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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: Waterless Offset Benefits Printing Trade and Planet Earth

May 10th, 2021

Posted in WaterlessPrinting | Comments »

Photo purchased from …

Offset printing, which has been around for a long, long time (since the mid 1870s), is based on the proposition that oil and water do not mix, and that if you draw on a custom printing plate with a greasy substance like ink, and then flood the non-image area with water (in a precise ink/water balance), ink will adhere to the image area and be repelled by the water in the non-image area. The ink can then be printed on a press blanket and from the blanket to a paper (or other) substrate.

This is a chemical process. It is also rather time consuming (to keep the ink/water balance correct), and it uses a lot of water and paper in the process. Moreover, since offset lithography is an art as well as a science, there’s considerable skill required to achieve a successful ink/water mix.

Heidelberg Quickmaster DI (Waterless Offset)

With this in mind, consider a process I learned about in the early 2000s from a printer who had a Heidelberg Quickmaster DI on his pressroom floor. This press imaged plates right on the press (no negatives, which had been the norm a few years prior, and no platesetter, which was the current technology). It used silicone-covered plates.

A laser burned the image areas of the plate, removing the silicone, and the silicone on the rest of the printing plate repelled the ink while the image areas with no silicone attracted the ink. In fact, the process was no longer exactly planographic (image area and non-image area on the same flat surface). There were slight indentations where the silicone had been removed. So the process was actually closer to “intaglio” (a recessed image area on a plate, just like an engraving plate or a gravure cylinder). It was also more of a physical process than a chemical process (unlike conventional offset lithography). And it allowed for a thicker ink film, since the commercial printing ink collected in the recessed areas of the plate where the silicone had been removed.

That said, the process did not use water, or alcohol, since there was no need for a dampening fountain solution. So it was possible to print halftones with much higher line screens than usual (300- to 800-line halftone screens rather than the usual 175-line screens). Stated more precisely, the images were spectacular.

Now all of this occurred on a DI (direct imaging) Heidelberg press, used at the time for short runs of static printing (unlike the variable data printing of an inkjet press or laser printer).

Just out of curiosity I recently did some research to see if the technology was still in use (also because the last time I had written about waterless offset for the Printing Industry Exchange was in 2007).

The State of the Art

I found an article in Africa Print (07/08/2019) entitled “The Benefits of Waterless Offset Printing,” and I was pleased to see that the process was still in use: not necessarily on the Heidelberg Quickmaster, but on retrofitted offset presses in general. And I learned that the process offered serious benefits to the environment.

This is what I read in “The Benefits of Waterless Offset Printing”:

  1. A B1 (28” x 40”) press running two shifts will consume up to 200 liters of water a day (52.833 gallons) and 1,000 to 1,200 liters of alcohol a month (alcohol is a component of the fountain solution used to keep ink and water separate on the custom printing plates). This is 264.172 to 317.007 gallons of alcohol.
  2. Making IPA alcohol for commercial printing presses and transporting multiple thousands of gallons to printers each year costs a lot, consumes energy, and contributes negatively to carbon emissions.
  3. Also, contaminated water has to be treated as hazardous chemical waste.
  4. As I had noted earlier, traditional offset lithography consumes extra paper, ink, and fountain solution as waste (i.e., producing unusable printed copies) in achieving the correct ink/water balance and in getting the press “up to color.”
  5. Since fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce (especially in other parts of the world, such as Africa, where this article was presumably written), the use of copious amounts of water by offset commercial printing is a problem.

Enter Waterless Offset

What’s nice about waterless offset, also known (in my research) as “driography” (3M’s version of the process used in the late 1960s), is that you don’t need to buy a new press. You can retrofit your existing commercial printing press to use waterless plates and the waterless offset custom printing process.

Waterless offset seems to be the same as the process I learned about in the early 2000s as used in the Heidelberg Quickmaster DI press (silicone-covered plates with image areas burned off with a laser).

Here are the benefits as noted in “The Benefits of Waterless Offset Printing”:

  1. Waterless offset can be done on conventional presses.
  2. No water is used in the custom printing process.
  3. Since the balancing of ink and water is no longer an issue, it is possible to get the press “up to color” much faster, significantly reducing the paper waste usually attributable to makeready.
  4. Faster makereadies mean printers can complete jobs faster and therefore economically produce shorter press runs than heretofore.
  5. Not using water means it is possible to print on non-absorbent substrates, including plastics and metal.
  6. This also includes printing on currency, identification cards, passports, and such, using security inks.
  7. Due to the lack of water in waterless printing, it is possible to use finer halftone screens (upwards of 300 lpi to 800 lpi), and this makes printed images look almost like continuous tone photos. According to “The Benefits of Waterless Offset Printing,” it’s even possible to convert newspaper presses to be used for much higher quality commercial printing work.
  8. Given the relatively inexpensive transition of presses to waterless offset, as well as the relatively minimal training needed, this is an attractive proposition for most commercial printing suppliers. Even if the plates and other materials are a little more expensive than those used in traditional offset, the savings in the makeready stage still makes this financially feasible.
  9. And an additional article I found, “Toray Develops First Waterless Offset Printing Press,” 09/17/20, by, notes that water soluble UV inks can be used, obviating the need for solvent based inks and the equipment and energy used for drying solvents and processing the resultant exhaust gases.
  10. Plus, wash-ups of press equipment can be done with water-based products instead of solvents (“Toray Develops First Waterless Offset Printing Press”).

So the answer to my initial question seems to be a resounding yes. The waterless offset process is still very much in use.

Where to Go From Here

If this interests you, as a designer, printer, or print buyer, start researching the topic online. Once you understand it, you can start your search for vendors who offer this process. It seems from my research that such vendors won’t be hard to find. The planet will appreciate your efforts.

