images to CMYK, no matter what color space you start with.

Posted in Color Theory, Prepress | Comments »

Infographic: 7 Tips To Choose Online Custom Printing Services

September 9th, 2020

Posted in Business Cards | 2 Comments »

While selecting online custom printing services for your business, you need to pay attention to certain factors. First and foremost, figure out what you are expecting from a custom printing online services provider. Be clear about your specific needs. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on the services of such a company. Ensure that the company you are opting for is highly reliable as their service quality will have a direct impact on your business. Think about the service medium(online or local) that you want to choose. Most successful business ventures opt for custom printing online services. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Business Cards | 2 Comments »

3 Benefits of Using Electronic Book Services

September 5th, 2020

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on 3 Benefits of Using Electronic Book Services

The E-book industry has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years, and its demand is only rising. Today, the world has upgraded in terms of technology and gadgets. You will find entertainment, education, information and shopping, everything on the internet—another popular addition to the digital world books. E-books are getting increasingly popular and have doubled its reach. There are many electronic book services that can help an author publish their e-book on a particular platform so that it is reachable to everyone. The printed books industry will not die out, but the e-books also have a lot of benefits. If you are a staunch book lover, you will love to use e-books along with your regular reading dose. Also, it is a good chance for authors to publish their books online and make it easily available for the readers. Let’s look at some advantages of e-books for the authors.

  1. It is Cost-Effective

When you as an author, want to publish your book the traditional way, you will have to bear the cost of the publishing house. Right from printing to making the design cover and then distributing it to stores all over the world, you need to incur a lot of expenses. On the other hand, if you use electronic book services, you need not bear so many expenses. Publishing an e-book saves your printing cost and also widens your global reach. It is the best way to save your costs if you are on a limited budget. You only have to invest in the essentials of publishing your e-book, and it will be easily reachable to millions of users around the world. You may only have to pay a royalty to the publisher after your books are sold. It is different for every publishing house, and you also have a chance to self-publish your book.

  1. It has a Global Reach

If someone publishes a book in the USA, how do you think will be its reach in India or other eastern countries? Well, it’s not necessary that the books will be available worldwide in all the stores. In that case, you will be missing out on your reading audience in other parts of the world due to lack of copies or additional cost. But, when you publish an e-book, any reader across the world can download or buy your copy in just a few seconds. It is quite an effective way to reach out to a larger audience in a short span of time. Your fans need not wait for your hard copy to reach them.

  1. You Get Instant Gratification

If you are selling your e-book on one of the popular platforms, you can get instant comments from your readers. Whether they liked the book or disliked it, they will post their reactions, and you can easily have access to their comments. But, with a printed version, they would not know whom to reach out to and sometimes their messages won’t reach you on time.

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on 3 Benefits of Using Electronic Book Services

3 Qualities of a Good Printing Service Company

September 5th, 2020

Posted in Newspaper Printing | Comments Off on 3 Qualities of a Good Printing Service Company

Everybody requires a printing service at some point in their business. Whether you are a small business owner or own a big business, you cannot escape the printing requirements. You may need a printing service company at several events like corporate events, award shows, office party etc. A print represents your company and its vision and mission and must be done from the right source only. Whether you want a merchandise print, newsletter printing or a vinyl banner, a good printing service should be contacted for all the requirements. There are heaps of printing companies out there who would promise to give you the best quality service but not all deliver their promises. You must find the best printing service company by doing your own bit of research. First, make a detailed list of your requirements and your delivery date. Then, browse the printing companies online and have a word with the manager. You must understand the type of machines they use and get to know a little more about their company. There are certain qualities that only a good printing company possess.

  1. Should be Experienced

A printing company should have enough experience in the industry. The experience should not only be in terms of years but also having the right kind of knowledge. For example, they should not be surprised when you ask them for newsletter printing, brochure printing or some other type. They should have apt experience in dealing with all kinds of requirements and should provide a good quality print. You must ask for samples of their previous work and get an idea about the kind of printing they do. If they have worked for clients earlier, try to get in touch with them to get further information.

  1. Should give a Good Customer Service

When it comes to a printing service, just giving good quality prints is not enough. The printing company should also give you a good customer service so that you come back the next time as well. For example, they should be prompt with their service and not make any delays. They should respond to your emails, calls and messages on time. The printing company’s executives should be approachable and friendly. They must treat you with respect and follow the guidelines and timelines given to you. They should be open to last-minute changes and be flexible with your requirement. This will make a good impression of the printing company, and you would want to come back each time to them.

