What is… Finishing? (part 2)

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Part Two…

If you missed it, you can jump to Part 1 for an introduction to finishing and for some of the particulars of Decorative Finishes. Click here for Part 1.

Otherwise keep reading to find out more about Conversion options in Print Finishing. 

CONVERSION

As stated earlier, conversion processes enhance usability of a product. In some cases, such as lamination, conversion may also enhance the look and feel of a product. 

In no particular order let’s explore some of the more popular conversion options…

Lamination – When it comes to durability, lamination should be your go-to choice. And the number of choices for material is both wonderful and intimidating. 

A quick look at our materials inventory and I see gloss, matte and soft touch finishes, standard and super stick adhesives and a myriad of options of each with different thicknesses of lamination and adhesion layers. And we can laminate just one side of the sheet or both sides depending on the product’s needs. Plus there’s flush trim and sealed edge options, 

My advise is to give us a call to discuss your project and let us make an informed recommendation. 

Index Tabs – Although more straight forward than lamination, Index Tabs can be created in a number of sizes to accommodate the number of tabs per bank required. You also have the option of using mylar on the tab to add protection and mylar on the spine edge to enhance strength. 

Mylar is a good idea if you intend to mechanically bind the tab sheets. And don’t forget to specify if your tabs need to be drilled or punched for comb, spiral or ring binding. 

Die CuttingDie Cutting can enhance both usability and aesthetics. Die cutting allows us to create custom shapes such as curved pockets on a folder, a round window on a cover, a gusseted pocket or special index tabs.

Scoring – Lightweight stock typically doesn’t require a score in order to fold well. Heavyweight stock though will rarely fold well without a score. A score can help to prevent surface or image cracking at a fold. And if the piece is to be delivered flat for later assembly, a score takes the guess work out of how to fold the piece. 

Perforating – A line of small, thin cuts in the paper that allow for easy separation. Perfing can also aid in assembly of a dimensional piece or used in the binding process to help purge air when a larger press sheet is machine folded. 

Pocket Folders – As hinted under die cutting above, converting a pocket folder from a flat printed sheet is a multi step process. First the press sheet needs to be die cut and scored in order to account for the panels, pockets, gussets and glue tabs. A trip to the guillotine cutter to finish the prep work and then to the folder/gluer to convert the flat sheet to a pocket folder. Many custom features are available to include media sleeves, die cut windows, embossing, foil, etc. In fact, most of the options listed on this post are available on pocket folders. So don’t hold back… go wild!

Drilling – A little mundane compared to pocket folders but drilling is the most cost effective way to put holes in paper. Whether its for a three-ring binder, a wall calendar or an eyelet, drilling is a staple in the print finishing department. 

Grommets / Eyelets – Not just for banners, grommets can serve as a mechanical binding method. Think of a set of sample sheets that are grommeted in the corner to allow easy fan-out. Or a set of laminated instruction cards that will be hung from a hook on the wall. Grommets ensure long term durability no matter what their purpose. 

Cutting – Cutting is mostly a support process in printing. In commercial printing we almost always print multiple up on a larger sheet. With perfect binding we cut the book blocks oversize before binding and then final trim the top, bottom and face after binding. There’s nothing glamorous about cutting operations but it is the back bone of finishing.

Numbering – The original form of variable data, numbering requires that we first print the piece for all other content and then come back through to apply sequential numbers. This can be done multiple up so products like raffle tickets that require the same number be printed in different locations on the sheet can be done so in one numbering pass. 

Folding – There are many types of folding for many different products. Suffice it to say that whether we need to fold a press sheet for perfect bound collation, a pocket folder with glue tabs or letterfold a mailer, Advanced Print & Finishing can accommodate your folding needs. 

Gluing / TapingPocket folder conversion and other similar products require glue or tape to form pockets. Most pocket folders can be glued inline during conversion. Gusseted pockets (dimensional pockets) or other complex shapes often require hand taping and manual assembly. Either way we have you covered. 

 

Our finishing experts are an indispensable resource available to you on any project. We are only a phone call or an email away: 770-664-8199 / finishing@advancedpf.com.

