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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) 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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Blog Articles for PrintIndustry.com

Archive for November, 2021

Top 5 Things to Consider When Hiring a Professional Printer

Monday, November 29th, 2021

Picking a professional printing company that can take on your commercial printing needs can seem like an overwhelming task. Nowadays, there are countless choices in the market, and the stress that comes with the process of making this decision is enough to make you feel a little crazy. However, if you are looking for the ideal professional printer that will suit your specific needs, you should take the following points into consideration that will help you keep sane.

  1. Track Record of the Company

One of the most important things to consider when hiring a professional printing company is its track record. You should ask pertinent questions like- Has the company been in operation for a long time? Does it have a satisfied client base? Do the past clients return for their services? Basically, your goal is to hire a professional printing company that has a proper reputation.

  1. Respected Client Base

If you wish to work with a professional printing company that is trustworthy, you must go for the one that has a respected client base. Try to look for a company that has completed various printing projects for multiple distinguished clients in your industry or in sectors similar to yours.

  1. Outstanding Customer Service

Exemplary customer service is crucial to achieving success in the professional printing industry. If you want to hire a printing company that ensures customer satisfaction, you need to look for one that hires knowledgeable, courteous, and attentive staff who would go the extra mile to solve any problem you have regarding the job. Make sure to pick a printing company with customer service representatives that you can easily contact through phone, email or live chat online.

  1. Company’s Reputation Online

The internet will give you enough knowledge to assess a professional printing company’s reputation before you decide to hire them for your printing needs. If you notice a lot of reports that throw shade at the selected company, that might be the indication that you should avoid it. Reading reviews on popular sites like Google also helps.

  1. Printing Equipment and Services

A good professional printing company must have the latest printing equipment and offer all the services that you might need. Look for a printing company that provides the best book printing services and other modern services as well, along with printing equipment that can handle all different types of printing jobs. Look for a company that enhances its printing setup on a regular basis.

  1. Satisfaction Among the Staff

Considering the staff members of a company allows you to make a smart choice when it comes to professional printing companies. You should ask questions like- Are they happy to work for the company? Do they seem excited about working? Don’t work with a company that has a bad or unhappy staff.

All the aforementioned points should be considered while you identify the best suited professional printing company for your printing needs as these points will guide you to choose a well-respected company that can handle your specific needs.

Commercial Printing: Foil Stamping Wedding Materials

Sunday, November 28th, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

I’m a great believer in marriage. Between the two of us, my fiancee and I have already been married five times. So when I found an article on foiling wedding materials on www.brides.com, I was interested. The article is entitled “Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published on 09/29/21.

The article provides everything the title implies, but first here are some technical explanations and a bit of history regarding the technique of foil stamping, or hot stamping, from the printer’s point of view.

The Technical Description of the Process

Foil stamping is done on a letterpress, or with similar equipment that uses relief plates and heat to adhere foil to a substrate. The foil comes on rolls (of carrier material), and when the foil is placed between the relief die and the paper, leather, or other substrate, the die cuts the foil (i.e., separates the type and/or images from the surrounding non-image areas), and attaches the foil to the base material (i.e., the substrate). Scrap material is not adhered and falls away from the printed product.

Metal or silicone rubber dies can include significant detail, and can be used to foil stamp everything from paper to leather (think about the foil stamped leather books from the 19th century). Moreover, the foils used can be metallic (chrome or vacuum-metallized aluminum made to resemble gold, bronze, silver, or copper) (Wikipedia), or they can be colorized but non-metallic. The latter includes all number of non-metallic colors, plus black (black foil on black paper can be striking), plus holographic foil paper, which provides a 3D effect. Colorized, non-metallic film (also called pigmented foil) can have either a matte or gloss finish. So you have lots of options.

In contrast to an offset print run, in which a rotary press with multiple blankets and rollers deposits ink on a press sheet, a foil stamping print run is usually performed on a vertical open-and-shut press. As a print broker, if I’m looking for a commercial printing supplier with certain foil stamping equipment, I look for Heidelberg or Kluge presses for larger foil stamping jobs, although other manufacturers offer foil stamping equipment as well.

