Commercial Printing Tips: Understanding Ink Coverage

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 @ 03:00 PM

Here at Universal Printing, we love "Good Design."  Thank You Mr. Puppy, for helping us underand Total Ink CoverageNot only do we have our own talented Design professionals in-house, but we've been fortunate to work with a number of amazing Ad Agencies and Independent Designers from around the country. Everyone has their own style and work habits, but almost all of them have one thing in common: They always want tips, suggestions, and feedback from their Printing Partner. 

One of the easiest and most helpful ways to improve the design, runability, and final impact of a piece, is to avoid unnecessary ink saturation.  Too much ink an any one spot can lead to printing and drying issues, which in turn effect everything from how quickly your project can be printed, to possible issues in the cutting and finishing of your project. Too much ink layered on top of each other can lead to other prblems like "plugging" or "muddying" your photos.  But don't fret — we're here to help!  Let's start with this adorable puppy in a tiny rocking chair in the above image. He looks like he could sell something, or at least make sure your target audient give him a second look!  Time to figure out how to maximize his impact, and keep is adorable little puppy face neat and clean! 

What is Total Area Coverage? 

Ink Coverage Puppy AnimationFor Black & White, or Monochrome images, this is easy to understand.  Dark shadow areas might be in the 90% tint range, while Highlight areas may fall more into a 5%-15% tint.  With Full Color images, things get more intense! You now have 4 different ink colors, all piling on top of each other.  If you piled have 4 layers of ink, all at 50% screen, you'll get a total of 200% Total Area Coverage in that area.  If those layers are 80% each, you'll have a combined 320% Total Area Coverage.  As a general rule, 280% is about as high as you want to go, depending on paper type and finish. We usually flag anything above 260% total ink.

Fortunately, with the latest Adobe products, checking your Total Area Coverage has become a simple few clicks of the mouse.  Take Adobe Acrobat, for instance:  You simply open your image or PDF file, and then open the "Output Preview" window under the "Print Production" tools.  Under the window showing your Separations, you'll see a "Total Area Coverage" checkbox.  Click it, select your highlight color (green in our example below), and select 260% in the dropdown box.  You'll see that Mr. Fuzzy-Face has a TON of ink in the background, all over his chair, and most importantly his eyes and nose. Those eyes are where he makes his money, so next we'll see how to adjust for that!

Puppy Ink Coverage

Fixing the Issue in Photoshop

Generally speaking, there are several ways to adjust for the Total Ink Coverage in your images.  The fastest and easiest is in Photoshop, assuming your images are still RGB.  We’re going to rely on Adobe’s built-in GCR (Grey Component Replacement) process.  GCR is simply this: We want to take those super saturated built blacks, which are causing all of the excessive ink buildup, and transfer some of the built shadow to the Black channel.  In this case, Pup-Dizzle’s eyes and nose and chair, start at almost 300% (C=78% | M=70% | Y=63% | K=85%).   We want to lower the C, M, Y channels proportionately to not affect the hue, and enhance the black to enhance the darkness.  

Universal Printing GCR settings for Adobe Photoshop

Start by opening your RGB image in Photoshop, and select “Color Settings” from the Edit menu.  Next, choose “Custom CMYK…” under the CMYK dropdown in the Working Spaces section of the window.  Set the Separation Options to GCR, with Black Generation set to “Heavy” or “Maximum”, and put “260%” in the Total Ink Limit field.  

Name this setting and click OK to apply it and also save it for future use.  Feel free to toggle the Preview on and off before clicking OK again, and you should notice that in most images, there is very little visual change, but when you set your color mode from RGB to CMYK, most of the shadows are pushed to the Black separation where they belong, and the Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow are simply making the colors colorful.  Visually, the picture is almost identical to where it started, but now those shadow areas build differently (C=61% | M=50% | Y=48% | K=95%) with a more manageable 254% Total Area Coverage.

By controlling your Total Area Coverage, you can ensure the best possible results from your photos and graphics. You’ll also run into fewer color shifts, delays due to drying time, and possible quality issues during the finishing process.  For more information about 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 is always available to point you in the right direction!

 

 

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

 

Tags: graphic design, setting up your files, commercial printing, offset printing, Gracol, G7, Adobe Photoshop, color correction

Your Printing New Year’s Resolution... Is To Understand Resolution!

Posted by Universal Printing on Tue, Jan 03, 2012 @ 04:16 PM

DPI… PPI... dots per inch... points per inch... pixels per inch... No matter how you say it, it all comes down to one simple thing: RESOLUTION. In order to get the BEST print quality from your images, you need to know it, understand it, and never take it for granted.

First off, we need to know what resolution means. Resolution is how many dots/pixels fit into one inch. The term “dots per inch” (dpi) and “pixels per inch” (ppi) are often used interchangeably. The fewer dots or pixels per inch, the larger each one is, so low resolution images will look jaggy and chucky.  Images used for the web will be LOW RESOLUTION (referred to as “Low Res”) at about 72 – 95ppi. For digital or offset printing, we suggest that you use images between 300 – 400dpi. The higher the resolution, the sharper and crisper your printed image will be. Who wouldn't want that?