  1. Should have the Latest Technology

Sometimes, approaching an experienced printing company doesn’t mean they have the best piece of equipment. They could be old school, but only because they have been in the market for so long, they are taking advantage of their power. Maybe a new entrant in the market uses the latest technology and has adequate knowledge to help you with your requirements. Therefore, you must search properly before actually assigning the job to someone. Ask relevant questions, and make sure it fits your requirements.

Posted in Newspaper Printing | Comments Off on 3 Qualities of a Good Printing Service Company

3 Tips To Choose A Good Magazine Printing Company

September 5th, 2020

Posted in Magazine Printing | Comments Off on 3 Tips To Choose A Good Magazine Printing Company

When it comes to fulfilling bulk print orders, it becomes a costly and stressful process. But, it doesn’t always have to be this way! If you choose a reliable magazine printing company, the stresses can be reduced up to a decent percentage. But to ensure that you are working with a reputable company, it’s important to conduct your own research. There are thousands of companies out there, and each of them is claiming to be the best. So, knowing and evaluating them based on certain factors is your prime responsibility. Here are some of the factors that you should consider before hiring a reliable printing service provider.

  1. Compare The Printers & Equipment

Each of the magazine printing companies has its specialization and printers. Since there is a wide range of printers available, it’s better to check the quality of the printer that the company is using. The best way to do that is by collecting the local magazines and finding the printing publications that match your quality standard. You can easily collect the magazine covers that always have intrigued you. Then you can visit the publication house to analyze the printers they are using. This will give you a clear idea as to what it needs to get a quality magazine. You can cross-check the company that you’re hiring to know whether they are using similar printers or cheap quality printers.

Another thing is to consider the overall equipment that the printing company is using. It’s because printing technology has significantly improved over time. So, if you want to sustain the changing demands of customers, the technology must be aligned with your objectives. This is why the equipment used by the printing company is equally important as its printer.

  1. Check The Company’s Information

Some companies forge their information. Once you have some of the options of several printing companies in your head, it’s time to cross-check the information provided by the company. Apart from the quality of printers, there are other factors too that need to be checked. This includes the company’s history, benefits, knowledge, and expertise in the field. Above all, you should at least check its level of expertise. You can find alternate ways to know for how long the printing company has been in the business. This will provide a clear idea of its expertise level.

  1. Company’s Reputation

Online reviews and ratings provide a clear picture as to whether the company has previously satisfied their clients or not. It has never been this easy to check what the former clients are saying about the services of a printing company. You can quickly check their google, yelp reviews to understand whether the company has established a well-structured reputation on the online world or not. If the printing company has a list of satisfied customers, it indicates that they are capable of providing quality services. So, you can judge a printing company based on this factor before hiring.

Posted in Magazine Printing | Comments Off on 3 Tips To Choose A Good Magazine Printing Company

Large Format Printing: Preparing Your Artwork

September 2nd, 2020

Posted in Large-Format Printing, Prepress | Comments Off on Large Format Printing: Preparing Your Artwork

Throughout most of the early part of my career (as a graphic artist and art director), I mainly produced small format print products, ranging from print books to brochures, from announcements to stationery and business card packages. So the rules for file preparation, especially regarding photo resolution, have become second nature to me.

In short, the main rule is to include all images at 266 to 300 ppi (pixels per inch, which is similar to dpi, or dots per inch) resolution at the final printed size.

What this really means is that images should be twice the halftone line screen the offset printer will use. In my experience, 150 lpi halftone screens, reflecting the number of rows of halftone dots per inch, are fine for this math problem.

The purpose of this simple rule is to make sure that all images are of sufficient resolution that the reader’s eye will not see any pixelation (i.e., the square image elements that make up a computer-imaged photo on a display screen).

But here’s the rub. What about large format print graphics? I designed a roll-up banner stand a few years ago, so I had to go back online and reread the rules for large format print design. I knew that huge graphics would require a lot of storage space for the Photoshop file and/or the InDesign file, so I wanted to see what was really needed for high-quality imaging.

