Archive for the ‘Uncoated paper’ Category

When it Comes to Paper, Mind Reading is Not Practiced Here

Monday, November 9th, 2009

As a printing broker one of the most difficult challenges I face in trying to determine bid specifications is paper. Why paper? Because most people have no idea how many different kinds of paper are available. Usually I have to resort to questions like, “Does it feel about the same as the paper in your office copier?” Or, “Is it more like poster board?” These questions at least get me in the ballpark. Then maybe I can start pinning it down by asking about the surface of the sheet. “Is it smooth, or textured?” “Is it shiny, or flat?” “If you scratch it with your fingernail does it leave a shiny spot?” “If you hold it up to a light source can you see a watermark?” Anyone in the printing business will understand what I am talking about. It’s like a game of twenty questions, particularly if we’re speaking on the telephone.

Here is something funny–I was discussing a job with a customer the other day–and to help me determine the weight of the paper, he flipped the corner of the sheet over the mouthpiece. When I asked what he was doing, he half-seriously said, “You [Bill] have been in the business for so long that I thought you’d be able to tell how much it weighed by the sound.”  That was a first. I’ve had customers expect me to read their minds, but never has one asked me to identify the weight of paper by the sound.mindmatrix

Of course, the easiest way to figure out what kind of paper a customer wants to use is to have them provide a sample. Usually the stock will become immediately evident, but then there are those occasions when it is not a domestic sheet and importers don’t carry it either. I had that problem once with a local company who represented a skin care line of products manufactured in France. They produced a paper sample that neither I, nor three different paper merchants could identify.

Some of the problems come from the paper industry itself. Paper has been around a long, long time. Just like a foot became a length of measurement by the King’s shoe print, paper weight had rudimentary methods of comparison. How many shovel-fulls of this or that went into the mix. For example here is a list of some weights you may encounter when buying printing: Cover, Text, Book, Bond, Ledger, Tag, Duplex, Blanks, Bristol, and Index. To make it more confusing you can buy 80# Cover, or 80# Text but they aren’t the same thing–not at all. 80# Cover is heavy more akin to poster board, and 80# is similar to your office stationery but probably a little heavier. People will often say something like the paper is  eighty pound and be sure they answered the question, until I ask, “Cover or text?” That’s when they get stuck.

Most stationery is printed on bond and you can often recognize it by a watermark. A 24# bond sheet weighs about as much as a 60# offset. Confused? We haven’t even gotten started yet. No wonder customers can’t figure out what they want the printing/paper industry has made it impossibly difficult. Not on purpose, but there it is.

If your job requires interaction with printers, I have some recommendations to simplify communications:

  1. Always try to provide a sample of the paper you would like to match.
  2. Create a paper sample book. Put various papers in a binder and label them with their weight, finish, and color. By doing this you will have a ready reference to help you.
  3. Watch for paper that crosses your desk. It might be direct mail, catalogs, or invitations. Slip them into the pocket of your binder if you like them and have your rep identify them later.
  4. If you find a paper that you particularly like and want to use it often, ask your print rep to get you a swatch book to keep with your binder. The paper mills put them out to display their wares and they will show you all of the weights, textures, and colors that the paper comes in.
  5. In many markets, the paper merchants will conduct seminars to teach customers about various aspects of paper like weight, thickness, surface, and brightness. Ask your printer if there are any learning opportunities like that in your area.
  6. Avoid using phrases like, just regular paper, something cheap, you know what we like, or something like we did last time. Honestly we want to help, but most of us in the printing business are terrible at reading minds.

Respect the Proof

Monday, March 16th, 2009

What do you look for on a proof? That seems like an easy question and it used to be a little easier to answer than it is now. The first thing you need to understand is that your signature on the proof releases the printer, or the broker, from all responsibility for the printed piece. By that I mean, if the product is a close match to the proof, but you don’t like it after all, or you found an error, the problem is yours.  Don’t blame the printers even if they were the ones who introduced the mistake. Proofs are your chance, often your last chance, to make sure everything is right before printing. I often hear customers say they don’t need a proof, or they don’t want a press check. That, in my opinion, is a big mistake. More than once I’ve seen jobs get  all the way to the press before the customer notices a critical error like a wrong phone number, or address.

wrong + wrong = right

Printing, in general, is an imperfect process. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating, you start with the premise that oil (ink) and water (fountain solution) don’t mix and proceed to make it work. It’s a case of two wrongs making a right.