In fact, I have even seen small, hand-operated foil stamping equipment. A designer I worked with in the ‘90s had her own foil stamping product not much larger than a hair curling iron. (It looked like a cross between a soldering iron and a hair curler.)

Foil stamping offers one key feature that offset custom printing does not (beyond the aesthetic appeal). Foil stamping provides a completely opaque image (text or other line work), so it’s great for adding text to darker paper stocks. For instance, you can print colored foil on black paper. If you did this with offset ink, you would need a double hit of the color, or opaque white underprinting, and this still might not provide text and images as smooth and consistent as those foil stamped on the dark paper.

As two final points of information before moving to wedding-product design:

  1. “The first patent for hot stamping was recorded in Germany by Ernst Oeser in 1892” (Wikipedia). So this is a technology with a history, primarily related to bookbinding.
  2. For the last two-plus decades, foil stamping has been used in security printing. It has also been useful in decorating plastics (like automotive parts), and in producing RFID (radio frequency ID) tags. So foil stamping has established a presence in the functional commercial printing arena as well (Wikipedia).

Now, on to Brides.com

With the preceding technical background in mind, let’s move on to Lidia Ryan’s Brides.com article, “Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations.”

Ryan notes that foil stamping is “classic and timeless…super luxurious and makes a great impact” (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21). Furthermore, Ryan noes that the process can be applied either flat or with a slightly indented look with letterpress (the raised type of letterpress digs into the paper substrate slightly, and combined with the colored or metallic foil, this can be very attractive).

And as noted above, the print can be rendered in multiple colors or metallic foil. It can also be used to decorate the edges of printed products (such as the edges of wedding invitations).

As Ryan says, you can “foil print the text—all of it or just some–[or] you can opt for foil edges on thick card stock, beveling, a foil jacket, foiling on the envelope, or a metallic card to place behind a translucent invitation” (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21).

So you can compare and contrast colors, metallic effects, and levels of transparency. Ryan even suggests combining “foil letterpress printing with a secondary print style such as watercolor digital printing or a blind letterpress or emboss” (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21).

Blind letterpress refers to the indentation made with a relief letterpress plate but without any registered ink. You can do similar things with foil combined with embossing (that is, raising or lowering the foil treatment by raising or lowering the paper substrate with a metal die).

Ryan’s article also mentions printing on darker papers (as noted in the technical section above), but she adds forest green and navy blue to the list of suggested paper colors. She also suggests coordinating elements of the wedding printing package by using similar design, paper, and foiling (“programs, menus, signage, custom maps, and itineraries”) (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21).

In terms of design trends, Ryan’s article notes that gold is always in style because it is traditional and opulent, especially due to the metallic sheen. It is classic but it can be contemporary as well. She also suggests black on black and holographic film, particularly when rose gold is paired with the slightly pinkish/purplish cast of the holographic film (“Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitation,” by Lidia Ryan, published 09/29/21).

Ryan does caution us to be conscious of pricing. This is not an inexpensive treatment. As noted above, in the technical description of the process, foil stamping requires a separate metal die for each color. And in my experience as a printing broker, I’ve seen dies run from $200 to $500 for each color depending on the size and complexity.

If price is an issue, Ryan suggests purchasing pre-foiled invitations with a floral element in metallic or non-metallic foil. You can then digitally print the remaining information on the card. She also notes that both digital printing and offset printing are less expensive than letterpress.

To this I would add the following: If you need to save money, look for a printer who has Scodix foiling capabilities. This is essentially the marriage of 3D additive manufacturing and digital commercial printing. You can print multiple colors of foil (or simulated embossing) on a press sheet, varying the information and without paying for metal dies. The process just builds up a flat or 3D (embossed) plastic relief image (colored or metallic). I have seen samples of Scodix (and similar manufacturers’ digital foiling capabilities), and I have been impressed. It’s a good way to save money, and it looks good.

Finally, “Everything You Need to Know About Foil Wedding Invitations,” by Lidia Ryan, suggests that you take your invitations to the Post Office directly, not to a mailbox. Furthermore, Ryan encourages you to have the stamps hand-cancelled rather than machine canceled to avoid any damage to the printed pieces.