Posted in WaterlessPrinting | Comments »

Custom Printing: Characteristics of Printing Ink

May 10th, 2021

Posted in Inks | Comments »

Given the complex balance of commercial printing ink and water (plus all the other variables in ink formulation), plus paper choices, it’s amazing that anything gets printed or looks good.

First of all, let’s step back a moment and discuss ink on paper, or more specifically offset ink on paper, since ink varies considerably from offset printing to gravure printing to flexography.

Offset printing is a planographic printing process. That means the custom printing plate is flat. Image areas are not raised (as in letterpress) or recessed below the surface of the plate (as in such intaglio processes as engraving).

Offset ink (which is greasy) and water don’t mix. Therefore, when a printing plate on a press cylinder rotates through the ink and water units (like troughs along the width of the press), the ink and water stay separate. Image areas on the printing plate that have had the plate surface removed (by selective exposure to a laser) attract the ink, while non-image areas (unexposed areas on the plate) attract the water and avoid the ink.

This general concept explains how the fine letter forms of type, plus halftone images, plus solids receive and hold the ink on the plate, and then release the ink onto the offset press blanket and from there onto the paper.

Keep in mind that all of this is usually happening for four process inks that are laid on top of each other, and the press is operating at 10,000 to 20,000 impressions per hour. So getting the ink just right is a major challenge.

Properties of Ink

Here are four properties of ink to consider: color, body, length, tack, and drying capability. Moreover, the printer has to understand how specific inks and papers work together, since mixing ink for offset printing depends heavily on the paper (or other commercial printing substrate) for how the ink behaves, dries, and appears when all is said and done.

Ink Color

Printing ink is composed of pigment (usually organic, but some non-organic) particles within a fluid mixture of solvent (which controls the body of the ink), vehicle (which gives the ink its fluidity), plus other additives such as drying agents.

The various hues of offset printing ink your printer uses have the aforementioned physical characteristics, but they also have optical properties. These range from their opacity to their transparency, and also their ability to create (when mixed) the greater portion of visible colors. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks printed over one another only match most of the PMS colors. For other colors, your printer adds specific PMS hues (also referred to as match colors).

To read the color, printers use a spectrophotometer (a computer device) and agreed-upon standards like SWOP (Specifications for Web Offset Publications). Only if color can be communicated, and only with adherence to color standards (using closed-loop color reading instruments on press), does the printer have the ability to successfully print colors in a way that will match your expectations.

Ink Body

“Body” pertains to the stiffness or softness of the ink. Offset ink straight out of the can is thick and must be softened through the action of the multiple roller systems in each inking unit of a commercial printing press. In contrast, gravure and flexographic inks are much more fluid. (These are also usually water-based, unlike oil-based offset printing inks.) And screen printing inks have the consistency of thick paint, which is why the application of custom screen printing ink on a messenger bag or hat looks thick and opulent.

To put ink body in context, you would use a much less fluid ink for newsprint offset printing than for offset printing on high-quality coated stock.

Ink Length

“Length” pertains to the ability of an ink formulation to form filaments. (Picture an ink knife lifting ink from a blob on a printing plate.) The filament will be longer for a long ink and shorter for a short ink before it beaks apart. You don’t want the ink to be too long or too short. If an ink is too long it will spray (“fly” or “mist”) when the press is operating at 10,000 to 20,000 impressions per hour. If an ink is too short (like the consistency of butter, with a lesser ability to flow), it will pile up on the rollers and press blankets. (As with the characteristic of ink body noted above, an ink for offset printing newspapers will be longer than one for printing on a gloss coated press sheet.)

Ink Tack

This is one of the most important characteristics of ink specifically used for offset commercial printing. Tack is the stickiness of ink as an ink film is being pulled off the plate and applied to the blanket (i.e., as the ink film is split between two surfaces) and then transferred from the blanket to the printing paper. The first ink laid down must have a higher tack than the second, third, and fourth (CMYK), or the extra PMS inks on press.

If an ink is not tacky enough, one layer of ink will not adhere to the prior layer (known as “trapping to the color”). If it’s too tacky, the stickiness of the ink will peel off pieces of the press sheet (known as “picking”). So, clearly, the nature of the printing paper plus the ink tack and the order of color ink application must be taken into consideration during the custom printing process. Otherwise you will create a mess. During this process, the printer must often make compromises, since preferred ink tack (measured with a tackoscope or inkometer) is different for text, halftone screens, and solids. (That is, tacky ink does not print smooth solid areas of color.)

Ink Dryers

Ink will dry in a number of ways, including absorption, oxidation, evaporation, and polymerization, just to name a few.

Absorption pertains to the ink’s going into the fibers of the paper and leaving the pigment on the top of the paper. You might use this for newsprint or other non-heatset (or cold set) web press work.

Oxidation involves the outside air being absorbed into the ink. The chemical reaction between the outside air and the ink causes the ink to harden on top of the paper surface.

Evaporation involves the use of heat to cause the vehicle and solvents in an ink to turn into a gas and be released into the atmosphere, thus hardening the ink film. You might find this kind of drying technology on a heatset web press (using ovens just past the inking units) or a drying unit at the delivery end of a sheetfed offset press.

Polymerization refers to the process of exposing printed UV ink to UV lamps as the press sheets travel thtrough the press. UV light will instantly turn the UV inks into a solid, sitting up nicely on the surface of the paper (called good “holdout”). UV inks treated with UV or LED UV lights will allow you to use less ink, print crisper type and brighter halftones, and either use the printed product as soon as it exits the press (or the finishing equipment) or immediately print the opposite side of the press sheets without needing to wait for the ink to dry.

What You Can Learn from This Technical Information

Even though there’s an abundance of educational material out there on properties and characteristics of paper, it behooves you to learn about commercial printing inks as well. Offset printing, or any other kind of printing, depends on the successful pairing (like pairing wine with a specific kind of fish) of the right paper with the right ink.