Back to the question of checking a proof. What you look for depends on the kind of proof you received. Most printers are now using direct-to-plate technology. Direct-to-plate has revolutionized the plate making process. A print shop of not too many years past used to have large rooms with big light tables throughout. The light tables were used to strip the film. Now the tables are gone and the rooms are empty, leaving lots of space for an arcade, or shuffleboard. I’m kidding, but what do they do with the extra space? Maybe shuffleboard isn’t a bad idea. In the era of the light table and hand stripping proofs they were  either bluelines (for one color printing), or color-keys (for four color printing). You aren’t likely to come across these terms anymore, but you might, so I’m telling you about them. There were other kinds of proofs too like Matchprints, or Chromalins. No matter what kind of proof was presented to the customer there was always one flaw–the color proofs were good for four color process, but if you used a PMS color from the Pantone book, you had to guess at the result. Kind of like looking at a small  paint chip vs. painting a large wall. Most printers will provide a digital hard-copy proof.

What do I look for?

Generally you want to check a hard-copy proof for:

  • Color. Does it look like the color you expected to get? Remember though, the color that appears on your computer monitor might not be the actual color. Ripped (separating the colors into dots) color is different. Your monitor’s pixels are RGB (red, green,blue) and ripped color is CYMK (cyan, yellow,magenta, black). If the color is way off, you might have to go back and fix some things or have the printer help you fix it. If the color is close, don’t make yourself crazy, let it pass.
  • Size. If your image was supposed to be 8 1/2″X11″ and it comes out as 4″X6″ there is a problem.
  • Type. Because computer design is done in layers, it is very easy to cover a portion of your type block with a window. You may not see it on your screen, so you need to watch for it on the proof.
  • Reflow. This is becoming less of a problem than it used to be, but you should still watch for it. Reflow usually happens when the font you are using doesn’t match the font in the printer’s system. If you haven’t downloaded your fonts they will default to the printer’s defaults. Small sizing or kerning (the space between letters) can throw your document off. Particularly if you are using a PC and the printer is on Mac.
  • Missing or Added elements. I think this one is self-explanatory.
  • Bleeds. If you want your piece to bleed (ink goes to the edge of the sheet) did you allow a 1/8″ overhang beyond the trims?
  • Back up. Does the front back up correctly with the back? You might need a second low-res proof to see this, but unless back up isn’t important, be sure you get a folded proof.
wait til the press check

What to ignore or save for the press check.

  • PMS or Spot color. Ripped proofs are still using four color process dots to create approximate color. It can be way off. If you are concerned about the spot color, do yourself a favor and attend a press check.
  • Small dots. The computer picks up very small dots and reproduces them on the digital proof. A 1% to 3% dot may not appear on the plate. If those dots are important to the design be aware that they could disappear. If the dots are fighting your design the same is true. To be sure, go to a press check.
  • Paper. The proof you see will be different when ink touches paper, particularly if it is an uncoated sheet. All proofs are approximations. To know for sure you have to see the ink on paper.

Respect the proof. That might sound funny, but if you attempt to glance at the proof and give it a cursory approval, you are bound to have mistakes. Stop, take a deep breath, and concentrate on the proof. You’ll have fewer errors. And maybe, fewer times called on the carpet.

Why Are the Bids Wildly Different?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Yesterday’s blog was a continuation of bid specifying. We shot a photo of my specification sheet that I use, but it came out too dark, and is too small to read, so we will try to correct that problem shortly. In the meantime, I thought a specification list would be easy for you to follow and if you want to create your own spec sheet you can. You are free to use the following information:

I. Customer’s Company Name

A. Contact Name, Address, and Phone or email address

B. Date including when estimate is required, when the job is due, when customer art is expected, and if a partial delivery will do.

