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

What Did YOU Learn about Full Color Printing Today?

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Mar 11, 2011 @ 02:42 PM

 

“All I need are minds for molding.” – Jack Black (as Dewey Finn in School of Rock)

 

School of Rock promo picIf you haven’t seen the movie School of Rock, it’s about a man named Dewey Finn, hard rock singer and guitarist, who is kicked out of his band.  He disguises himself as a substitute teacher at a private prep school and forms a rock band from his fifth-grade students in order to compete in the upcoming Battle of the Bands.

Ok, that being said:

… I’m not as crazy or edgy as Jack Black
… and I wasn’t working grade school kids
… and we didn’t learn anything about Rock Music

But we WERE working on one of my favorite annual projects. 

Each Spring we print posters, flyers, and other materials for the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, a four-day festival of art, music, and dance held in Chatham County, NC and features  bands from all around the world.  Our friends at Shakori Hills are proud supporters of the arts and of the community. One of the ways they demonstrate both is in their work with the Digital Print Production class from Alamance Community College, who creates and designs these pieces as one of their class projects.

Denise Archuleta, professor of Advertising and Graphic Design, takes great care to ensure these students understand how to design and build their files FOR PRINT!  Part of their class project includes a field trip to Universal Printing for a tour of our company and to take part in their press proof.  During their visit got to learn all about who we are and what we do.  We talked about how printing works, the importance of color, and also our status as a G7 Master Printer and our sustainable print initiatives that help preserve the environment. 

These students are generally interested in listening to what we have to share,  and they’re always curious to see the Art Department and all of the computers, scanners, and output devices.  Field Trip photos: Follow us on FacebookWhen we enter the plate room, they start to get a little more interested: Curious about how we image directly onto the aluminum plates and such.

But then, it happens…  my favorite part of the tour; and it happens the same way every year.

We enter the Pressroom: A large, wide open space with 30ft ceilings, the humming and whirring of running machinery, and the sweet unforgettable scent of fresh ink. Eyes widen, lips curl into smiles, and these eager young minds are now FULLY engaged and ready to soak it all in.  I can’t help but get excited when these students start asking questions. You can almost see their minds churning, wanting to understand and learn.  Sure, we can “talk” about process color and how it works, but to actually show them single pulls of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, and let them see the ink keys on the press and how they affect the color THAT is when it all makes sense. For the rest of their stay they are “all in.” Even when they leave, you can see their smiles and hear them talking about everything they saw and everything they thought. 

As I said… it’s one of my favorite projects each year. All I need are minds for molding.

 

Universal Printing Blog Logo

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, printing services, G7, green printing, environmental responsibility, color correction, master printer, calibration

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

 

Universal Printing Blog Logo

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

The Dog Didn't Eat Our Homework...

Posted by Universal Printing on Thu, Jul 01, 2010 @ 03:23 PM

Last Spring we went through our GRACoL qualification process. I was told to expect a couple of days, a few thousand press sheets, several sets of plates, and a potential risk to the sanity of my press-operator. In reality, it was much easier than any of us could have anticipated. Our G7 Expert Color Consultant from Fuji gave us credit for already following many of the "best practices" that GRACoL recommends for a successful qualification.

The benefits: Making colors print sharper and more consistently across multiple printing devices allowing you to benefit from the best-priced print technology without compromising quality. Not as easy as it sounds, since we offer lots of different color devices and each use their own inks or toners, papers, and their own software RIPs. GRACoL 7 bridges the gap . For those techie-geeky types that want to know the in-depth explanations of GRACoL, GRACoL 7, and G7, feel free to click here.

Fortunately, we do our homework (and kept it away from the dog!) We start with quality papers from environmentally responsible sources and use eco-friendly inks and toner. Then we follow that up with regular calibration and an industry leading QA system to monitor our color. The final ingredient is skilled and knowledgeable staff, who continue to monitor color through the entire run.

Seems simple, but apparently it's not! I guess that's why our G7 Expert Color Consultant seemed surprised when our first test sheets, from our first test plates, were almost within specs without having changed a thing. A process that could have taken two days, took just over two hours on press.

So we proudly became one of the first printing companies in the Carolinas to qualify as G7 Master Printers. And now, one year later, we've gone through our first RE-qualification process and are STILL only one of seven G7 Master Printers in the Carolinas. GRACoL has made some changes in their qualification criteria and expectations are a little higher. We weren't scared, though... hit it on our first pull. Piece of cake!

Tags: printing, graphic design, Gracol, G7, color correction, master printer, calibration