The aforementioned information will be well known to your printer. However, it always helps you to understand the fundamentals of your craft as well. And as a designer or print buyer, your knowledge of ink and paper will also help you clearly see any printing problems and identify their causes if something goes awry in the commercial printing process. It will also make you appreciate the Herculean task of getting just the right mix of ink, water, printing plates, and paper to create a gorgeous publication.

Posted in Inks | Comments »

4 Benefits to Consider About Online Document Printing Services

May 8th, 2021

Posted in Printing | Comments »

Printing services have been in the market for several years, even after facing several ups and downs, it is still prevalent among businesses. No marketing campaign is counted as completed without having a printing service provider onboard. The planning and designing stage is crucial for the marketing campaigns but the printing services are what ensures the quality of your final output. There are various online document printing services available these days but it is your responsibility to select a reliable and reputed service provider that understands your needs and requirements properly.

Generally, materials like flyers, brochures, posters are considered the only marketing material that businesses prefer. But it is not true. There is a wide range of marketing materials that businesses publish to communicate with readers and develop potential clients. Every material has different requirements when it comes to printing services. It is not the sole responsibility of the customer to ensure perfect quality print as the printing service provider plays a major role in maintaining the standard of the marketing material. Let us now further discuss what advantages do businesses gain from online printing services:


Online document printing services are highly convenient. You just need a computer or any other smart device and can easily contact or communicate with a printing service provider. The hassle of running from one place to another to find a suitable printing service is not there anymore. After finding your printing service provider online, you can check out their samples and designs to brief them about your plan.

Finest Quality

Online printing services never scrimp on the quality. They are equipped with the latest technologies and tools that ensure every marketing material achieves the highest standard of quality.

Product for Every Need

One thing to be sure about is that you will never run out of options or services at online printing services. Online printing service providers have an array of options available at their desks that will fit every need of yours. Poster, brochure, flyer, banner, etc., all you need is to order a product, they have all kinds of paper, sizes, inks, and materials.

Best Customer Services

Online printing companies are known for the best customer service. Right from the ordering procedure, they are truly transparent and try to be 24/7 accessible to the business concern through phone or e-mail. Service inquiries or complaints are well-received even after the job is done, in case there is an error.

Timely Delivery of Product

Deadlines are very important for every business. The products need to be delivered on time as any delay in the delivery would directly affect the marketing campaign. Many online printing services offer tracking details so that customers can easily track their orders. It takes away the stress of delay in delivery and makes it easy to solve any issue regarding the delivery status of the order.

Several elements make a marketing campaign a success, printing quality of the material is one of them. Selecting the best and the most reliable printing service provider will result in the best quality printed materials.

Posted in Printing | Comments »

How Newsletter Printing Helps Companies

May 8th, 2021

Posted in Printing | Comments »

Newsletters are responsible for employees being able to connect with the management of an organization. While this is on the internal front, there are other newsletters that help companies connect with their customers, as well as boost sales by establishing trust and credibility in the market. Therefore, newsletter printing is considered very important for the marketing success of any company.

Printing companies can be contacted online these days. Although the printing solution is physical, business and print companies can touch base online. The order for newsletter printing can be placed in bulk, which would entitle the client to a bulk discount. However, the commonly used way to get prints is a little different from what it sounds like.

Obtaining Newsletter Prints

Printing companies have their own specializations, and it makes great sense to contact one that specializes in printing newsletters. For this purpose, print coordinator companies can be found on the Internet. They are the ones acting as the mediators between the clients and the printing companies. They ensure that clients do not have to spend much time searching for print companies. Clients are able to find the best printing companies as per their newsletter requirements by contacting the coordinators. Some of the print companies may be able to design newsletters as well.

Top Benefits of Customer Newsletters

Existing customer relationships are always easier to strengthen than to make new relationships. Current customers already bestow a certain degree of trust, and a newsletter further helps to boost this relationship. The benefits of newsletters for customers are as follows:

  1. No Selling Necessary- The aim of the newsletter is to only update its customers about recent happenings in a client company and the related industry. It reinforces the client company’s credibility and allows its developments to remain fresh in customer minds. Promotion does take place, but in a very subtle manner. In comparison, a brochure is meant for flashy promotions. Interesting content is the basis for attracting customers.
  2. Easy to Design– A newsletter is always viewed more than a publication, and is thereby seen with fewer design elements. Concise pieces of information are conveyed here, and so the content is very easy to put down. For instance, it is possible to put down short profiles of employees, executives, projects, customers, and also industry developments.
  3. Print is Permanent- Though newsletters are commonly send by emails these days, there are many companies which believe the printed word more, and look for printed copies. A printed copy is also easily visible, and it’s easy to understand, unlike a cluttered screen. Being in printed form, it is also not discarded easily.
  4. Short- There is no need for a newsletter to be lengthy; instead, it can just be distributed at regular intervals

Finding the Right Type of Paper

Different types of paper are available for various types of printed matter. Coated paper would be ideal for newsletters, as it is slightly heavy as well. In comparison, gloss paper would be best suited for luxurious lifestyle products in beauty or fashion. Uncoated paper is ideal for educational matter.

Posted in Printing | Comments »

Book Printing: An Awesome Faux-Antique Spell Book

May 3rd, 2021

Posted in Book Printing | Comments »

Purchased from …

During Covid-19 my fiancee and I have spent a profoundly inordinate amount of time in our favorite thrift store keeping our spirits up when we’re not working. During this time she has brought to my attention, or actually bought, a number of unique books. And as is often the case when I see books with qualities that set them apart from digital-only products on the internet, I’d like to share one of these with you.

