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The 8 Biggest Headaches for & by Graphic Designers

Headache-makers!

We all wish 100% of our projects could go easy and make us happy 100% of the time, but that doesn’t happen. Are you walking away frustrated from print projects? You could be creating design expectations that could not have been met. Designing for print can produce some pretty big headaches. Read on for the most common causes; all are controllable in the design stage.

1. Use Printer-Speak
Communicate your specifications using the language printers’ use for optimum results. One example is the page size. The first number is always the horizontal measurement and the second number is the binding edge. 8.5 in. x 11 in. means it is binding on the 11 in. edge. 11 in. x 8.5 in. means it is binding on the 8.5 in. edge. This is a basic item that continues to mess up print jobs. Another good example is specifying paper and ink. Cover weight paper is not “card stock” and “black and white” is not a two-color print job.

2. Crossovers
A crossover is a design element that crosses over the gutter of a bound printed piece. Depending on the type of binding and where the crossover takes place, you may need a very high-quality printer to bring about the results you desire. Be very careful when adding crossovers to a design if you do not know your printer well. Crossovers within a signature are not as challenging depending on the type of binding and paper. However, crossovers that butt across signatures are very challenging. Ask your printer for an imposition diagram if you are not sure.

  •  Ask your printer for samples of the type of binding you want, such as perfect bound or saddle stitched, and request crossovers in the sample.
  • Set up your InDesign document with facing pages to minimize layout issues.
  • Do not use elements under 1pt. on a graphic element that crosses over a gutter.
  • Color may vary from one signature to another. If you are using a cmyk border it may not match on a spread that is made of two signatures.

Here we have examples of two crossovers printed and bound. The top image shows an impeccable crossover and the bottom shows an average crossover.

 

3. Ink Cracking on a Fold
When paper is folded, it cracks. Sometimes the cracking is microscopic, and sometimes it is glaringly obvious. The extent of the cracking depends on the type of paper, its thickness, and the folding method. If the paper is coated with ink that is a completely different color from the paper (e.g. black ink on white paper) and the ink is solid, the cracking is going to be much more obvious. Things can be done to mitigate cracking, such as folding paper parallel to the grain or using die scoring, but cracking still occurs.
If you are designing a folded piece with large areas of solid color, check with your printer and see if you’re going to wind up with cracking. For instance, cast-coated paper cracks like crazy.

 

4. RGB to CMYK Gamut
A major headache-maker for designers is specifying a logo color or other major branding item on a website in RGB and then you can’t match it in CMYK or spot color ink. The swatches shown below from the Pantone Bridge fan deck illustrates the problem and the solution. Pantone 3395 below is an example of a color that is not reproducible in CMYK as shown by the process swatch to the right. On the left is the Spot Color and below the RGB equivalent to match. To the right is the CMYK equivalent of the spot color. This is showing you how close you can get with process color. Whereas Pantone 7634, when converted to process, is almost an exact match. Look this up before you design a website/identity system in RGB. Your client may be saying all they need right now is a website but eventually they need printing that matches.

 

5. Using Pastel Ink Colors
The swatch below left is the same color as the swatch on the right! The left swatch is ± 10 years old, and the one on the right is three years old.  Aside from illustrating the problem with specifying pastel inks, this shows you why you need to update your Pantone fan decks!  The elements of an identity system can sit around for a long time. Some people can take three years to use up a box of business cards. If you specify a color in the identity system that has a lot of opaque white, that color is going to yellow within 12 months. Then you will receive a phone call from the customer because the letterhead printed a month ago doesn’t match the envelopes printed six months ago, and nothing matches the Ceo’s business cards printed 12 months ago. We have seen this happen too many times to count. Only use pastels on items that don’t have to match over time, such as a special promotion, invitations, or other short-lived items. Shown in the images below are the ink “recipes”. Pantone 1205 has 60 parts transparent white, 1215 has 44 parts, and 1225 has 8 parts. Which is going to be the most stable color? 1225. Specify 1205 for an event invitation and 1225 for an identity system.