What is… Finishing? (part 1)

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Part One…

Finishing, or Print Finishing, encompasses all processes that occur between printing and shipping. Finishing steps can be broken into three general categories; Binding, Conversion and Decoration. Although Binding is a finishing category, we typically exclude it (collating, saddle stitching, wire-o, etc.) when referring to finishing. Binding is complex enough to deserve it’s own consideration. 

What’s left are the decoration and conversion categories. Decorative process typically will enhance the look or feel of a printed product but can also increase durability. 

Conversion processes may also enhance the look and feel of a product but the primary purpose of this category is utility. Whether we are laminating for extra durability or index tabbing, conversion makes a printed product more useable. 

Decoration

Foil Stamping – Everyone is familiar with gold and silver foil but don’t stop there. There are hundreds of foil colors and sheens to choose from along with options such as clear foil that can enhance a specific area of the printed sheet.

Embossing – Embossing raises an area of the paper giving physical dimension to your product. This is often combined with foil stamping or with the printed image of the sheet to add impact. Another option is to raise an area without print or foil – referred to as a blind emboss – and is most often used to smooth or flatten papers with textured finishes such as linen or laid. Click here for an example of a multi-level blind emboss.

Debossing (image above) –  The opposite of embossing, debossing pushes the affected area down instead of up. This process is often combined with die cutting to create a frame around an area that is punched out of the stock. Think of a die-cut window in a book cover that reveals an image on the first page of the book.

Coatings – There are a few different options when it comes to coatings that offer different levels of visual impact, protection and cost. Aqueous, Varnish and UV finishes each will help to protect your image from bumps and scrapes to varying degrees. The following options are listed in the order of additional cost. 

  • In the case of Aqueous coatings, this is a thin water like coating that is applied in-line during the press run. It is only available as a flood finish, one that covers the entire sheet. It can help tame uneven sheen between heavy and light cover areas of the sheet. 
  • Varnish coatings are also applied in-line and can flood the sheet and tame sheen like Aqueous coatings. Varnish also offers the option to apply a different sheen to specific areas of the sheet. A hit of spot varnish can subtly enhance your logo or an important image or even a headline. 
  • UV, or Ultra Violet finishes can be applied in-line like the others but are often done after printing. UV finishes are most commonly used as a spot finish and is applied much thicker than the other two options. The only other finishing option that rivals the glossy reflective finish of spot UV is Clear Foil mentioned above under Foil Stamping. In addition to UV coatings being more expensive than the other options, UV typically requires additional production time.

Conversion

Part two of this post will cover conversion options such as die cutting, lamination and pocket folders.

 

Our pre-press experts are an indispensable resource available to you on any project. We are only a phone call or an email away: 770-664-8199 / prepress@advancedpf.com.

Plastic Coil and Wire-O Binding

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Among the many ways to bind sheets of paper together, two of the most popular are coil and comb binding. To make things confusing there are coil and comb options for both metal and plastic materials. 

Of those options, the two that have risen to the top for professional purposes are Plastic Coil and Wire-O (metal comb). Although these methods are similar there are a couple of distinctions that can help you decide which method will be best for your project. 

Durability vs. Appeal

Generally speaking, Wire-O is considered to be a better looking product and Plastic Coil is considered more durable. Both are very durable and will almost certainly keep those pages together. However, if really smashed the plastic option will spring back to its original shape where the metal coil may remain deformed. 

Because of this durability, Plastic Coil binding is often employed on volumes that will see repeated use. Cookbooks, children’s books, shop manuals or parts manuals and so on. 

Wire-O’s more refined look makes it better suited to formal reports, proposals, family histories and the like. Don’t discount either option based on these examples. These methods are still very similar and will work for any type of book. 

Usability

Another point to consider is usability. Although both options lay flat when laid open on a surface, the Wire-O version will line up directly between the two halves of the book. This can be important for critical crossovers such as a table or graph that extends through the binding. 

Plastic Coil’s advantage is when wrapping the cover completely around to the back. The coil binding will offer no resistance, laying completely flat when doubled over. Wire-O will also open this way but there will be a section on the bound edge that will not lay completely flush. 

Color Options

A wide variety of colors are available for both Plastic Coil and Wire-O binding methods. Choosing a custom color is a great way to make your project stand out from the rest generally at no additional cost (some minimums may apply). Below is a list of colors available for each option:

Plastic Coil: Clear, White, Black, Grey, Blue, Green, Gold, Tan, Brown, Yellow, Orange, Red, Pink

Wire-O: White, Black, Silver, Pewter, Gold, Blue, Red, Green, Grey

If choosing either binding method remember to move any critical graphics and text away from the binding edge approximately 3/8” to accommodate for the binding. 

