Thursday, August 16, 2012

The eternal conflict - ink/water balance - the tale of the tones

An AM/XM halftone screen has a builty-in conflicting ink/water balance requirement on press. The highlight dot and quarter tone range from 1-35% requires minimal water and maximum ink in order to prevent those dots from being washed away. The three-quarter tone range from 65-99% requires the opposite - a larger volume of water in order to prevent the shadow dots from filling in and disappearing. On the other hand, the mid-tone range from 35-65% is more of a balance between ink and water.

Halftone dots and the tones range they represent are affected differently by the condition of the ink on press - assuming of course, that the plate, press, and chemistry are set up correctly. Unfortunately, if the press operator attempts to fix tone reproduction in some areas, that built-in difference in ink/water requirement can exaggerate the inherent conflict and cause problems in other parts of the tone range.

1 - 1-35% This tone range is primarily affected by the body/viscosity of the ink. If the body is too soft the highlight area will print too full which may cause the press operator to decrease solid ink density in order to reduce the dot size. Alternatively the fountain solution may over-emulsify this tone range causing poor ink transfer and loss of highlight detail. If the ink body is too heavy the dot may print too sharp causing the press operator to increase the density or blanket pressure.

2 - 35-65% This tone range is primarily affected by the strength (pigment load) of the ink. If the ink is too weak the press operator will increase solid ink density which will cause increased dot gain and result in presswork that appears too full. If the ink is too strong the midtones may print too light. Also, the strength of the ink also impacts how well the inks trap, which in turn affects the color gamut the press should be able to achieve. Varying the strength and stiffness of the ink to achieve good tone reproduction in presswork is a method press operators, who don't have good communication with prepress, often employ. It's almost always better to use tone reproduction curves applied in plate imaging than to modify inks.

3 - 65-95% This tone range is most strongly affected by mechanically induced dot gain or chemistry issues i.e. (poor ink water balance). If the tone range from 1-65% is evenly balanced then excessive gain in the shadow tones is usually caused by running excessive water, too much blanket pressure, and/or mechanical slur.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paper - from another most unusual and environmentally friendly source

Paper made from poopPlant fibers (typically from trees) are the usual base material used in making pulp for paper production. However those plant fibers don't have to come unprocessed directly from the plant. The fibers can actually be gathered after being processed by certain animals and delivered for paper-making in their poop.

Paper products can be made from the poop of a variety of different fiber-eating herbivores including elephants, cows, horses, moose, pandas, and donkeys. These animals eat lots of vegetation everyday and they are prolific poopers. Since the digestive systems of these animals don’t break down the vegetation very well, their poop contains plenty of fiber even after their meal is consumed. They are basicaly doing the first stage of any paper making process – getting the fibers. Elephants, for example, can eat upwards of 250kg per day of fiber-filled meals with much of that passing through their systems largely intact. It is estimated that one elephant can produce enough poop to make about 115 sheets of paper per day.

From poop to paper

Although the source may be different, the process of making paper is not that different from making it from conventionally acquired fibers.
First, the poop is collected, then rinsed and boiled to a pulp. The solution is then blended or spun to soften and cut the fibers. Other things such as dye and/or other fibrous materials may be added to give the solution the proper consistency.
The slurry is then sifted onto rectangular sieves and allowed to dry. When dry, the thin layer of plant fibers is peeled off the sieve and made into raw sheets and rolls of paper.

Using paper made from poop is a fantastic example of sustainable and recycling practices and solutions to our environmental challenges.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Paper - from a most unusual and environmentally friendly source

Paper can be made from a variety of materials, but perhaps one of the most unusual and environmentally friendly is paper made from stones.
Stone paper is known by many names including rock paper, limestone paper, eco-stone, and synthetic paper.

How it's made

Stone paper is made with a mixture of about 80% calcium carbonate which is also used in the manufacture of conventional tree-based paper. The calcium carbonate usually comes from limestone, marble and other stones collected as waste material from existing quarries for the building and construction industry. The stones are ground down to a fine chalk-like powder then a small quantity (about 20%) of non-toxic resin (HDPE- High Density Polyethylene) is added as a binder for the calcium carbonate. Together these materials create a soft, smooth, bright white paper that is tough, durable and both water and tear resistant. The paper is chlorine free, acid free, and safe for the environment.

The ECO benefit

• One ton of virgin paper uses 20 trees, 36,000 BTU’s of energy, creates 16,000 gallons of contaminated waste water, uses bleach, and contains 20-30% calcium carbonate (stone).
• One ton of recycled paper uses 4 trees, 22,000 BTU’s of energy, creates 9,000 gallons of contaminated waste water, uses bleach, and contains 20-30% calcium carbonate (stone).
• One ton of stone paper uses 0 trees, creates absolutely no waste water, and uses half the energy of virgin paper and 1/3 the energy of recycled paper. Stone paper does not require bleaching chemicals and generates no air pollution.

