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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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Archive for February, 2021

Custom Printing: Novel Digital Foiling Options

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

When it rains, it pours. And when this truism pertains to commercial printing, I’m intrigued. More digital embellishment options mean OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are focusing on post-press finishing equipment. And this portends an expansion of digital commercial printing in general.

It’s like the transition from the early plastic, copier-like digital presses to the huge, digital laser and inkjet presses built on heavy-metal frames by OEMs that used to only manufacture offset presses.

So I was pleased to read an article about “Sleeking.”

Sleeking is a digital finishing process, or more specifically a digital embellishment process, that uses pressure and heat to bond foil (from a roll) onto heavy-coverage digitally-printed ink laid down by an HP Indigo press. (An HP Indigo is a digital laser custom printing press that uses toner particles suspended in liquid ink.) Sleeking allows you to lay down the foil digitally, then run the substrate back through the Indigo a second time to print either adjacent to the foil or even on the foil.

Here’s Some Context

It used to be the case that a metallic finish had to be applied using a metal die. The process was called hot foil stamping. You would pay maybe $300 to $500 for a die that would yield one static image (the same on all copies). This would add to the manufacturing time as well as the cost and would require subcontracting this portion of the job to a specialist. Then your printer would use the metal die along with heat and pressure to punch out the foil from a roll and adhere it to the substrate. (For instance, you might do this to foil stamp a book title on a hardcover print book cover.)

Or, you could do cold-foil stamping (a more modern process that does not require metal dies). Cold foil stamping involves first printing a UV-curable (hardened by ultraviolet light) adhesive on the substrate using a printing plate. This UV light makes the adhesive tacky. Then, a roll of metallic film is applied to the tacky adhesive. Foil adheres to the sticky image areas, and the scrap form the non-image areas will stay on the liner sheet (the roll). The benefit, for the most part, compared to hot foil stamping, is that a metallic effect is achievable without a metal stamping die. The process also allows for detail, such as screen gradations, small type (down to about 5 pt. type), and thin rules. You can also laminate or otherwise coat cold-foil stamped material. (If you’re interested in the process, you may want to research the Scodix process or Vivid3D, which seem to be very similar to cold foiling.)

The New Process

With “Sleeking,” you first lay down a heavy coating of liquid HP Indigo ink (I mean really heavy: 400 percent, or four clicks on a digital press) on the substrate. (To put this in context, your offset printer might request no more than 280 percent “total area coverage” among the four process inks—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—for an offset printed job.)

This is the base that will accept the foil (which comes on a roll). In fact, some (powdered) toners can even be used in place of HP digital ink. (Since this is a new process, experts are still testing toners, hot roller pressure, substrates—coated and uncoated—and the actual amount of liquid toner coverage needed prior to adding the foil.)

The foil can be laid down as a spot application or a flood application (the whole sheet). This process is even good for variable data. (For instance, you could lay down 400 percent Indigo digital ink for an invitation, changing the name of the addressee on each printed sheet prior to the Sleeking process.)

Once you have applied the base 400 percent pass of Indigo ink (from a separate layer in your InDesign file), and have allowed the job to dry (some printers like to take six to eight hours for this part of the job to ensure total drying), you can feed the press sheets into the Sleeker and apply the foil from a roll.

Heat and pressure adhere the foil to the (dry) 400 percent coverage of Indigo ink, but the non-image areas do not remove the foil from the donor sheet. (A GMP Foil Laminator performs this step.) This is actually an economical process, since you can rewind the foil roll and use it again (as long as you’re using other parts of the sheet from which no metallic film has been taken for the Sleeking process).

To me this sounds a bit like the cold foiling process.

Sleeking will allow you to apply spot foil or flood the whole sheet. It can be a simple, clear gloss or matte finish or a metallic gold or silver, or it can even be a holographic image of type, a graphic pattern, or variable data.

The third step is like the first. After printing the base 400 percent toner and then Sleeking the job on the GMP Foil Laminator, you can bring the press sheet back to the Indigo digital press for another pass. You can print the rest of the job next to the foil (think “trapping,” in which the foil and remaining ink do not touch), or you can even print the HP Indigo Ink over the foil. This approach yields colorful metallic results that far exceed the original gold and silver foil of the Sleeking process.

Some Considerations

Paper choice is very important for this process, and experts are already busy testing press sheets. Coated paper seems to work better than uncoated (to ensure adequate adhering of the foil to the dry HP Indigo ink). Papers must have been approved for use on an HP Indigo press, whether they are coated or uncoated, to ensure success.