 

Call or email us to discuss how we can help with your plastic coil or wire-o bound book project: 770-542-0667 / finishing@advancedpf.com.

What is… Rich Black?

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The color black – at first thought the name itself would seem to be enough of a description. In the world of print though the color black is anything but simple. There are specific points that should be understood when planning on putting black ink on paper. Read on to find out more about the whys and hows of black ink. 

Process Color / CMYK

The problem of black ink is rooted in color theory. That’s boring though so let’s skip ahead. The colors of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow when combined should arrive at the color black. In the real world though they add up to a muddy brown. And even if 100% CMY equalled black we would be stuck with 300% total ink density and the resulting drying issues. 

So CMY loads up the ink while not making black. Thanks CMY. Then how can we cut total ink density and arrive at a true black? You guessed it – use black ink (the ‘K’ in CMYK).  

Black, black or black?

Ok, great – now we know that we need to use black ink. But how much should we use, when should we use it and what new problems do we need to be aware of?

In the case of photos, design software or the RIP will take care of blending in the proper amount of black wherever it’s needed in the image. That leaves us to only worry about objects and text. In both cases we need to understand the difference between a few different definitions of black. Namely; Black, Rich Black and Registration Black. 

Black, Rich Black, Registration Black

Registration Black is easy so lets get it out of the way first. Don’t use it. Ever. 

Its only purpose is so that printer’s marks can appear on all printing plates regardless of what separation the plate represents. If you’re responsible for press imposition then you already know everything that this article will discuss. Thanks for checking it out but feel free to go impose something. The rest of us can keep reading. 

With Registration Black out of the way we only have to worry about Black and Rich Black. 

Rich Black is no more than black ink reinforced with percentages of the other colors being used to print your multi-color product. For instance, if we are using CMYK (process color), in the areas that are to appear black we will add some cyan, magenta and yellow behind the black ink. If you look at the photo above, the black bar at the top is representative of overprinting a solid bar of black ink on top of the image. See how the image tends to show through the black? Where the image is darker so is the black bar. And the lighter areas still look black but not really black. 

At the bottom of the photo, the black bar isn’t overprinting the photo, it is a solid object with a Rich Black build. There’s no chalky gray or image show through. It’s just black. But only because it’s not just black, it’s Rich Black.

The other colors combined to produce a medium gray on which we printed solid black. That’s the magic of Rich Black – we are printing all four colors to achieve a deep, dense black color but we are keeping our total ink density to a manageable level. Take that CMY. 

When to Use: Photo effects, CMYK printing, large areas

So here it is. Rich black can and often should be used for large solid areas of black when using process color. It can also be used to match the level or hue of black in a photo for something like a photo border. 

Have you ever noticed that B&W photos in color books, instead of appearing a neutral gray often appear either cool or warm? Remember, your B&W photos are being printed with CMYK. Too much cyan or magenta density in the mix can color shift your grays. 

This can be used to great effect when done intentionally. If you have a B&W photo of a desert sunset you can add a little Magenta to the curve to give the photo a warmer tone. Or a little Cyan can be added to a winter scene. It will still appear B&W but will add a subtle suggestion to the viewer about the image. 

When not to use: Neutral B&W photos, small type or logos, spot color jobs

It’s tempting then to used Rich Black everywhere. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. 

Take for instance lowly 10pt black text. If we used Rich Black here the Pressman would say very bad words. That’s because he now has to try and hold perfect registration across the entire press sheet. And there’s no such thing as perfect registration. The least little bit of misregistration will be obvious to the naked eye. The text will look blurry and be difficult to read. The same is true for fine details in knockout areas – white text on a solid black area for instance. Or fine details in a multi-color logo.

Neutral B&W photos almost always look better when printed with black ink alone. Registration is less of an issue here but another printing press reality comes into play. Ink density and coverage can work against each other on the press sheet. In a heavy coverage area we have to increase the delivery of some inks. If your B&W photo is using Rich Black, it can color shift as described above. Adjusting for this then can throw off other elements on the sheet. 