Stone-based paper is recyclable with both paper and plastic. Since it is stone it is not biodegradable. On exposure to UV light, e.g. from the sun, and moisture, the High Density Polyethylene breaks down after about a year returning the calcium carbonate to a power form. Egg shells are 95% calcium carbonate and decompose in a similar way. The HDPE is also recyclable and has the number "2" as its recycling symbol. Much of household waste is sent to WTE (Waste to Energy) plants where it is incinerated, scrubbed of carbon, and ‘recycled’ into energy.  Even conventional paper waste ends up in WTE plants.  If stone paper ends up at a WTE plant it actually is a great contributor since it burns more cleanly than many other materials and does not produce toxins.

The calcium carbonate itself is the most abundant natural mineral on earth making up 70% of all minerals on the planet.  Mining and quarrying operations already existing in the world scrape away tons of calcium carbonate each year in an effort to get at the ‘more precious’ minerals.  This excess material makes calcium carbonate a great ‘filler’ for papers, plastics, some food products and many household products.

Stone-based papers are:

•  Water Proof

•  Grease Proof

•  Tear Resistant

•  Weather Resistant

•  An alternative to synthetic papers such as Yupo, Tyvek and polypropylene films

•  A great grease barrier

•  A great outdoors product (with the addition of UV blockers)

Some stone-based paper brands include: FiberStone® Natural Stone Paper, Terraskin, and Rockstock.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Marketing 101 - "Weasel" words

Whether you're a marketing services provider or a consumer you need to be aware of the use of "weasel" words in advertising and marketing verbiage.

Weasel words, or phrases, are used in marketing/advertising in order to avoid making a direct statement or promise. I.e. they are used as a way to say something that legally, or truthfully, cannot be said. They're also used to make you think you've heard something that hasn't actually been said, to accept as truth something which has only been implied, and believe things that have only been suggested.

A short guide to marketing and advertising "weasel" words.

Sale - Often used in newspaper advertising flyers and at point of purchase in the store. "Sale" or "sale price" is intended to make you think that the product's price has been discounted. But in reality, unless the original price is also displayed, "sale" simply means that this is the normal price that the product sells for.

Help - Often used with health and beauty products e.g. "Helps prevent cavities" "Helps make wrinkles disappear." The word "help" simply means "assist" and nothing more. No advertiser can say: "Our product makes wrinkles disappear" so instead they qualify it with "help" and can say: "Our product helps make wrinkles disappear." Our minds skip over the qualifier "help" and just hears "makes wrinkles disappear."

"Helps prevent..."
"Helps fight...."
"Helps you look..."

Like - "Like" is a qualifier that has a comparative element to it. It is used to stop the consumer from looking at the actual product being sold and instead start thinking about something that is bigger, better, or different.

"It's like getting another one free."
"It's like a vacation in Hawaii."
"Cleans like a white tornado."

"Like" is intended to make you believe that the product or service is more than it actually is by likening it to something else.

Virtual/virtually - This word just means "in essence" or "in effect," but not in actual fact.

"Virtually never needs service"
"Virtually the same as"
"Virtually handmade"

"Virtually" is interpreted by most people as meaning "almost or the same as...." But it really means "not in actual fact" so, for example, "Virtually never needs service" really means that it actually needs service.

Can be/may be - E.g. "Brand X can be of help in reducing cavities" or Brand Y may be effective in your weight loss program." Can be/may be is basically saying that the advertiser doesn't know if their product does anything.

Up to - This is used to imply an ideal situation but actually qualifies it. E.g. "Up to 50% off our regular prices." Well that could mean that discounts range anywhere from 0% to 50% - but they've got you in the store looking for all those 50% discounts.

As much as - E.g. "You'll reduce your ink consumption by as much as 28%." See "Up to."

Feel - This word expresses a subjective opinion. E.g. "This fabric feels like the finest silk." "Feels" like in this example is the advertiser's opinion of their product. Counter "feels" by completing the thought - "This fabric feels like the finest silk - but it isn't."

Free - Rarely is anything actually free. Free usually just means that it is included in the total price rather than listed as a separate item.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Wayback View - Printing: Dead or Alive

I just love how printing is portrayed in the media. Here are two scenes from 1958's TV show Wanted Dead or Alive starring Steve McQueen. Despite the equipment shown (which is still used today for specialty work) the characterization of printers and their customers is not too far off what still happens today.

The press in the TV episode is similar to this one:
Movie by Thomas & Erik Desmyter

A Liberty platen press invented and patented in 1859 by Frederick Otto Degener in New York.

BTW, "Josh" mentioned Horace Greeley (February 3, 1811 – November 29, 1872). He was an American newspaper editor and a founder of the Liberal Republican Party. The New York Tribune (which he founded and edited) was America's most influential newspaper from the 1840s to the 1870s and "established Greeley's reputation as the greatest editor of his day."

