Commercial Printing 101 – Yes… you have time to bleed!

Posted by Universal Printing on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 @ 03:35 PM

Say what you want about the movie Predator, it’s consistently rated on MANY lists as one of the best SciFi/Action/Adventure/Bang-Bang-Shoot-Em-Up movies of our time.   It also features on of the best movie quotes of all time (in my humble opinion.)


Blaine Cooper (played by Jesse Ventura) is told by his cohort Pancho, “You're bleeding, man. You're hit.”

Blaine’s reply: “I ain't got time to bleed.”

Of course in the wonderful world of printing and graphic design, BLEED takes on a completely different meaning.

So… what is BLEED?Universal Printing provides an example of page bleed

In printing, the term “bleed” is used to describe any time that the printing goes all the way to the edge.  This can be photos, background color, bars, shapes, borders, clipart; pretty much ANYTHING that runs off the edge.

In order to make this happen, printing companies will ALWAYS print the job on a press sheet larger than the final size of the piece.  When the files are created, they need to be presented to us oversized, with trim marks and bleed.  In the example to the right, you see that the crop marks show the cut lines inside of the total image area.   Rather than cutting your final piece SMALLER, it’s best if you provide the image LARGER, so that final sizes are accurate.

Why do printers need bleed?

Depending on the type of equipment any printing company is running, there is a possibility of some “bounce” or movement from sheet to sheet.  The sheets will always be the same size, but the position of the image can vary slightly.  Some digital equipment, for example, might have a tolerance of 1/32" of an inch in any direction.   Doesn’t sound like much, but if one sheet is 1/32" to the left, and another is 1/32" to the right, that’s a difference of 1/16" from one sheet to the next.  When these sheets get cut down, there could be white showing on 1 or more edges from sheet to sheet, as seen below.

This is what COULD happen without bleed!

How do I make sure bleed happens?

Depending on the program you’re using you, you’ll need to do TWO things to ensure that your files include bleed.

1.  Make sure your page size correctly.

If your program uses “Artboards” or “Pasteboards” (like Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, MS Publisher, Quark, etc.) then you’ll set your page size to the ACTUAL finish size.  Your program will allow you to set your bleed area later.  

If your program does NOT use art boards (like MS Word, MS PowerPoint, Photoshop, etc.) then you’ll need to set your page size LARGER (knowing what we’ll need to cut the edges off…. So if you want it to be 8 1/2" x 11 inches, you could make your page size 9” x 11 1/2" and know that we’ll cut 1/4" from all sides.

2.  Set guides and margins for trims and “safe areas”

Even if you have bleed set up for your files, you’ll want to keep live type and important elements away from the trim edges.  You should keep these things at LEAST 1/8" away from the trim edge, but 1/4" is preferable

3.  Extend your bleed elements and images

Make sure ANYTHING that bleeds off the edge, is extended at LEAST 1/8" past the final trim area.

4.  Producing your final files

Whether you are printing to a PDF, exporting, saving as, or whatever method you are using, you’ll want to ensure the final page size is large enough to include the extended bleed elements.  If possible, crop marks and bleed marks should be added, too.


The point is, no matter WHAT program you’re using, bleed is possible and should be provided.  When you are reviewing your files, whatever your final size is, the pages should display slightly larger, as shown above.  

Bottom line:  If you want to get the best printing results, you need to start with good files.  Jesse Ventura may not have time to bleed…  but you or your graphic designer do!


If you need further help understanding how to prepare your files for print, feel free to browse our blog, or contact any member of our helpful staff.  Our Customer Service team will be more than happy to give you any guidance.