“Perceived” Resolution of the Photo

Again, the key phrase here is “what is really needed.” The viewer’s eye is forgiving. It needs to see images rendered at 300 ppi (or at least 266 ppi) to avoid noticing the square pixels of an image. But this is only because of the distance involved (0 to 3 feet). If you’re reading a print book or magazine, your eyes are this close to the reading material.

This is also true for some large format print banners you might design for a trade show, or a table throw to lay across your convention table. But an image that will be seen from, say, across the room (6 feet or more) can be of a lower resolution, and yet your eye will still see the images as being continuous tone (no visible halftone dots or pixels).

To further clarify this point, let’s go in the other direction. Presumably, most of the images you see on the internet are 72 ppi. This is the resolution that is perceived as continuous tone on a computer monitor based on the size of the pixels that make up the screen. If, however, you take the 72 ppi image and put it in InDesign, even at 100 percent size, the image will look like a checkerboard. The pixels will be visible and distracting. The images will look grainy or blurry. Moreover, they will be even worse if you place the photo in InDesign and then enlarge it (for example, doubling the size of an image cuts its resolution in half; therefore, a 72 ppi image enlarged by 200 percent would be 36 ppi in resolution).

How this translates into large format printing is as follows. If you are designing a roll-up banner stand that will be viewed from 3 to 6 feet away, you can include images that are 150 ppi rather than 300 ppi. Your eyes won’t know the difference, and your final art files won’t be unnecessarily large.


There’s a word for doing what I just said you shouldn’t do. Enlarging a low-resolution image to make it the right size for printing is called “interpolation.” While it is possible to do, it is ill advised because as the computer software enlarges an image, it actually creates picture information to place between existing pixels. This image information is fabricated. It is not part of what the camera captured, so there will be degradation of the overall quality of the image. And this will be visible.

That said, I personally have had some success in enlarging images slightly by making this enlargement process in very small steps. (For instance, I once enlarged an image 103 percent repeatedly without visible pixelation until it reached the desired size.) You may want to research this work-around online. But it’s still ill advised, and it doesn’t always work. I got lucky.

Reducing the Size of Images

Reductions in size are another matter. Go for it. If you have an 8” x 10” image and you’re making it smaller (perhaps for a photo montage on a fabric banner stand or table throw), your image resolution will go up. More specifically, if you reduce a 150 ppi 8” x 10” image to a 4” x 5” image, it will have a resolution of 300 ppi (which is twice a printer’s 150-line halftone screen). So you’re golden. (When you’re making the photo smaller, you’re actually removing picture data rather than adding it—or interpolating, or making up picture information.)

Vector Type Layers

Let’s say your banner-stand image will include type, a gradation of a color, and a photo. How can you best prepare your art files? We’ve already discussed the photo, which is bitmapped. But you could conceivably also render the type at a high enough resolution to make the edges of the letterforms appear smooth. However, there’s a better way. In Adobe Photoshop, and other software, you can put the text of your banner on a separate vector layer.

Vector images are defined with mathematical formulae. They are not a grid of dots (like the bitmapped photos discussed above). Therefore, you can enlarge (and print) vector type at any size, and the edges will be smooth. (Actually, vector type is only turned into a bitmap at the final printing stage, by the software RIP, which stands for “raster image processor.” And this transition from vector to raster type is done at the highest possible resolution of the prepress or printing equipment you’re using.) Similar in its effect to Photoshop’s vector type layer, Illustrator has a “create outlines” function, as does InDesign. In all three cases you’re creating an infinitely enlargeable vector image instead of a specific size of text in a raster image format.

In addition, you would be well advised to also use vector images for any line drawings and logos that you want to include on your large format print product.


Now, finally, gradations. I once learned a secret about gradations (colors that lighten gradually from a solid hue at one end–like the bottom of the banner-stand art–to white–let’s say at the top of the banner-stand art). You can create a gradation mathematically (and automatically) that will gradually darken or lighten from one end to the other, or you can create a gradation (to the exact size) as a separate art element in Photoshop format. (You would then import it into your InDesign banner file as you would a photo or type.)

In my experience, if you create the gradation in Photoshop, you will often get a smoother transition from white to the solid color. This is because “banding” can occur in some mathematically produced gradations, depending on the physical distance from one side of the gradation (let’s say solid blue) to the other (let’s say white) and the resolution of the output device. The banding in question is a visible and abrupt change from one shade to the next adjacent shade. That is, the gradation is no longer smooth. It has one or more bands disrupting the even flow.

