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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 May, 2021

Book Printing: Choosing Sheetfed Offset or Web Offset

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

Photo purchased from …

I mentioned in a prior PIE Blog article that a print brokering client of mine (a husband-and-wife publishing team) needed a shorter schedule for one of their books. This client’s publishing house has hard deadlines for final book delivery. If a printer misses a deadline for delivery to the print book distributor, my client’s books get rejected. Ouch.

Needless to say, crafting a production schedule with ample lead time to absorb anything bad that may happen (from multiple corrections at proof stage, to shipping final books through a snowstorm, to delays due to holiday schedules) must be addressed early. There’s no room for error.

That said, the book printer that had been manufacturing books for my client (a number of titles each year) first moved the projected schedule for a web offset perfect-bound book from five weeks to eight weeks (from proof approval to shipping) and then also moved the sheetfed printing schedule from five weeks to eight weeks. In both cases this was presumably due to smaller staffs (possibly due to Covid-19) or to prior commitments to other, larger clients.

How Does This Relate to Web Offset and Sheetfed Offset?

First of all, what is the difference between sheetfed and web-fed offset lithography?

Printers load stacks of press sheets (let’s say 25” x 38” sheets, even though there are any number of press sheet sizes) into their presses for sheetfed work. Unless their press is a “perfecting press” (which prints both sides of the press sheet at once), the stack of press sheets (having been printed on one side) first must be dried. Then the stack of press sheets must be flipped over and loaded back into the press so the other side of the sheet can be printed.

After printing, the press sheets can be folded, trimmed, and bound on separate, post-press (or finishing) equipment.

If you have a long press run (let’s say 60,000 copies of a textbook instead of my client’s 1,500 copies of a literary print book of poems or short stories), you may instead opt for a web offset press (and in the process save a lot of money).

Webs are rolls (as opposed to sheets) of paper. They are usually cheaper for a given volume of paper than cut press sheets. However, preparing a web press for a print job is a huge endeavor. (Also, the presses themselves are very large, so most printers don’t have them on their pressroom floors.) Therefore, the only way to make web offset printing an economical choice is to produce a long-run, multiple-press-signature print book, magazine, or catalog. For these situations a web press is ideal.

Web presses are either heatset or non heatset (also referred to as coldset). Coldset web printing involves drying the ink by having the liquid part of the ink (its vehicle) absorbed into the paper. One-color jobs printed on uncoated paper with no halftones or area screens of ink are ideal for this kind of web press. (Interestingly enough, that’s just the kind of book printing my client needs.)

An alternative web-press configuration is the heatset web, which has a drying unit (after the inking units) to flash off the solvent from the ink after printing. This allows printers to use coated paper and print the books, magazines, or catalogs in 4-color process ink. The heat of the oven allows the ink to dry and sit up on the surface of the paper rather than seep deeply into the paper fibers (as is the case with coldset web printing).

Still, the quality is not quite as good as in sheetfed commercial printing. But for a periodical (or marketing catalog) that will be read and then discarded, that may not be a problem. And if the run length is long, the savings over sheetfed printing (the cost per unit printed) can be huge.

But, to go back to the sheetfed presses, you can run thicker press sheets and far more varied press papers (coated, uncoated, textured, thick, thin) through a sheetfed press than through a web press. You also have to rigidly adhere to sizes for press signatures on a web press (for instance, you would print an 8 1/2” x 10 7/8” book rather than an 8 1/2” x 11” book to fit a press signature exactly on the web paper roll).

So there are trade-offs in quality, paper choices, book dimensions, and so forth. But if you’re printing a long-run magazine every month, you will usually accept the compromise to save both money and pressroom time.

So Why Is My Client Considering a Web Press?

The short answer is, “I don’t know.” My client’s perfect-bound books are all the same format: 5.5” x 8.5” with French flaps. They range from about 64 pages to about 300 pages. Their press runs are 1,000 to 2,000 copies. So they should be printed on a sheetfed press.

Nevertheless, for my client’s more recent print book titles, the printer who has been producing the work has offered lower costs for web-fed offset printing than for sheetfed work (even for a shorter run length than should be the norm for web offset printing).