Mal’s Spell Book

This is a Disney product, presented in a similar vein to the J.K. Rowlings Henry Potter print book franchise. It is a magical spell book (Mal’s Spell Book, adapted by Tina McLeef, from the Disney film).

In its own right, beyond the arcane glyphs, hands with eyes in their palms, and references to bat’s wings, there is a running commentary in another hand (perhaps several) about the contents of the print book. From the tone, it appears that the daughter of a witch has acquired her mother’s spell book, and is commenting on its contents. So it’s like a witches spell book overlaid with a teenager’s diary.

Regarding the design of this 7” x 9” casebound book, there are several qualities I’d like to highlight.

The text paper is thick, uncoated stock. It has a yellowish or cream hue, which goes along with the antiquated spell book tone of the base art. The graphic designer has made the interior paper seem even older by scanning the smudges and paper discolorations from another old book and including this mottled image as additional art on each page.

So the text pages look like they were stained, or have yellowed over the years. This mottling has been printed in a brown ink to give a sepia-toned look to the interior pages, and all of the witchy art, cartouches, and handwritten text are also printed in this brown ink. Moreover, the endsheets and flyleaves of this casebound book are a rich purple (an intense and saturated hue with the look of velvet), and the outer cover material is a rich brown stock with a luxury soft-touch matte film laminate coating. (I know because I always encourage my commercial printing clients to use this if they’re so inclined, because its tacky surface sort of grabs and holds onto your fingers.)

Also on the front cover are a gold, foil-stamped dragon and a photo (ostensibly of the witch’s daughter and her friends) coated with a crisp gloss UV coating. This stands out nicely against the matte laminate that coats everything else on the cover.

The title of the book is printed (and handwritten) in fuchsia ink (perhaps 100 percent magenta) for contrast with Mal’s mother’s (Maleficent’s) more subdued and earthy, witchy tones. There’s also some blue, orange, and white handwriting, presumably from the other three teenagers in the cover snapshot (a small 4-color image taped to the faux leather cover with printed white tape). (BTW, this is called “trompe l’oeil,” which means “deceive the eye” and which is a fine arts approach to making flat art—like an image on a book cover—look like it is a real photograph actually taped to the print book.)

Now, as I noted before, when you open the book, you see bold handwriting, like graffiti. This is scrawled in the margins and all around the ornate text of the spells that pertain to lunar cycles, various herbs, and such. This spell-focused material is printed in ornate, yet controlled, handwriting. (Apparently you have to hand write your own spellbook to make it truly yours.)

But what makes the print book hang together graphically is the contrast between the style of the bold and colorful commentary by the four kids and Mal’s mother’s witchy text. This starts on the cover of the book, and it consistently carries throughout the text. Visually, you can immediately identify who has written each block of handwritten copy. If you need information on spells, you read the sepia-toned text. If you want to see when to boil a newt (presumably), you read the sepia-toned text. If you want to see what the witch’s (Maleficent’s) daughter and her friends think, you look for the handwritten copy in fuchsia or blue ink. That’s good design. Consistent design. You’re never confused.

What You Can Learn from Mal’s Spell Book

  1. Good design starts on the cover and carries throughout the text. Among other methods, this can be achieved with consistent use of typefaces and consistent use of color (not just to look good, but to identify similar design elements and editorial elements).
  2. Consider the text paper weight. The text of the spell book could have been printed on a coated or even a thin, uncoated stock. But it wasn’t, because the paper wouldn’t have reinforced the feel of the book as a witch’s spellbook. (Particularly not the coated stock. After all, you can’t hand write spells on coated stock without the ink’s smearing.)
  3. Consider the text paper color. The cream stock works nicely with the dark brown ink. Moreover, this brown color scheme is echoed in the brown faux leather cover. Form follows function. The text paper and cover paper colors reinforce the tone and message of the book. They make it look old and mysterious.
  4. Consider the cover coating. A soft-touch matte film laminate feels good, but it also grabs the fingers with its rubbery texture. Other coatings do other things. Make sure your choices reinforce the message of the print book.
  5. Use foil stamping wisely. Disney Press has money. That’s good, because foil stamping requires metal dies. But even for regular people with regular budgets, the foil stamping would have been a good design decision because the (faux) metal attachments in the corners of the print book cover, and the gold dragon in the center of the cover, reinforce the message. This looks like an old book. Again, form follows function.
  6. Contrast is a useful design tool. On the brown cover, the gold foil and especially the fuchsia handwriting in bold capital letters stand out, which is both good and effective because they’re important (plus, the contrast between the fuchsia handwriting and the brown and gold background reflects the different generations: the older witch and the younger preppie). The contrast reinforces this difference. The same goes for the ultra-high-gloss UV coating on the prep-school photo of the four teenagers.
  7. Contrast can be achieved in simple ways. In the spellbook, the teenagers’ handwriting is often written on a slant, like you might hand-write a note in a yearbook. In contrast, the spellbook contents are laid out (still by hand) in a more restrained manner. This creates a more solemn tone for the spells and reinforces the brash tone of the teenagers’ notes.
  8. Details count. The book has headbands and footbands. These are the little pieces of fabric that are glued in such a way as to cover the folds in the press signatures closest to the spine of the book. The gold headbands and footbands (even at this small size) add to the gravitas of the book.
  9. If you need antique images, you might check out Dover books. I’ve seen many Dover books with images, cartouches, and drawings that are royalty free. That means you can reprint them without paying anything and without being sued. Usually that is because they are very old images, so they won’t be useful for every publication. But it’s worth a look. Presumably, this royalty-free art can also be accessed online.

(A disclaimer: I have not seen the movie. I have just perused the print book. So I will apologize in advance for any misstatements I have made out of ignorance. And also because I want to avoid being turned into a toad. Or a newt.)