After all, for the most important day in your life, your wedding day, it’s smart to go the extra mile to make sure everything is perfect.

Why Print Brochures for your Business

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

In this world full of digital marketing fans, why do markets insist that we involve brochures in our strategies? Well, the answer is simple! Many people still love to read things outside of their phones, and this is exactly why it is a must for you to involve both traditional and digital marketing techniques in your strategy. Still not sure why marketers prefer brochures? Here is all you need to know.

They are the Easiest Way to Disseminate Information

One of the most important reasons marketers love using brochures is that they can be easily distributed. All you have to do is search an online brochure printing website, give your order, and once you receive them, you insert them and send them across through various mediums like Newspapers, Magazines etc.!

They Help Build Trust

Once these brochures start reaching the potential customer, your content plays a vital part in catching their eye. If your content has the power to speak, in no time, they will be engaged in reading more about your company and what services do you provide. So, make sure that with the quality of the brochure, you also pay attention to the quality of content.

They are Cost-Effective in Nature

Compared to other traditional and digital marketing techniques, brochures are supposed to be a cost-effective way to reach out to your customer. You can hand them over where ever you like, it could be a mall or inserted in a newspaper. If you know who your target market is, then it won’t be much difficult to reach out to your customer with such a cost-effective technique.

They are the Best Way to Personalize your Business

If you point out one single person in your brochure, then most of the readers will be able to relate it to themselves. Make sure to relate the agenda to your target audience, and we are sure there is no way they can’t get persuaded.

They Have Tons of Information to Share

A brochure always has more than one page to fit the information. So, if you want to persuade your audience, then ensure to mention your services, vision, and mission so that they know what the cause you are working for is. People who are interested in learning about your company will love to have detailed information on what the brochure is about.

They Help you Establish your Businesses Authority

Like business cards and letterheads offer credibility to the customers, a brochure offers authority! There are a lot of opportunities to market your brand online, and if you are going one step ahead by involving marketing techniques like brochures then, the customers think you are a serious business.

Now that you have five good reasons why these brochures are a hit then, what are you waiting for? There are tons of online printing companies that can help you print quality brochures in time so, pick up your phone and get the quotes today!

Custom Printing: Choosing an InSite Digital Proofing Workflow

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

Back in the 1990s when I was an art director, I actually sent our print books to press as pasted-up “mechanicals.” From these, the printers would make negatives and from these blueline proofs. Finally they would “burn” plates from the same negatives used for the bluelines. Late in the ‘90s I had switched to submitting artwork as digital files rather than as mechanicals, and the printers had begun to expose and process custom printing plates without the interim step of creating negatives.

During this decade I reviewed bluelines for placement and completeness of copy, accuracy of photo cropping (which was done by the printer), and trim margins. I also looked for broken copy (indicating dust on the negatives from which the plates were to be made).

For color work I reviewed analog color proofs made with films or toners. In fact, at one point it was a big deal to finally have all the colors on one sheet (with the Matchprints and Cromalins I used to check) and not on registered acetate overlay sheets.

Then I would attend press inspections to review press sheets in the printers’ 5000K lighting booths on their pressroom floors. Sometimes I had to do this in the middle of the night, or every six hours as the printer completed one press signature and started the next. I spent a lot of nights sleeping on couches or the floor of commercial printing establishments.

Enter Digital

So now that everything has been computerized, and printers even offer the option of online proofing only—via the Kodak InSite platform, for instance—I have mixed thoughts and emotions. And I have a particular way of approaching this issue with my clients, when I suggest either online virtual proofing (through a portal such as InSite) or hard-copy proofs.

First of all, what are the options?

Digital hard-copy proofs have replaced film-based bluelines, Cromalins, and Matchprints. These are no longer necessary, or accurate, since they are film-based proofs and since printers skip film entirely and go directly “to plate.”