 

 

6. Large Screened Areas
A screen is a tint of a color. It can be a dark, 95% screen, or it can be barely visible at 5%. Either way, large screened areas are difficult to print perfectly. If the screen is very dark, 80% and up, it can plug up on press and will look blotchy and darker in the areas that are clogging. With a very light screen, 20% and lower, the same thing can happen only it will be more obvious. Because of how printing presses work, ink density needs to be the same across the entire sheet from left to right and front to back. Today’s software, built into the presses, helps regulate ink density based on the images on the press sheet. However, a very light density image at the head of the sheet and a solid image at the tail, can lead to some tricky press work, especially if your printer is using older equipment or a small press with a common blanket. If you need to screen a large percentage of the sheet, try to stick to screens that are between 30% to 70%. Check with your printer; if your printer is using state-of-the-art equipment, you may be able to push your design to obtain the results you want.

7. Metallic Ink
Metallic inks printed on coated paper need to be coated with a protective varnish or an aqueous coating. If your printer recommends this, she is not trying to get you to spend more money. She wants you to be happy with your job. When that pocket folder is delivered with scuff marks from the binding process because your client didn’t want to spend the extra money on varnish, you will have learned this lesson the hard way.

8. Invoices that do not Match Estimates
The number one cause of an invoice not matching the estimated price is incomplete specifications (specs) or the final specs differ from the quote. For instance, if you didn’t specify bleeds and the art comes in with bleeds, the printer will likely have to order larger paper, which costs more. Furthermore, not allowing enough time in the schedule to order the paper on which the job was bid may require the substitution of a more expensive paper. The second biggest cause is alterations made after the job has begun. Depending on where the print job is in the production cycle, changes can be very costly. If changes are made towards the end of the production cycle, the cost can be catastrophic. Holding a press while you make changes at a press check gets very expensive. Keep in mind that presses are billed by the hour, and the press schedule for the day was likely decided the night before. If your job takes an extra two hours to run — because of you — expect to pay for the additional time.

I hope this helps you avoid these printing headaches! As you can see, none of these is complicated to learn or prevent. If you have a story about one of these printing headaches, I’d love to hear it, please leave a comment below!

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The 3 Workflow Mistakes I Made on My Holiday Card

Arrrgh! I am a pro! I know all this stuff!

I received my holiday newsletter from the printer and I am like, ‘what-the-heck is going on with the body font?’ (I didn’t really say ‘what-the heck’ but I am trying to swear less). I ran to grab one of my proofs to see if the type was as fine on the proof as it was on the printed product and is was not!  I then remembered I proofed it at home on my little Canon Pixma (that I love to bits, not her fault). Crap. Why didn’t I ask for a proof? Because I was late with my holiday cards this year and had already turned it into a New Year’s card and I didn’t want any further delays.

My husband and I are the only ones who saw the proofs and would know the difference, but it was still disappointing. And it is not the first time this has happened to me on a personal project! On a client project I have SOPs, (Standard Operating Procedures) and do not cut corners and typically am not working from home. I have a studio with professional equipment, including printers, so that I can work at the level necessary for commercial work.

This morning I thought, dang, maybe my readers can learn from my mistakes… they might like to see what I am talking about.

The Backstory

This year I did a tongue-in-cheek newsletter “Hark the Herald News” and spent a few minutes researching actual newspaper typefaces from the 1940’s and 50’s to give it that newsy look. (Here’s a pic a friend sent, he thought it was funny, yay!) I loved the Blackletter masthead and condensed Helvetica fonts and thought the non-beautiful spacing of Times was the perfect body font to convey that newspapery feeling. (I also thought a farcical newspaper was the perfect wind-up to 2016 ?.)

Mistake #1: Know what you are proofing

It is easy to forget what you are proofing or why you are proofing when you are caught up in a project. In my case, my husband was proofing typos and content and whether or not my jokes would fall flat on our friends and family. When he was done with his proofing, I thought, okay, good to go, one last check and let’s send off this pdf. When I printed the proofs for my husband I knew that they were for copy only. I knew that I needed to print another set of proofs to check everything else; halftone densities, ink gain on the copy paper, margins, etc. I totally forgot that we were proofing content only, not visuals. 

MISTAKE #2: make a final proof the right way

After we worked out our content and captions I printed some more proofs to make sure I had done the best I could to balance columns and whatnot.  I am a terrible production artist and I know it. I dread this stage of tightening everything up. I like it when I have a design and prepress team with eagle eyes to catch everything I miss. In other words, I rushed through as quick as I could. At this stage I should have switched out the paper to proofing paper instead of 24# copy paper and changed the print setting to “High Quality” or gone to the studio and printed it out on the proper printer and paper.