High Resolution vs Low Resolution

When dealing with images for print, here are a few simple rules to follow:

  1. Resolution and image size are directly related to each other. Enlarge an image, the resolution decreases; reduce an image, and the resolution increases. For example: a 2 x 2" image at 300 dpi (awesome) enlarged to 4 x 4" has a new resolution of 150 dpi (lame). To help you figure your enlargement/reduction resolution, check out our Resolution Calculator.
  2. Photos should be at least 300dpi at final production size in the layout.
  3. Graphics that include text should be at least 400dpi final output size (so the edges of the type remain clear.)
  4. You can always be taken away, but it can NEVER be added. True, you can shrink your image, but to get HIGH RESOLUTION images, the resolution needs to be set during the initial creation of that image. So if you’re scanning, shooting with a digital camera, or creating from scratch, what you start with is the most you’ll get.
  5. What you see is NOT what you’ll always get! Computer monitors generally have a display setting of 72 dpi. This is WAY lower than the 300-400 dpi we expect for print production. If we ever tell you that some of your images are low resolution, they may not look bad on your monitor but will likely print blurry or jagged.

Things to avoid:

Web images are predominately low resolution (72-96 dpi) GIF or JPEG files. This resolution is great for quick transmission over the internet, but not for printing. They will just look BAD, so don't do it.  Just don't!

“Upsampling” is when a low resolution image is saved to a higher resolution with no changes in dimensions. This simply adds more dots per inch (dpi), but creates blurry images, ugly blocks of color, and high contrast in images. The only way resolution can be improved is by decreasing the image size, or by recapturing the image at a higher quality setting. Again, don't do it.  It won't fool ANYONE!

Now you are starting to understand what "resolution" is, and you're eager to learn more!  Maybe you're curious on how to put this new found knowledge to use.  Maybe you got a really cool digital camera or snazzy smart phone for Christmas, and are ready to take amazing pictures and use them for your design projects.  Come back NEXT week to see how to set your devices to get the best resolution from your digital photos!

 

 

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

 

Tags: graphic design, setting up your files, Adobe Photoshop, Photos, Digital camera

Why In the WORLD would I go to a Printing Company for Graphic Design?

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Nov 11, 2011 @ 11:45 AM

Universal Printing takes great pride in offering the best of all graphic communication worlds: Award Winning Graphic Design, G7 Master Printer level digital output and commercial printing, and the latest in Direct Mail, featuring variable data and cross-media marketing solutions.  Over the years, we’ve worked with a lot of clients and companies who find themselves getting into a 2- or 3-prong approach with their projects: One company for design, another print, and sometimes even a third to handle the mailing.  Not a very efficient process, in our opinion.  WE always want to focus more on what is in the best interest of our clients.  Here’s a few reasons why a “single source solution” makes sense.

Design + Print is time-tested!

Universal offers Graphic Design, with or without LatteThis concept has been used time and time again in the construction and manufacturing industries, known as Design/Build.  We apply the same same principles at Universal Printing. When the people who are designing a piece are the people who are producing the piece, “unexpected surprises” just disappear!  All of our Graphic Design professionals work closely with other members of our production team, giving us the advantage of keeping current on the latest printing techniques, being familiar with folding and finishing requirements, and also having direct access to paper merchants and their pricing models.

“Less Expensive” is
NOT the same as “Cheap”

Often time, our Design quotes are significantly lower than Agency prices.  Some might think that it’s about the talent of our staff or the quality of our product.  “More expensive” must mean “better,” right?  WRONG!  Our Graphic Design team has won several regional and national design awards, and is comprised of graphics professionals from the fields of advertising, magazine production, and Fine Arts.  The reason WE can offer such aggressive pricing is because we don’t have to cover many of their overhead costs.  They need to pay for their office space, utilities, equipment, and the occasional latte or two. Why help pay for the rent and electricity of THREE buildings?  OUR staff is in our own building, using our digital prepress equipment, so keeping everything under one roof keeps our cost down, which is passed onto you.  It’s just that simple!

It’s all about the Bundles!

Contractors do it. Restaurants do it. The cable TV and satellite companies do it. Insurance companies do it.  EVERYONE recognizes the power of bundling products and services. WE are no different.  When you bundle together design, print, and direct mail, you only have one point of contact to deal with.  One person to coordinate with keeps you off the phone and out of your email inbox, and lets you deal with all the other aspects of your job.  “One call does it all.”  “Set it, and forget it.”  “Have it your way.”  We can’t actually use those slogans, but you get the idea.

No More Finger-Pointing!