Variables to consider include how much total ink coverage to print prior to Sleeking, and how much heat and pressure to apply. Some printers experimenting with the process use more than one hit of ink (called a click on a digital press) in a particular location. Uncoated paper seems to complicate the process, sometimes causing speckling, but some printers like the fact that the uncoated paper has texture, and they don’t mind the “grittiness.” (I found a good article on the subject that you might want to read, called “So What Is Sleeking?” by Jeff Truan, published on 5/3/18, on

If you think this is a multi-run process, you’re right, and this can be a consideration when choosing paper. After all, you’re printing four hits of HP Indigo ink on a press sheet, then adding foil in a Sleeker, then going back to the HP Indigo and printing the whole sheet again. That can be hard on a press sheet. Therefore, it may be wise to use cover stock rather than text stock for the job (perhaps use Sleeking on a poster, business card, book cover, or a self-mailing marketing piece). The process as noted in Jeff Truan’s article can accept up to 18 point board, which should hold up well.

Trapping can also be an issue, according to “So What Is Sleeking?” by Jeff Truan. More specifically, printers who create foiled areas surrounded by white can sometimes see a black halo around the foil, where the preprinting extends slightly beyond the foiling. In these cases, commercial printing vendors experimenting with the process have replaced the 400 percent black underprinting with 400 percent yellow Indigo ink, which seems to solve the problem.

Akin to trapping, register can also be problematic. Aligning foils and inks perfectly when you’re printing a press sheet once on an HP Indigo digital press, then adding foil on a GMP Foil Laminator, and then printing again on the HP Indigo leaves room for error in precise fit (alignment, register). Therefore, it’s wise to keep this in mind and design wisely for the process.

The Takeaway

What can you, as a designer, print buyer, or printer learn from this process (which is actually more than a couple of years old by now)?

    1. Anything that catches the eye will be more likely to capture the imagination of the viewer or reader. This is particularly true when you think of all the images we see every day, including all the marketing mail in the mailbox, all the product packaging, and all the signage.


    1. Foil stamping used to involve making a metal die, which increased the overall cost of the job as well as the production time needed. If your job press run is less than 1,000 to 2,000 copies, this new foiling process might be right for you. However, for longer runs, making the die the traditional way may still yield a lower cost per unit.


    1. Between hot-foil stamping, cold foil stamping (and similar technologies such as Scodix, Vivid3D, and Sleeking), it’s clear that manufacturers are addressing the need for digital finishing options to pair with digital custom printing options (particularly to avoid bottlenecks). All of these developments in digital finishing show that digital printing is being taken very seriously.


  1. Sleeking, or Scodix, or Vivid3D, which might be right for your job, has the distinct benefit of allowing you to vary the foil image for each individual product you print.

And this kind of personalization can go a long way in speaking directly to your customers.

Technology Makes Discount Printing Services Possible

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

The best printing companies always provide their services at very affordable costs. Printing as a requirement is important both for individuals and for companies. Although the method of printing may be different, the most important requirement in both cases is invariably discount printing services.

Printing in Bulk

Companies require several posters, magazines, leaflets, and other materials to be printed at once. For this reason, it becomes important for them to place orders in bulk. Such bulk orders will automatically make them qualify for discount printing services with a reputed company.

Printing is no longer restricted to specific geographical areas, but can take place in any part of the world. Internet has made it possible to ask for a print from a company located in a different nation. In fact, there are printing vendors who get other printing companies to sign up with them and then clients contact the vendors for services. This allows the clients to take advantage of high quality and low prices.

Postcards as Promotional Items

Those looking for personalized and straightforward marketing materials must consider postcards as a viable option. These can easily attract customers as soon as they arrive, without even opening them. By getting these postcards printed, it becomes easy and economical to market company products. The best printing companies can prepare custom postcards as well. These can be used for a variety of companies, whether in the manufacturing or retail sector. One of the ways to customize a postcard is to make use of variable data printing. This name is for a digital print capable of customizing images, text, and graphics for every postcard. A customized message can deliver a direct lead to a company website or any store.

Printing Custom Books

The whole charm of printing custom items is to increase the level of personalization, and that’s exactly what a custom book does. Text, illustrations, and graphics will always remind the authors of a brand or their own subjects. It used to be very expensive and time consuming to print such books in the past, but modern printing companies have completely changed this. In not more than a week these days, a custom book can be ordered, printed, as well as shipped.

None of the printing companies making custom books place restrictions on the book sizes. Top printing companies help to print books in exactly the ways they were conceptualized. This includes the following parameters:

  • Very beautiful colors
  • Crisp paper and even ink coverage
  • Sturdy and tight bookbinding
  • Bulk printing requirements
  • Book-styles in the form of hardcovers, softcovers, and others
  • Shippers packaging books carefully and delivering to doorsteps

Customizations can be added in the form of custom end sheets, headbands and footbands, embossing and debossing, and foil stamping.

Flyers and Brochures

Flyers and brochures are also necessary for promotional purposes. Despite a lot of promotions being done online, both the above still help convince a lot of clients. There is something attractive about holding good quality of paper and content in hand that no technology can beat.

