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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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Brochure Printing: Experimenting with Unique Inks

When you’re designing a brochure printing run for your custom printing service to produce (or any other kind of publication, for that matter), one of the first decisions you must make, along with format, size, and paper, is what ink colors you will use. First to mind often are the process colors and PMS colors. But you needn’t stop here. Be creative. Reach beyond the norm. Here are some options.

Fluorescent Inks

Have you ever noticed that a full-color image printed on a glossy paper really “pops”? This is because all of the ink sits on top of the press sheet (called hold-out). In contrast, when your business printing service prints a four-color image on uncoated stock, the ink seeps into the paper. Although a wet press sheet may reflect intense ink colors under pressroom lighting, when your job is dry and you’re looking at the image under normal lighting, it may seem a little dull (this is called dry-back).

One way to inject visual intensity into process colors printed on an uncoated press sheet is to ask your custom printing vendor to replace some or all of the process colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) with fluorescent versions of these inks.

Paper companies often print promotional booklets on uncoated stock showing full-color images with one, two, three, or four of the process colors replaced with fluorescent inks. You can get these booklets from your business printing service or your paper merchant.

Tinted Varnishes

Printing companies mix their inks using pigments and vehicles. The pigment is the material that creates the color or hue (usually minerals of some kind), and the vehicle is the fluid that allows the printing ink to flow and spread on the press sheet. In simplest terms, varnish (which is a major component of the vehicle) is ink without pigment.

To create a faint image on a press sheet, you can have your business printing vendor add just a little ink color to varnish and print a design element of your brochure (some type or a photo) in this way. The visual effect is a bit like screening back a PMS image or process color image, but you get the added effect of the gloss or dull varnish, sort of a faint pearlescence.

Silver Ink

Having your custom printing vendor print an opaque white ground of ink below sections of an image can make the image stand out and seem to float above the page. In a similar manner, having your business printing service add silver ink to a PMS or process ink can give the image a shimmering, metallic look (due to the actual metal flecks in the ink). In addition, since it is more opaque than most other inks, your custom printing provider can use silver ink to create a ground on which to print other inks without the background color of the press sheet’s altering the hues of the inks.

Magnetic Ink

Using magnetic inks really isn’t a design choice; rather, it is a functional one. Banks and other financial institutions have business printing services print the numbers on the bottom of checks with magnetic ink or toner. Unlike barcodes, these numbers are readable by humans as well as computers. In addition, since check printing companies magnetize the letterforms after printing, they can be decoded by machine even when other marks (such as check cancellations) obscure the magnetic letters. The accuracy rate for MICR (which stands for magnetic ink character recognition) is significantly higher than for OCR (optical character recognition).

Ask your printing companies about these options for your next brochure or other printing project. Custom printing services need to be involved early in the process to ensure success.

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