In these cases the advantages of Rich Black are outweighed by practical issues. Some of which can be overcome with trapping but that’s something for prepress to sort out. The layout artist is better off using straight black to avoid printing themselves into a corner. 

As a general rule Rich Black should not be used when printing with spot colors. Spot colors are rarely a neutral color so they will color shift your black. And even if this is the desired effect, spot colors are more opaque than process color inks. You won’t know what you’re getting until it’s too late. For instance. you might be trying for a slightly blue cast Rich Black by adding some of that Reflex Blue into the mix. Won’t you be disappointed when it ends up being a deep purple instead. 

What build? (hint: 55 / 44 / 41 / 100)

Warnings aside, you’re stoked to use Rich Black on your next project. Awesome. But how much is too much and what’s not enough? 

Ask several prepress operators what build to use and I guarantee you will receive a different answer from each. There is no industry standard to follow and often these builds are bourn from experience in their own shop with their own particular mix of equipment and materials. The goal is to find a balance between the CMY build that results in a medium gray. One that’s strong enough to reinforce black ink but is light enough to keep your total ink density in check. 

The build that works for me in most cases is 55% cyan, 44% magenta, 41% yellow and 100% black. This will give you 240% total ink, produces a very neutral gray in the event that you use transparency effects in your design and will still arrive at a solid Rich Black. 

Rich Black for the Win!

The color Black is a little more involved than it seems up front. With this knowledge though you can now avoid some pitfalls and punch up the density of black on your final printed piece. 

Our pre-press experts are an indispensable resource available to you on any project. We are only a phone call or an email away: 770-664-8199 / prepress@advancedpf.com.

100% Recycled Coated Paper : Cocoon

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For years the only recycled sheets available were uncoated. Finally there is an option for a 100% recycled coated paper: Cocoon. Arjowiggins Graphic based in France has developed technology and procedures to ensure a high level of whiteness without compromising printability or the environment.

Certified Options

Cocoon is available in gloss and silk finishes along with an uncoated option in a variety of text and cover weights. Unlike other recycled sheets, it boasts a 100% whiteness rating all while achieving the following certifications:

  • FSC
  • Ecolabe
  • Food Safe
  • Process Chlorine Free

Earth Conscious

Cocoon is certified for both offset and digital formats so it is great option for those wanting to choose an earth conscious option for short and long run projects.

 

For this and many other paper options, give us a call at 770-542-0667. Or send us an email at info@advancedpf.com.

Gusseted Pocket Folders

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Standard pocket folders are great for general presentation. But what about those times when you have bulky materials such as a perfect bound catalog or if you have a large volume of materials to include? Maybe you need to include digital media, a folded poster or a book of samples. 

A Box for All That Stuff

Gusseted Pocket Folders are the answer. A gusset is simply an extension of the pockets and flaps. We add scores to create a boxed area to accommodate those thicker contents. 

Go BIG!

While we’re at it, why not include a custom diecut shape on those pockets or flaps. How about a velcro dot to keep everything together? Or to really stand out, consider embossing or foil. Whatever your requirements, Advanced Print & Finishing can create a custom gusseted pocket folder to meet your needs. 

A Lasting Impression

By tailoring your pocket folder to the intended contents you demonstrate your attention to detail and concern for quality. It may be a rather small detail but you only get one chance to leave a lasting impression. Make your best effort with thoughtfully designed materials. 

 

Let Advanced Print & Finishing help you with your next pocket folder project. Give us a call at 770-542-0667. Or send us an email at finishing@advancedpf.com.

What is… a RIP?

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What is a RIP

Raster Image Processor

RIP is the acronym for Raster Image Processor and is a system that translates computer documents to a printable format. Just like the graphics card in your computer translates digital code into a viewable image, a RIP is necessary to ‘display’ digital content on paper. 

Unlike your desktop printer with a built in translator, commercial printing RIPs requires a lot more horsepower and has to tackle far more technical problems. At the heart of the RIP is the screening engine. 

Screening

In traditional multi-color printing we would expose images through color filters and very fine screens to break the continuous tone image (photograph or illustration) into a series of tiny dots. These dots are visible under magnification but at normal reading distances the human eye will blend the colored dots back into a continuous image. With the image broken down to dots and component colors we can now image that to a printing plate and subsequently put ink on paper. A RIP’s screening engine accomplishes the same thing using software. It separates the component colors of an image and then breaks each of those down to a series of different size dots placed on a very fine grid. 