Crusading against the corruption of Ulysses S. Grant's Republican administration, he was the new Liberal Republican Party's candidate in the 1872 U.S. presidential election. Despite having the additional support of the Democratic Party, he lost in a landslide. He is the only presidential candidate to have died prior to the counting of electoral votes.

Click HERE for more examples of printing in the movies.

Friday, April 13, 2012

5 Myths of Online Print Buying Exposed

While millions of people recognize the essential need for printed materials to successfully market their business, they find the process painful and expensive! Sure you can save money printing online, but who’d want to do that? The answer is: anyone who’s smart enough to ignore these common myths…

Myth #1: You can’t get quality customer service
If you’ve shopped for anything online, you know that customer service is one of the first things to suffer. Call for help, and you’ll get long hold times that often lead to inept sales reps who don’t answer your questions – and never call you back. Who needs it right? Why not spend the extra money and see your local printer who you can talk to face to face? Well, the truth is, in the online print industry – you simply don’t have to settle for poor service! It’s as simple as knowing where to shop and who to talk to. With devoted sales teams that follow your project from start to finish - companies like have an A+ Better Business Bureau rating that often exceeds that of local printers. Don’t be jaded by bad experiences, and let that force you to miss all the opportunity that printing online has to offer.

Myth #2: You need to be a technical wizard to succeed
Knowing how to handle complex technical situations can be intimidating to say the least. The good thing is, when it comes to online printing – that’s not your job! You want to make sure that your printer is an expert who is eager to assist you in every aspect of file preparation. Make sure your printer accepts every file type – so you know your designs will be transferrable to their presses. This is another feature that you can research quickly and simply by making a few calls. Online printers who refuse to accept your Microsoft Word or Publisher file for example, don’t deserve your business – especially when many other printers will! The fact is online print shops typically have more resources than local printers to augment files, and prepare them for printing. Take advantage of their assets.

Myth #3: You can’t get professional design services
Perhaps you’ve been relying on your local printer to provide graphic design services – usually at a premium price. How could you ever switch to online printing where you’re expected to submit a completed file type? Answer: many online printers have pre-stocked templates that are free, and easy to use. Some even supply pre made industry copy that can be tweaked to your liking, but is generic enough to promote the benefits of your business. Check out what online printers have to offer – you might find their designs look better than anything your local printer has created!

Myth #4: You don’t know how it will turn out
A major myth surrounding online printing is that you submit your image and specs – and it’s done, no turning back. What comes out the other end of the pipe is what you get - with no recourse. Sure, that would turn anybody away from the process! But don’t let the poor practices of a few ruin your expectations for all online printers. Quality printers will always supply you with a “Proof” that you must approve as your final product before anything is produced on a mass scale. Why not benefit from the attention to detail that comes from a large staff of professional experts who are all dedicated to the success of your job?

Myth #5: You can’t guarantee the best results
There are actually some online printers who will guarantee their work, 100%. That means if you don’t like it for any reason, you can return it for a full refund! That’s almost unheard of with local print shops!

The bottom line is…find the right printer! With a minimal amount of research you’ll see that you can save money printing online - and you don’t have to sacrifice quality, customer service, or peace-of-mind to do it.

The information in this post is courtesy of - America's Print Shop. Click HERE for more details.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Paper Circle

Submitted by Print Guide subscriber "Alois Senefelder."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Choosing the right print coating

The right coating can help protect the printed piece or add a creative dimension. The results will usually look best on coated paper because the hard, nonporous surface of coated paper holds the coating on the top of the paper rather than have it disappear by being absorbed into the paper. Even when trying to achieve an overall matte effect, a gloss coated sheet is usually the best paper choice and the gloss finish on the paper will provide superior printability. In general, uncoated papers do not benefit very much in appearance from coatings or varnishes, although either will help prevent rubbing in areas of heavy ink coverage. Matte or satin varnishes or coatings are the best choices for uncoated stocks.

Varnishes are applied on press like any other ink and can be tinted to create a special effect. Although gloss and matte varnishes are typically used as spot or overall coatings, they can also be incorporated in the process or spot color inks in order to provide a unique look to the presswork. They can be wet trapped (i.e. printed at the same time as the other inks) or dry trapped (i.e. printed as a second pass through the press after the other inks have dried). Dry trapping provides a superior result but is a more expensive process. Varnishes may yellow with age, however, this is usually not noticeable when the varnish is used over process colors, but it is noticeable when the varnish is applied over unprinted paper. They also require the use of offset spray powder on press to keep the printed sheets from sticking together before the varnish is completely cured. The powder left behind can adversely affect the look and feel of the finished piece.

Gloss varnish: This coating can be applied overall or in spot areas with high precision. A gloss varnish increases the saturation and depth of colors while improving image contrast. It provides good protection against rub-off but some fingerprinting will be apparent on dark or light colors. Because the gloss finish is highly reflective it creates glare on the surface of the print which may impair the readability of text.