Custom Printing: A Few Tips for Enhancing Your Photos

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

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The Problem with Photos

There is a truism, somewhat unflattering in its wording: “garbage in, garbage out.” In commercial printing, whatever you start with in the way of photographic imagery, once you have digitized it (if it starts as a printed photo), opened it in your image editing software, placed the resulting TIFF photo into InDesign, and then handed off the file to the printer for imaging to the press plate, the image has degraded–at least a bit. Printing it on a paper substrate will degrade the image a bit further. Because of this, it is essential that you start with the very best image possible.

What do I mean by degrade? Two things for starters. The range from the darkest tone to the lightest tone in the image will narrow a bit in the journey from camera to offset commercial printing. This is called “tone compression,” the squeezing of the initial range from highlight to shadow.

In addition, the nuances of the visible transitions from highlights to midtones to shadows will be less evident than they were in real life, and less distinct to the eye than they were on the original image (film or digital) once you have printed the photos.

Another way of saying this is that the range and the detail in the subtle transitions from the lightest light to the darkest dark in the image will be minimized as you transition from the camera to the digital file to the custom printing plate to the final job on paper.

How Can You Improve the Quality of Your Printed Photos?

First of all, start with transparencies if at all possible. These have the greatest range from the lightest light to the darkest dark when compared to digital photos or printed photographs. (This is in the process of changing as digital technology improves. So you may want to do some research online for confirmation.)

Transparencies are essentially slides. They come in different sizes depending on the camera you’re using. Most commercial grade cameras bought for regular use are 35mm cameras. (Again, most cameras these days are digital rather than film-based, but back when I was an art director in the 1990s we used 35mm cameras almost exclusively.) Larger film formats were always better in that they captured more detail with less evident film grain (the silver halide crystals that made up the image on cellulose film for analog cameras). Some were 2 1/4” x 2 1/4” square-format cameras. Some cameras supported on tripods for extremely detailed work were 8” x 10” in format, yielding photos with both more and sharper detail in the transitions from one tone to another. Why is this? Because these large-format negatives or transparencies did not need to be enlarged as much as 35mm images for printing. (Even an 8” x 10” print made from a 35mm slide needs to be enlarged approximately 700 percent. A 2 1/4” image requires far less enlargement than a 35mm image, so minor flaws are less visible, but an 8” x 10” original is even better.)

So how does this translate to the digital images to which we have grown accustomed? If more image data affords a broader tonal range and more detail in the various levels from shadows to highlights, then a digital camera that captures more data—with a higher megapixel count—will translate into a better image in your camera and therefore a better image in prepress and final commercial printing.

You may even want to research image formats for digital cameras. From my reading on Camera Raw images, which are sometimes referred to as “digital negatives,” this format seems to be ideal (although it does create very large image files). Camera Raw captures the most picture information digitally, making it similar to working from not only a transparency but a large-format transparency at that.

However, if you do use a film-based camera, and you do choose to work from transparencies, be aware that if you examine transparencies on a light box, they will appear lighter than they will look when printed because they are back-lit. You have the same consideration when you’re evaluating images on a computer screen.

Resolution, Focus, and Depth of Field

One thing I have seen at various commercial printing plants is that if you start with a high enough megapixel image produced with a quality digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera, you can capture enough picture detail to be able to print the image on even grand-format inkjet equipment, large enough to create a mural. If you start with this good an original digital image, clearly you can produce large, crisp-focus images for your books and even posters.

Back in the ‘90s I learned all of this the hard way. I stated with a 35mm transparency and enlarged it for a poster. It was a promotional piece for a nonprofit educational foundation, and I hadn’t yet learned all of what I have noted above. I enlarged the image from 35mm to 18” x 24” poster size, and the film grain in the transparency became acutely visible. It looked like a pointillist painting (dot painting) or perhaps a mezzotint. Ouch.

A comparable flaw these days would be to start with a digital photo with too low an initial resolution and enlarge it (let’s say a 2” x 3” 72dpi image for the internet enlarged to a 4” x 5” format). You wouldn’t see film grain, as you would with a transparency, but you would definitely see pixellation (visible squares of color side by side making up the photo). This is one reason to always select a high-resolution image (300 dpi at the final size you intend to print it).

Flaws are always magnified, particularly if you enlarge the image. So the importance of choosing the highest quality photo pertains to image focus as well. If you start with either a film-based or digital image that is out of focus (or if your depth of field–the area of sharpest focus within a photo–is other than on your primary subject matter), the final printed product will be even more visibly blurred.

So What Can You Do?

Choose the image with the most picture data (digital or film). Make sure it is in crisp focus and the depth of field enhances the subject of the photo. Look at the image on a computer screen, but remember that the photos will appear lighter and the colors more saturated than they will once your commercial printing supplier has offset printed the job on paper.