MISTAKE #3: If you can’t generate a hi-res proof get one

I sent the PDF to the printer with instructions to print it on a nice, unbulky, text (lighter than 80#), because it had to be folded in quarters to fit in my announcement envelopes. I remember being a little concerned about the halftones being dark and was wondering if they could lighten them up on press. I decided against asking that question when I submitted my pdf for fear of slowing down the process. I knew I was getting the file in late and asking for a rush deadline and I did not want to be a pain in the you-know-what. I did not ask for a proof.

Mistake #4: make sure everyone proofing knows what they are reviewing

My husband was surprised by the size when he saw the finished cards. He thought it was going to be tabloid-sized and I was shrinking it down to print at home. The proofs I showed were tiled, trimmed and taped together at actual size, 10″ x 15″ but because of the ratio and the subject, a newspaper, he thought it was going to be bigger! I should have explained that he was seeing the final size.

THE RESULT: disappointment

When you are speccing or setting body copy the “color” of the type has a huge effect on the look of a page. On the left is what the body type looked like coming out of my desktop inkjet printer on plain 24# copy paper with printing quality set to “standard”. On the right is the final output with the body text looking cleaner and more delicate than I wanted. I wanted that soaked-in-newspaper-ink look. This one difference completely changed the impact of the page and man was I bummed. It is the worst feeling to be totally excited about seeing a job come back from the printer and be disappointed. The. Worst.

 

This morning I printed a few more versions so you could see the differences that paper and print settings make.

Below, left is a proof printed on non-inkjet paper but smoother and “nicer” than 24# white copy paper. As you can see, the output is worse than the proof on the 24# paper, above, left. Copy paper is designed for imaging, not necessarily inkjet, but definitely laser printing. The proof is printing better on plain old copy paper than a much nicer non-imaging paper.

Below at right is a proof printed on Photo Glossy Paper. As you can see, the “color” of the paragraph is much closer to the final output than the copy paper proof. The photo paper is designed for desktop inkjet printers and does a fine job of representing how it was going to print. And that is exactly what a proof should do!

I am pretty picky about my print-outs, and that’s why I have a printer at home that uses archival inks and is capable of very high quality printing. Forgetting to use the correct paper is just plain dumb on my part. And even though my printer is awesome, it doesn’t hold a candle to a million-dollar digital printing press. Commercial presses have similar color and resolution, but they are completely different when it comes to speed, media variety, and repeatability.

We were each a little disappointed, I with the color of the type and my husband with the finished size. We still sent them out, folded in quarters, to spread some holiday cheer. The moral of the story is; if you don’t follow the steps necessary for a professional print project…you won’t get a professional outcome. Do you have a story about missing a step? I’d love to hear it.

I wish you a joyous 2017 with perfect proofs and awesome printing!

 

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

It’s not easy being green. If you’re thinking about making your next print project environmentally friendly, make sure you know about recycled paper and “green” printing.

You have undoubtedly heard impassioned pleas by environmentalists extolling causes that are good for the earth and posterity. There has been news about the evils of printing and paper and all the damage they do to trees. Frankly, a lot of what is being said is hogwash.

Fortunately or unfortunately, greenwashing (a superficial or insincere concern for the environment) is a trend, and trends catch on even when they are not based on truth.

We are finally beginning to hear about the carbon footprint of reading a book on an iPad or storing a file on a server. Sending an e-mail takes energy, and the bigger the file, more energy is used. Do you really need to copy the attachment on the whole thread and every response? Do you need to attach all those logos to your e-mail signature? The calculation of carbon footprint is very complex.

For example, when the National Geographic Society conducted a lifecycle analysis of its magazine, it determined it made more sense to print the magazine on paper made from virgin pulp. That way, the society could make sure the pulp came from forests that were certified for environmentally responsible management. It could add responsibly managed pulp to the recycling stream. If you buy inexpensive virgin or recycled paper, manufactured in Southeast Asia, you have no idea what the content of that sheet is, or how responsibly that pulp was sourced and the paper manufactured. The National Geographic Society determined China was creating so much demand for recycled pulp, that creating more demand was no longer an incentive to choosing recycled paper.

Responsibly produced pulp was, in fact, a better way to help.

Greenwashing/Recycled
The components of environmental responsibility include the materials, the process, and the design. This is how organizations measure their practices. Printing on 100% Post Consumer Waste paper that will need to be replaced often because it can’t stand up to heavy use is not a sustainable choice. The best businesses have always had sustainable practices because they make good sense. Nobody wants to waste resources, renewable or not. Nobody wants to waste money.