This flies in the face of reason, which leads me to believe the printer:

  1. would rather lose some money on a job than have a web press stand completely idle (bringing in no revenue)
  2. may be printing the text of the book on a coldset web press (since my client’s book text block is black-only ink on uncoated paper with no bleeds or tint screens)
  3. can print a 1,500-copy run in the blink of an eye (web presses run significantly faster than sheetfed presses)

Perhaps because of any one or more of these presuppositions (or others), the book printer initially offered my client an 8.5 week schedule for web-fed offset (at a discount) or a 5-week schedule (at a cost premium) for sheetfed.

Granted, the printer then rescinded the offer, lengthening the sheetfed press schedule to 8 weeks, effectively negating the reason to pay the higher cost for sheetfed offset.

Needless to say, I held back the client’s signed contract (which I had received online about an hour after learning of the new schedule). I then approached another sheetfed printer I trust completely. I asked him to be my client’s “white knight.” He said he could do the job in three to five weeks. He said the short run (1,500 copies) and 5.5” x 8.5” format were ideal for his presses. This may mean the price will be comparable to the first printer’s (the lowest I’ve seen of late). We’ll see.

What We Can Learn from This Case Study

There are actually a lot of object lessons here:

  1. This is why it pays to develop long-standing, mutually advantageous relationships with a few printers. They can sometimes help you out in a pinch. If not, they may suggest other printers you can approach.
  2. Learn the differences between sheetfed offset printing, heatset web offset printing, and coldset web offset printing. Learn the best formats (the ideal print book, magazine, or catalog dimensions), press runs, page counts, and papers for web-fed commercial printing. Be realistic about what you’re printing and the level of quality you need. For a periodical, a heatset web may be ideal (but maybe not for a high-profile annual report). Also, most people will still think a heatset-web-printed job produced on a nice coated stock is beautiful.
  3. Realize that even though the hourly cost to run a heatset web press is high, you can fold the publication inline and receive complete press signatures on the delivery end of the press. This means less post-press or finishing work. In fact, for paste binding, the press may actually deliver a finished product that needs no further binding.
  4. You can’t run every kind of paper on a web press. (For instance, you can’t print a pocket folder on a web press because the press won’t accept thick paper substrates.)
  5. If you want to add special coatings or perhaps special ink colors, you will need a sheetfed press rather than a web-fed press.
  6. If you need to print on super-thin paper (thin catalog paper for instance), you’ll need a web-fed press. Using paper from a roll allows the press to maintain tension on the paper to keep it flat as it travels through the press, even if it is thin. Using the same thin paper on a sheetfed press would just crumple up the sheet.

I realize that all of this probably makes your head spin. There are a lot of pros and cons to sheetfed, heatset web, and coldset web printing. Assume a periodical printer or book printer may have web presses in addition to sheetfed presses. Assume a commercial printer will only have sheetfed presses. But do make inquiries, and talk with the sales reps early in the process.

The best place to start is with the job specifications, particularly in terms of format, page count, press run, and paper selection. These few specifications will go a long way toward determining which kind of press you will need.

And you can always mix and match. For instance, in my client’s case, you could very well print the French flap covers on a sheetfed press (with special coating capabilities) and then print the text blocks for the books on a heatset (or perhaps even coldset) web press. Then you could bind the text blocks into the covers.

But keep in mind that if you’re producing an ultra-short run of an even shorter book than my client’s, you probably will want digital printing. For very small jobs, digital printing (inkjet or laser) is often an even better answer than any of these three offset lithographic options.

Five Reasons Why Printing Companies Are Important to Businesses

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

Nearly a trillion dollars are used to fund the global printing industry each year. This is fairly impressive for an industry whose growth is mainly marked by printing labels and packaging. In fact, the printing industry is estimated to be eight times larger than the video game industry and also rivals the massively influential auto industry.

The rapid growth of the printing industry can be contributed to a lot of things. One of the main reasons is the importance of the printing industry in the realm of business and entrepreneurship. Many custom printing companies are known to help big and small businesses along the way.

Why Printing Companies Are Important to Businesses?

If you are still wondering how custom printing companies are helping businesses, there are five reasons to help you understand better.