Another thing you can do is check the images in Photoshop, analyzing their “histograms.” Histograms are vertical bar charts that show the number of pixels at a particular tone level from the darkest dark to the lightest light. You want a smooth curve with no gaps. You also don’t want either the shadow or highlight to be excessive (i.e., you don’t want the histogram chart to spike up at either end of the spectrum with too many completely white or completely black pixels).

Also, look for color casts, but don’t completely trust the accuracy of your (presumably uncalibrated) monitor in an uncontrolled (ambient lighting) environment (perhaps with a window, allowing the sun to change the colors on the screen throughout the day). Do a little research online to determine the proper histogram balance for the color channels (keep the Photoshop file in RGB–red, green, blue–format until you hand off the final, adjusted image to the printer in CMYK format). In this case you’re trying to avoid color imbalances: color casts. These show up on the online color densitometer readings, and on the internet you can find the proper Photoshop (RGB) amounts/percentages to keep all color channels in balance).

The Short Answer

So the best approach to avoid GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is to give your printer the highest quality images (either film-based transparencies or high-megapixel digital images).

If there are any questions, I would encourage you to hand off the images to the printer for evaluation separately from the final art file submission (and with lots of lead time). A good prepress operator can look for all of the potential pitfalls I have enumerated and give you suggestions before you commit to final job files.

And then always ask for a physical color proof of any critical color work (like a poster or print book cover). If any of the flaws I have mentioned have slipped by, these will appear on a contract-quality color proof, and you can resolve the issues before offset printing your job.

Book Printing: Play to the Strengths of the Print Book

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

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On one of our almost daily trips to our favorite thrift store, my fiancee found a print book she liked about “chalk paint.” It is called Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook. I didn’t look at the book closely at first, but over the next few days at her suggestion I delved deeply into its content and production values. The book designer and publisher had included multiple design and production qualities and techniques that set this do-it-yourself text far beyond any presentation a digital book could offer.

Overview of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook

First of all, what is Chalk Paint? Chalk Paint is a brand of ultra-matte paint created by Annie Sloan. It is ideal for giving a chalky appearance and feel to furniture, and it can be easily distressed (intentionally beaten up to provide an aged, bohemian look to the furniture).

The print book itself is presented in an 8” x 10” hard-cover format. Moreover, it is Wire-O bound within the case binding. That is, the endsheets are punched, inside the book at the spine, to accept the rungs of the wire hoops. The book is “quarter-bound” (the brown, uncoated stock extends beyond the spine about an inch onto the front and back covers, and the remainder of the front and back covers consists of multi-level, somewhat Victorian-looking photos reminiscent of scrapbook pages).

The cover photo includes bits of handwriting (the author’s name), distressed type (a chalky appearance to the title in a bold, sans serif typeface), hand drawings, painted areas, and scraps of fabric. The background of the photo is a textured and mottled press sheet, which appears to be a photo of watercolor paper, with all of these drawn, painted, and photographed images on top. Across the bottom of the print book is a banner, with faux torn edges and a description of the book printed in red across the banner. All of this provides a unified collage with a very shallow depth.

(The artistic term for this collage treatment is “trompe l’oeil,” which means “to fool the eye.” You can find a lot of paintings like this online. They look incredibly real. Often they include stamps or postcards pinned to a background that appears to be right below the surface of the painting.)

So this is how the covers are laid out. They are also coated with a soft-touch, matte film laminate, and they are slightly padded under the printed litho paper that is glued to the heavier than usual binder boards.

Here is why all of this is relevant:

The matte coating and distressed sans serif book title, along with the cream (as opposed to bright white) background paper provide a textured, natural, “crunchy-granola” feel to the print book from the onset, beginning with the front cover. This is congruent with both the matte “feel” of Chalk Paint and the bohemian ethos of do-it-yourself furniture embellishment. Another way to say this is that the design (the visuals and the print production values) is congruent with the book’s subject matter.

Let’s Go Inside

An overall print book design, unlike a painting or any other flat work of art, implies the passage of time. You see and respond to the front cover. Then you turn the pages to absorb a progression of ideas, over time, from the images and the text.

In this particular book, when you open the cover to read the text, you immediately see a continuation of the front cover’s paper color and finish. The text sheet is an uncoated matte stock. Handwriting is used throughout the book for headlines and for fill-in-the-blank journal pages. (This is an artist’s sketchbook of sorts, for practicing images you plan to later paint directly on the furniture.) The handwriting is also balanced against small drawings (appearing as pen and watercolor art) that enhance the overall do-it-yourself tone of the book.