Matte varnish: This ink protects the sheet with a non-reflective coating which enhances the readability of text-heavy pages. Using a matte varnish over images tends to flatten and soften them, but it can provide a lush tactile quality to the paper surface. As with a gloss varnish the coating is printed with a litho plate, so it can also be spot applied with high precision. It is more resistant to fingerprinting than a gloss varnish however it will tend to scuff or gloss up with wear. If the presswork is packed for delivery it's a good idea to place blank paper between the printed items to prevent them rubbing against each other and scuffing.

Satin varnish: This coating is created by mixing gloss and matte varnishes together and offers an intermediate level of shine, with good scuff resistance.

Opaque varnish: Adding a small amount of opaque white to a varnish can give it a slight opacity which can help in creating a stronger separation between a gloss and a matte varnish. Adding a slight contamination with silver ink can accomplish the same effect on very dark colors.

Strike-through matte varnish: A litho plate printed varnish that, when overprinted with an overall gloss UV or aqueous coating, will create a visual separation between areas of a press sheet. Gloss/matte effects work best on dark colors, or when enhance by the content of underlying graphics.

Aqueous coating
These water-based coatings are applied using a rubber blanket inline on a special dedicated press unit. among the most commonly used coatings available today and provide good protection from fingerprints and other blemishes. Aqueous coatings are less likely to yellow and are more environmentally friendly than varnishes. They dry faster than varnishes which translates into faster turnaround times on press. They don't require spray powder. Because they seal the ink from the air, they can help prevent metallic inks from tarnishing. Aqueous coatings can cause certain spot colors such as reflex blue, rhodamine, violet, purple, and PMS warm red to change color. Sometimes within a few minutes but also over time - months or even years later. Because the aqueous coating is water-based an typically applied over the entire sheet it is best to use at least an 80# text weight or heavier paper to prevent the paper from curling, distorted, or wrinkled.

Gloss aqueous: Usually applied as an overall coating, gloss aqueous offers better protection than gloss varnish. It is sometimes applied to a spot area however this requires cutting an expensive press blanket. It also results in edges that are not as sharp as a spot varnish and registration that is less precise. The surface dries instantly, making it an excellent choice for short run work-and-turn projects. Aqueous coatings help disguise surface flaws and roughness in the non-print areas of inexpensive papers. The gloss finish improves the apparent saturation of ink but somewhat reduces the readability of text.

Matte aqueous: A scuff resistant matte coating which, as with gloss aqueous, is generally applied overall. And like a matte varnish it will soften and flatten images slightly.

Satin aqueous: A popular compromise between gloss and matte, offers a pleasing sheen and good sheet protection.

SoftTouch aqueous: A proprietary coating that is applied with a special metering roller to create a suede-like texture and extreme matte appearance.

Pencil receptive aqueous: This is a special matte aqueous coating that is designed to be pencil, ink and laser receptive.

Dry erase aqueous coating: An inexpensive high gloss alternative to lamination to make any paper suitable as dry erase marker surface.

Primer aqueous: A coating that is applied before lamination, or to difficult substrates to make them ink receptive.

UV Coatings
UV coatings are applied inline by printers or offline by finishers or converters. They are applied as a liquid, using a roller, screen or blanket, and then exposed to ultraviolet light to polymerize and harden the coating. Like aqueous coatings, UV coatings can cause certain spot colors to shift in hue. Some UV coatings may have a strong odor.

Gloss UV: Creates the highest printable overall gloss coating. Depending on the printer's equipment it can be applied to spot areas.

Matte UV: Depending on the printer's equipment it can be applied overall or just to spot areas. It is prone to fingerprinting.

Pearlescent UV: These gloss coatings include miniscule metal flecks in red, blue or silver, giving a pearlescent appearance.

Orange peel UV: A slightly raised, textured finish, gives this coating a unique tactile and visual quality that is similar in appearance to thermography.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Wayback View - Printing the London Telephone Directory - 1937

"The Telephone - A Sound Investment" promotional postage stamp canceling mark.

In the 1930s, telephones were still not in general use, so in 1937 the British GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit produced a short film on the production, and value, of the London Telephone Directory. The film "Book Bargain" was directed by Oscar winning Canadian film director and animator Norman McLaren.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Inks beyond CMYK, Hi-Fi, and Pantone - the world of effects pigments

Printers and their customers are always looking for new ways to add value and a creative spin to print. When conventional CMYK, Hi-Fi, and Pantone spot colors just don't have the impact - it's time to look at the options available with effects pigments.

Here is a run down of the most popular effects ink pigments. Savvy printers will pretest and, based on their understanding and relationship with their customers, make them aware of the creative opportunities these inks provide.

Photochromic inks
Arguably one of the most popular of the effects inks. Photochromic ink undergoes a reversible color change when exposed to UV light. The color change is immediate and reverts to its original color or becomes colorless when the light source is removed. This ink is available in wet or dry offset and flexographic printing.