Keeping everything under one roof keeps it simple and eliminates unnecessary “he said/she said” or “finger-pointing.” Ever dealt with any of these scenarios?
  • The Mailer says the Designer didn’t setup the address panels properly
  • The Designer says the Mailer stuck unnecessary labels or tabs all over the finished piece
  • The Printer says the Designer didn’t set up their files correctly
  • The Mailer says the Printer didn’t supply enough finished pieces to process the mailing

These problems all go away when the Designer, Printer, and Mailer are all under one roof. We know, understand, and can implement those ever-changing Postal requirements at the Design stage.  Our files will always print without surprises and we’ll always print enough to ensure your entire mailing is processed timely and efficiently.  Not only will we save you time, save you money, and reduce your stress; who knows, maybe we'll even throw in a free latte.

 

 

 

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

 

Tags: commercial printing, digital printing, Graphic Design Durham, graphic design raleigh, green printing, internet marketing, email marketing, emarketing, direct mail, multi channel marketing, Adobe Photoshop, variable data, cross-media marketing

Commercial Offset Printing: Just Ink on Paper… or IS it?!

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 @ 04:00 PM

It should be pretty clear to anyone who knows and does business with us, that we love what we do!  Each day is different, filled with new projects and opportunities (and occasionally some  “curve balls” to troubleshoot and solve.) But I can promise… it’s NEVER boring!  We work on a lot of different types of projects, too.  Sometimes we have an awesome graphic design project in-house or some large direct mail project, other times we’ll have complex kits to produce and assemble.  It’s safe to say, that every project we work on is unique and important in its own way.

BUT… sometimes we get to work on a project that stands out because it’s more than simply ink on paper: It’s the opportunity to change someone’s life forever.  Last week we were fortunate enough to take part in one of those projects.

For the past few years, we’ve produced posters for the Army Navy Photograph Print Project. Each year, during the Army/Navy Game in Philadelphia, the Corp of Cadets from the US Military Academy and the Brigade of Midshipmen from the US Naval Academy take part in the March-On celebration. Photographs of each group are taken and later “digitally stitched” together and become the subject of two highly detailed panoramic posters.  Once the poster files have been prepared, they are presented to us in the form of high-definition Photoshop files and photographic prints.  Most people realize there is a decent amount of color shift between photographs and process-color printing.  Of course, as GRACoL G7 Master Printers, our calibration curves and color profiles allow us to address these color shifts easily and accurately.  Even the photographer himself, who comes to press-proof the project each year, seems amazed at how accurate our press run is compared to his original photographs.

Operation Support Our Troops PostersThe proceeds from the sale of these commemorative posters have gone toward providing incredible things in support of our troops.  Everything from fully equipped handicapped accessible vans (given to war veterans who’ve lost limbs in action) to neoprene face masks (for soldiers actively on duty in temperatures at or below freezing) have been purchased with the help of this project. Sizable donations to other support organizations, like Returning Heroes Home, have also been made.  It’s simply an amazing project and does so much to help our troops.  No matter what your race, religion, or political affiliation, we all seem to find common ground when it comes to our support for the men and women who dedicate their lives to preserving our freedom.

So at the end of the day, we produce high quality printing, standout graphic design, and an amazing array of other products and services.  We don’t save lives; but in a small way, the part we play in projects like these helps CHANGE lives… and that feels pretty darn good!

For more information about this project, visit the Army Navy Photographic Print Project

 

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

 

Tags: graphic design, commercial printing, G7, Adobe Photoshop, color correction, calibration, poster printing

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.
www.universalprinting.com

 

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

Digital Image Editing | Removing an Image From It's Background

Posted by Universal Printing on Tue, Jan 25, 2011 @ 10:30 AM

Photoshop has come a long way since its original release back in 1991.  Sure... I know some of you hardcore Adobe fans will argue and say it first came out in 1988. But let's get real... Photoshop didn't REALLY become impressive until it's version 2.0 release. 

Like most commercial printing companies, we use Photoshop ALL the time.  Probably more than most, since we also offer in-house graphic design. Our art director, John Francis, has put together a super helpful and easy to follow tutorial that shows how to remove the background from an image.Mouse Image from Stock Photography

Once you go through this tutorial, you will be able to take any image and remove the subject from its background.  This will allow you to easily drop the image into another layout from Adobe Illustrator or InDesign without the need to spend a lot of time tracing or created complex clipping paths. This is also helpful if you need to replace the background with another Photoshop image.

Sample of Image placed into a layout

 

More tutorial videos like the one shown below, are featured on our YouTube channel.  Need help setting up a calendar, or samples of the latest tools and effects in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, or Photoshop? Using CS4, or want to learn more about CS5? Maybe you just want to know the fastest way to get those special text effects. 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 responce on any of our YouTube tutorial videos.

Watch the video below for step-by-step instructions!

Tags: graphic design, tips and tricks, commercial printing, Universal Printing, CS5 tutorials, Adobe Photoshop, training video, Photohop