The printing industry enables a lot of advertisement materials like posters, brochures, flyers, business cards, and billboard advertisements to come to life. These are some of the requirements of the business. They are also impressive tools to attract and engage customers and potential clients. Many proofs show that printed ads garner more traction than digital ads. Studies also show that people find printed ads to be less annoying than digital ones. They are also more effective as there are more chances of visibility and to make a sale with printed ads rather than digital ones.


Be it printed pamphlets and flyers or a big billboard ad, opting for a physical means makes the issue more tangible. It helps you get your business to life and paints a serious and no-nonsense picture of your brand. You would also be able to deliver the messages to your customers, clients, and audience in a better and more creative way. In simpler words, high-quality printing establishes your brands and helps your business get more visibility from the common folks. The more people see them, the more will they become engaged, helping you garner profits and visibility.


When you use a high-quality business card or a flyer to advertise your company, it adds a certain level of credibility to your business, as human beings are very visual creatures. They take note of the prints, and the colors. They would notice whether your product has high-quality print and good content. If you can pass at both of them, your business will be more likely to gain exposure and visibility. It will help you get noticed by your customers and potential clients.


The world is becoming more technologically advanced. However, printed products still have more lasting effects than digital ones. This is because, in the case of digital products, people just spend some time on one page and then lose interest and browse something else. In the case of physical prints, they would take some time to read them and might get more enthralled and interested.


Online advertisements are considered to be more annoying than physical ones. Therefore, more people would be interested to read a printed ad than a digital one. They are better portion tools and can be used to increase customer acknowledgment and sales.

Final Take

The printing industry is flourishing at a very fast rate. Therefore, there are many custom printing companies ready to help you get the best products possible.

How to Choose the Best Company for Binder Printing

Thursday, May 27th, 2021


Binder printing
gets its name from the way in which individual sheets of books or notes are fastened together. All print pieces remain flat as a result of the binding process. It is instrumental to make any book completely functional. However, not every company that prints the book necessarily has the best facilities to bind it as well. The type of paper being used for binding is also dependent on the kind of printing project.

Aesthetics are Very Important

Not every company which provides binder printing and book printing services can provide excellent results. It is natural for every publishing company to get excellent prints for book covers. These covers are responsible for motivating buyers to buy the books. Overall, good quality of work is responsible for the cover, the inside pages of a book, and its overall success. The easiest way to notice quality is in the case of the printing paper.

Quick Turnaround Time

Different factors are able to determine how quickly printing and binding can be done. One of these factors is the availability of a large number of staff and fast machines, which enable the outputs to be delivered within 24 hours. Depending on the business requirement, it becomes necessary to choose the most appropriate option. However, even if books run into hundreds of papers, even the best companies do not take more than 72 hours.

Suitable Prices

The worth of any service is determined on the basis of their price. What matters is that a suitable mix of quality and price is made available. The price of binding and printing needs to be known, and if it does not match the average range, it would be best to choose another vendor. Even if the price is higher, there needs to be a valid justification for the same. Also, in case the price is too low and it is not promotional, there may be something wrong.

A lot of people prefer to have e-books these days in place of bound books as the latter tend to fall apart. This is not completely true, and is likely to happen only when there has been shoddy workmanship.

Print Binding Methods

Book publishers would benefit by getting to know about the following print binding methods:

  • Spiral Binding – This single piece of plastic coil makes a full circle through punch holes at the edge of every page. Such coils do not lose their shape and are available in a variety of colors. This method is suitable for almost all paper types.
  • Perfect Binding – This popular method is used for magazines, paperback books, and other kinds of soft cover books. Pages remain glued to the spine or cover.
  • Comb Binding – C-shaped plastic spines help to bind pages together here. The spine can be imprinted with a title in this method. This technique is also suitable for different types of paper.

Lay-Flat Binding – The book is kept flat on a table when opened, making it perfect for manuals and cookbooks. This method is relatively more expensive than the others.