Unfortunately, what you see on-screen might not be what you get when you print, depending on the physical length of the color transition within the gradient.

As a work-around, I have found that creating the gradation (like a piece of bitmapped art) in Photoshop can mitigate this. I have also found that adding “noise” to the gradation in Photoshop can reduce banding.

Just a thought. You might want to check this out online.

Color Space

Please remember that your monitor creates color with light, within the RGB (red-green-blue) color space, and yet your printer (both offset and digital) produces colors with ink, within the CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) color space. Therefore, you should always convert everything in your Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign files to CMYK prior to creating final art files for your commercial printing supplier.

Posted in Large-Format Printing, Prepress | Comments Off on Large Format Printing: Preparing Your Artwork

Custom Printing: Vivid3D UV and Foil Embellishments

August 29th, 2020

Posted in Foiling | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Vivid3D UV and Foil Embellishments

A short while ago I wrote a PIE Blog article about “Sleeking,” a digital commercial printing embellishment process that allows you to add foil to a printed product without making a metal die (hence saving money and time, as well as allowing unlimited personalization). I also discussed hot and cold foil stamping as well as the Scodix process and Vivid3D (which in my opinion produce similar, striking effects).

As a happy accident yesterday, a Vivid3D brochure arrived in the mail. So now I can share with you my opinions on the visual, aesthetic qualities of this process, which I may be using for a client’s upcoming flooring-sample binder. Hopefully, this discussion will enhance the more technical information I shared in the prior article on Sleeking, hot foiling, and cold foiling.

What I Received in the Mail

Anything I might want to know about Vivid3D, at this point, is contained in this single-page flyer. The front of this marketing piece displays 3D type, 3D art, and background coatings in silver, gold, 4-color builds, and holographic imagery. Each rendering of the four Vivid3D logos and logo marks is accompanied by notations describing how the effect was achieved.

The back of the flyer is equally important to me since it lists facts about the Vivid 3D equipment (and the integrated Konica Minolta KM-1 UV inkjet press), ranging from its 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution to the maximum sheet size, maximum paper thickness, etc.

One of the things I see right off the bat (on the sample side of the flyer) is what looks like embossing. The type for each of the four Vivid3D logos is raised, as is the splash (water imagery) logo mark. However, unlike traditional embossing (done with a metal embossing die), when you turn the single-page flyer over, there is no indentation behind the raised print on the front of the paper.

(Traditional embossing/debossing dies work with pressure. The embossing press forces each half of the two-piece die assembly against one or the other side of the paper, yielding a raised image on one side and correspondingly lowered image on the other side. In this case, there is no corresponding indentation on the back of the paper, since Vivid3D is an additive manufacturing process that digitally builds up polymer layers on the press sheet. Actually, for such a two-sided flyer this is a benefit, because the lack of an indentation affords a pristine surface on the back of the sheet for artwork and copy.)

All four sets of typescript in the Vivid 3D logos are crisp and attractive. They have more of a sense of being thick ink, in contrast to the more defined edges of traditional hot foil stamping (also done with a metal die). Another way of saying this is that there’s no chance that the edges of the foil will peel up because there is no gold or silver foil adhered to the substrate with heat and pressure.

Moreover, since the Vivid3D logo includes a splash of water, the four logo treatments display various levels of depth. In one image, the water is flat, while in others there is more of a varied depth in the splash of water. In fact, in one of the logos, the highlights of the water are treated with silver over the light blue of the water. I can’t see how you could ever produce this kind of tight trapping (with one foil touching another) with traditional hot foil stamping.

Another logo treatment (both the logo type and the water splash logo mark) is holographic. The logo reflects a rainbow of colors as you move it back and forth under a good light.

The three remaining logo type treatments are, as noted before, presented in gold, silver, and a build of light and dark blue (presumably combining the printing of the Konica Minolta KM-1 UV inkjet press and the embellishment of Vivid3D). The process color treatment is bright, crisp: vivid, just as the company name suggests. If you look closely with a 12-power printer’s loupe, you can see the minuscule overlapping spots indicative of inkjet printing. In contrast, the silver and gold seem to be solid colors, brilliant but without the dithering effect of the light and dark blue colors.

Behind the logo treatments, the background presents a contrast (over black ink) between a raised gloss finish composed of random spots of various sizes and a matte background. When you run your hand across the page you feel the raised dots, a little like grains of sand. In good light you can see these random grains against the undercoating of a matte finish.