Flattening

Before screening can occur the RIP needs to simplify the document. It takes all of the layers of information – text, images, objects, blends, drop shadows and so on – and flattens them down to a single layer. The RIP then examines the flattened document and creates a list of trapping instructions to pass to the separation engine. The RIP applies trapping and separates the component colors which in the case of Four Color Process Printing is Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Finally the RIP can apply screening to each of the separations. 

Imaging

The last job of the RIP is to compress the separation files and send them to a plate setter or CTP (Computer to Plate) device. This will be the subject of a future ‘What is…’ post.

 

Our pre-press experts are an indispensable resource available to you on any project. We are only a phone call or an email away: 770-664-8199 / prepress@advancedpf.com.

Steel Rule Dies / Die Cutting

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Steel Rule Die

A steel rule die consists of various shapes or lengths of steel blades that are formed or bent to cut unique shapes or designs in different types of material. Dies can be made into just about anything imaginable, from a simple shape such as a circle or square to more detailed shapes such as pop ups inside of a book to candy or video boxes. 

Metal, Rubber and Wood

To make a die, the cutting rule is formed and then typically placed onto a wood block with small pieces of rubber that are used to help with the pressure of the cutting process. The wood block is then attached to the press and readied for cutting. 

Measure Twice, Cut Once

The press operator will then measure where the paper needs to be underneath the die and cut a series of test sheets to make sure things are properly lined up and that the die is cutting through the material being used. Once he is satisfied with placement and cut, he will then proceed with running the job.

Let Advanced Print & Finishing help you with your next die cutting project, give us a call at 770-542-0667. Or send us an email at finishing@advancedpf.com.

Multi-Level Stamping Dies

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Multi-level stamping dies are used for several types of embossing and for combination dies. Multi-level refers to the dimensional quality of the die. 

Die Types

In the case of a logo there may be details that are more pronounced that need to be raised above the rest of the embossed area. Think of this type as a stair step. Other times the emboss may require a rounded bevel or in some cases a sculpted die is called for, an example of which is in the photo above.

Another type of multi-level die is a Combination Die or “combo die”. This type of die can emboss and foil stamp in one pass. 

Combo Dies

A combo die is almost always sculpted to give great dimension and detail to what you are working on. They are made from brass which is the hardest metal from which stamping dies are made. Brass dies are also long lasting. This enables you to use the same dies time and time again without the die wearing down. Typically used for high end letterhead and business cards, invitations and holiday cards. They help you achieve that greater depth and detail that you are looking for when foil stamping and embossing.

Call for Details

Give us a call to see if a multi-level die is right for your project. Our staff are always here to guide you through the process, 770-542-0667. Or email us at finishing@advancedpf.com.

What is… Trap?

advancedpf Prepress, Tips & Pointers

The Problem

The lower half of the graphic above represents an exaggerated example of misregistration. This is a problem that can exist in any multi-color printing process. 

Printing presses lay colors down one on top of the next. As the paper moves through the press there can be slight variations in registration – or the alignment between colors. Much of the time this is imperceivable to the reader but under certain circumstances it can be seen as gaps of white between two adjacent colors. 

Trapping

The solution to the problem is called Trapping. With this technique we create a hairline overlap where distinct colors meet. The top half of the graphic above shows an again exaggerated version of trap. The dark outline around the letters in the word “Trap” is an example of the solution. When done correctly, the trap is not noticeable and gaps are eliminated. 

Our Solution

Advanced Print & Finishing has invested heavily in our production workflow. Part of that investment is in sophisticated software that evaluates the contents of each page and adds trap as needed. 

Too little trap will result in the problem still being noticeable in certain areas. With too much trap the trap itself will become noticeable. So how do we ensure that the exact amount of trap needed will be applied? Our skilled pre-press operators review the parameters of each job and dial in the software settings. Once dialed in, the RIP takes care of the rest. We are then able to review the trap after the RIP stage and before the job goes to press. 

Our Experience is Your Experience

Always remember that our pre-press experts are an indispensable resource available to you on any project. We are only a phone call or an email away: 770-664-8199 / prepress@advancedpf.com.

 

Up next… What is a “RIP”?