Three Tricks to Run Your Marketing Campaign with Flyers

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

Even in this digitally driven world, the significance of traditional marketing materials hasn’t vanished yet. It still plays a crucial role in any business marketing campaign. And, speaking of traditional marketing materials, there’s no way people can deny the role of flyers. After all, they work in the best possible way when it comes to creating a business marketing campaign. A lot of people are unable to yield the advantages of these flyers as they’re unaware of their usage. So, even after they use high-quality printed flyers, their marketing campaign does not provide the required benefits. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered while printing a flyer. This includes the images, typography, strategy distribution, and whatnot. So, let’s explore the best tricks to create a successful business marketing campaign with flyers,

1. Conduct Market Research

The market research phase plays a crucial role when creating a marketing campaign with flyers. People need to understand their demographics to customize the typography, images, and other factors to grab the attention of the target group. During this stage, one must check on the customer’s habits, preferred aesthetics, and dislikes to understand the ways to make the flyers work better. If one messes up at this first stage, there will be no point in creating flyers. It’s because a flyer only works when it’s created using the right strategy in place. So, before even searching for online flyer printing services, people should conduct market research and note the ideas.

2. Add Interesting Elements

Well, flyers shouldn’t be dull. It should be interesting enough to grab other’s attention. After all, people of this era, have a pretty short attention span. Anything that doesn’t trigger their interest will be ignored. So, depending upon the results and data collected from the market research, one must add some interesting elements to these flyers. In case one doesn’t have any idea, they can consult with the printing services. Since they work for a variety of clients, they can suggest better ideas. But, this is an important consideration to make. It’s because there will be tons of other advertisements out there trying to grab other’s attention. So, the flyer needs to stand out to lead the campaign to success.

3. Keep It Simple

A flyer need not be overly exaggerated. People barely spend a few seconds looking at the flyers. So, it should be created in a way so that one gets the whole purpose of it within that brief time. The design, typography, and other elements should be printed interestingly but it should be simplified. It’s always best to use a reputable online printing service to print high-quality pictures for these flyers. After all, visuals help businesses to stand out in today’s time. Also, it’s crucial to include data like address, contact details, opening-closing hours, and other business information to help customers to know more about the business.

Flyers marketing can help people to yield a lot of advantages when done successfully. But, these tips should be remembered while creating the flyers to yield the required perks.

Custom Printing: The Nuances of Designing with Type

Monday, May 24th, 2021

Photo purchased from …

In the 45 years I’ve been in the business of commercial printing, I have grown to love the nuances of type. Many years ago I read about a designer who worked well into the night cutting up and repositioning individual letters with a razor blade. (Everything was done by hand back then. The Macintosh did not make desktop publishing a reality until 1987.) The designer was crafting a logo, and nestling the letterforms closely into one another (which is known as kerning). At the time I couldn’t understand the care and affection he seemed to shower on these pieces of waxed typesetting paper (wax was the adhesive we used). Now I understand completely.

In the last week I have been looking through my print books, noting how other designers have “paired” various typefaces to design logos. I know this sounds like pairing a fine wine with a particular meat or poultry dish, and I think there’s actually some truth in that. Some typefaces work well together. Others do not.

In light of this observation, I’d like to share with you a few rules of thumb and observations as a starting point, as noted in the print book Design Basics by Jim Krause.

Contrast Is Golden

Jim Krause notes that when you choose two typefaces to use in your logo design, it’s usually best to choose a serif face and a sans serif face. They should look different in an obvious way. This creates visual interest, drama if you will. For instance, you might want to set the name of the company (perhaps a single word) in all caps in a bold, sans serif typeface. Maybe you want to make this word very large to indicate its importance. Below this, you might want to use an all-caps treatment of the tag-line wording, set in a Modern serif face with dramatic contrast between the thick and thin strokes of the serif letterforms.

The difference in size between the top line and the bottom line creates contrast, and this allows the reader to mentally separate and then absorb the two lines as two different chunks of text (i.e., as two separate ideas). And the contrast in type weight (heavy first line, light second line) and overall appearance (the boldness of the sans serif face against the graceful curves of the serif face) facilitate the reading experience.

All or at least most rules have truth in their opposites, and in this case Jim Krause points out the need for similarity as well as contrast when selecting typefaces.

In Krause’s type samples, there are similarities in the enclosed portions of certain letters (“R” and “B” for instance, in the specific typefaces chosen). This is true whether the typeface is the bold sans serif face or the graceful serif face. The enclosed portions of these two letterforms have similar shapes and length-to-width ratios.

