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!

 

 

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, setting up your files, commercial printing, offset printing, Gracol, G7, Adobe Photoshop, color correction

Printing Ink 101: Why Reflex Blue makes people CRAZY!

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Mar 02, 2012 @ 12:35 PM

Here’s a simple “fun” fact about printing: Printers CRINGE at projects with dark blue ink!

“Why?” you ask.  True simple words: REFLEX BLUE

Colbalt is one mineral that keeps Reflex Blue from drying.In a previous blog post, Spot Color vs Process Color, we talked about the 14 Pantone mixing inks that are used to build all other Pantone colors.  One of these colors is Reflex Blue, which is a color best described as a deep blue-violet hue.  It’s much richer than its closest mixing ink, Blue 072.  Reflex Blue gets its rich color from a family of pigments referred to as Alkali Blue pigments, which includes the mineral cobalt.  These mineral are VERY strong in color, and give Reflex Blue it’s rich deep hue.  But like most of other alkaline minerals (like limestone and soapstone) they are very porous, even at the granular level. In short, the thing that makes Reflex Blue look like Reflex Blue, are minerals that act like lil mini sponges.

So… for those not familiar with printing, the process is best described as a balancing act!   All press operators are constantly juggling 4 parts:

Image (generally on a metal or polyester plate)

Ink (the liquid, oil-based color that’s being printed)

Water (pH specific water and other additives to aid with conductivity, release, and drying,
typically called “Fountain Solution”)

Paper (the text or cover stock you’re running, along with its thickness and finish.)

Once the ink is transferred onto the paper, it’s very wet and easily smudged or smeared. Before it can be handled, or even printed on the second site, the ink needs time to dry.  Certain colors dry faster. Generally lighter colors will dry very quickly, darker colors take a bit longer. And then there’s our good, old-faithful Reflex Blue:  Remember all those lil mini sponges that make it such a great color?  Yes… these also work VERY hard against the drying process, Depending on the surface of the stock, and the amount of coverage, there are some experts that will say Reflex Blue NEVER really fully dries.

Wait… there’s more!

We got the blues!For any of you that are lucky enough to have a Pantone book, you may notice that most of them have mixing formulas.  Let’s look at a very standard Royal Blue color: Pantone 286. The formula for mixing that is 25% Process Blue and 75% Reflex Blue. As a result, it’s going to take a while to dry. Compare that to Pantone 2747, which appears to be a darker, deeper navy blue. That formula is about 94% Blue 072 and 6% Black NO REFLEX! A slightly different set of minerals allow this color, which appears deeper, to actually dry faster.  Strange, indeed!

Why does this matter? 

It’s important to know at the design and project planning stage what inks you’re dealing with.  If you or your clients have their hearts set on an ink made with Reflex Blue, you may want to consider a coating or varnish option to help with handling the finished pieces.  You also may need to factor in additional production time into the printing of the piece.

 

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: printing, graphic design, commercial printing, offset printing, G7

It's about CHOICE! Digital Printing vs. Offset Printing

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Apr 08, 2011 @ 12:03 PM

Helping you decide between Digital and Offset Printing

One of the advantages of being in business for over thirty years, is that we've seen a lot of exciting changes in the world of commercial printing and graphics communications. Computer-to-Plate (CTP) systems have made a huge impact in traditional offset printing, providing better printing plates capable of amazing image quality.  Our chemistry-free plating system develops on press which adds an incredible environmental benefits as well.  Technology has lead to major improvements in the areas of digital printing and copying also — using faster, more precise RIPS, and producing higher resolution output in shorter periods of time. When you add our GRACoL G7 processes into the mix, you get dynamic color which is repeatable and matches across ALL devices. Exciting stuff!

As proven experts in both Digital Printing and traditional Offset Printing, we have a great deal of experience and advice that we're more than happy to share with our clients. First, let's take a look at the advantages of each printing method:

Advantages of Digital

  • Lower cost per unit for shorter runs (no money tied up in plates or make-ready)
  • Faster turn-around times (no drying time required.)
  • Variable Data printing so each page can be unique
  • Instant Proofing, since each proof IS a print
  • Less waste since there's virtually ZERO make-ready


Advantages of Offset

  • Lower cost per unit for longer runs (Unit cost goes down as print quantity goes up)
  • Better Quality with higher image resolution (especially when combined with CTP, like we do!)
  • More paper options (Most digital devices require special papers and smooth finishes, which makes linen and laid finishes challenging or not possible)
  • Pantone Spot Color and Metallic Ink options (Not all colors can be built from CMYK, no matter how hard you try!)


Making your decision...

Once you've weighed all your options, it comes down to the needs and requirements of each unique project.  Digital is clearly the best option for small runs needed in a hurry, as long as you don't need special papers or spot colors.  If you have time, need a bunch, and have special corporate colors to match, you can't beat traditional offset.

Fortunately, while the choice is clearly yours, you never have to figure it out all alone.  You're always welcome to contact one of our knowledgeable Customer Service or Sales Representatives. They will always be happy to help you choose the best solution for your project, while meeting your budget and time-line.

