Printing Companies
  1. About Printing Industry
  2. Printing Services
  3. Print Buyers
  4. Printing Resources
  5. Classified Ads
  6. Printing Glossary
  7. Printing Newsletters
  8. Contact Print Industry
Who We Are

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.

Need a Printing Quote from multiple printers? click here.

Are you a Printing Company interested in joining our service? click here.

The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

We have kept the PIE system simple -- we get a monthly fee from the commercial printers who belong to our service. Once the bid request is submitted, all interactions are between the print buyers and the printers.

We are here to help, you can contact us by email at

Custom Printing: Be Alert for These Printing Errors

Photo purchased from …

Accuracy/quality/precision–in the little things–is important. This includes precise grammar. It also includes clean, precise printing and finishing work in a publication, a brochure, or even a sign. If something looks wrong in a publication, within the design or within the print production itself, it is only natural for the reader to question (even subconsciously) the accuracy of the content. And this can make you lose your reader’s interest.

In this light, I have selected six printing errors that you may want to look for if you are doing a press check (if your job needs to be of showcase quality) and that your printer always looks for because he wants your commercial printing work to shine.

These six errors are scumming, doubling, slurring, hickies, setoff, and web pull. These are just a random handful for one article. I have addressed other issues, such as ghosting and density problems, in prior articles. All of these are referenced in Getting It Printed by Mark Beach and Eric Kenly. You may want to do further research into custom printing problems online or ask your print provider for suggested print books on the subject.

At the very least, your appreciation for your printer’s knowledge and eyesight will grow as you learn more about potential commercial printing flaws. For now, here are six of them.


Offset lithography works on the concept that oil and water don’t mix. An offset printing plate can have the image area and non-image area on the same flat surface (unlike the recessed image areas of intaglio printing or the raised image areas of relief printing) because of the immiscibility of oil and water.

For oil-based custom printing inks to adhere to image areas of the printing plate (for transfer to the press blanket and from there to the paper) and not to non-image areas, the ink/water balance must be correct. Printers learn how to do this. If the balance is not maintained (or, more specifically in this case, if there is not enough water), ink will print in non-image areas. For instance, tails of ink may appear to streak outward from the letterforms of type. Or streaks of ink may run down the press sheet. This is called scumming. Watch for it (check the samples your printer pulls every so often during the press run as a quality check, if you attend a press inspection). Your printer will be checking this ink/water balance throughout the commercial printing process.

Doubling and Slurring

As the press rolls, the plate transfers the image to the rubber press blanket, and then the blanket transfers the image to the paper substrate (hence the term “offset,” because the plate does not print directly on the paper). If the blanket hits the paper a second time (perhaps a light touch), the halftone dots will appear to blur. This is called dot doubling.

If there is a problem with inaccurate press blanket pressure or poor ink tack (the stickiness of the ink that allows it to pull off the plate onto the blanket and off the blanket onto the paper substrate), halftone dots can become elongated. This is called slurring.

The difference between doubling and slurring is that in doubling, there are duplicate halftone dots and each halftone dot has its own slight shadow. However, in slurring, there are the proper number of halftone dots, but the dots are oblong (i.e., stretched), not round.

When you are doing an on-site press inspection at the printer’s plant, you may not see these flaws directly on the press sheet. However, they may be visible on the printer’s control targets (GATF color control bar, for instance) for dot gain, slurring, and doubling. Also look for dot gain targets and color patches for solids, screens, and overprints. Printer’s quality control bars are on the outer perimeter of the press sheet, outside the live image area of the print job.

You can find a detailed description of these printers’ control targets in Getting It Printed (Mark Beach and Eric Kenly).

Hickies vs. Picking

If your commercial printing plates and blankets have not been adequately cleaned, bits of dust and paper fibers will attach themselves to these surfaces and prevent adequate application of ink. You can identify these marks on a printed press sheet as tiny white donuts with solid ink centers. These can be minimized but not eliminated entirely by proper cleaning of the blankets and plates. Over the course of the press run they will appear on a few or several press sheets and then will just as quickly disappear. These are called hickies, and they are the result of ink particles, paper or coating flecks, press dirt, and dust getting where they shouldn’t be. Hickies are most obvious in large flat areas of color.

In contrast, ink picking refers to the ink’s tack (or stickiness) pulling off particles of the paper surface or paper coating. Good quality printing paper will resist this flaw.


Once a printer has finished printing a stack of press sheets, if he wants to turn over the pile and print the other side of the press sheets, he must first wait for the ink to dry. Otherwise, the ink will set off from one press sheet to the back of the adjacent press sheets during the printing of the second side (printing the opposite side is known as “backing up the sheet”). However, even if the printer does not try to back up the sheet when the ink is wet, the image can still offset due to the weight of the press sheets on one another.

To avoid this, printers spray anti-set-off powder on the wet press sheets. The fine particles of the anti-set-off powder slightly lift one sheet above the next and protect the ink while it dries.

Processing press sheets in any way (not only printing the second side but also folding and trimming the press sheets) prior to the ink’s being dry can be problematic and can also cause offsetting. Therefore, don’t push your printer. Let him take the time he needs for the ink to dry. Keep in mind also that certain colors of ink take longer than others to dry, and large, heavy-coverage ink solids require more drying time than areas of light ink coverage.

Web Pull vs. Web Growth

When the roll of web paper goes through a heatset web press and receives ink, the paper ripples slightly due to the heat and moisture. Then the heat of the web press ovens bakes these ripples into the paper so they are permanent. Some printing paper reflects this flaw more than other printing paper.

This gets even more problematic when a web-fed press prints the text of a print book and a sheetfed press prints the covers. The heat of the heatset web press ovens evaporates the water in the text paper fibers prior to the printer’s attaching the paper covers. Over time (and after the trimming process), the paper in these text blocks absorbs water and grows.

However, the covers, having been printed via sheetfed offset lithography, are not exposed to the high heat of the ovens of the web-fed presses that printed the text blocks of the books. Therefore, the text paper grows, but the cover paper does not.

If both cover and text paper were printed on the same kind of press, this would not be a problem, but since the covers are applied to the text blocks and then the books are trimmed, as time progresses the interior of the print books will absorb moisture and can grow beyond the trim of the covers, making a thin strip of the interior text of the books visible beyond the trim of the book covers.

Like the web pull noted above (the rippling of text paper baked into the wet press sheets), web growth cannot be completely eliminated.

The Takeaway

    1. Understand what kinds of flaws your printer is seeking to avoid, and appreciate his level of knowledge and attentiveness.


    1. Attend a press inspection now and then to really understand these potential flaws.


    1. Read books or online articles on these subjects, and ask your printer about the potential flaws when you attend a press inspection.


  1. It actually benefits both you and your printer for you to understand which flaws can be avoided and which can only be minimized due to the nature of offset commercial printing.

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts


Read and subscribe to our newsletter!

Printing Services include all print categories listed below & more!
4-color Catalogs
Affordable Brochures: Pricing
Affordable Flyers
Book Binding Types and Printing Services
Book Print Services
Booklet, Catalog, Window Envelopes
Brochures: Promotional, Marketing
Bumper Stickers
Business Cards
Business Stationery and Envelopes
Catalog Printers
Cheap Brochures
Color, B&W Catalogs
Color Brochure Printers
Color Postcards
Commercial Book Printers
Commercial Catalog Printing
Custom Decals
Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
©2019 Printing Industry Exchange, LLC - All rights reserved