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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, commercial printing, Graphic Design Durham, graphic design raleigh, CS5 tutorials

6 Great Fonts for Graphic Design (plus 2 that just shouldn't exist!)

Posted by Universal Printing on Thu, Dec 01, 2011 @ 02:39 AM


Universal Graphic Design Blog - Myriad
[1992 - Robert Slimbach & Carol Twombly]

Ligatures &  ItalicsLike most sans serif fonts, Myriad robust, very open, and easily readable; but two of my favorite things about Myriad probably don’t matter to anyone but me.  First off, it has its own very nicely designed ligatures (which are certain letter pairs that actually change their shape for better flow and readability... see example to the right.)  Myriad is just a nicely kerned font all on its own, and having some well thought of ligatures just make it nicer to work with.  Secondly, I have great respect for folks who design their italics in ways that aren’t just “slanty versions” of the standard “roman” upright version.  Myriad uses this concept in several of its characters, like the “a” and “e” shown to the right also.


Universal Graphic Design Blog - Helvetica

[1957 - Max Miedinger]

Oh Helvetica, you timeless old B*$+@^&!  You are easily the most used font EVER!!!  Most people assume Arial is the same thing (which it’s not; Arial was loosely based on the letter shapes of a type called Monotype Grotesque, but I digress…) Helvetica really came into its place within the Pantheon of Fonts during the age of letraset type, and easily crossed the bridge to the digital age.  It’s now the “go to” font for people who don’t want to think about what font to use.


Universal Graphic Design Blog - Univers

[1954 - Adrian Frutiger]

Adrian Frutiger, you say?  The creator of the typeface actually CALLED Frutiger?  Yes, true, although of all Frutiger’s fonts, this is my favorite.   After all, with more than 40 variations (actually up to 63 if you consider the slightly retooled Linotype Univers series) it has all of the weights, widths, oblique sets, and positions you could ever need for clean, but bold design.  It also has a few characters with some visual appeal that makes it easily distinguished from other sans serif fonts; such as the capital “G” without it’s tail, the capital “Q” whose tail slides along the baseline” or the small “t” with a slight angle along to top.


Universal Graphic Design Blog - Garamond

[1530 - Claude Garamond]

Unlike French Fries and French Toast, Claude Garamond was actually FROM France!  There are a crazy number of versions of Garamond around, but the most widely used is the version from Adobe (Adobe Garamond or sometimes AGaramond).  Claude also was the creator of Sabon, which is another really classy serif font, but just because of the shear popularity of his namesake, it had to go on the list!


Universal Graphic Design Blog - Rockwell

[1933 - Frank Hinman Pierpont]

Originally released as Lithos Antique around 1910, Rockwell was updated and released in the early 1930’s in the robust form we know today.  Unfortunately, some early graphic arts publications incorrectly identified it as Stymie Bold which has similar traits but is kerned much tighter.  Rockwell was one of the early “slab serif” fonts referring to its blocky serifs that you can rest a dinner plate on.  It has a distinct geometric quality that really makes it stand out, and has been used for years by the New York Times Sunday magazine and for a while by the Guinness Book of World Records.


Universal Graphic Design Blog - Duty

[2002 - Lee Fasciani]

Duty has all the roundness and richness of other classic fonts like Gill Sans or Futura, but with several more weight options and a few interesting flairs here and there.  I’m also a big fan of Lee Fasciani, a young British designer who has done the unthinkable, and proven that Typography is not dead, but in fact can still be a viable art form.


And 2 that shouldn’t have been made…


Universal Graphic Design Blog - Old English

This is a cheesy knock-off of Linotext, which already shouldn’t be used for ANYTHING.  Yet this font seems to appear in random places, and what’s worse is that you’ll occasionally see it in ALL CAPS.  Seriously, folks…  the 1400s called and they want their font back.  Sure, all you Medical School and Law School Graduates, we get it; you’re prestigious.  But don’t think for a minute that just because little Jimmy or Suzy graduated from the Third Grade or successfully played soccer for a season, that I actually believe that a team of Monks were sought out to hand scribe their certificates just because you thought it would be cute to use some old-timey font.


Universal Graphic Design Blog - Critter

Seriously?!  Animal letters?  I understand the need for Dingbats and Wingdings; but fonts as clipart are just silly.  While Giddyup Thangs and Lil Pics are both particularly annoying, Critters takes it to a whole new level because it tries to be clipart, alphabet, and nature lesson all in one!  “Look kids… the ‘R’ is a Racoon, and it LOOKS like an ‘R’ and ‘C’ is a … wait… what?”  Yes... you guessed it “C” is for Catfish.  Adorable… NOT!