 

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: commercial printing, printing services, digital printing, offset printing, G7, green printing, environmental responsibility, variable data

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

Printing with Soy Ink is NOT Green Printing

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Nov 05, 2010 @ 01:30 PM

We talk a lot about "green printing" and what it means to be environmentally responsible. This is a topic that has always been important to us. Universal Printing has been a leader and innovator in aggressive environmentally responsible printing practices for over 30 years.

This blog is dedicated to discussing the Soy Bean/Soy Ink "Bait-N-Switch." Some might wonder, "What did soy beans ever do to you?" Well sorry, little soybean... my problem isn't with you; It's with your most vocal lobbyist and cheerleader, the American Soybean Association.  For over 90 years, this body has worked to champion the rights of America soybean farmers, a noble cause that I find no fault with. Farmers are a vital part of our society, our history, and our economy.

But here is where the ASA went wrong...  when they tried to become a Brand.  During the 1980's, the ASA officially set their requirements for using their Soy Ink seal on products. In the case of printing ink, the requirement was that at least 20% of the oil used come from soy.  The rest can be whatever... petroleum or petroleum byproducts, anything at all... as long as 20% is soy. Granted, it was a step in the right direction, and that was 1980.  Now it's 2010, folks, and we can do better!

I'll hand it to the ASA, though. They've marketed their brand extremely well. Even still, we have customers that will talk about soy ink when they want to be "eco-friendly." Most people who work in the industry will even fall back on that old standard. 

But here at Universal Printing, we know there are better, cleaner, more reliable inks available.  Our inks are linseed oil based, like the linseed oil that's been used for centuries by artists and craftsmen alike.  It's 100% vegetable, fully biodegradable, and the pigments are allowed to remain bright and vivid. It's just great stuff.  It's helped is maintain our GRACoL G7 standards, allowed us to win national-level printing awards, and is a cornerstone in our environmental responsibility campaigns.

So, sorry soybean, it's not that you're bad: We're just not right for each other.  If it's any consolation... we may not like soy oil or soy ink, but we're still big fans of soy sauce! Hmm..  perhaps some Chinese take-out for dinner later. 

Tags: printing, commercial printing, printing services, business solutions, blog, Gracol, G7, green printing, environmental responsibility

Green Printing.... what does it really mean?

Posted by Universal Printing on Fri, Oct 22, 2010 @ 10:30 AM

We love paper... LOVE it!  Our slogan for the past 30 years has been "Making You Look Better On Paper, ON TIME!"  It's something we truly believe in and strive to accomplish daily. We also hope that it's something that all printers, graphic designer, and marketing professionals all agree on: Paper ROCKS!

When many of our customers approach us, they want to know how they can produce something that's environmentally responsible.  Some will be familiar with some lingo... throwing out terms like "chain-of-custody," "carbon footprint," "petroleum free," and "green printing." Though by-and-large the term most often mentioned is "recycled."

"I want recycled paper!"  

"How much post-consumer waste is in this paper?"

"Let's get some recycled paper and use a recycled logo." 

Let's look at a bigger picture though.  There's more to it than just looking at recycled content in paper.  One should look closely at the entire process.  Now sure, printing companies like ours play a part. For example, we have a very healthy environmental policy in place, and try to make long and short term business decision with environmental responsibility in mind.  But what's more important is to take a look at where the paper comes from. Where are the sources, how is it being made, and what are the ecological impacts of that process?

PrintGrowsTrees

We at Universal Printing have chosen our paper suppliers very carefully, and do our best to ensure that all of our suppliers have aggressive environmental policies in place. A great source of information is the Print Grows Trees site. It talks about how printing is good for trees, which makes a lot of sense.  After all, there are a lot of synthetic papers out there, and almost none of them of are as eco-friendly as good, old-fashioned, made-from-trees paper. Few are recyclable, and most have very high carbon footprints in their manufacturing process.

At the end of the day... it's really all about what's best for the environment, for our customers, and for our community. We like trees... and we LOVE paper.

Tags: G7, green printing, environmental responsibility, recycling, carbon footprint

Tips to enhance your graphic design portfolio

Posted by Universal Printing on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 @ 01:42 PM

John Francis, Art Director for Universal Printing, has created some helpful videos of "tips and tricks" for helping you get noticed and stand out from your competition. Before setting up your files, watch some of our helpful tutorial videos like the one shown below.

And remember... you don't have to be a design expert! You're always welcome to enlist the help of our Graphic Design team to help you make a statement, refine your message, and stand out from the rest of the pack.  Afterall, if you can't get noticed you can't deliver your messege, right?

 

Universal Printing Graphic Design Portfolio

Universal Printing has offered award-winning graphic design services for the past three decades. Click the graphic above to check out our online graphic design portfolio!

More tutorial videos, like the one shown above, will be featured on our YouTube channel in the future. So tell us what you're looking for! 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.

Tags: graphic design, Adobe InDesign tips, tips and tricks, setting up your files, G7, CS5 tutorials, Illustrator Training video

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