The similar enclosed areas, which are known to typographers as “counters,” create an “echo,” as Krause describes it. Their common characteristics help make it intuitively logical to place the bold sans serif “COMBINING” above the more delicate serif “DIFFERENT FONTS.” Success in the pairing of typefaces in this case rests on a balance between their similarity and difference. Difference creates dynamism; similarity creates unity.

(Regarding similarity of shapes in the letterforms of one family of type vs. another, you might want to check out such letters as a lowercase “a” or “g” in different fonts online. Check Google Images, and you will see what Jim Krause means, in Design Basics, about the similarity of shapes in the design of one type family vs. another, even when there are other dramatic differences.)

Krause’s Design Basics print book doesn’t really address the following point (rather, it’s my own observation), but I think it is relevant. Both the top line (“BALANCING”) and the bottom line (“DIFFERENT FONTS”) have similar character widths in the individual letterforms. That is, they are neither expanded nor condensed (as you may find in some other typefaces). Another way of saying this is that the ratio of the letters’ height to width is the same in the heavy, bold, sans serif top line and in the lighter, smaller, and more graceful bottom line of the logo. Again, this creates similarity and therefore unifies the overall design of the logo.

To further illustrate his point about pairing typefaces, Krause presents a second example (same wording, different fonts). In this sample logo, the top line is set in a bold but Modern typeface. (One characteristic of “Modern” typefaces is the sharp contrast between the thick and thin strokes of each letterform.) This line is also condensed (that is, it has tall, narrow letterforms).

In this case the second line is set in a sans serif font. Moreover, it is letterspaced. (Letterspacing is moving all letters apart slightly and evenly–but not by too much. Too far apart, and the letters would no longer register in the reader’s brain as the words “DIFFERENT FONTS.” Instead, they would appear as individual letters, and this would slow down the reading process. When done with moderation, though, letterspacing gives type a sophisticated, airy look.)

One further point is that the second line, which is letterspaced, is set in all-caps. Letterspacing lowercase letters significantly diminishes their readability, and even though treating type in a unique, dynamic manner is important, the type still must be easy to read.

So just as in Krause’s first example, this logo example includes the following: contrast of size (large first line, small second line) and contrast of typeface (a condensed Modern serif font over a light sans serif font). But there are also unifying elements. Both lines are all-caps, and even though the second line is not condensed–like the first line–it still has roughly the same ratio of height to width as the first. And together these create unity.

A third example goes even further. In this type treatment, Krause has paired an extra-heavy, sans serif “COMBINING” with a lowercase “different fonts” set in red (instead of black, as in all other cases) in a script font. The long, graceful ascenders of “different fonts” set in script reach up like fingers into the thick black letters of “COMBINING.”

Normally, setting anything in a script font will minimize readability. And extending letterforms of the second line up into the first “may” also minimize readability. But what makes this work in this case is the simplicity of the wording. The first line is one word; the second line two. Any more, I believe, would be too much and would impede readability. (You could say the same about the dark red script letterforms of the second line extending up into the black heavy letterforms of the first line. There are only four characters: one “d” and three “f’s.”)

All Three Type Treatments

To summarize, this is what all three type treatments share:

    1. There is contrast on a number of levels (type size, visual weight, type style).


    1. This contrast helps create energy in the logos. In all three samples there is a sense of power in the type treatment. You might infer that the company the logo represents is bold and aggressive.


    1. Nevertheless, there are elements of similarity between the typefaces used for the first and second lines.


  1. This similarity creates a feeling of unity. The two lines go together. They are different but compatible.


Whatever you do with type, always make the contrast “big.” Make it look intentional. This is a truism or rule of thumb I learned about 40 years ago.

Krause addresses this in Design Basics by suggesting that designers stay away from pairing two serif faces or two sans serif faces. Although I personally believe one can do this with finesse (if there is sufficient difference between the typefaces), it usually doesn’t work. Why? Because if typefaces look too much alike, then pairing them looks like an accident.

To illustrate his point, Krause places an all-caps, light sans serif typeface (“COMBINING”) above a light, all-caps, letterspaced, serif “DIFFERENT FONTS.” These do fit the rule of not pairing serif (or sans serif) typefaces with other serif or sans serif typefaces. However, the two typefaces Krause chose (and he notes that this is a bad idea) are too similar. In spite of the large size difference (top line vs. bottom line), the type choice still looks like an accident. Together the two lines of type look “gray” because there’s not enough contrast in visual weight between the two type families.