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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks

Graphic Design Tip! How Does Foil Stamping Work?

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 @ 12:45 PM

’Tis the Season to send out Holiday Cards!  The weather gets a little cooler and winter is right around the corner, which can only mean one thing: Holiday Season!  It’s time to start breaking out the decorations and start singing carols like that old holiday classic Silver & Gold.  There’s just something classy about silver and gold.  It's used for expensive jewelry, it backs our nation’s currency, it' used for trophies, awards, and medals. Silver and Gold simply epitomize class, value, and sophistication.

You’ll often see gold, silver, or other metallic inks used on stationery, invitations, and a variety other printed materials.  They look nice, but somehow lack that special POP.  For those cases, where metallic ink just won’t do, there’s another solution: FOIL STAMPING.

When planning for foil stamping, it’s important to understand a few things about the process.

  1. Foil Stamping is NOT the same as embossing.  They are often done together, but they do not HAVE to be.  Embossing changes the surface of the paper or cardstock to create a raised image (or a lowered image in the case of “debossing”).  Foil is also done using a die and adding heat and pressure, but you can add foil to your project without needing to raise or lower the surface of the image.
  2. An even surface is better.  The best impact is going to be on smooth coated surfaces, like Cast-Coated or High Gloss stock.  Dull or Matte coated stocks take foil well also, as does smooth uncoated sheets.  Heavier stocks are more durable and hold up better to the process, although text weights can be used.  Textured papers like linen or felt are more difficult, since the surface texture and effect the way the foil is pressed onto the sheet, and your image might not be as crisp as it could be. Also, while you CAN foil on top of wax-free inks, you should avoid using coatings or varnishes in the area to be foil stamped.
  3. Line art is a MUST.  In order for the foil to fuse to the stock properly, there needs to be enough surface area to grab onto. Halftone dots and super thin lines won’t fuse as easily and may flake off, which will appear as “broken” or “missing” during a long production run.

What you need…

The Die: This is a metal plate with the reversed image raised from the surface, like you would see with a stamp.  Typically these will be made of brass, copper, or magnesium.  Buying a die can be a little pricey, but they can be used over and over.

The Foil: Foil is generally manufactured on a film roll made up of pigment, clear mylar, and a heat-activated adhesive.

The Stuff:  This is what you want to foil stamp.  It can be business cards, greeting cards, letterhead, pocket folders, certificates, invitations, or anything else you can think of.

How it works...

Gold Foil example of foil stampingAt its simplest form, Foil Stamping comes down to three things:  Heat, Pressure, and Time.

The foil film is positioned between the heated metal die and the material receiving the foil.

The die presses the foil onto the material and the heat activates the adhesive. 

Under pressure, the foil fuses onto surface of the item and is released from the mylar carrier everywhere the raise image has pressed.  If the heat is too low or the time is too short, then the foil won’t fuse and stick. If the heat is too high or the time is too long, the foil may bubble or blister; or the image edges may appear rough or ragged.

Another great thing about foil is that you’re not limited to just metallic effects.  You can find anything from gloss to dull, colors and fluorescents, holographic – there’s even clear!  See the chart below for some of the most common foils available, but these may vary. Contact us for other colors or samples.

REMEMBER!  Foil does NOT follow the Pantone Matching System for color.  So while you can't MATCH a PMS color, you may be able to find something close.

Samples of Foil Colors



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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, setting up your files, Graphic Design Durham, graphic design raleigh, foil stamping, gold foil

Where Do Pocket Folders Come From?

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 @ 12:45 PM

Pocket folders are a great way to package and present a variety of materials to your intended audience; whether it’s documents, inserts, CD/DVDs, brochures, booklets, or other items.  One of the appeals of pocket folders is their ability to cost effectively enhance your brand or message, since they can be custom printed and produced fairly econimically.