For the most part, digital proofs are incredibly accurate facsimiles made via inkjet technology. Printers refer to them as “contract proofs.” This is a term you need to look for or hear, because it means the printer will match the proof exactly when printing the job. If they don’t succeed, that’s their problem, not yours. Moreover, with the new closed-loop electric eye systems on commercial printing presses continuously feeding color information back from the press sheets to the press console to automatically adjust the color, the consistency and accuracy of color management throughout a press run is much, much better than it was when I was doing press inspections in the ‘90s.

In fact, if you are a graphic designer or an art director, you may never need to attend a press inspection at a printer’s plant. The only reason to do this now is for ultra-high-profile color-critical work, such as food, fashion, and automotive advertising jobs.

So What About Virtual vs. Hard-Copy?

Virtual online proofs, also referred to as PDF proofs, show for the most part only what the prior blueline technology showed: the positioning (and completeness) of design elements on a page or double-page spread. This is very important. It’s better to find out at the proofing stage that some kind of error occurred and copy reflowed (very unlikely now). Digital virtual proofs also show bleeds, trim sizes, and fold positions, indicating that maybe your copy is too close to the margin and may be cut off during trimming. Again, better to find this out before the job is printed.

So digital virtual proofs are ideal for showing correctness and completeness of copy, as well as whether the copy blocks are centered on a page, too close to a margin, etc. However, they don’t accurately reflect color information.

From the point of view of a commercial printing establishment, however, they actually do show accurate color information because the printer has rigidly controlled the ambient lighting in the prepress and press areas (and perhaps has even added a hood over the monitor to keep ambient light off the screen).

In addition, printers’ color monitors and color management software (as well as their proofing devices) are all calibrated to be both accurate and consistent with one another. Chances are, yours aren’t (mine never were when I was an art director, and they aren’t now, since this is a time-consuming process that you need to repeat often, and since you need absolutely consistent environmental lighting—i.e., no windows).

So what can you do? Personally, I always suggest that my clients request hard-copy proofs for color work (for an additional price). Not all of my clients use InSite, which fits into the category of virtual proofing (although it’s much more than just digital proofing), but most do use virtual proofs for black-only work (such as the text matter of print books). Then they also request contract-quality hard-copy proofs for any color work, like the covers of the print books.

Pros and Cons

One of the major benefits of digital virtual proofing is that the proof files get to you immediately via computer link. You don’t have to wait for delivery from the printer to your office, or for return delivery of the proofs to your printer. This can shave a week off your schedule (especially important since most printers require your proofs in their hands before resuming production of your job).

If you’re using a Kodak InSite workflow, you get other benefits as well. You have a portal through which you can easily upload all of your PDF files (not native InDesign or Photoshop files, since this is a PDF workflow). If you have issues with your files, they will not be correctable at the printer’s shop because the printer will not have your native InDesign and Photoshop files. However, if you have prepared the final art files as per the printer’s specifications, this should not be a problem.

InSite can also be used with Kodak Matchprint virtual proofing (which could benefit you if you actually have a color-controlled environment). Moreover, you can provide password access to the proofs so that any number of people anywhere on the planet can collaborate to view and annotate the online proofs.

Then you can use InSite to upload corrected files. Finally, everyone can give a digital thumbs-up (final approval), and the job can move to plating and then to the pressroom. (More than anything, InSite is great for coordinating the activities of the large number of people who must either review or correct digital files or process them in the printer’s physical plant.)

So the entire InSite process is intended to interact with color proofing software, online review and correction processes, and even the Prinergy Workflow standard used by many, if not most, commercial printing establishments.

Really, as long as you have a color-managed workflow, this is a “no-brainer.” However, if your monitor isn’t calibrated, or if you’re working at home or in an office with a window, my personal belief is that physical proofs—for color at least—are best.

I’m sure this will change soon, and everyone will be foregoing physical proofs, just as pre-plating negatives disappeared from the process when I was an art director.

But if I can leave you with one thought, this is it: Trust your eyes. Do not (completely) trust a computer monitor to match color using RGB light (and backlighting) to represent a product that will be produced using CMYK inks.

And the caveat is, this will be more important or less important based on how critical the color is. Does it have to be “dead on” for showcase work, or is “pleasing color” acceptable?