Posted in Book Printing | Comments »

Custom Printing: Packaging and StealthCode® Technology

April 27th, 2021

Posted in Packaging | Comments »

I just read an intriguing article on (2/13/18) entitled “ToBeUnique: Packaging Becomes Interactive Thanks to StealthCode® Technology.”

Basically, the article is about a new technology created by Tubettificio Favia that turns “aluminum tubes with StealthCode® technology…into a precious tool of corporate storytelling.”

This is a coating applied to the entire surface of aluminum packaging tubes. Using the StealthCode® mobile app downloaded for free from Apple or Google, one can use a smartphone to read the code and be directed to additional content, whether in the form of a website, a video, or any other online destination.

This application is based on Digimarc Barcode® technology, created by BeeGraphic.

So what does it do? How is it different from older technology? When I did some research, I found that the predecessors of StealthCode® technology have included the QR Code, which was revolutionary in its time, but which cluttered product designs and didn’t always work, particularly with non-linear surfaces. The StealthCode® is invisible to the eye and is active in the coating that covers the entire packaging tube (as opposed to a single location on the packaging on which you have to focus the smartphone camera).

According to the article, the StealthCode® “can’t be duplicated and is protected by sophisticated IT systems that protect its authenticity, preventing it from being read if it’s not compliant with the required standards.” What this means is that the StealthCode® is a strong deterrent against counterfeiting efforts, thus protecting the integrity of both the product and the product’s brand or website. And it does all of this while providing the customer with access to a wealth of product information not printed on the packaging.

Implications for Packaging Design

“ToBeUnique: Packaging Becomes Interactive Thanks to StealthCode® Technology” suggests a number of uses for this technology:

  1. In the food industry: “the tube ‘links’ to a food blog or to a video recipe, or even to a page with some advice for the correct use of the product or its storage”;
  2. In the cosmetics industry: “the tube refers to a beauty blog or webpage, to a video of make-up tips”;
  3. In the pharmaceuticals industry: “the app allows you to go beyond the classic ‘patient information leaflet,’ linking to a page with medical advice for the correct use of the drug or for leading a healthy and active life.”

All of these links provided through StealthCode® technology can direct the customer to a manufacturer website, social media website, video, contest, game, or event. The list is endless. But regardless of the destination, the technology offers additional opportunities for customer involvement with the product and the brand. The customer can interact with the manufacturer using this technology as a jumping off point.

How This Will Make Marketing More Effective

Everything I have read about contemporary marketing theory suggests that nothing works as well as multi-channel promotions for connecting with a prospective client. Each time a customer sees a logo or some other reflection of a manufacturer’s brand, he or she becomes more emotionally bonded to both the product and the values the company espouses.

For instance, if a customer hears a radio ad for a product, then sees a billboard with the same message, then reads a social media posting touting the benefits of the service or product in question (such as positive feedback from peers through a Yelp review), the bond grows.

So in the case of StealthCode® technology in particular, this non-intrusive (i.e., invisible to the viewer) technology can provide such a connection and satisfy a prospective customer’s need for more information. As noted in the article, if he or she sees something of interest on the aluminum packaging, there can be an immediate connection with the company’s website.

In some ways this reminds me of NFC (nearfield communications) technology. I had read in the past about large format print posters, for instance, that included NFC chips. Someone interested in more information could bring his or her smartphone (presumably with a downloadable app) close to the poster and then download information that would complement the content of the printed poster.

I’m sure that other technology exists (or soon will exist) to bridge the gap between static commercial printing technology and the Internet: technology that goes beyond the QR code on the side of a building, the StealthCode® accessible on an aluminum packaging tube, or a NFC chip in a poster. But even with the current state of the technology, in all of these cases the customer can access information about the product or company, and the manufacturer can initiate a dialogue with the potential customer.

What This Means for Commercial Printing Technology

In everything I’ve read in the trade journals, I have seen confirmation that multiple exposures to a brand through multiple media create brand loyalty. In the case of commercial printing (either ink or toner on paper), the printed product can be a stepping off point into a more expansive digital realm. This can include virtual reality and augmented reality (which the article does not reference) as well as the videos, contests, and such that the article does mention. It can also involve games (now known as “gamification”), which have been shown to also increase engagement between a potential customer and a brand.

In all of these cases, the tactile nature of print can be exploited. People like its permanence, which they may subconsciously interpret as its having more authority than digital media. People like the feel and smell of the paper, and many are still more accustomed to reading physical print book pages than computer screens. But if the various computer technologies such as NFC, QR Codes, and StealthCode® technology can facilitate a customer’s access to a personal website or some other interactive experience, this will surely bring more customers into the fold than will either print media alone or digital media alone. Each can augment the other by involving more of the potential customer’s senses and providing more and increasingly varied experiences.

These technologies are new, and there are a lot of them. One or another technology becomes obsolete quickly as new ones are developed. However, the goal of bridging the gap between ink on paper and bits and bytes on a computer screen makes it very clear that both are essential.

Posted in Packaging | Comments »

3 Effective Tips for Magazine Printing

April 27th, 2021

Posted in Book Printing | Comments »

Magazines are a great way of sharing new creative ideas or concepts on a weekly or monthly basis. Magazines have the potential to hook readers and turn them into regular customers. A magazine has so many elements such as content, images, design, etc. that adds up to the quality. Before you dive into the results and benefits that magazines can bring to your brand, there are many other things to consider during the magazine printing that will make it worth reading.

Like any other marketing collateral, magazines are also an essential part of any brand. They not only connect readers to your brand but also establishes your brand personality in the market. To make sure the quality of your magazine turns out to be the best, it is important to consider few tips at the magazine printing stage. Let us discuss some of them.

 Define the Layout

The very first step is to decide the layout of the magazine. Planning is the key to success and the key to design a beautiful magazine. Defining the layout refers to creating grids and frames. Grids with specific tags puts a raw visual of the magazine in front of you that can be easily edited and planned. It also consists of page numbering, fonts, texts, and styles. There should be a consistency in the layout of your magazine.