In addition to the descriptive text (a simple serif typeface for introductions paired with a simple sans serif typeface for accompanying lists) and handwritten sections inviting the reader to add her/his own notes and drawings, the text includes sketches, color swatches that look like brush strokes, and 4-color photos.

One of the things that I appreciate, in particular, is that in spite of being printed on an absorbent, uncoated yellow-white (natural) press sheet, the photos are crisp and unmuddied. The printer held the detail in the highlights, midtones, and shadows. This reflects his skill, and it also contributes to the artistic quality of the print book. Its purpose may be to teach people to use Chalk Paint, but it treats the whole process (both the learning and the practice) with an eye towards beauty and nuance.

I had mentioned earlier that the book is a case-bound, Wire-O product. Wire-O binding, unlike spiral binding (both metal and plastic), allows facing pages to lie exactly side by side. (Given the nature of a spiral, facing pages of a spiral-bound book are slightly mismatched.) In addition to allowing the book to lie completely flat when open (a boon for crafters who need both hands to do their work), the slightly off-white metal spiral goes nicely with the natural paper tone. This balance is enhanced by the full-bleed images scattered throughout the text.

More specifically, these full-bleed photos are most often used for the divider pages, which are printed on a heavy uncoated cover stock and are folded over into pockets. The reader can slip photos, notes, or anything else into these pockets. Furthermore, a portion of each divider is diecut out of the paper, creating somewhat of an “L” shape in the pocket and exposing its contents. Finally, a thumb tab is diecut and then folded out of each divider page.

Book Structure

All six of these divider pages (breaking the book into multiple sections and thereby giving the print book a formal structure) are printed on “faux-duplex” paper. In addition to being thicker than the text paper (because of the base cover stock and folded-over nature of the pockets), they are also quite intriguing, with one side of the sheet printed in one color and the reverse side printed in another. Throughout the book all of these colors change (two each for six dividers or twelve colors total). All of the tones of the background screens are somewhat muted, given the uncoated, absorbent nature of the paper. And this enhances the understated, artistic tone of the print book.

At the end of the book Annie Sloan included a series of note pages with copious space for reader drawings and notes.

Finally, around the back cover of the case-bound Wire-O book is a belly band (vertical, though, as opposed to the customarily horizontal orientation of most belly bands). It is about three inches wide, and it wraps vertically around the back cover (increasing the already thick feel of the binder’s board). The band is printed to look like uncoated kraft paper, although closer examination with a 12x printer’s loupe shows this to be white paper tinted brown with ink. The simple drawings and text on the belly band (with extra leading to make the text appear light and airy) echo the natural feel of the cover paper (which, interestingly enough, upon closer inspection with a printer’s loupe, is also augmented with a light 4-color process screen to add visual texture).

Finally, the piece de resistance. There is a vertical elastic band, dyed a rich, deep purple, which goes vertically around the back cover (through two drill holes). This elastic band can be pulled up and across the front cover, binding both covers together and (presumably) keeping any reader-added inserts from falling out of the divider-page pockets. So this is a functional addition, and functionality is consistent with a do-it-yourself book.

What Can We Learn from This Book?

So what can we learn from Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook? What makes it so appealing? Here are some thoughts:

  1. All of the physical characteristics of the print book–the paper tints, weights, and textures, as well as the cover coating (and even the thickness and texture of the strategically placed divider pages)–appeal to the sense of touch as well as the eye. None of this could have been achieved with a digital book. The designer has played to the strengths of a physical, as opposed to virtual, book.
  2. The book has structure: everything from the diecut divider pages/pockets to the informational, vertical belly band and elastic closure. These physical book manufacturing elements break down the book into a manageable series of chunks for the reader to absorb.
  3. The book invites reader participation in response to the notes pages, pocket divider pages, and even the pen and ink drawings with the faux watercolor washes (simulated with printer’s ink). Again, form follows function.

When all design elements, from the paper stock to the binding choices (the lay-flat nature of a case-bound Wire-O book) reflect and enhance its intended use, and when these manufacturing choices extend into the visuals and even the text treatments (typeface choices, handwriting, drawings), then the overall design of a print book is supremely successful. Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint Workbook definitely meets all of these criteria.

07 Advantages Of Hiring Professional Printing Service For Business

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

When you are looking for professional printing services, you are looking to get an exceptional piece of marketing material for your business. Printing service is a necessity for almost any business. Whether you’re creating promotional flyers or printing out proposals and contracts for clients, your business could benefit from using a professional printing service.

By outsourcing to a professional service, you can ensure your order’s timely delivery at the quality you expect. If the custom printing online is not up to par, you can request a reprint at no extra cost. To guarantee the quality, it’s always good to leave it to the professionals who have good experience with all manner of print designs. Professional services also ensure clean, clear cut edges by printing on slightly larger sized paper and then cutting smaller designs down to size, leaving you perfect edges instead of white margins.