The moral? Whatever you do, if two visual elements are intended to create contrast, make the contrast a big one.

What We Can Learn From Krause’s Design Basics

Ouch. This has to be torture, looking this closely at three words: “Combining different fonts.” But if the aforementioned discussion has done nothing more than get you to look closely at the nuances of type, I have succeeded.

You can gradually learn all of the details (the characteristics of typefaces, their history, etc.) as the need arises. But if you can see how differences in size, visual weight, and type letterform design (as well as the use of all caps type vs. caps and lower case type) can maximize or minimize both contrast and a sense of unity within a logo, you will be well on the way to appreciating the nuances of type design and their power in crafting a provocative logo.

06 Advantages Of Using Brochures For Business

Saturday, May 22nd, 2021

Putting all your products’ essential information in an attractive business brochure is a cost-effective and efficient way to spread the word. The significant part about getting the printed brochures for your business is that they can be distributed quickly. Online brochure printing can be as simple or attractive as you want.

Compared with other online marketing options, brochures are an affordable advertising plan. Plus, most professional printing service will work with you to design and produce sleek brochures that fit your budget. Once you have the eyes of some of your potential customers reading your brochure, you can gain trust. For example, most businesses include their goals and objectives in their brochure. This information helps customers see the caring and devoted side of your organization. When customers read about how you care, they start trusting your company more.

Custom Printing: Consistent Branding via Web-to-Print

Monday, May 17th, 2021

Purchased from …

I read an article this week that combines much of what is new out there in commercial printing: web-to-print, digital printing, VDP (variable data printing), and the concepts of branding, brand consistency, and brand loyalty. I had to take a breath. This amalgam of words and phrases can mean the difference between a company’s being at the top of their client’s awareness or being invisible. All together these concepts and technologies embrace art, psychology, custom printing, and computer science.

The article I found is entitled “Establish Brand Consistency the Easy Way.” I found it on the Ironmark website, and it was published on 08/24/20 by Juliet Hulse. The article bears serious consideration if your design work, print buying, marketing, or pretty much anything else you do involves promoting a service or product.

What Is a Brand?

First of all, what is a brand? When I was growing up watching Westerns on TV, a brand was a mark on the side of a cow. It was burned into the hide to be permanent, and it reflected (even back then) the essence of the owner. Presumably back then a brand on cattle destined for market reflected the quality the buyer could expect. At least that’s what stuck in my mind so many decades ago. A brand was always recognizable, always the same, always meaningful.

Now it’s pretty much is the same. Think about the Starbucks logo. If you walk into a grocery store with a Starbucks kiosk, you can always recognize the signature green of the logo, the typefaces, and the antique wood-cut image of the two-tailed siren. Whether you are buying hot coffee from a stand in the grocery store or coffee-related products to take home, you know exactly what to expect.

Moreover, if you enter the grocery store for coffee and you see a Starbucks mug, you will probably assume that all of the care (and the values you have associated with the logo and other Starbucks branding) will be reflected in the quality of the mug. (I once made this same assumption with Timberland. I had seen the TV ads, I had bought the boots—granted, on sale—and when I found a nylon, zip-up notebook case with the Timberland logo, I wanted it immediately. The branding made a difference. That was twenty years ago, and I still have the notebook case.)

Consistency Is the Key

The title of Hulse’s article, “Establish Brand Consistency the Easy Way,” contains the essential word, “consistency.” If you are establishing the branding of an organization, or a product or service provided by the organization, you have to realize that everything your company makes, sells, or sends out in paper or digital marketing form is an advertisement for the brand. The brand is not the logo, the logo typeface, or the color (like the particular green of the Starbucks logo). It is more than that. It is the consistent experience the company projects through these design elements. If the brand exposure is consistent, it will be far more likely to be memorable (hence the terms “brand consistency, “brand exposure,” and “brand recognition”). Consistency fosters brand success—if, of course, it authentically projects the values with which the consumer has an affiliation.