A Bit About InSite

First of all, keep in mind that InSite is much more than digital proofing. If you work with a small commercial printing plant, you may already be reviewing color PDF proofs (after imposition and RIP’ing) that your printer just sends to you as a PDF file. These are great (under the stipulations noted above).

  1. InSite is much more, and in preparing for this blog article I did some research into its technology. Not the least of the points I absorbed was that Kodak is and has been a major player (if not the major player) in the field of color since before I had my first camera as a child. You can trust Kodak, and Kodak developed InSite.
  2. InSite works in both a Windows environment and an Apple-OS environment, according to its literature. You can even use an iPad within the InSite workflow.
  3. If you’re interested, you might want to Google “Kodak Prinergy Workflow,” “Matchprint Virtual Proofing,” “Kodak Pressproof Software,” and “InSite Enterprise.” You will get a good handle on the logic and process behind this collaborative, enterprise-based product and learn how it can coordinate the efforts of multiple editorial and print professionals to ensure a color-correct, stunning, and accurate printed product.
  4. InSite and Prinergy Workflow are compatible with preflight-review applications, so you can make sure your PDF files are accurate, printable, and appropriate for your press early in the process, well before the proofing stage.

So the gist of the matter is, if you can create accurate PDF files and find a way to ensure color accuracy (such as keying your in-house monitor and proofing device to the color-management specs of your commercial printing supplier), you can become incredibly efficient in processing and proofing your offset and digital print projects.

The future is already here.

Commercial Printing: Sidestepping Flaws in Digital Printing

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

To reverse the common maxim, “Every silver lining has a cloud.” This also holds true for digital custom printing, the relatively new technology that has brought to commercial printing both a much wider color gamut than offset printing and the ability to make each printed piece different from every other piece in the press run.

Digital printing is wonderful. However, it has some pitfalls. And the best way to proceed is to consider ways to approach your print job to sidestep these potential flaws.

To begin my research for this article, I Googled “digital printing flaws” and found this article: “What Are The Common Flaws Of Digital Printing,” Hurricane Valley Times, by Kashif, 09/13/21. Here are a few of the limits the article notes (if you Google “digital printing flaws” or “limits of digital printing,” you will find this and many other helpful articles):

Speed and Cost

Digital printing is significantly slower than traditional offset commercial printing. For instance, an offset press might print a random job at 18,000 28” x 40” sheets per hour, with multiple copies of the job laid out on a single press sheet. On a digital press (let’s say an HP Indigo press printing on a slightly smaller than 20” x 28” press sheet), the top speed might be 4600+ sheets per hour. The Indigo sheet is smaller (some are closer to 13” x 18”), so the number of copies printed will be fewer than on a 28” x 40” sheet in an offset-printed job. Plus, in this example, the digital equipment is running at less than one-third the speed of the offset equipment.

So to paraphrase Kashif’s article, long runs printed on digital equipment are expensive (assuming time equals money).

Now my example above singles out high-end laser printing (also called electrophotography). There’s also inkjet technology, or more specifically web-fed production inkjet technology. In this case the equipment operates at approximately 600 feet per minute (based on sales literature from Ordant Technology referencing 4-color inkjet commercial printing). In this case the print heads span the width of the roll of printing paper (that is, the printheads image the whole sheet at one pass).

My math says this is close to 36,000 feet per hour (divided by approximately 2 feet for a 25” x 38” offset press sheet, or comparable to 18,000 sheets per hour on an offset press, give or take). So digital production inkjet on a web roll comes much closer to the speed of a sheetfed offset press than does HP Indigo digital laser printing.

So What Can We Learn from This?

Digital printing is ideal for short runs (much cheaper than offset). Check with your printer about the cut-off point (offset vs. digital) for your particular job. But don’t try to do all print jobs with a single technology. Play to the strengths of each. Digital can also produce variable-data custom printing. Offset printing cannot. Every sheet that leaves an offset press is the same, but you can vary each sheet leaving either an inkjet digital press or a laser digital press.