Custom Printing: Choosing Sustainable Inks and Papers

Monday, February 15th, 2021

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A PIE Blog reader recently asked about using recyclable UV inks on recyclable media such as polypropylene. Since this is somewhat outside my knowledge base, I went to school on the subject online, and here is what I found, along with my own personal experience with such inks and papers.

Qualities of Inks (and of UV Inks in Particular)

Let’s start with what UV ink is. Many contemporary ink formulations can be cured using UV light. The alternative “drying options” using more traditional inks are oxidation (evaporation of the vehicle, the liquid part of the ink, into the surrounding atmosphere) and absorption (in which the ink vehicle is taken into the fibers of the paper substrate).

In these cases the pigment is left on the surface of the paper (or other custom printing substrate) once the vehicle is gone.

Unfortunately, some of the gases given off as the vehicle disperses are harmful to the environment. Because of this, in recent decades there has been a concerted effort to minimize the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) given off during the drying of ink.

To get back to the reader’s question, when specially formulated UV ink is used on a commercial printing press, exposure to UV light “cures” the ink (similar to drying). The ink becomes a solid. Moreover, it sits up on the surface of the coated or uncoated paper or other substrate.

This yields three benefits:

  1. Since UV ink cures instantly when exposed to UV light (in contrast to the other drying methods noted above), and since it therefore sits up on the surface of the paper, the colors maintain their intensity or saturation. Less ink is needed to create brilliant coloration because it doesn’t seep deeply into the paper fibers.
  2. UV inks can be used not only on coated and uncoated paper but also on completely non-porous surfaces like plastic (to reference the PIE Blog reader’s question about polyprophylene substrates) and even glass and wood.
  3. This makes UV inks ideal for use on banners (i.e., jobs printed on large-format inkjet equipment, as well as jobs printed on offset lithographic commercial printing presses). Moreover, since UV inks are bright, vibrant, have great adhesion properties, and are stable, flexible, chip resistant, light- and weather-fast, fade-resistant, and low-migration (i.e., good for food packaging since they don’t travel from the substrate to the contents of a food package), they are an increasingly viable choice for a huge range of both flexible and rigid printed products.

But Are They Environmentally Friendly?

In my research, I learned that UV inks have the following environmental benefits:

  1. Those UV inks that are specifically LED UV are cured with light emitting diodes (LED) rather than mercury vapor lights, as was done in the past.
  2. These LED UV lights consume far less energy, and generate far less heat, than mercury vapor lamps. They also require lower voltage and have a longer life.
  3. This means printers don’t need a high-powered cooling unit. The process also emits no infrared radiation, heavy metals, or ozone.
  4. Because of the reduced energy footprint (lower energy requirements and lower heat emission), LED UV inks are great for heat-sensitive substrates (i.e., certain flexible plastics, for instance).

In addition, UV inks and UV curable paper coatings are recyclable. According to my research, UV printed papers can be deinked (using cleaning, flotation, and dispersion processes to separate the ink from the paper), and then the waste paper can be repulped or reincorporated into the paper mill’s standard “furnish” (their liquid paper blend from which new, dry, fully formed paper can be created).

One thing to consider, however, is that recycled paper is usually of a lower quality than virgin paper. More specifically, the paper fibers are shorter after being made into new paper, and the ink particles may not be 100 percent removable. (Also, the paper won’t be as bright, since brightness is usually achieved through bleaching.)

But this doesn’t have to be a problem. Why? Because repulped paper is usually turned into lower quality board grades (as opposed to bright-white, #1 uncoated commercial printing sheets). Or this paper can be used for tissue, paper towels, toilet paper, or any number of other paper products. Moreover, much of the paper that has been recycled does not include a full 100 percent content of post-consumer waste.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of paper in use is still virgin paper. It’s just that having the option to cut virgin wood for paper or to recycle and then extend the life of the paper fibers through cleaning and repulping makes for a far more thorough and sustainable use of forest resources (even if the trees are being constantly replanted).

Recycling paper in this way also reduces waste being diverted to the landfill.

Ensuring Sustainability

You might want to research the following organizations, which are active in keeping track of the actual sustainability of the process of turning trees into commercial printing paper. These two organizations are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). You may see these acronyms on printer estimates or as logos on boxes of custom printing paper.

These organizations track and certify the chain of custody (various steps in the process of planting, growing, and harvesting lumber and making paper), ensuring responsible management of forest resources and the incorporation of post-consumer waste (PCW) into the papermaking process.

So look for these certification logos (FSC and SFI) or ask your printers about their compliance with these certifications.

One thing to keep in mind is that the best (or most sustainable) papers are “FSC Certified Recycled.” This wording ensures the genuinely recycled nature of paper products, more so than any other labeling.

How About Polypropylene Printing Substrates?