Consistency in Company Publications

Not all custom printing products produced by all organizations come out of a single graphic design studio. Hence, maintaining brand consistency can be a challenge. For instance, all it takes is a satellite branch of the central corporation to produce flyers, letterhead, business cards, or signage for a corporate event with logo colors that are different from the established brand. (The same goes for logo positioning, type choices, or type placement that differs from brand expectations.)

Oops. That inconsistency can send a message of confusion. It can imply (or at least the viewer might infer) that the corporation is not a nimble, crisply organized machine with purpose, intent, and stellar values. Rather, it might look downright clumsy.

I know it sounds shallow to focus on appearance, but on a psychological level (perhaps even subconsciously), the colors, typefaces, and (again) consistency of the entire brand look can be a powerful motivator, even if it just attracts the attention (and triggers recognition) of a customer or potential customer. The quality of the goods and services has to be there, but the brand look is the initial hook, and its consistency is of paramount importance.

Web-to-Print to the Rescue

Juliet Hulse’s article, “Establish Brand Consistency the Easy Way,” notes a very contemporary and popular method of controlling brand exposure by using a web portal. (That is, a company design department can provide controlled access through the internet to a virtual storefront through which managers and employees of the company can access collateral publications, signage, flyers, or any other printed material–perhaps for trade show attendance–that will by definition be consistent with the company’s accepted rules for use of the logo and other brand elements.)

Online software, including SaaS (software as a service) applications that replace programs like InDesign, will allow certain fields in a publication (such as the name, address, phone number, and email address) to be altered online by an employee (sales manager, etc.) while locking down other fields (perhaps the logo, color choices, access to other text, etc.).

This provision for including variable information is called “variable data printing” (VDP). It can be particularly well suited to digital commercial printing technology, allowing you to take a print product like a flyer and include personal customer information (like the prospect’s name, contact information, or perhaps even likes and dislikes) culled from marketing databases.

So to again reference Hulse’s article, “Establish Brand Consistency the Easy Way,” web-to-print relies on “digital asset management” and “dynamic content customization.” The first term pertains to the collection (or perhaps curation) of the logo, colors, textual content, and relevant photos and images. The second term pertains to the ability of digital commercial printing to tailor a different sales message to each recipient of any printed piece of marketing material.

And all of this happens over the internet through a corporation’s web storefront. The process is called “web-to-print.” As Hulse’s article notes, everything is 100 percent centralized and 100 percent “brand compliant.” A sales rep, marketing person, or any other company employee knows exactly where to go for printed material. And, if the printed products are digitally produced, there is presumably no waste, and there are no (or only limited) storage requirements for the printed material.

What else could you ask for?

What We Can Learn from This Article and Concept

As referenced earlier in this blog article, about thirty years ago a marketing consultant at an educational foundation where I was the art and production manager said, “Everything you print and send out to anyone is an ad for the organization.” These words have stayed with me ever since. They reflect the essence of branding.

The most important thing I can leave you with is the suggestion that you go to school on “branding,” studying everything from psychology to marketing to graphic design, as they relate to this marketing concept, the essence of the two-way communication between a corporation and its clients. Study typefaces. Study the psychology of color. Look up terms like “brand affiliation,” “brand loyalty,” “brand awareness,” “mind share,” and “wallet share,” and learn how they relate to sales and marketing, graphic design, and business in general. You will get a good education in what people buy and why they buy it (and these needs go far beyond the needs for survival items like food and shelter).

Also, learn about the use of the computer in general and the internet in particular within the sales/buying process (“e-commerce,” “the distribution chain,” “SaaS”—software as a service). You’ll see how computers have integrated the entire manufacturing and buying process, from research and development to product design and manufacturing, from marketing to product selection, and on to purchase and delivery (think about Amazon). This is powerful stuff.

And from a marketing perspective, always keep in mind that the greater the number of consistent exposures you can provide to your buying audience of the brand image you have crafted, the more successful your marketing and sales initiatives will be.

Web-to-print and cross-media marketing (projecting the same brand image through both print media and online media) can be the proverbial unstoppable force in marketing.

Custom Printing: Waterless Offset Benefits Printing Trade and Planet Earth

Monday, May 10th, 2021

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.

Custom Printing: Characteristics of Printing Ink

Monday, May 10th, 2021

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.

4 Benefits to Consider About Online Document Printing Services

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

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.


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