Ink Limits and Paper Limits

Particularly if you use production inkjet technology, you have to think about how the ink on a digital press interacts with the paper. The toner of laser printing (both the oil-based liquid inks the HP Indigo uses and dry toners) sit up on top of the paper. In offset printing, the inks seep into the paper at least somewhat (depending on the paper coating or lack thereof—uncoated book paper vs. coated text paper, for instance).

If the ink sits up on the surface of the paper, and you cover the press sheet with large amount of toner and then fold the paper stock (let’s say you’re printing a brochure with a heavy-coverage solid), the toner will crack at the folds.

In my experience, inkjet can cause the opposite problems. Since inkjet ink is very thin compared to the thick, tacky ink used in offset commercial printing, the inkjet ink can seep into the paper too much, and images (in particular) can look washed out or mottled. The paper composition is very important. In fact in prior years only special papers with special coatings were qualified for inkjet printing. Now I’m reading about more and more papers that will not soak up too much inkjet ink. There are more options, but this is still a consideration.

Other problems with ink include banding (uneven laydown of toner in large areas of a solid color) and inaccurate registration due to the paper’s skewing or due to digital press misalignment.

So What Can We Learn from This?

Printers have had a long time to perfect offset ink composition. They can make ink (and especially halftone dots) sit up on the surface of a press sheet while seeping into the fibers just a little.

In contrast, digital inkjet and laser printing are relatively new, and balancing heavy ink or toner coverage with good toner adherence to the paper (without the ink’s or toner’s cracking) is a challenge.

So talk with your printer early in the digital printing process, and ask about avoiding digital ink’s or toner’s cracking by scoring the press sheet prior to printing. Also ask about how best to compose the inks and toners to allow for good opacity. Digital inks (inkjet inks) are much thinner than offset inks, so they are less opaque. Therefore, it’s important to get enough ink on the press sheet to create consistent, even, thick solids.

This might involve creating mixes for black ink that include cyan, yellow, and magenta as well as black. Or it might involve laying down white digital ink or toner under the process colors. (This will ensure the opacity of the thinner digital ink/toner and keep the darker substrate–if you’re using one–from changing the color of the overprinted inks.)

All of this points toward your involving the printer early in the process. You may even decide to omit heavy solids in your design for digital printing, or you may choose printing paper that is more ideally suited to your goal.

You may even want to discuss lamination options with your printer, depending on which laminates will adequately adhere to digital ink/toner. This may keep the inks from fading quickly (since they are more susceptible than offset inks to color degradation in sunlight).

Color Accuracy and Color Consistency

In offset printing, the pressman overprints screens of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink to simulate full-color printing. This reproduces most colors but not all. If you have a specific color that is “out of gamut” but that you need to use for a corporate logo, you have to add one or more PMS colors.

With digital printing, you don’t add PMS colors. However, many inkjet presses do use expanded color sets (some with red, green, and blue; others with green, orange, and purple; still others with light versions of cyan and magenta). These expanded color sets widen the color gamut of digital printing way beyond that of offset printing.

That said, if your color is critical and you’re printing digitally, you need to watch for inaccurate color. This could be due to printhead problems (on inkjet equipment) or a number of other causes. This might create problems if you’re trying to match the color in other printed products (or trying to match offset-printed work to digital printed work, for instance).

In these cases your best solution is to request color proofs and check them under pressroom-comparable lighting conditions (5000K, which is the color of sunlight). Using the same press for repeat jobs also helps (which is why it’s smart to get a complete, new proof if you change digital printers or presses for a reprint job, and then match this proof to your original press run).

Commercial Printing: An Introduction to Screen Printing

Friday, November 12th, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

My First Screen Printing Experience

The summer before college I worked (one on one) with a Mexican ceramics artist. He was the artist in residence at a church attached to a local high school. Night after night I would take a bus to his studio and learn (of all things, not pottery making but) custom screen printing. He was skilled at both disciplines.

I learned a lot over these months. I brought in a hand-drawn surrealistic image in multiple colors. The first thing I learned was just how labor intensive the process of screen printing was. For each color I had to cut a separate mask (or stencil), removing selected bits of a plastic block-out sheet I had attached to the nylon screen with adhesive. I cut with a small, sharp knife point and then peeled away any masking plastic in areas that would print.