I once saw a fish tank at a restaurant with a printed paper ad, or menu (I can’t remember), in the water, tied to the rocks at the bottom of the tank. It was intriguing.

Later on, I learned about such synthetic paper as Yupo. I thought back to the paper in the fish tank, and then realized that for printed products used outside in wet weather, those used for menus, and those used for labels, plastic-based paper was ideal. (Keep in mind that two of the other alternatives are wood-fiber-based paper and cotton-based paper such as stationery bond.)

When you add to these more traditional paper options the newer synthetic stocks (which presumably are not porous) and the particular curability of UV inks (plus their superior adhesion qualities even to non-porous substrates), you have an ideal match.

That said, when all is said and done you still have plastic to recycle. And given the PIE Blog reader’s question about printing UV inks on polypropylene substrates, I did some more research.

This is what I found:

  1. Polypropylene is rugged and resistant to solvents. Therefore it is useful for durable printed products (such as printed plastic bottles).
  2. Plastic can now be purified with intense heat at a molecular level to produce clear, odorless, nontoxic plastic pellets from which 100 percent recycled plastic can be made.
  3. In spite of it’s huge popularity, polypropylene is also one of the least recycled materials.
  4. This is problematic, because polypropylene degrades slowly in landfills. It also includes toxic additives such as lead and cadmium. In addition, burning thermoplastics discharges dioxins and vinyl chloride into the atmosphere.

Since these plastics can be cleaned of contaminants with adequate heat, and then blended with virgin polypropylene to make recycled plastic, this is a win/win proposition, eliminating the danger of improper and dangerous disposal of these plastics.

The Takeaway

So what can you do?

  1. First of all, read everything you can get your hands on regarding environmentally friendly commercial printing products, and then ask your printing suppliers about their participation in recycling programs. This includes inks and papers.
  2. Ask how your printers recycle paper waste. Probably they have vacuum hoods and hoses snaking throughout the pressroom that collect the paper scraps and fibers and deposit them in balers (to make bales of paper, like bales of hay) for shipping back to recycling plants.
  3. Ask about UV inks. But be aware they they may cost more than conventional inks.
  4. Study the environmental impact of the various commercial printing technologies, including offset lithography, digital printing, gravure, flexography, screen printing, etc.

Custom Printing: Engage the Reader’s Eye with Page Design

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

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Whether you’re designing a print book (everything from the cover to the table of contents and the interior text pages), or you’re designing a poster, a brochure, or even a web page, your first goal is to make the design inviting and readable. If you can’t capture the reader’s attention, you can’t engage the reader. You can’t tell a story, teach the reader something, or persuade the reader to buy your product or service. If you don’t do this, all of the information on the page is meaningless.

But how do you organize text and images on a page to make the print book, poster, or brochure both enticing and readable?

Grouping Similar Information

Group things together that are related, and make things that are different look different. Also, give the reader a hierarchy of importance in the design. (What’s the most important element, then the next most important element, etc.?)

In this light, I remember reading a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that was particularly frustrating because it had no punctuation and no paragraph indentations (as a method of illustrating the stream of consciousness of the main character). Had the print book not been required reading for my college class, I would have missed a captivating story.

So, a device as simple as a paragraph indent will indicate to the reader the transition from one idea to the next. What would otherwise be a sea of gray type becomes a series of groups of ideas.

A good designer can use type style and size; width of margins; and contrast between the headings, subheads, and text copy (including type size and contrasting fonts) to group some information together and set this apart from other information.

But what other methods of organizing book content does the designer have at hand? One of these is the distinction between the cover and the main text pages, and between both of these and the front matter and back matter of the print book (i.e., the table of contents, copyright page, and title page in the front of the book, and the index and afterword in the back). The best way to learn to craft this global organization of a book is to observe, copy good design, and then create your own design work.

A Few Points on Magazine Design

In contrast, on a magazine page spread, the graphic artist has a few more design elements to consider than a print book designer. (Of course, this depends on the complexity of both the print book and the magazine.) These may include photos, captions, color screens and solids, and pull quotes. All distinctions (i.e., contrast) between one design element and the next will work together to serve up little chunks of information in a manner that aids in the reader’s comprehension.

It is up to you as the designer to determine this order of reading and to use your page design skills to facilitate it. The building blocks of page design include contrast in type size, contrast between type styles, size and color contrast within and between photos, and the use of white space on the page spread.

With magazine design, as with print book design, you use these to group certain visual elements and indicate their relative importance. There are a plethora of tips and tricks to create this “road map” for the reader. but in just a few words, your primary goal is to direct the reader’s eye around the page.

A good way to learn how to do this by studying design grids (the structure of a page: how things are placed within a predetermined “scaffolding,” also referred to as “page geometry”) of the books, posters, and brochures you find striking. Observe. Notice what you like. Then deconstruct it and articulate why you like it and what design rules the graphic artist has used to give order, structure, and unity to the layout.