Pocket Folder IconIt’s surprising though, how many people use, see, feel, and possess pocket folders, but have no clue how they are made!  “Do you have a template?” is a common question we’re asked all the time.  To the right is a diagram showing the basic layout of the print-side of a pocket folder.  Click the diagram to download a PDF for you to use in whatever graphic design program you have available.

If all you wanted was the PDF, then congratulations – you’re done!  BUT if you REALLY want to know more about the pieces and parts or a pocket folder, feel free to keep reading.


Anatomy of a Pocket Folder

Front & Back Panels/Covers:  In a “standard” pocket folder, these each measure 9" wide and 12" tall.  They are positioned side-by-side along a common folded edge called the “spine.”  Occasionally, one might add a “gusset” by adding a double score-line; separating the front and back panels 1/8" or more.  In these cases, you should remember that your pockets may require gussets as well.  Generally speaking, the gusset of the spine should be at least the sum of the gusset for each pocket.  (i.e., two 1/8" gusseted pockets would require a minimum 1/4" gusset for the spine.)

Pockets: With a 9"x 12" pocket folder, the standard pocket size is 9" wide and 4" tall. They are printed on the same side as the Front and Back Covers and fold up from the bottom.  When laying out your piece, remember to rotate the artwork 180° so it will be properly oriented on the finished folder.  Most die-lines for pockets include a V-notch along the middle to accommodate inserted materials, allowing the folder to properly close. The exactly position and angle of these notches can vary, so if you need "critical position" you may want to consult your print vendor.

NOTE: While a 4" pocket is standard, printers sometimes have access to other “standing die-lines” for things like vertical pockets or rounded pockets.  Check with your Sales Representative to see what other options are available without needing to spend extra money on a custom die-line. 

Glue Tabs:  Most pocket folders have "glued pockets" which are closed on one side by using "tabs." The tabs are created from extra cardstock extended from the Front or Back Cover, as shown in our diagram.  The tabs are cut with on a diagonal at the top and bottom, and scored along the face edge of the finished piece.  Measuring 1/2" to 3/4", you will want continue your image bleed across the score line, just as you would for any other bleed edge.   This will be covered by the actual pocket, but will hide any issues arising from bounce or misregistration anywhere along the manufacturing process.

Pocket Slits:  Pockets may have various slits cut into them to hold an assortment of additional materials.  The most common of these are Business Card slits; which allow a business card to be presented with the finished packet.  Typically these are created as 2 diagonal slits cut into the pocket on opposite corners of where the business card would go, although it’s not uncommon to see 4 slits (1 in each corner).  Round semi-circle (or half-moon) slits are sometimes used as well, either in the corners, or along the top and bottom of the positioned card.   Long horizontal barbell-style slits or rounded bar slits are also sometimes cut into the top edge of a pocket to hold CD/DVD sleeves or tri-fold brochures.

While this article only covers the most common pocket folder layouts, there are ENDLESS possibilities of standard or custom options available.   Feel free to contact any of our helpful and courteous Designers or Sales Representativesfor more information about what types of folders might be helpful to your company or organization.



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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: printing, graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, printing services

Tips & Tricks for your Graphic Design Portfolio | InDesign Columns

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Jul 08, 2011 @ 04:37 PM

Adobe InDesign continues to refine and improve it's tools. The video below is a review of the Column Splitting and Spanning feature, which helps eliminate the need for multiple text boxes.  This is ESPECIALLY handy for magazine and newsletter layout, where you might have multiple headers and the potential for far too many text boxes.  If you've been doing Graphic Design and Page Layout for very long, you've no doubt already dealt with clients or editors who've made very substantial changes, maybe even massive re-writes, which requires a major amount of reflowing and rearranging of your layouts.   Life will be so much easier if you use this simple and handy technique to eliminate unnecessary text boxes and keep things neat, tidy, and easy to rework if needed.

