Archive for the ‘Press Checks’ Category

19 Excellent Reasons Why Print Brokers are a Godsend

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Print Brokers and search engines

I keep a close watch on the words and phrases that readers use in search engines to find this blog.  Questions about print brokers lead the pack. I guess I should have figured this out on my own because when I’m asked what I do for a living, and I say I’m a print broker, most respond by asking, “What is a print broker?” They wouldn’t do that if I said I was, for example, a stock broker, or even, as I saw on a television commercial recently, a shrimp broker. There’s something about the conjunction of print and broker that creates confusion, and often curiosity.

Why are print brokers attracted to the business?

I don’t know why others become print brokers, but I did because I wanted to provide better service for my customers. I reasoned that as chained print sales rep I was strictly locked into the capabilities, pricing, and business philosophies of the printer employing me. My customers, however, often needed either print production we couldn’t provide, or a redesign of their job to make it fit our capabilities. Either way I found myself in an awkward situation. What should I do, send them away or frankensteinize their project?

(Don’t bother looking up the word frankensteinize, it isn’t dictionaryized because I just created it, and neither is dictionaryized for the same reason.)

What services do print brokers provide?

In my experience a print broker typically performs these duties:

  • Consults with customers regarding parameters of the print order. Reviews and discusses any job particulars that will affect the outcome.
  • Suggests ways to decrease cost and/or improve quality depending on the requirements of the project.
  • Provides samples like paper dummies, paper swatch books, foil stamps, or any other visuals the customer requires to make informed decisions about the print order.
  • Aids the customer in determining and clarifying the specifications so that printers will bid apples-to-apples and identify production problems before they ruin the project.
  • Pre-qualifies printers or other providers to determine which is the best match for the job.
  • Submits bid specifications to qualified printers.
  • Consults with printers as needed to answer questions or address production concerns. This is particularly critical when the job is complex.
  • Gathers competitive bids.
  • Scrutinizes the submitted written bids to make certain the directions were followed, and nothing added or neglected.
  • Submits bid with specifications to customer. This gives the customer an opportunity to double-check the specifications at the same time as they receive pricing. The objective is to make sure all parties are in full agreement about the scope of the job.
  • Facilitates the transfer of files, or other art to the printer.
  • Works with both printer and customer regarding terms of payment and makes sure all conditions are met.
  • Arranges and facilitates all necessary proofing steps.
  • Attends press checks. Helps the customer understand the printing process and translates printerese into business normal.
  • Arranges for delivery of the product to the required destination.
  • Oversees and coordinates all parts of the job, this is especially critical if the project consists of multiple pieces.
  • Invoices the customer for the work.
  • Pays the printer. The customer writes one check and the broker takes care of the rest.
  • Most important–deals with problems that may surface during or after the job is delivered. The broker acts is a shield between the customer and the printer in the event of a disagreement.

What is the most valuable service print brokers provide?

The bottom line is that both customers and printers need brokers. Brokers provide the most valuable service of all, we facilitate smooth communication between customer and printer, and that in itself, prevents a whole raft of problems that could occur. Printing, as I always say, is not an exact science. The process, from creative idea to finished product involves so many steps and demands that every one of them be done right. It is a miracle anything turns out as planned, but despite the odds 95% come out great. It’s the 5% that keep us in the graphic arts industry awake at night.


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.

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