Each time I would finish preparing the mask (on the screen) for a particular color of the 6- or 8-color job, I would attach the framed screen (silk stretched over a wood frame) to the hinges on the base board, pour thick, brilliantly colored screen printing ink onto the far side of the screen-printing frame, and lay a sheet of paper between the screen and the base. Then, using a squeegee (a rubber strip on a wooden handle the width of the wood frame), I would draw the ink across the screen.

The ink would seep through (literally, because it was such a thick ink) the screen and onto the paper. Anywhere I had removed the plastic masking material attached to the silkscreen, the ink would flow through the screen and onto the paper. Anywhere I had left the plastic sheet intact, this block-out stencil would keep the ink from reaching the paper.

So I would print sheet after sheet this way, starting with the first color. Then I would remove the plastic block-out sheet from the screen completely, wash everything down, prepare the next stencil for the next color, and print each and every sheet on which I had printed the prior color.

It was a long, long process, from the inception of my design to the finished stack of screen prints. Night after night I would do this in the ceramic artist’s studio. I appreciated how thick the ink was, and how intense its color was. It was a good education. I never forgot the patience it required.

Using Screen Printing at the Art Museum

Within the same time period before college (during the day), I also had an internship at a DC modern art museum. Since I was getting an education in custom screen printing at night, I was particularly alert to how the art museum used screen printing to prepare for an upcoming exhibit. They would screen print the three- or four-paragraph description of each painting (and explanations related to each room in the exhibit) right on the wall. This intrigued me.

So I asked some questions and did some research, and I learned that they had prepared the screens with a photographic emulsion. Using typeset material as a starting point (either projected onto the silk screen or attached to a clear acetate sheet), they projected ultraviolet light through the mask or stencil. Where the light reached and exposed the photo-sensitive emulsion (UV light-sensitive rather than visible-light sensitive) on the screen printing fabric, this light hardened the emulsion.

Everywhere else, the emulsion had not hardened. As the screen was washed (the next step), the water removed the emulsion that had not been exposed to UV light, leaving the typeset words as “holes” within an otherwise opaque mask over the screen. Museum staff could then hold the screen (loaded with ink) up against the wall, draw a squeegee across the frame, and transfer the screen printing ink through the mesh and onto the wall. Once the screen had been removed, there it was: the typeset paragraphs explaining the exhibit or the specific art piece.

In this particular case (unlike the silkscreen I was producing at night in the artist’s studio in the church), these wall screen prints were one color. So registering one color to the next (as I was doing at night) was not an issue.

Moreover, in my case, I was cutting the masking material with a knife (shapes of color, not intricate typescript), and at the museum, the process of preparing the screen was a chemical and photographic (rather than manual) one. I learned later that the same process they were using could be used for photographic halftones and even multiple-color halftones (just using a coarser halftone screen ruling than for offset lithography).

So printing was in my blood by the time I was 18. Both of these experiences (learning silkscreen with a Mexican sculptor/potter and working at an art museum) paved the way for the following forty-five years’ work in all aspects of fine art, commercial art, publications management, and commercial printing.

What Else Can You Use Screen Printing For?

Having had these formative experiences, I was aware of and highly alert to custom screen printing, also called serigraphy, in my work. I noticed that screen printing was great for objects that couldn’t be offset printed. (For example, you can’t run a 3-ring binder through an offset press, but you can use a screen, or multiple screens, to print on the vinyl-covered boards of such a binder.)

You can also print on hats, mugs, messenger bags. If you Google “promotional items,” you will see all number of functional products you can embellish with custom screen printing. In fact, if you look closely at these printed products, you will see just how thick the ink is. It’s like paint. And I for one believe that this thick ink projects an air of opulence.

Wallpaper is another product that lends itself to custom screen printing, particularly since there are cylindrical screens (the screen I was using at night and the one used at the museum were flatbed screens) that allow for essentially continuous custom printing of patterns. In this case, the ink and squeegee are inside the rotary screen, and the cylindrical press can be rotated again and again to create and endless pattern.