C. Does the Customer want proofs? How? What kind? Attend a press check? How much notice is required?

II. Job Title

A. Description, for example: 16 page booklet, self-cover, saddle-stitched.

B. Quantity

C. New or Pickup? Is it a new job (never been run before) or a rerun (pickup) from a previous order? If pickup provide last invoice or job number and date.

D. Size, Flat,  Finished, Page Count, Self or Plus Cover

E. Are There Bleeds? Where, head, foot, right side, left side, full, or none?

F Printing Method? Digital, Sheet-fed offset, Cold Web, Heat-set Web, Letterpress, Other.

G. Any Other Special Requirements?

III. Customer Furnished Art and Proofs

A. Customer supplies: disk, PC or Mac, Program Name and Version, Dummy. Will send by email, or ftp?

B. Printer supplies: Typeset, Layout, Design, Proof, What type of proof (hard or electronic?)

IV. Paper

A. Describe Paper for Each Part i.e. Cover, Text, and page count for each. For example, a 16 page booklet with cover and flyleaf, saddle-stitched would be: 4pages cover, 4 pages flyleaf, and 16 pages text, for a total of 24 pages.

1. Weight of stock or thickness (cover weight, book, text, ledger, etc.)

2. Color of the Paper?

3. Description: Mill, Paper Line, Finish (linen, wove, etc.)

4. Coated or Uncoated? If coated is it Gloss, Dull, Satin, or Matte?

5. If it is an envelope will it be custom (converted from flat sheet, windows) or stocked? Size, prints face, flap, inside?

6. If it is a form, how many plies, color rotation for carbonless (w/y/p).

V. Ink

A. How Many Color on each side? Does it print 4/2 (four color one side and two on the other? Or maybe 1/1 (one color both sides). Is it the same color on both sides, i.e. red ink on one and blue on the other.

B. How Much Ink Coverage? Heavy, Medium, or Light.

C. Specialty Inks, laser ready, quick dry, hard dry, etc.

VI. Bindery

A. How does it Bind? Saddle-stitch, Perfect Bind, Wire-o, Plastic Comb, Hard Cover, Velo, Plastic Coil, Spiral, etc.

B. Does it require–Folding, Scoring, Collation?

C. Padding? How many sheets per pad, with chipboard or without, std. padding glue? Where, top, or sides.

VII. Other

A. Die Cutting

B. Foil Stamp/Foil Emboss/Blind Emboss–die required? What size? What material: Copper, Brass? How intricate? One level, two or more?

C. Numbering–beginning number, ending number. Red or Black?

D. Tabbing–how many banks? How many positions? Each sheet unique or are faces common and tabs the only variable? Mylar reinforce tabs, color? Three hole drill or other? Reinforce holes?

E. Gluing–as in pockets for a kit cover. How many? Other?

F. Perforation–Corner, “L”, or straight? Standard perf or micro? Laser ready?

G. Drill–how many holes and where? What size hole?

H. Shrink wrap–How many to a package,number of packages.

VIII. Packaging and Delivery

A. Bulk Box–product placed in box without any other wrapping.

B. Paper Band, Rubber Band, Shrink Wrap–how many per package, how many per box?

C. Standard Boxes, or special?

D. One local delivery address or more? Specify how many to each location.

E. To Ship? How (FedEx, UPS, USPS, other)? Use customer account or printers?

F. Samples? How many to customer, or other?

Can you believe that I was able to boil down all these points on one 81/2″X11″ form, and still have room to make a sketch to communicate more thoroughly? The real trick is understanding the job, and writing it down in such a way that the vendors will have the same clear information for giving you their best bid. If done right, a spec sheet removes all guesswork. Guessing, and assuming are the bane of printers. When they are all working from common specifications you’ll see their bids will come in much tighter. Wild pricing differences will be a thing of the past, and you won’t have any more surprises after the printer receives the art. They won’t call and say, “This is different than the way we bid it. There will be additional charges.” Had you budgeted for that contingency? I doubt it.

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