Another important point to make is this: The faster and more efficient you can work and rework your projects, the more time you'll have to take on more.  Your clients will be happy with how quickly you can turn out their projects, and you'll be happy with the time you'll save.  Just remember, when everyone is so happy, that Universal Printing was here for you the whole time, sharing our tips, tricks, and experience, to help you become a better designer and have better files for printing.

And as always, many more tutorial videos like the one above can be found on our YouTube channel.  Let us know which tips and tricks you'd like to see!  Leave your suggestions in the comments field below, or leave a comment or video response on any of our YouTube tutorial videos.



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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, setting up your files, commercial printing, CS5 tutorials, product reviews

So you need some brochure design, eh?

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, May 13, 2011 @ 05:01 PM

Tri-fold brochures are one of the most common types of marketing pieces.  They are thin and convenient to carry, or can easy used as a self-mailer.  They offer a slight element of surprise by enticing the viewer to open it and see what’s inside.  Despite how familiar most consumers are with this format, it’s still surprising how few people know how to properly setup their files to create one.

Granted, you might not be using an Adobe application like InDesign or Illustrator. We understand! Not EVERYONE is using top-of-the-line graphic arts software.  SO… if you are stuck using something like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, or even Publisher (ick…) there’s still a RIGHT way to set up your files.

If you are like 99.9 % of Microsoft Word users, you’ll probably start with a New blank page… and then divide the sheet into three equal columns.


Stop Sign


If this is what you’re about to do…. It’s WRONG!   Now this doesn’t make you a terrible person; it just means you didn’t know any better – and that’s okay.  You’ve come for help and we’re here for you.

Anytime you fold something, the inside panels will ALWAYS be shorter than the outside panels. The thickness of your paper would determine how much smaller. For regular paper weights, 1/16” is standard and for cover weights, about 1/8” will work. In the Tools section of our website you can use our handy-dandy Folding Guide.  There you’ll find the dimensions for most common sizes, as well as the ability to calculate fold panels for any size sheet.  You’ll also see that this same concept works for all types of folds.   While you’re visiting the Folding Guide, you can also learn about french folds, double-parallel folds, gate folds, and more! 

To help get you started, we’ve built a few Trifold Brochure templates: 

MS Word Template MS Publisher Adobe InDesign

Go ahead and download them, but take a look at the guides to see how everything is structured.  You’ll notice all of the margins and guides are setup to make your brochures fold properly.   And don’t forget to bookmark for immediate access to our folding guide, proportion calculator, DPI calculator, and a variety other tools and essentials.


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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: printing, graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, commercial printing, CS5 tutorials

5 Things to Remember for Setting Up Your Files for Printing

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:30 PM

Great printing starts with great files.  I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I would guess that maybe 9 out of 10 jobs delayed from getting on press are because those files had to be kicked back and fixed.  For those clients that send files which are truly “print ready”...  THEY get 1 million COOL POINTS!

Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting up files for printing:

You DO have time to BLEED!

 Image with bleedsWhen your images, backgrounds, or borders print all the way to the edge of the sheet, you need to include Bleed.  This means those elements should continue at least 1/8” past the trim edge. We will print your project on a larger sheet and then trim it to final size.  If you’re submitting a PDF, your PDF should be set up for a larger page-size as well.  In short… if your letterhead bleeds, your file should be set up for at least 8.75” x 11.25”

PDFs are GREAT… unless they’re NOT!

PDFs are very handy little files.  In fact, they can be the PERFECT format for sending print-ready files. Just remember that there’s no easy way to edit them.  Proofread your content BEFORE submitting your files, and check your settings so you don’t lose bleeds or image resolution. For more helpful info about this, read How to Save PDF files for better printing!

Don’t make color a GREY area!

By the time you’re ready to submit your files, you should already know how it’s being printed.  Full color projects print as CMYK, so any RGB files might print unexpectedly.  Also, if you’re printing with spot colors, there shouldn’t be any RGB or CMYK data in your files. Be clear on how your files color separate, so you don’t have any surprises down the line.

Seriously… it’s NO IMPOSITION!