Notations on this sheet, beside the four Vivid3D logos, describe the multi-level raised type and imagery as “multi-level sculpted UV.” That is, the Konica Minolta KM-1 UV inkjet press and Vivid3D embellishing process build up the varied levels (the word “sculpted” refers to the multiple, nuanced levels of the 3D effect). The notations also reference the PMS colors the digital custom printing process matched and whether the effect is two-dimensional or three-dimensional.

So, overall, between the logo type treatments, treatment of logo images, and descriptions, this side of the flyer gives you a comprehensive view of what the Konica Minolta KM-1 UV inkjet press and Vivid3D can offer a designer or art director.

Benefits of Vivid3D

If you flip the flyer over, the custom printing and coating descriptions of the equipment are informative and intriguing.

  1. Everything is digital: no dies are necessary. This means you can produce an embossing, foiling, and UV coating effect for less money in a shorter time.
  2. You can print and embellish up to a 23” x 29” press sheet. This means the throughput (efficiency of the entire process) is respectable. Furthermore, given the large sheet size, you can produce larger custom printing projects on this equipment (like pocket folders, presumably).
  3. You can produce VDP (variable data printing). So every sheet that leaves the equipment can be entirely different from the prior sheet.
  4. Instant-drying UV inks allow for immediate use of any further post-press equipment.
  5. Paper thickness can range from .06 to .6mm on various textured press sheets including linen, canvas, synthetic, and more. So you can achieve a wide range of tactile effects just with the paper, even before embellishment.
  6. You can layer one foil over another. This is very unusual (or even extremely rare), and unusual products grab the reader’s attention.

The Takeaway

The takeaway is that digital printing OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are focusing on post-press work now (as opposed to just digital commercial printing), and are simulating the more traditional (labor-intensive and higher cost) methods of achieving tactile effects in custom printing work. In many cases these are almost completely indistinguishable from the products crafted on the older equipment, and at the same time they can be infinitely varied or personalized. This is good news indeed.

Posted in Foiling | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Vivid3D UV and Foil Embellishments

Book Printing: Visually Organizing a Print Book

August 24th, 2020

Posted in Design | Comments Off on Book Printing: Visually Organizing a Print Book

People’s attention spans seem to be getting shorter. Too many things to see. Too many things to read. All these visuals coming at you at once.

When I was in school, textbooks had a few photos, charts, and graphs, but mostly I read page upon page of straight text.

In total contrast to this, I found a fascinating print book at the thrift store this week. It’s essentially a sociology textbook for those who have already graduated (laypeople rather than students). And it does a masterful job of visually organizing a vast number of complex topics into timelines, charts, and bite-size chunks of text. Exactly the way we consume material on the internet. Visually and spatially.

The book is entitled The Sociology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained, and it was curated (edited, compiled) by the following contributors: Christopher Thorpe, Chris Yuill, Mitchell Hobbs, Megan Todd, Sarah Tomley, and Marcus Weeks.

The Key Is the Visuals

Since graduating from college, I’ve learned more about things I didn’t study in school than things I did. Everything from economics to history, to all the other subjects I avoided. In the last 40 years these subjects have become interesting to me because they have become relevant to my daily life. There are probably many other people out there who could say the same thing.

In those 40 years (and before), experts have learned a lot about how people consume and master information on new subjects. In addition, between the ‘90s and the present, the internet has created a shift in how people consume content from a linear reading style to a more random, or at least spatial, approach that favors images, video, sounds, and short chunks of copy (such as bulleted lists).

This is not to say that “long-form” (the current name) journalism and literature have disappeared. The more spatial way of consuming information (like jumping around among a stack of books collecting facts and quotes for a term paper) has just grown exponentially in part because of our exposure to the internet.

The other point to consider is that you can consume and retain information more efficiently if it is presented in an organized manner. When you see how large concepts are connected, you can understand them and remember them better.

The Sociology Book

All of this information on how people learn (based on my reading in psychology, human perception, blog and other marketing, consumer behavior, and advertising) leans toward a more visual treatment of content. This includes an increasing use of photos, captions, call-outs, quotes, time-lines, and flow charts. The Sociology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained is replete with all of these, and the book employs them masterfully.