A Great Cover Photo

The first thing a reader gets to see as soon as they pick up a magazine is the cover photo. Most of the time, visually appealing cover photos become the deciding factor for buyers to buy the magazine. Considering the importance of the cover photo, it is essential to design a cover photo that makes a lasting impression on every reader. A great magazine cover photo can boost sales. Besides that, make sure the cover photo is related to the content of your magazine. It should reflect the strongest story of your magazine well. It is also important to choose a photo that is high quality in resolution and rests pleasant colours. Headlines of the front page is the second thing that grabs the attention of readers after cover photo. Headlines of your magazine should stand out from the background. As most magazine editors suggest, you must avoid green, black, and white in magazine headlines.

Perfect your Content Page

Right after the readers open magazines, content page will be the one that gets attention. Mainly, the quality of magazine depends on the quality of content that it provides. The content design of a magazine should be highly creative, functional, and most importantly allow the readers to find articles easily. Do not try to stuff your magazine as it might confuse the reader. If the content part of the magazine is going to be large, spread it into full two-page without restricting it. The content should be aligned well with perfect headers and interesting images to complement it.

Apart from all these factors, paper quality that the magazine will be printed on, its size, the inks used, and the glue that binds it together, play a very important role in deciding the final quality of a magazine.

Posted in Book Printing | Comments »

Custom Printing: Inkjet vs. Dye Sublimation for Fabric Printing

April 19th, 2021

Posted in Fabric Printing | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Inkjet vs. Dye Sublimation for Fabric Printing

Photo purchased from …

First of all, textile custom printing is getting to be very big (and colorful, if you note the vibrant hues in the photo above). Whether it’s direct-to-garment imaging, or printing on fabric and then converting the bolt of material into garments, commercial printing on cotton, polyester, and other textiles is starting to get a lot of press.

(Every night I get a Google aggregator feed of articles pertaining to offset and digital printing. For a while now, the subject matter yielding the most articles has been split between package printing and textile printing.)

Moreover, one of my larger customers, a fashionista who prints a color swatch book (like a PMS book) for picking clothing and make-up colors based on one’s complexion, hair color, etc., has begun to expand her proprietary color line from these color swatch books to actual clothing lines using digital fabric printing technology for custom printing and dyeing cloth.

So what does this mean for you?

I think it means it’s prudent to study everything you can about all possible facets of fabric printing: the technologies and the trends. If you’re a designer, it may mean studying the technologies and trends so you can expand your business to include fabric design (just as many designers expanded their print design businesses to include web-page design). Education in new technology is always a good investment.

The same goes for offset and digital printing companies. If you’re just putting ink and toner on paper, perhaps it is time to consider putting dye and ink on textiles, just as you may have added large-format inkjet signage to your business offerings a while back.

Regardless of your particular trade, it’s wise to keep abreast of expanding trends in a commercial printing environment in which some sources of business opportunity are drying up (newspapers, for instance).

Products, Workflow, and Technologies

One of the best ways to focus your education on recent fabric printing trends is to consider the following list:

  1. The products
  2. The workflow
  3. The technology

I will focus primarily on the third item (technology, pros and cons), but first I want to describe the kinds of products you may want to design. On a promotional level, there are soft signs (everything from banner stands and table throws for conventions, to large-format signage for the sides of buildings, although some of these are vinyl, and the real focus of this article is on fabric).

On the level of interior design, digitally imaged textiles can be converted into uniquely printed sheets, towels, bed covers, upholstery, wall covering. The list goes on (even lampshades).

On the level of clothing design, you can find everything from bathing suits to scarves to tank tops. What used to be the realm of only vinyl appliques affixed to t-shirts with heat and pressure has expanded into detailed photographic imagery printed on every possible clothing substrate. For instance, shirts for sale at the beach now have intricate art across the entire surface of the garment, in contrast to prior designs that were confined to a small rectangle on the front of the shirt. Keep in mind, also, that these new printing techniques can also be used for hats, messenger bags, and other promotional give-aways (emblazoned with your logo) for distribution at trade shows.

Regarding workflow, some items are printed directly. Shirts and hats are examples. If your product is small and can lie flat, you can print directly on the item.

In contrast, for larger items (large fabric wall coverings, for instance, or long runs of pattern-printed fabric destined for designer dresses), you may want to print directly on the rolls of fabric and then convert the printed textile to usable items after the custom printing stage.

Finally, there’s the technology, which is the main point of this blog article. Here you currently have two options: inkjet and dye sublimation. In large measure, which of these you choose will depend on the material on which you’re printing.

Inkjet Is for Natural Fibers

If you’re printing on cotton, you will choose direct inkjet printing. The nozzles of the inkjet printer will spray droplets of ink onto the surface of the fabric. Pre-treating the fabric before the application of ink and post-treating the fabric with heat will help bond the ink particles to the substrate, whether a pre-made t-shirt or a bolt of fabric.

These are the pros and cons of this technology:


  1. You can print on cotton. You really cannot use dye sublimation to print on cotton unless you first add a polymer coating to the cotton.
  2. You can print larger substrates (Reid Broendel of Ironmark notes in “Advantages of Direct Printing vs. Dye Sublimation” that the inkjet maximum width is about 16 feet, whereas the dye sublimation maximum width is closer to 10 feet. What this means is that you have fewer sewn-together sections of the printed fabric with inkjet printing.)
  3. You can easily gang up multiple inkjet printing jobs, allowing faster throughput, lower costs, and the ability to do short print runs economically and quickly.
  4. Like dye sublimation, direct inkjet printing allows for incredibly detailed photographic imagery at much higher resolutions than possible with screen printing (another alternative for printing on fabric).
  5. The process is faster than dye sublimation.


