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

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

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