Environmental Choices for Your Client & You
It is important for you the designer to know what choices are available to you and your client. In most cases, your client is going to look to you to make recommendations in line with their values. Here are some choices that you may consider:

  • Choose recycled content when it suits the project.
  • Choose paper certification that aligns with your values.
  • Choose American paper for projects printed in the U.S.
  • Only print what you need.
  • Choose environmentally responsible vendors, from printing to warehousing.
  • Be aware of how you say you are “green.” The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines that apply to environmental marketing claims, such as “recyclable.” For ftc current guidelines, visit www.ftc.gov/green.
  • Educate yourself about the different types of communication, both print and electronic, and choose the most effective combination while taking the environment into consideration.

Here are questions I get all the time from designers and clients alike:

Is recycled paper more expensive?
It depends. Kraft paper is recycled, brown, and inexpensive. Recycled paper that is whitish with flecks is more expensive than kraft, but less costly than a bright white recycled paper with no flecks. To make recycled paper, the mills need to buy or make pulp from paper that has been de-inked, and that pulp costs more than pulp from a tree. That cost is passed to the customer who can then weigh the value versus the cost.

Does recycling paper save trees?
When used paper is substituted for virgin pulp, it reduces demand. Recycling helps to reduce the amount of land that needs to be used for tree farms and may preserve native forests. However, a tree in a native forest is not the same as a tree on a tree farm. A natural forest differs from a tree farm in biodiversity and habitat. In ecologically sensitive areas where pressure to convert natural forests to tree farms exists, recycling can help decrease the demand that causes that type of pressure.

Does the paper industry plant more trees than it cuts down?
Yes, but increasing tree farm acreage at the expense of natural forest is not equal in terms of biodiversity, habitat, etc.

Is recycled paper more environmentally friendly?
A few factors that need to be weighed in order to gauge the environmental footprint of recycled versus virgin paper: is the paper mill state-of-the-art or turn-of-the-20th-century? That makes a big difference. Is the mill in a country that does not allow pollution downstream? China’s paper factories pollute more than American factories. Does the mill reuse effluents such as liquor and sludge, byproducts of the paper-making process, or does it dump these byproducts in a landfill? How fuel efficient is the plant sorting the recycled paper? Are its trucks low emission? Are its conveyor belt motors gas-, diesel-, or solar-powered? How close is the recycling plant to the paper mill? Will the trucks collecting all the recycled paper in the city have to drive a long way to the edge of the tree farm where most paper mills are located? Is an old growth tree going to be cut down to make the paper? This should be avoided at all costs, and several groups have emerged to certify that the source of the paper is legitimate.

How was the recycled paper de-inked (bleached) before being made into pulp?
Some bleaching methods are terrible for the environment and super expensive to boot. Traditionally, elemental chlorine was used in bleaching, but because of its negative environmental impact, most bleaching processes are now Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF). Is the recycled paper appropriate for the project?

For instance, specifying a job with 100% solid ink coverage on a 100% PCW paper stock might backfire in terms of environmental responsibility because recycled papers use up to three times the ink of a virgin sheet when solid coverage is required. What kind of paper is it? A cardboard carton? The page of a magazine? A paper grocery bag? All those objects require much less energy to recycle into that form than a sheet of fine writing paper or the page of a coffee table photography book. Most wood pulp fibers can be recycled about eight times before they lose the structure needed to be a strong sheet of paper and wind up in the sludge at a paper mill.

Virgin paper is important for introducing strong fibers into the paper-making stream and complementing the mix of recycled pulp. It is also important for that coffee table book you want to pass down to your children. Let’s assume the paper comes from a state-of-the-art U.S. mill and was chosen by a very environmentally conscious recycler in a city where all the paper is sorted close to the mill. If all of these conditions are met, then the resulting recycled paper is more environmentally friendly.

Recycling is great so let’s all do our part! Buying recycled paper and specifying recycled paper creates demand. Just don’t specify recycled when you really need virgin, and remember, we need to add virgin paper to the recycling stream.

The two most common names heard in printing are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustained Forestry Initiative (SFI). If you, the designer, or print buyer specify an FSC-certified sheet, then the printer must purchase from an FSC-certified paper merchant and print on that sheet. If printers are caught substituting other paper, the FSC can revoke their certification.

