Archive for the ‘Four Color Process’ Category

Crossovers Are Just Asking For Trouble.

Monday, June 8th, 2009

What is a crossover? A crossover is an image that crosses over the center-fold in a multiple page product, like a magazine, or catalog. Your printer will try to explain the difficulty involved in producing crossovers, but until you’ve been up-close-and-personal with a project  where the crossovers failed, you won’t completely understand.

Why is that a problem? This would be easier to explain if I were face-to-face with you, but since I’m not I’m going to attempt to lead you through a little demonstration.

  1. Get a piece of paper, size doesn’t matter, but make sure you can fold it easily.
  2. If your paper is the standard 8 1/2″X11″ fold it in half so it is now 5 1/2″X8 1/2″.
  3. Keep the fold at the top and fold in half again to 4 1/4″X5 1/2″.
  4. This particular fold would result in an 8 page form.
  5. Now with the folded form, keeping the fold at the top, begin numbering the lower right hand corners–1 through 8.
  6. Be sure to number both sides of the paper or you’ll only have 4 instead of 8. If you don’t get 8 you’ve missed something.
  7. Open your sheet of paper.

Notice that on one side the page numbers are 1, 4, 5, and 8. On the other side the numbers are 2,3, 6, and 7. Now notice where the numbers are in relationship to one another. Numbers 2 and 3 are on opposite sides and so are 6 and 7. Are you with me so far?

Refold the paper along the original creases. Take a pair of scissors, or hand rip the folded top off. What you have is a little booklet with all of the pages numbered consecutively, but it wasn’t that way before you took of the top fold was it?  The only pages on the flat sheet that were next to each other were pages 4 and 5, which is what we call the center fold. The center fold is a breeze, but it is the other pages 2 & 3 and 6 & 7 that cause the problem. If the press operator is unable to make a near perfect color match from one side of the sheet to the other pages 2 & 3 for example when brought together for the final product will look very odd. One page could be more blue and the other more yellow. That would be an unfortunate look for a landscape, but a total disaster for a portrait. Color shifts are very visible in flesh tones.

If you look at the double-truck catalog spread example below you will notice a definite color shift in the background.


Assuming that this all made sense, what can a designer do about crossovers?

  • Center spread crossovers are pretty restrictive, so the next obvious thing is to use them sparingly. I have seen whole catalogs where crossovers occur on every page. Those press checks must have been a total nightmare. A dash of salt is a good thing for the stew, but a box of salt is not. If you know what I mean.
  • Design the position of the crossovers so that they bypass any critical areas. I once worked on a brochure where a man’s ear was definitely a khaki green compared to the rest of his face.
  • Be aware that even if you do a press check, color changes as the press runs. Even the simple physics of friction heat building up on the rollers will change the viscosity of the inks. Speed of the press is also a factor. If the press is stopped because of a problem and restarted, is it running at exactly the same speed? Part of the press operator’s job is to continuously pull press sheets to make sure the color is staying within tolerances, but if the piece was designed with very exact  crossovers someone is going to be disappointed. Do I mean to say it can’t be done? No, I don’t mean that at all. What I mean is that it is unlikely.
  • Do You Speak Printer?

    Monday, April 13th, 2009

    Every industry has its own language. If you are an attorney you use words like torts, writs, and injunctions. If you are a medical practitioner you use words like subdural hemotoma, tibia, and oxygen saturation. To the initiated these words are perfectly clear and immediately understandable. To the layperson, they can be intimidating and frustrating.

    The printing business is full of its own words too. I wouldn’t expect a reader of this blog to get completely up-to-speed on printer talk by reading this, but I’m going to list some printing terms and attempt to describe them in such a way that you will be a little more comfortable with them.