Imposition is the term used for how many of something runs on a sheet.  For example, postcards measuring 4 ¼ “ x 5 ½” will fit 4-up on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet;  but if they bleed, you can only fit 2-up on that same sheet.  Also, some people will try to set up their business card files with 10 names all on one sheet.  DON’T!  It’s easier for us, and cheaper for you in the long run, if you just give us one PDF file with multiple pages.  We determine the imposition best for your project based on many factors: the artwork, how many are being printed, which equipment your project will run on, what sheet sizes are readily available for the desired paper, etc.

Use the right tool for the job!

There are a lot of software programs out there that create files, but not all of them were designed for commercial printing.  True… not everyone has access to the entire Adobe Creative Suite. But there are several free or web-based PDF writers available.  Just remember the other rules apply, like including bleed, and knowing that if you’re limited to RGB or CYMK, you’re limited to process or digital printing (unless you spend money having your files fixed.)  Also, even those who DO have legitimate graphic software will make rookie mistakes: Like trying to use Photoshop for everything.  Image editing programs generally shouldn’t be used for business cards. BUT… if that’s all you have, try to do things like leaving your type as vector, and remembering to include your fonts. When you rasterize type it is going to look terrible, especially if you don’t have your resolution set correctly.

If you follow these 5 simple rules, your print projects will always get on press smoothly and quickly.  Not only that… but you’ll be able to get those 1 million COOL POINTS all for yourself! Good luck, and happy file creation.


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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, commercial printing, Adobe Photoshop

More about Color: Digital Color | RGB vs. CMYK

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Jan 21, 2011 @ 10:30 AM

Universal Printing has been in business for over 30 years, and when you're doing something for so long it's easy to forget that things we deal with day-in and day-out are completely foreign and mysterious to other people.  This is the case with RGB and CMYK color spaces.

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten...

Color Wheel | RYB Color ModelMost of us first started to learn about color in school. We learned about the Primary Colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue. We learned that the secondary colors (Orange, Purple and Green) are made from mixing the primary colors: for example, "yellow and blue make green."   While this is generally a good starting point for teaching the basics of color, when it comes to color printing, we need to break color down a little further.

In commercial offset printing, digital printing, and even your inkjet printer at home, color is built from 4 pigments know as Process Colors:

C = Cyan
Y = Yellow

M = Magenta
K = Black

These colors in various combinations, and used at different tints and screen angles, can produce a wide range of color. Even the "primary colors" we were taught are base colors that can't be mixed, are made from mixing the process colors.  "Blue" is made by mixing Cyan and Magenta, and "Red" comes from combining Magenta and Yellow.  The addition of Black is used for darker shades, while lighter shades come from using lighter tints (also known as screens or halftones.)  When you look at any printed piece, it's CMYK.  This color model is considered "subtractive color" because if you start at 100% of all 4 colors, you have a deep rich "black" and you have to subtract color to get to "white."

Have you met Roy G. Biv?

RGB Color WheelAnother thing we were taught in school, is that white light is made from all colors. The example that's always used to demonstrate how this works is a rainbow.  The spectrum of light is arranged in the following order: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet (which is where the acronym ROYGBIV comes from.)  Using this principal the RGB color space uses Red, Green, and Blue light to create color. The RGB model is considered "additive color" because no light is "black" and you have to add color to get to "white."  The best example of this is your television or computer monitor. 

WYSIWYG? What you see isn't always what you get...

Since RGB color and CMYK color is made completely differently, there is often something lost in translation.  A lot of people will put together files for printing and see how it looks on screen, and wonder why it looks completely different when it's printed out. Sometimes people will print things on their inkjet printer and wonder why it looks different than the G7-calibrated Contract Proof we produce.