  1. Colors are less intense than in dye sublimation printing.
  2. Sometimes the crispness of detail is less than in dye sublimation printing. (Reid Broendel of Ironmark notes in “Advantages of Direct Printing vs. Dye Sublimation” that this can also be affected by ink types, fabric types, pre-treatment methods and materials, and temperature.)
  3. Inkjet printing on fabric is less durable than dye sublimation printing. Inkjet printing applies ink primarily to the surface of the cotton fabric, whereas dye sublimation printing actually permeates and is bound to the polyester fibers. If you wash an inkjet-printed shirt a number of times, the printed imagery will fade.

Dye Sublimation Is for Polyester

As noted before, you can pre-treat cotton with a polymer coating and then do dye sublimation printing, but your best bet is to use dye sublimation technology to print on 100 percent polyester material.

In this process, you first print your image on a “transfer sheet” with special inks that can be “sublimated” with heat (that is, turned directly from a solid material into a gas, bypassing the liquid state). Then you put the transfer sheet on top of the fabric and apply intense heat to transfer the image deep into the polyester fibers of the fabric. (The process heats the inks, which boil and give off a gas that is transferred into the fabric.)

This firmly bonds the colors into the fabric, significantly improving durability. (It actually improves color intensity as well.) Interestingly enough, the same process can be used to print on hard surfaces such as the surface of drinking mugs, floor and wall tiles for interior design, and keychains for promotional work. This is in addition to dye sublimation’s use for soft signage, interior design textiles, and other fabric-based surfaces.

Here are the pros and cons of this technology:


  1. The colors are brighter than inkjet.
  2. The printing is more durable than inkjet. Colors won’t fade because they are a part of the fabric, not on the surface of the fabric.
  3. You can print continuous-tone imagery (unlike inkjet custom printing). Dye sublimation does not require any kind of halftone screening, so the colors can be more intense, and imagery will appear to be of a higher resolution.
  4. Ink dries instantly, unlike inkjet printing.


  1. The process is slower than inkjet printing.
  2. The equipment is expensive (even though the process is simpler than inkjet printing and therefore results in less maintenance and downtime).
  3. Final output cannot be as wide as inkjet. This means larger items need to be sewn together in sections.
  4. The printable substrate is limited to plastic: i.e., polyester fabric and such.

What’s Your Next Step?

Getting involved in this new technology is like stepping up onto a moving merry-go-round. You have to think about it and then do it at the right time. So the best thing I can suggest as a next step–if this interests you as a designer, printer, or print sales rep–is to read voraciously and learn as much as you can.

Printing on textiles is hot. This is definitely worth your time.

Posted in Fabric Printing | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Inkjet vs. Dye Sublimation for Fabric Printing

Custom Printing: Industrial Printing on Wood

April 12th, 2021

Posted in Industrial Printing | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Industrial Printing on Wood

Photo purchased from …

About 30 years ago, when I was an art director and production manager at a nonprofit educational foundation, I worked with a designer and a book printer to reproduce the color and texture of a marbelized, textured paper. This was for an annual report, and the goal was to use a single paper stock for both the marketing portion of the book and the financials. We used a white coated press sheet for everything and printed a photograph of the marbelized paper as a background for all pages of the more elegant marketing section of the annual report. (We also moved the photo around a bit to vary the pattern from page to page.)

This process made an impression on me. I learned that you can make something look other than what it really is by using commercial printing techniques.

About 24 years later my fiancee and I had a house fire. While I didn’t much like the experience, I did learn something about custom printing as we chose materials to rebuild the house. One of these materials was flooring, and I was intrigued by the same process I had seen as an art director. Floor manufacturers were able to use commercial printing techniques to simulate wood grain on various materials and thereby produce flooring sheets and planks that were in many cases more durable and sustainable than real wood but still as attractive.

Initially, I found this somewhat objectionable on a deep level, because I had always been a purist. I always preferred to use real materials and make them look as they really are. Well I got over it. I remember the first time I saw a friend’s composite house-siding shingles. They looked “real,” like wood. But they were concrete, and they could withstand hurricane-force winds. By this time I was also a homeowner—and more frugal and less idealistic than before—and these three experiences came together for me as an “Aha” moment.

Digital Printing and Wood Surface Decoration

Whether it’s real wood with printed patterning or some printed, synthetic base, we are at a crossroads for industrial printing as it applies to the home décor market.

First of all, let’s define some terms and processes. “Industrial printing” is a huge part of commercial printing in general. But it has nothing to do with marketing or education, brochures or books. “Industrial,” or “functional” printing is the utilitarian branch of custom printing. It includes the letters on your computer keyboard keys, the writing on your car’s dashboard, and the numbers on your microwave.

It wasn’t that long ago that industrial or functional printing depended primarily on gravure printing and screen printing. Both of these are labor intensive (i.e., costly) to set up, so for economic press runs, you need to print a huge number of copies. Custom screen printing and gravure also take a long time (for preparation and changeover of jobs), so two things you couldn’t get 20 years ago were immediate turn-around and customization of your simulated wood flooring.

Fortunately for consumers, both of these (speed and variety) have become the norm due to the rise of digital commercial printing, which is ideally suited for “mass customization” and “just in time” manufacturing. So, for instance, instead of needing to order one ton of flooring, a distributor might now be able to order a single, short-run design for one building. This is because of the infinite variability of digital printing.

Another benefit of digital printing addresses the dimensional limitations of the gravure presses that preceded digital technology. The press cylinders had a fixed circumference compared to the laminating presses. Now, on large-format inkjet presses you can produce much wider flooring designs (or designs that don’t repeat regularly).

Better Than Natural Wood

Why do people choose simulated wood products?