    In a previous blog Printing Dots and CYMK I discussed four color process printing. Here are some words associated with color printing that you will hear spoken:

    • Dots Printing is done with dots.  Not all printing dots are round, some are elliptical and others square (Stochastic).This one is easy to demonstrate.. If you look at any printed piece  under magnification you’ll see the dots. People’s faces are very interesting because all the colors of dots are there.
    • Screen A screen is a pattern of dots. Each color is angled differently to avoid some unintended Moire` patterns, which could show as wavy lines or blobs.
    • Registration When the colored dots are aligned perfectly on the printed sheet they are in register. If they are off they are called out of register. The easiest way to see if printing is in register is with magnification, or if your short range vision is very good, or the registration is horribly off, you’ll see blurry edges. Usually this can be corrected on press by moving the printing plates into better alignment.
    • Ghosting This term is more difficult to explain. Once you see it you’ll understand. You’ll recognize it most often when solid color borders are used on a page. Imagine a picture frame. It has four sides and an empty place where the picture goes. The frame is like a printed border. On the sides the border is continuous but in the middle there is for all intents and purposes nothing. When the paper passes through the press there is an ink buildup, when it comes around again the ink buildup has to go somewhere.  Your printed image will show a distinct color variation from one side of the ghost line to the other.
    • Digital Proof Most printers use digital proofs for color printing. These proofs come from the computer and are intended to be a close approximation of what you should see on press. As of this writing there is not a proofing system that will exactly replicate the image you are printing.  Close is all we can do.
    • High Res Proof and Low Res Proofs: Many printers will produce two proofs for your color job. The high res proof is more expensive to make, but is more color accurate. Low res proofs are excellent for booklets and any folded piece, and cost less. It is always a good idea to see a folded example of your job, otherwise it could be backed up wrong (upside-down) or have page numbers out of sequence.
    • Press Check: I’ve discussed press checks in previous blogs such as: If the printer doesn’t offer a press check and the piece is critical, be sure to request one yourself. It is the last opportunity for you to check it and gives you the chance to meet those who are producing it. I firmly believe that if they associate a face with a name you’ll generally get better work. It’s best not to be invisible. Plus with each press check you will learn something new.

    This list is in no way comprehensive, but if you can these seven terms and use them correctly you will get more respect from the printer. They will feel like they are dealing with someone who has some understanding of what they do. I’ll drop in other terms on future blogs, so you can keep learning.

    Black Paper & Artistic Dreams

    Thursday, March 26th, 2009

    First, I want to thank all of you who read my blog about the challenges of offset printing on black paper. I especially want to than those who have responded with additional  suggestions and recommendations.  Whenever there is a challenge you can expect the cleaver production people in the printing universe to find a way over, through, or around the problem. Kudos to you.

    Mr. Carlo Toscano of Global Printing in California pointed out that the digital printing industry has solved the problem by laying down a base of white and then printing on top of it. I have not personally seen this done digitally, so I’ll have to take his word for it. My concern is founded on what I have experienced, and that is that opaque white inks aren’t opaque enough. The black paper is tamed some, but still allows the paper color to influence the image and makes it gray. Digital is so new on the scene and uses different technologies than offset printing, that they probably have found a way to make it work better. I’d like to see samples if anyone has them.

    The downside? Digital printing is most cost effective in very small runs. They generally top out at 500 – 1,000 imprints. If you need a larger quantity digital may not be for you.

    Mr. Harvey Halperin (no company name) wrote, “Lay down a double hit of opaque white then dry trap process colors onto it. This will require two print runs, to allow the opaque white time to dry. We often do this with foils, or foil stamp and print on the foils there are a few new press that do this in line.”

    Mr. Halperin is quite correct. A dry trap is a technique used by printers wherein they lay down a color and allow it to dry thoroughly before printing on top of it. A single pass of opaque white, as I said before, hasn’t proven to my satisfaction to be sufficient. A double bump, or a double hit, would certainly form a better base. If the white ink is allowed to dry, you avoid the problems associated with co-mingling wet inks. Contaminated inks will turn your normal process colors to pastels, but maybe pastel is what you are trying to achieve.

    The downside? Every pass through the press requires additional make-readies, and plates. This technique will give you a good result, but you’ll pay for it. His other suggestion of printing on top of a white foil stamp will also work, but again you have additional costs that come into play. The double-bump, dry-trap technique probably work out to be the most cost effective way to achieve it.

    There was also a suggestion to screen print the sheet. Silk screen inks are more like paint than they are offset inks. Because by nature they are more opaque, you may not have to lay down a base of white at all. It is a suggestion worth considering depending on the quantity you want to print and how the printed piece is to be used.

    My point? With very few exceptions, the mid-night brainstorms graphic designers have, are by-and-large achieveable. If the budget is sufficient,  we can find a way to make their artistic dreams come true.

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