The whole RGB vs CMYK difference is also why most Commercial Printers will tend to cringe a little when we hear that files for output were originally created in Microsoft Office.  Word, Excel, and Powerpoint were all designed to be business software applications. Any time you chose a color in these programs, you're choosing and RGB color.  If you wanted your project to print as process color, colors will shift... ALWAYS.  Microsoft "red" is a very orange-red, and their "blue" is a deep purple.  The brilliant neon green that Microsoft shows on your screen, will always print like a dark almost forest green.  When we show a color proof of these files, people generally seem surprised. Adobe programs like InDesign and Illustrator will handle colors much better, allowing for RGB color for the web, but also CMYK and Pantone Spot colors.  Even still, computer monitors are never going to be an accurate preview of how printed colors will appear.

It's important to simply understand that color is very complicated, but you can always contact your Customer Service or Sales Representative and they will gladly walk you through the process of getting the best possible color printing for your project.  If color is critical for your project, you'll always want to request a calibrated contract proof (like the proofs WE use) and in some cases you may even want to arrange a Press Proof to see your project while it's being run.

If you've found this article helpful, or if you have any other questions about RGB or CMYK color, please leave a comment below.


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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.


Tags: printing, graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, setting up your files, commercial printing

Choosing Inks for Color Printing - Metallics and other Specialty Inks

Posted by Universal Printing on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 @ 10:20 AM

So far our previous blog posts have talked about Spot Colors, Process Colors, and how the difference between coated and uncoated paper impacts the color and appearance of the ink. Sometimes you might want to get a little more POP from your printed pieces. For some people, metallic ink has great appeal.

Pantone Metallic Ink FormulasOriginally, Pantone offered 7 metallic inks. PANTONE 871 through PANTONE 876 are a range of hues moving from gold to copper, with PANTONE 877 being silver.  Commercial Offset Printers, like us, would occasionally mix these metallic with colored inks to create metallic tints.  By the late 1990's, Pantone issued their first office Formula guide of tinted metallics and currently they offer 300 variations of tinted metallic formulations.

There are a few things to consider if you are working with metallic ink. First of all, unlike process and spot colors, metallic inks are more opaque.  They are less affected by the color or brightness of the paper stock they are printed on, but are still very much impacted by the finish of the paper.  Since metallic inks contain particles of metal (or sometimes synthetic pigments made to resemble metal) they need to knockout from other colors, rather than over printing.  Overprinting can sometimes dramatically change the appearance of the metallic, especially depending on the order in which the inks are printed on the sheet. 

Also, since these metal particles are what give metallic inks their shiny appearance, it's generally a good idea to use them for larger areas. Delicate line art, thin rules, or small type don't make sense for metallic ink, since you wouldn't get the full impact.  Screen and tints wouldn't really show off the benefits either.  Generally, to maximize the effect of metallic inks, you should use larger solid areas and coated paper. This gives the metal particles the best shot at rising to the surface of the ink where they can catch the light and really shine!Metallic Ink | Gold and Silver Bars

Maybe I want use Invisible Ink!

So you've spent a lot of time and energy creating your artwork and setting up your files.  Why would anyone want to use invisible ink?  The truth is, there's a time and place for specialty inks.  And while there's no real "invisible" ink, there are certain types of ink designed to be seen under special circumstances.  UV Fluorescent inks only show up under a UV light. 

There are also "reactive inks" which laydown essentially clear or lightly translucent but will react to special pens or when rubbed with a coin.  The chemical reaction causes the ink to change color and become visible.  Thermochromatic inks will change color or visibility when exposed to heat from friction, like being rubbed with your finger.  Most of these various ink options would only be used when trying to maintain the security or authenticity of a printed project ( for example, checks, official documents, certificates, or special event tickets.)  Scratch-off inks are another type of specialty ink, which can be used for promotional pieces, special giveaways, or hidden messages on direct mail pieces.

If you'd like to learn more about how specialty inks can be used to make your project unique, feel free to contact one of our Customer Service or Sales Representatives. Also, if there are any questions about this article, or information you'd like to see covered in more detail, please feel free to leave a comment below.


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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.