T-shirts as well as other similar garments are also often screen printed. In fact the ink can be formulated to puff up slightly above the garment’s surface, to be metallic, or to have the texture of suede.

Signs are another lucrative custom screen printing market. And in most of these industrial printing venues the screens are not silk, as mine was, but either stainless steel, nylon, or polyester mesh. The finer the mesh, the finer the halftones. However, fine screens can easily plug up, since the ink is especially thick, so this does limit the fineness of the line screen used for halftone images.

And finally, the substrates don’t have to be paper or fabric. You can print on metal, plastic, wood, ceramic, even glass.

Screen Printing vs. Digital Printing

In all of these cases, the products have been made on custom screen printing presses, either single-color frames or in some cases (for multi-color t-shirts, for instance) a carousel of screens attached at a central point. These screens can be rotated into and out of the image-printing area to speed up the process.

But it is a time-consuming process nevertheless, with all the screen preparation, printing, and cleaning steps.

Back when I was screen printing the surrealistic design at night, and watching the museum staff screen print text on the wall during the workday, it was the late 1970s, so digital printing had not yet been invented.

Now, many of the products manufactured with custom screen-printing technology can be produced with inkjet printing technology in some cases and dye sublimation technology in others (such as printing on mugs). This now allows for variable-data printing. In fact you can make each item different, which you can’t do with screen printing.

That said, there’s still room for screen printing in product design (i.e., functional printing or industrial printing). For instance, you might want to print special conductive inks on printed circuit boards that will be used for electronic devices. Or you may want to screen print text on the control panels of microwave ovens.

Screen printing is still out there, still an ideal technology for specialized uses. However, it’s best suited to longer runs, due to the labor-intensive processes it involves.

Reasons to Print Handouts for Your Business

Monday, November 1st, 2021

Businesses are always looking for ways to save time and money. Printing handouts with your logo or company information can be a great way to do both! With the use of color printing, you will also increase the visibility of your company’s message. If you’re interested in learning more about how to print handouts can help your business, keep reading! You’ll find out why it’s important that all companies have an effective marketing strategy that includes handouts.

What do we Exactly Mean by Printed Handouts?
Handouts are anything that is printed and handed out for free to the public. These are a great way to get your business in front of new customers. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes down to what type will work best for you!
  • Flyers
These single-sided printed sheets are used for advertisement purposes. It is basically used to deliver a short message with crisp and persuasive language.
  • Infosheets
If you wish to disseminate product-related information to specific customers who are interested in making a purchase, then this is the one.
  • Postcards
If you wish to build a brand reputation and promote your product, this flat piece of heavyweight printed paper can help you out.
  • Brochures
Many free printing websites offer you brochure printing services. You will get a variety of brochure templates to select from so, all you have to do is make a decision and provide the right information to your service provider.

Benefits of Getting those Handouts Printed for Your Business
  • Handouts are a Great way to Promote Your Business
Handouts are inexpensive, and they can be an effective way to get your company’s name out there and generate interest in the products or services you offer. If you’re looking for new ways to promote your business, consider handing out these free promotional items!

  • They Can be Used for Marketing, Advertising, or Fundraising 
Use handouts to your advantage! Handouts are a great way to market, advertise, or raise funds. Think of creative ways you can use them in any situation. You can put together a simple flyer with what’s new at your company and give them out when people come into your store or business location.

  • Printed Handouts are often More Effective than Digital Media
Printed handouts are often more effective than digital media. This is because people process information better when they see it on paper rather than reading about it on a screen. Printed material also has the advantage of being tangible and easily accessible to everyone in the room. Digital media limits who can access your content to those with an internet connection or mobile device nearby.

The reasons to print handouts for your business are many. If you want a marketing tool that will make people stop and take notice of what you have to offer, then printing out some high-quality flyers is the perfect solution! Handouts can help convey information about products or services in an easy-to-understand way. They’re also great as sales tools with customers who may not be ready to commit just yet. If you are now in the mood to get some printed for your business, contact us today to help find the right services for your needs.

 

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