  1. They are more sustainable than natural wood.
  2. They may hold up better to the elements.
  3. They may last longer in a damp environment. (After our house fire our water heater developed a leak. The new synthetic basement flooring held up to the flood quite well.)
  4. They may be more resistant to insects (living in a log cabin is romantic until insects damage the logs).

So digital technologies, whether direct custom printing on wood or lamination, can simulate the color, pattern, and surface texture of real wood, but they can do this on vinyl, metal, or composite wood, in such a way that the floors are more durable, water resistant, and stronger than natural wood. (And having struggled with warped wood in furniture, I personally find that flooring that keeps its dimensional stability even in the bathroom—shower after shower–is a blessing.)

Equipment to Look for and Research

Here are some names of equipment for digitally printed wood decoration that you may want to research if you’re looking into this technology:

  1. Inca Onset
  2. Kodak Prosper
  3. Koenig & Bauer RotaJet
  4. EFI Cubik

Ask about flatbed inkjet printers that can print directly on thicker substrates (like doors). Ask about roll-fed, aqueous inkjet printers as well. Make sure the printer you choose understands the nuances of woodworking, cabinetry, flooring, and/or lamination. That is, does he understand how digital commercial printing technology for wood surface decoration supplements the more traditional processes?

Moreover, ask about your options. Will your flooring product be directly printed onto solid wood or a flat, thin substrate (lamination)? Will the flooring be impregnated (i.e., what kind of top coating will seal and protect the flooring)?

And here’s a new one to research: Some current flooring decoration technologies will not only print the simulated wood grain on the flooring substrate but will also add a raised surface texture that mirrors the underlying design. (So it not only looks like wood, but it feels like wood, too, and at the same time the flooring product is stronger than natural wood.)

How Can They Ensure the Quality?

Repeatability is of prime importance with flooring decoration. Where two pieces of flooring abut, the colors and patterns must be consistent, or the floor will be ugly.

I have read online recently about “Digital Twin” (cloud-based) technology that ensures the quality of the final product. The gist of this approach is that computers simulate the manufacturing process from beginning to end while monitoring and controlling all steps of the actual, physical manufacturing process. So in most cases they can predict and/or avoid problems. This allows flooring decoration printers to maintain both color and texture consistency while reducing equipment downtime. And the result is higher client satisfaction, increased production efficiency, and increased profitability.

The Takeaway

What can we learn from this new technology? First of all, sometimes you need or want real wood. But sometimes you don’t, and in fact real wood floors might not be as durable or easy to care for as you would like. So there is a real need for wood simulations, particularly since digital technology now provides not only a visual simulation but also a textural simulation. The products look and feel real, and they’re durable.

So if this appeals to you as a designer, take some time to research the options: digital, gravure, custom screen printing. Consider the infinite variability (the opportunities for mass customization) digital printing provides. And think about whether you want to print directly on real, thick wood (doors, for instance) on a flatbed inkjet press, or whether you want to print on roll-to-roll inkjet equipment for follow-up lamination of the flooring product. All of these considerations will lead you to one or more digital commercial printing manufacturers.

And as with all other printed products, ask the suppliers for printed samples. Your eyes and your hands will make the final decision.

Posted in Industrial Printing | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Industrial Printing on Wood

Why You Should Outsource Online Flyer Printing

April 10th, 2021

Posted in Book Printing, Flyer Printing, Printing | Comments Off on Why You Should Outsource Online Flyer Printing

Flyers are small but good looking printed materials that are very useful in printing businesses. Although they can be printed online, they are used on a physical basis. Handing these over to newspaper and magazine vendors is extremely helpful in carrying out marketing promotions. There are many companies which can carry out online flyer printing in bulk, and their contacts are available online. However, to be able to get through to a wide variety of companies, it would be suitable to look for a reliable print coordinator first, who can make the necessary links.

How Does The Print Coordinator Work?

The Print Coordinator has a specific network for all the online flyer printing companies present in different parts of the world. Print Buyers do not have to pay them for searches, as the member companies already pay them. These printing services are part of win-win propositions for all since Print Buyers get good quality work done at reasonable rates and print companies receive repeat business. Since printing is an integral part of several businesses, many of them are able to provide print designs as well.

There are very few companies that will provide only flyer printing services. In addition to these, they will have solutions for printing cards, posters, and more. Clients need to check the profiles of different companies before choosing one, but the best bet would be to check the coordinator’s suggestions and choose accordingly. Most often than not, a balance between price, quality and service is very important.

Using Flyers

Flyers can be beautifully printed and used for the following purposes:

  • Showcasing new price lists
  • Product sheet preparation
  • Preparing marketing collaterals
  • Printing different kinds of data sheets
  • Providing handouts at trade shows
  • Giving home descriptions to clients
  • Latest car schemes
  • Preparation of Media Kits
  • Printing new takeaway restaurant menus for localities

The text present in a flyer is always composed by copywriters. Content is put down in a way such that is grasps customers’ attentions easily in a short period of time. Those interested to know more will read further to find relevant information about products or services. It takes 5-10 seconds for a customer on an average to decide whether he or she will proceed or not.

How Should Flyers be Designed?

Certain tips are necessary to ensure that companies are able to gain maximum advantage from flyers. They are as follows:

  • Do not forget to put the company’s brand logo on the flyer. It is a symbol for the customer to link products and services.
  • The use of color images is likely to create a greater impact than black and white images. Therefore, a suitable budget must be available for this print.
  • Catchy messages are absolutely necessary in the flyers, motivating customers to pick them up. At the same time, there should not be any spelling errors. Even a small spelling error is likely to create a negative impression of the company in question.

Outsourcing print jobs to another company is most helpful since it frees up time for other jobs.

Posted in Book Printing, Flyer Printing, Printing | Comments Off on Why You Should Outsource Online Flyer Printing

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