Austria Solar's 2011 annual report uses photochromic inks to parallel the company's business. It ships in a foil package. Open it under indoor light and all you’ll see is an embossed cover followed by blank pages. However when exposed to the sun the photochromatic inks react and the content is revealed. The report is the creation of agency Serviceplan and Creative Director Cosimo Möller.

Photochromic inks are available in colorless-to-color and color-to-color formulations.
Photochromic ink viewed under office lighting.

Photochromic ink viewed under sun light.

Thermochromic inks
Thermochromic inks are temperature-activated. When rubbed, held in the hand, or exposed to differing temperatures the ink changes from a colorless state or to another color and quickly reverts to its original color.

As with photochromic inks, thermochromic inks are available in colorless-to-color and color-to-color formulations. The temperature when the color change occurs can be predetermined - e.g. color appears at 72°F and becomes colorless at 90°F or color appears at 81°F and becomes colorless at 90°F.

This ink is activated by water, not sunlight or heat. A white hydrochromic ink just looks like white ink. When water is applied, it disappears and the image behind it appears. When the water dries, the image goes back to white.

UV Fluorescent
These inks are normally invisible as printed but fluoresce under UV light. There are two types; single long wavelength (360 nm) and dual which fluoresces one color under short wavelength UV (250 nm) and a different color under log wavelength UV (360 nm). Typical UV fluorescent color inks include yellow, green, blue, orange, and red. These inks are often used in banknote printing. This ink is available for wet or dry offset, flexographic and gravure printing.

Optically Variable Ink
This ink contains minute flakes of metallic film which, when viewed at different angles, morphs from one color to another very dramatically. This ink needs to be printed with a fairly heavy weight to get the best results which makes the ink feel almost embossed on the substrate. The ink are very expensive and therefore is usually printed in small areas. The most common color changes are brown to green (and vice versa) as well as red to purple. It is typically used for passports and driver's licenses.

Bleeding ink prints in black but when exposed to any aqueous solution it will produce a red stain - even when touched with just a wet finger. This ink is only available for use with dry offset printing.

Fugitive Ink (water based)

Fugitive ink works similarly to bleeding ink since when exposed to water or an aqueous solution the ink runs. These, also, will be found on checks and if you are to wet your finger with saliva and wipe across the background, you would see the ink smudge.

Coin Reactive
The image printed from this ink is white or transparent. The image is revealed when the edge of a coin is rubbed over the ink. Coin reactive ink cannot be scanned or copied.

Erasable ink is used on the background of a document. If an eraser is rubbed on it the ink rubs off in that area. The ink also reacts in the same manner as solvent/chemical reactive inks do. Erasable inks are typically used on scenic or pantograph backgrounds on checks and certificates. This ink should not be used for documents that will go through a laser printer.

Iridescent ink is a translucent pearlescent ink which, when viewed at different angles, creates a subtle change of iridescent hues. It is available in blue, red, green, gold, and silver.

Metameric Pairs
Metameric pairs are two inks that appear similar in color under one set of light conditions but are visibly different under another set.

Puff Ink
Puff ink rises and expands ("puffs") when exposed to a heat source.

Glow in the Dark Ink
This ink radiates a bright light green color after being exposed to bright light and then placed in a relatively dark environment.

Penetrating Ink/Indelible Ink
Penetrating inks contain a penetrating red dye that goes into the fibers of the paper and will show through to the back of the document. Penetrating inks are commonly used on the arabic and MICR numbering of negotiable documents to deter forgers from trying to scrape the number off from the document. If the number is scraped off the red stain remains on the document. Penetrating inks are available for letter press or wet offset printing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Drupa 2012 - With a song in my heart

Like any major trade show - and the 2012 edition of Drupa certainly ranks as such - a stirring theme song is used to get everyone excited and motivated to attend.

Drupa's 2012 song is: "Get Ready to Succeed"

Drupa 2012 has even spawned a tribute "The Magic Of Drupa" by Alex Kunst and Laurel Brunner.

The previous show - Drupa 2008 had a similar dance-based beat with more words than you could imagine would fit into the tune of: "One World One Drupa"

To get an idea of how far the industry has come, one has only to listen to the painful theme from Drupa 1986:

Drupa 2012 takes place May 3 - 16, 2012 in the Düsseldorf Fairgrounds. If you're in the graphic arts you owe it to yourself to attend at least one Drupa in your lifetime.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to subdue the Reflex Blue Blues

Reflex Blue (a.k.a. Red Shade Alkali Blue, Pigment Blue 61, Reflex Blue R 54/R 56) is one of the most commonly used spot colors - especially for corporate colors - and it is one of the most problematic inks to use on press.

Reflex Blue suffers from excessive marking, low scuff resistance, poor lightfastness and poor, very slow, drying qualities. It also has a bronzed look that causes it to shift color, from Blue to Purple when viewed at different angles.
And when mixed as part of another blue spot color, Reflex Blue effectively contaminates that ink color with its poor performance characteristics.