I’d even go further in my description. This print book contains fire-engine red, full-bleed divider pages to set apart one section from another. It also includes screened sidebars describing the influential social thinkers (who would be called “thought leaders” today). And there are full-color photos and also infographics to visually show how concepts are related and how one event or process leads directly to another.

There are also screened “In Context” sidebars that place the concepts discussed (such as globalization) within a setting of historical events.

Finally, in describing the organization of The Sociology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained and how this organization facilitates learning, here’s a description of a sample chapter. Keep in mind that after the front matter of the print book, each article (instead of chapters) follows this graphic presentation.

  1. Each section begins with a double-page divider, with a red solid block of color bleeding off all sides and surprinted with the title of the section in all capital letters in an ultra-bold, sans serif typeface.
  2. The next two-page spread includes a red half-inch bar (a timeline) extending from the left page to the right, bleeding on both sides. Above and below the line are dates in a black sans serif type with arrows pointing to short paragraphs describing significant events. All of these snippets pertain directly to the subject of that section, such as “The Foundations of Sociology.”
  3. Each section then contains a handful of related articles (maybe 10). There is an opening “pictogram” for each article, printed in black ink over the local color. (By local color, I mean one of the many bright, saturated colors that distinguish each article from every other article. These colors do repeat occasionally throughout the print book.) The benefit of the pictograms is that they illustrate each concept in a simple, visual way, and they immediately grab the reader’s attention.
  4. To the right of the pictogram is the title of the article in the all-caps, sans serif font, printed in black. Below the title is the name of the sociologist under discussion, and above and below this title block is a 1/2” solid bar of the local color. The effect is that the reader’s eye goes here first, without question.
  5. Then there’s the “In Context” box immediately below the pictogram (all within a three-column layout) to give the historical surroundings of the key concept or subject.
  6. Some articles include quotes (to enhance the reader’s level of trust in the content of the book). Each quote includes large screened quote marks above and below the text and solid color bars (the local color again) to frame the quotation and the quote marks.
  7. Some articles include flow charts (hand drawn circles and arrows around short blocks of text, which are set in roman type with bold type highlighting the most important words).
  8. The book includes running heads at the top of the page, typeset in uppercase letters and screened to gray. You always know where you are in the book.
  9. Finally, the print book includes a three-column layout of text, which is still important in this visual layout. The text of each article begins with a drop cap in a heavy slab-serif typeface. The text itself is set in a small roman version of this typeface. With all of the sidebars and quotes, the solid bars of color, the duotones, and the pictograms, the reader’s eye–or at least my eyes–appreciate the white space (even if it is within the text columns).

What We Can Learn from This Book

This print book is a wonderful case study in how people learn today. And if you’re a designer or a writer, you can make yourself incredibly relevant by studying the design of print books like these and incorporating what you learn into your own design and writing work. Here are some observations:

  1. If you set up a design structure for a book that treats all chapters (articles or whatever else you call them) in the same way, your reader will understand that these are all equal-value components of the overall print book (i.e., design reflects function).
  2. Do the same with the cover, front matter, and section markers. In the sample sociology textbook described above, you can understand the book’s structure immediately. Whether you do this dramatically or more subtly than the book I described, create a consistent, overall structure for the book. Your reader will immediately know where she/he is in the text.
  3. Keep chunks of information short and self-contained (as in the sociology book’s sidebars and quotes). Bulleted or numbered lists are good, too.
  4. Be aware that people learn better if you show how the concepts are related. A flow chart is good for this. It shows how one concept or event continues into the next (cause and effect, if you will). Make sure the design reflects this.
  5. Pictograms (often used in infographics) are immediately recognizable because they are so simple in design. Think about the signs on bathroom doors. There’s no question about what they mean.
  6. Quotations (short ones are best) can capture the essence of an idea. They also add to the credibility of a book or magazine. (If such and such expert says so, it must be true.)
  7. Drop caps (initial capital letters) date way back to the illuminated manuscripts monks drew and painted by hand. They grab your attention. You immediately know where to start reading.

The Take Away

Increasingly, people prefer to learn from either videos or short bursts of information presented in a visual manner. This makes your job as a designer all the more important. Do research. Study how people are best able to digest and retain new information. You can learn this from marketing, advertising, psychology, and similar textbooks. If you are skilled at presenting information in an easily digestible way, your design skills will always be in high demand.

Posted in Design | Comments Off on Book Printing: Visually Organizing a Print Book

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