Eye Movement (Some Samples for Illustration)

One of the key methods for leading the reader’s eye around a print book page, a magazine page, a poster, or a brochure is to note the visual direction implied in photos or other visual elements (even the style and placement of type).

For instance, my favorite design book (Design Basics Index by Jim Krause), to which I often refer in the PIE Blog articles, includes four sample business cards for a surf shop. Each sample includes the client’s contact information and a blue ocean wave. Nothing else. The four samples are very similar. But here are the differences:

    1. In the first option, the wave is breaking to the left (toward the edge of the card), but all contact information text is stacked and on the far right of the card. Because the wave is breaking off the left side, it leads the reader’s eye off the left side of the business card. It does not lead the reader’s eye to the name, address, phone number, and other contact information. It may look pretty, but the design and the intended eye movement are at odds. (Krause says as much in the text of his print book, but I would add one other observation. In this culture we read from left to right. So if the wave leads the reader in the opposite direction, this goes against her/his expectations and hinders the reading process.)


    1. Option #2 has all contact information stacked on the left of the card (set flush left). On the right the wave crests and is about to “break” off the edge of the business card. The reader’s eye goes to the cresting wave first, but then it has to “back up” (go back to the left side of the card) to get to the contact information. If you only have a second to make an impression, this card may only give the hasty reader an image of the cresting wave, and she/he may miss the contact information. The takeaway? Assume the reader will unconsciously read from left to right. Make sure your placement of design elements both reflects and encourages this eye movement.


  1. (Actually both option #3 and #4) Krause’s third and fourth design samples are very similar. The only difference is in the way the wave is drawn. In both cases the wave crests and is about to fall to the right, onto the contact information. On the third sample card, the wave beyond the curling crest exits the page exactly horizontally. But on the fourth sample business card, the curve under the crest of the wave cradles (or contains) the lines of contact information (because it curves upward slightly on the right as it bleeds off the edge of the business card). This particular design, unlike the other three, includes a cresting wave falling onto the most important part of the card (the text), but it also holds the reader’s eye in place with a simple rising of the water to the right of the wave.

The Takeaway

Learning design can be a lifetime pursuit. I personally learned my design skills not in school but on the job. But what has helped me the most has been looking closely at the design work of the masters and asking myself the following: What was the overall goal? And how did the designer achieve the goal using the elements and principles of design?

The elements of design might include type style, size, and weight; page geometry, or the design grid; color; and imagery such as drawings and photos. And the principles of design might include repetition, contrast, unity, and the like.

So the short answer is: Observe, deconstruct, understand, create.

Promoting Business through Flyer Printing

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

These days, every business requires effective promotion to succeed. Whether you are running a small scale business or a medium, an attractive promotion technique is extremely essential to let people know about your brand and products. Now, most successful business organizations prefer using flyers for promotional activities. Whether you plan to put your products on discount deals or need to introduce a newly launched product in the market, flyers are best way to convey your message to the customers.

A lot of people say that because of the uncontrolled use of social media these days, it is a great option to promote your brand online. Still, the promotion through flyers works in an amazing way, actually much better than the online promotions. These days, there are several best flyer printing services available online, and you can choose one according to your specific needs.

While moving out for work if you get a flyer, then you will obviously read that on your way to the office. Therefore, promoting a business through flyer printing is absolutely the perfect way.

Benefits that a flyer promotion can serve you with are as follows:

Easy to reach the target audience

With the help of flyers, it gets very easy to promote your brand and business. You can choose the best flyer printing services online and get perfectly designed flyers for your business promotions. After that, you can get those flyers distributed to other places like parks, streets and you can even get them inserted in newspapers to reach homes.

Customers get attracted by creative advertisements

You can ask your flyer printing service provider to make it a bit more creative for attracting customers. And for that, you need to choose the best designs that align with the perfect content for the flyers. This technique will help your flyer advertisement to look unique and the customer as well gets your message in a creative way.

Easy to read on the move

A great benefit of using flyers for promotion is that the customers can easily carry that for reading on the move. When you visit a mall and someone gives you a flyer, then you will definitely look at that and go ahead reading that only if it looks attractive. This is the biggest advantage of promoting business through flyer printing.


In general, business promotions demand a lot of investment. But, promoting your brand through flyer printing gets very easy on your pocket. Additionally, it works amazingly when it comes to boosting the business growth and increasing profit ultimately.

Therefore, if you are also looking forward to promoting your brand and products in the best possible manner to earn higher profits and attract more customers, then it would be best to choose flyer printing. These days, there are multiple options available for printing services online, but you need to choose the best and the most reliable one as your brand image matters a lot.


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