Reflex Blue Blues - slow drying

Printing inks are made primarily with resins, varnish, linseed oil, soybean oil, or a heavy petroleum distillate as the solvent (called the vehicle) combined with organic pigments. The resins and varnish control the tack and gloss of the ink while the solvents control press stability and fluidity. Drying oils control surface strength, drying time, and set, while the pigment acts as the coloring agent.

Although each ink pigment is unique, most have fairly uniform shapes and surface areas. Reflex Blue pigment on the other hand has jagged, irregular surfaces and shapes. To blend Reflex Blue ink, ink manufacturers must add surface active agents to the mix that allow proper wetting of the pigment. As a result, the ink retains a higher level of moisture than other ink formulations and therefore takes longer to dry.

Offset inks are generally designed to dry by two methods: absorption into the paper and evaporation from the surface. As the ink dries, the small, uniform color pigments settle close together and leave a flat ink film surface. However, when Reflex Blue pigments set they have a rough ink film surface. Although the ink may feel dry to the touch, just a light rub will break the surface and expose the wet pigment underneath. This results in unsightly scuff marks and color transfer (set-off) to surfaces that come into contact with it.

Reflex Blue Blues - color shift/burn out

Reflex blue  color-shift or "burnout" can occur when the printed ink film is over-coated with aqueous, or UV coating.  This affect results from a chemical reaction due to pH incompatibilities between the alkaline aqueous coating and certain alkaline sensitive ink pigments like Reflex Blue. The chemical reaction basically changes the way the color pigments reflect light. Individual press sheets pulled during the press run or top sheets in the pile are rarely as affected as the sheets within in the press loads. This indicates that heat and oxygen deprivation are contributing factors in accentuating and accelerating, the color-shift effect. Unfortunately the color-shift may not be apparent immediately off press and may take 24 hours or longer to be noticeable.

Tips for subduing the Reflex Blue Blues

1 Don't use it. If that's too drastic then:
If you are a printer, speak to your ink vendor. Most will stock an "imitation" Reflex Blue substitute. The most common is a Carbazole Violet & Phthalo Blue mix. Note that the imitation Reflex Blue may have a slightly different hue than the actual Reflex Blue so do a drawdown of the ink and get customer approval.

If you are a print buyer/specifier, speak to your print supplier about selecting an "imitation" Reflex Blue substitute. Get drawdowns of the ink and, once satisfied with the hue, document the ink manufacturer, ink series and name so that the same ink can be used for all your Reflex Blue needs.

2 Print the job using UV inks since they dry immediately.

3 Print small lifts. Shorter stacks of paper at the press deliver facilitate faster drying by allowing more air to circulate between sheets enabling gasses to escape. Shorter stacks will add a small amount of extra run time on press. Wind the printed loads as soon as possible to reduce unnecessary exposure to high heat builds captive in the pile.

4 If the shop runs a five day production schedule then print on Friday to allow the sheets to dry over the weekend before printing the second side or sending the presswork to the finishing/binding processes.

5 Consult with the printer/ink vendor to determine whether reformulating the Reflex Blue ink by adding drying agents. Note that doing so may increase cost and/or compromise the inks on press performance in other ways - e.g. it may adversely affect te quality of screen tint areas.

6 Apply a varnish, aqueous or UV coating to help seal the ink and eliminate scuffing, fingerprinting, and bronzing of larger ink areas. Use a low-amine or heat-resistant aqueous coating with as low a pH as possible (less alkaline). Inform your ink supplier of the need for alkali or fade resistant inks compatible with aqueous or UV coating and also consult with you coatings supplier and are assured of these pigments’ compatibility with their product. Confirm that the coating to be applied has been thoroughly tested prior to running the job.

7 Beware that UV coating, in particular, does not coat well over Reflex Blue and will sometimes fade or change the ink color. Pre-test Reflex Blue, especially tint solids and screens, by wet-trapping half the image with selected coating and then expose both samples to a high-heat source such as a heated saddle dryer. On-press testing is usually required to simulate actual production with ink and fountain solution. For side-by-side comparison, cut the coater blanket packing half-way through the printed ink film to be tested. Then expose the coated and uncoated print samples to a heated dryer saddle immediately off press. Burnout and color-shift will usually occur during heat application. If time permits, wait 24 hours, then reapply heat, and again compare the color integrity of the test samples. Test, test, test.

Other alkali sensitive pigments that can have similar issues to Reflex Blue include:
• Rhodamine Red - (Y.S. Rhodamine Red)
• Purple - (B.S. Rhodamine Red)• Warm Red - (Red Lake C)
• Violet - (Methyl Violet)
• 072 Blue
• Rubine Red - (Lithol Rubine)
• Fluorescent inks

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Understanding paper brightness and whiteness

For most printers and print buyers, the terms brightness and whiteness are interchangeable. However, when describing the characteristics of paper there are some important differences between the two terms.