Print Misinformation, What You Need to Know About Printed Media and the Environment
Misinformation about the environment and printed media is abundant. “Save a tree—don’t print!”; “Print is bad for the environment!”; or “Print is killing the forests!” We’ve all heard statements such as these. The truth is print is recyclable, renewable, and responsible. Let’s examine the facts.

Print and Recycling
87% of all Americans have access to curbside or drop-off recycling programs. Of all printed materials in the U.S., 63% are recycled, and this number keeps growing as recycling becomes more popular. Print is renewable and sustainable Trees are a renewable resource; we are not going to use up all the trees for paper. Most of the trees used in paper are grown on “tree farms” as a crop, just like corn or wheat.

Print is Responsible
Only 11% of the world’s forests are used for paper. “Waste products,” such as wood chips, sawmill scraps, and recycled paper, provide the bulk of the fiber for making paper.

More Factoids
Print isn’t going away. It’s not a matter of turning on your iPad instead of reading a magazine. Both the magazine and the iPad are going to be around. Considering these facts, listed below, about the effectiveness of print, you can be environmentally responsible while making print.

  • Seventy-three percent of consumers prefer to receive mail for new product announcements or offers from companies they do business with compared to 18% who would rather receive e-mail (International Communications research survey).
  • A catalog lead costs $47.61 while e-mail comes in at $53.85 per lead, and, furthermore, the response rate to direct mail has consistently been three times higher than the response rate from e-mails (Direct Marketing Association 2011 Statistical Fact Book).
  • Nearly 90% of consumers say they want to receive sales and promotions via direct mail and find offers in the newspaper (Nielsen Research). Consumers in the 18–34 year-old demographic prefer to learn about marketing offers via postal mail and newspapers rather than through online sources such as media sites (Finding the Right Channel Combination: What Drives Channel Choices, icom, a division of Epsilon Marketing).
  • Seventy percent of Americans enjoy reading printed magazines even though they know they could find most of the same information online (State of the Media Democracy, Deloitte Research, March 2011).
  • Seventy-five percent of college students prefer a printed textbook when taking a class, and 53% of college students would not consider buying digital textbooks even if they were available (Student Watch 2010, National Association of College Stores).

You can tell pretty easily if your printer is green. She is up to your standards if she operates like you do. For instance, do you recycle paper, metal, and plastic at home or at your job? So should your printer. When it is time to get rid of old electronics, do you take them to a designated recycling place? So should your printer. Do you work in a leed-certified building? Your printer doesn’t either, I bet. Responsible choices are easy to make. Confirm your printer and all your vendors are doing their part.

Certifications
Environmental certifications are a way to display the environmental practices a company follows. Some of these certifications refer to a Chain-of-Custody (coc). You can look at the websites of each of these organizations to get more information. It’s easy to take people’s word that they are “the best” or “the leading” or “the largest.” What’s more important is deciding whether what they do is in line with your clients’— and your — values. Bear in mind that in some of the more obscure certifications, the foxes are watching the hen house, so to speak.

chain_of_custody

Chain-of-Custody Certifications
Forest Stewardship Council (fsc) (printer must be certified) “The Forest Stewardship Council mission is to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests.” There are several types of FSC logos, one if 100% of the product comes from FSC sources, one for 100% recycled paper that contains at least 95% fiber that is Pcw (Post-Consumer Waste), and various Mixed Source logos. (Mixed Source is when a product contains one or more of the following: FSC-certified fiber, recycled fiber, or controlled wood fiber.)

You must use the logo of the printer who will print the piece to maintain chain-of-custody, and the logo must be printed in 378 green or black. The printer’s FSC number is visible on the logo. Positive, negative, black, white, portrait, and landscape versions of each logo are available. The FSC label cannot be used with another label. Your client must choose which system he is following. www.fscus.org

Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) “SFI Inc. is a fully independent, charitable organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management.” Your printer must be certified to the SFI standard to use an SFI label. SFI has two main types of product labels: SFI Chain of Custody (includes certified forest content) and the SFI Certified Sourcing.

Sustainable Green Printing Partnership “The mission of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership is to encourage and promote participation in the worldwide movement to reduce environmental impact and increase social responsibility of the graphic communications industry through certification and continuous improvement of sustainability and best practices within manufacturing operations.”

This organization is relatively new and has a limited number of members. www.sgppartnership.org

I hope this information makes you more confident about advising your clients about environmentally friendly choices. If you’ve got a story about recycled paper or certifications and logo usage, please share it with us!

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