Tags: printing, graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, setting up your files, commercial printing

Choosing Inks for Color Printing - Coated vs. Uncoated

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Jan 14, 2011 @ 12:30 PM

If you read our previous blog post, you should know the difference between Spot Colors and Process Colors and the role they play in commercial printing. Just to recap a few points:

  • Spot Colors are blended from any of 15 different base inks
  • Process Colors are made by using different percentages of the four process inks
    (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) to build colors
  • Even when used as a solid, ink is slightly translucent, not opaque

Coated vs. Uncoated

If you have a Pantone Formula Guide, or if you've used any design programs like the Adobe applications, you know that Pantone colors are listed by number. For example, PANTONE 185 is a bright red, while PANTONE 355 is kelly green.  These colors have a letter after the number, C or U. Older programs might tag these colors as CVC or CVU (for "Computer Video Coated" and "Computer Video Uncoated"), but this has largely been abandoned. Either way, when you see these letters they refer to the type of paper. C stands for "coated" and U stands for "uncoated." In some rare instances you might see an M for "matte," which is still technically a coated stock. In the world of Pantone though "coated" means GLOSS coated... as in, shiny paper. In this post, when you see "coated" you'll know we mean "gloss coated." 

Coated papers have a smooth finish, where the paper is pressed and polished while hot or steamed during the manufacturing process. This coating makes the paper less absorbent and takes ink better. Think of it as the coat of primer you'd use before painting your walls.

Pantone Coated and Uncoated chipsUncoated paper is just that; paper without the coated layer. It's often used for letterhead, printer paper, copy machine paper, etc.  Sometimes it will be classified as "bond" or "writing," but those are  just other ways of saying "uncoated." it's fair to say, if coated paper is less absorbent (like a wall with primer) than uncoated paper is MORE absorbent (like a wall WITHOUT primer!)

Regardless of whether a color is C or U, the ink is made the same. The image to the right shows that PANTONE 293 C and PANTONE 293 U look very different, but are made from the same formula (equal parts of Reflex Blue and Process Blue.) Since coated papers allow the ink to sit on the surface, it remains rich and vibrant. The uncoated sheet allows more ink to be absorbed into the paper.  Sometimes the minerals used as pigment to color the inks effect how it will absorbed and also effects the color.

Notice PANTONE 290 C and PANTONE 290 U are closer in color.  This color is made mostly from Transparent White (which you'll remember is essentially "clear" and allows more paper to show though the ink.) Since only 3.2% of the mixture is actual pigmented ink, it's less affected by the coated and uncoated paper. As a result, coated and uncoated versions of lighter colors like yellow and light shades of blue, red, or green, will match more closely, while darker shades and colors will look different... sometimes VERY different.

In fact, some designers will go as far as to choose different spot colors for their files, depending on the stock that's used.  PANTONE 710 U don't really match PANTONE 710 C very well, but PANTONE 185 U does match fairly well.

The color difference in coated and uncoated stocks is also true for Process Colors, though for slightly different reasons.  Process color allows a wider array of colors due to using halftones and blending tints of each process color.  Everything is made up of dots; big dots, little dots, but dots nonetheless (if you need a visual, check our previous blog Spot Color vs Process Color.)  These dots of varying sizes are more likely to be effected by something called "dot gain."  Remember how uncoated stocks are more absorbent, which means they will be more likely to cause the ink dots to swell slightly? This is dot gain. Most everyone knows the Bounty Paper Towel commercials, where the paper towel is used on a small spill and as the towel absorbs it, the spot on the towel spreads out.  Ink on uncoated paper does a similar thing, so a halftone dot of magenta that's set for 50%, could swell up to 55% on some stocks and causing the color to shift slightly.

The bottom line is, whether you choose a coated paper or an uncoated paper for your project, you'll want to work closely with your Customer Service or Sales Representative. They can always provide you with coated or uncoated chips of different Pantone colors.  You can also request a Press Proof, where you can see your job running on press and review the final version for yourself. 


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Universal Printing
Offering quality printing and communications solutions to
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Triangle since 1979.

Tags: printing, graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, setting up your files, commercial printing