Brightness refers to the percent reflectance of blue light, as measured at a wavelength at, or about, 457nm. The choice of that wavelength is based on the sensitivity of the human eye to blue and yellow light. Brightness was originally a test in paper manufacturing to measure the effectiveness of the bleaching process in removing yellowness from pulp. When paper is bleached, the spectral reflectance curve increases the most in the blue and violet range, at about the 457nm point. This has also made the measurement of brightness well suited for measuring the aging of paper because paper yellows with age. Most white papers are in the 60 to 90% brightness range.
Paper brightness requirements for ISO 12647-2. Currently there are no specifications for ISO 12647-3 (newsprint), ISO 12647-4 (gravure), ISO 12647-5 (screen printing), or ISO 12647-6 (flexo).

Whiteness, on the other hand, refers to the extent to which paper reflects equally the light of all wavelengths throughout the visible spectrum. A truly white sheet of paper will not absorb one wavelength of light energy more than another. For example, if a sheet of paper is placed under a full spectrum light, most of that light will be reflected back equally and the paper will appear white. However, if some of the wavelengths of light energy are absorbed, the color of the paper will shift to the light which was not absorbed, but was instead reflected back to the viewer. That is why a red sheet of paper appears red in white light because it absorbs all the other colors and reflects only the red.

In the draft of the new ISO 12647-3 there is a value of 58% for paper brightness specified. The paper whiteness is "To be defined by the paper suppliers".

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Some idle time on the interweb

I recently spent a bit of time wandering aimlessly on the interweb, just following links to see where they'd take me. The web is really amazing - we sometimes take for granted how lucky we are to have it at our disposal.

A printer's invoice from 1936 showed up for sale on eBay:W.E. Baxter was a printshop located in Lewes, Sussex, England - the town where I lived when I was a little boy.

The invoice is made out to a Miss. Bradley and a bit more searching on the internet turned up this photograph of the young lady:
It appears the Baxters had ink in their veins. George Baxter (born July 31, 1804, Lewes, Sussex - died Jan. 11, 1867, Sydenham, Kent) was an engraver and printer who invented a process (patented 1835) of color printing that made reproductions of paintings available on a mass scale. He was the son of John Baxter (1781–1858), printer and publisher at Lewes, who issued the popular illustrated “Baxter” Bible.
The building in Lewes where they did their work is identified by this beautiful sign painted directly on the building wall:
And for those of us not fortunate enough to be able to visit the building in person, Google's Streetview provides a lovely vantage point with the W.E. Baxter building on the right center of the view:
Today the W.E. Baxter building houses rental accommodation rather than printing presses. The commercial print operation of W.E. Baxter moved from Lewes to a property in South London in 2002 but continued to experience losses. It was moved again in May 2004 to the nearby premises of Pegasus Colourprint where, as far as I can determine, it remains today.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Who is responsible for print shop color?

In basic terms:

It is management's responsibility (with input from prepress, press room, and sales) to establish what the presswork color targets and tolerances (dot gains, standards, specifications etc.) are for the presswork - because those are marketing/business decisions. Then provide the tools (training, resources, equipment) to allow prepress and pressroom to achieve those targets.

The responsibility of prepress is to align proofing to the target established by management as well as to maintain proofing within the tolerances established by management because tolerance targets are also marketing/business decisions. Prepress must also output plates that enable the press operators to align their presswork to the proofs with the press performing in a repeatable, stable, cost-effective condition.

The responsibility of the press operator is to manage the press in such a way that the films of the appropriate inks are laid down in a manner that meets the targets and tolerances (hue, trapping, etc.) established by management and that the halftone dots on the plate are reproduced with fidelity on the various substrates (avoiding slur, doubling, etc.). Also, the press operator needs to make sure that all press-related consumables (fountain solution, inks, etc.) are within the tolerances needed to achieve the management defined targets for pressroom output.

Friday, January 20, 2012

In One Quarter of a Second on Press

Printing presses whether they're an older manual model (like the one pictured) or a modern computerized system, share one purpose in common - they must be able to lay down a film of ink with remarkable precision and consistency.

For a typical offset press, one ink tower delivering one of the four primary colors in full color printing lays down an image covering an area approximately 40" x 28". That image is formed by splitting a film of ink 4 microns thick (a tenth the thickness of a human hair) twice (plate to blanket then blanket to paper), while at the same time emulsifying it in a chemical solution (made primarily of water) to a depth of a few molecules. Too much water and the ink washes away. Not enough water and ink starts to print in the background. The ink is carried by approximately 19,250,000 halftone dots averaging in size from 10 to 60 microns. The final film of ink deposited on paper over the whole 1,120 square inch area of the image and is held to a thickness of about 1 micron (one fortieth the thickness of a human hair) with a tolerance of +/- one-tenth of a micron. The positional accuracy of the image is held within one-three hundredths of an inch - about 40 microns. All in one quarter of a second on press.

AM screening - 150 lpi Elliptical Halftone Dot

[click "Play" to view animation - may take a moment to buffer]

Note that the dots are not exactly the same at each percentage. In part, this is to avoid single channel moiré. Also note that in the very light tones (as well as in the darkest tones) as you go through the tones, sometimes there are dots one pixel is size with gaps between them which are then fill with more one pixel sized dots. Then slowly some of the single pixel dots become two pixel dots mixed in with the single pixel ones. This is because a RIP will only image full individual pixels to form a halftone dot. So, in the case of a 2,540 dpi device, each pixel is 10 microns in size (10.6 microns for a 2,400 dpi device). Therefore, if, for example, the the dot diameter needs to be 15 microns in size, since the RIP cannot image a half a pixel to achieve 15 microns, instead the RIP will alternate between 1 pixel dots (10 micron) and 2 pixel dots (20 micron) which results in an effective 15 micron dot average for that tone value.

The elliptical dot shape attempts to avoid the "optical bump" at 50% seen with traditional Euclidean (round/square/round) dots by splitting the point at which dots first touch to 40% and 60% rather than solely at 50%. While it's commonly used, it is not an optimal dot shape in a CtP environment, due to the fact that individual dot shapes are different at each screen angle and that they are directional in nature. When used at low frequencies (


Slur is often confused with doubling as their initial appearance is very similar. However slur is invariably an elongation of the dots in the sheet travel direction. The usual cause of slur is either over or under cylinder packing. Loose blankets, too much plate-to-blanket pressure, too much ink on coated paper, and ink rollers set too hard will also cause slur.

FM Screening - Second Order 20 micron FM/Stochastic Screen

[click "Play" to view animation - may take a moment to buffer]

This is a second order FM screen (Kodak Staccato). In a first order FM screen, dots of the same size are added to simulate darker tones. In a second order FM screen, dots of the same size are added to simulate darker tones – however at a certain tone value no more dots are added. Instead the existing dots simply grow, in one or two directions, in order to simulate darker tones.


Doubling is often confused with slur as both exhibit an elongation of halftone dots. However, slur is usually an elongation in the direction of sheet travel through the press while doubling can be in any direction. Doubling (and slur) often manifest as a problem with the range of tones available in the presswork being compressed and loss of detail, particularly in the shadow areas (a.k.a. muddy halftones). Doubling can be caused by many of the same factors as slur. When the cylinders rotate the halftone dots are not placed in exactly the same position with every revolution. As a result the dots print up as double or multiple images. Doubling between units occurs when a blanket picks up a previously printed ink film. This is known as backtrapping. Examine the dots, or line art graphics, under a loupe to confirm whether the problem is doubling or slur.

Change “survive” to “thrive”

01 Realize that poor economic climates create opportunity.
02 Focus on your core strengths and eliminate weaknesses.
03 Lead against your competition, don’t follow.
04 Raise the bar – set the standard.
05 Treat every job you have as if it were your only job.
06 Talk to new people.
07 Question your business habits and processes.
08 If you can’t do it yourself, get someone who can do it for you.
09 Make bold moves and then tell the world about it.
10 Have fun.

Avoiding "GIGO"

‘GIGO,’ or Garbage In – Garbage Out, is one of the key barriers to the printer achieving an effective, lean, manufacturing process. This is often the result of having to accept client-provided materials that haven’t been created with the technical needs of print production in mind. Why not improve the process by hosting customer training sessions in proper document creation? Keeping your customers current with printing practices will help position you as an indispensable resource for them rather than merely a print provider. A well executed management initiated customer education program will also take the burden off of your individual sales reps to train print buyers and designers.

One effective method is to contract an outside “guru” to provide the instruction. You should charge a fee to cover expenses as well as to emphasize in your customers' minds that you will be providing real value in the sessions. Then, offer to rebate the session fee on the next print order. This way the customer gets valuable training “free” and an incentive to print with you. While you, on the other hand, get better-prepared files as well as improved customer loyalty.

Print buyers don’t buy printing

No print buyer has a need for presswork for the sake of being surrounded by more print. Instead, they see print as a media that fills a communication need more effectively than other, often less expensive and less troublesome methods, such as the Internet. In short they are looking for the unique value that only ink on paper can deliver.

However, if you look at print buyer needs simply in terms of print products and specifications, you may be trying to sell what they are not buying – nor what they value. Instead, try going beyond the specs and look at what your customer is trying to accomplish with their project for themselves, as well as for their customer. Then see if there is a way that you can leverage your print knowledge and techniques to help them better accomplish their print communication goals. Rather than simply parroting printing specs in your quote, acknowledge your uniqueness by translating and describing your technical and service capabilities into differentiating value for their project in your quote.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ink and Paper - a video portrait

Film maker Ben Proudfoot has made a beautiful short documentary about two, next door neighbor shops - one a paper shop and the other a print shop - both struggling to survive.

Aardvark Letterpress
2500 West 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 388-2271

McManus & Morgan Paper
2506 West 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 387-4433