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Help with digital and offset printing and CMYK
bluedude 
7/8/08 5:40:00 PM
Guru

Heyas

It seems every time I'm about to print something I need to double-check stuff with people in a forum. I'm still very iffy about how printing all works. Basically I just want the print to come out looking like what I'm looking at on the screen in PS or Illustrator.

So I'm printing business cards (about 500 or so). We have a couple of places to print at. Some print offset, some print digital, some do both. It seems offset is cheaper than digital. Also, offset prints colour by colour (CMYK), so I imagine strict attention will need to be paid to the CMYK colours used. I don't know of what printing in digital means to the designer though.

1. What's the dif with digital and offset, and which should I go to achieve the simplest/best results?

2. I imagine you should always submit your design to the printers in CMYK, not RGB, correct?

3. Is the safest way of achieving the best results to simply design in Illustrator, in CMYK mode, choose your colours from the swatches and modify them in the colour picker? Is this safe?

4. Also, I found that generally a good solid black colour is Black (K) 100%, and CMY 20-30%, is this correct?

5. Digital printers apparently need to 'laminate'. What does this mean? Surely it doesn't mean laminate with crappy clear gloss plastic like old library cards, right?

6. Anything I need to know about printer profiles and colour profiles in Illustrator? Or just leave everything at default?

Anything else I should know about printing in digital and offset and stuff with CMYK and file format?

In fact, if you've ever made a really good print that came out close to what you saw on the screen as you designed it, could you please tell me your process, including file formats, colour modes, printers etc.

Cheers


Edited by bluedude: 7/8/2008 05:52:00 PM

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bonna-wana jeebi-wah?

superfireydave 
7/8/08 7:17:27 PM
Titan

1) Digital is quicker, offset gives better quality (generally)
2) Yes, CMYK is the standard for printing, RGB is for monitors.
3) Essentially. If you really wanted to be pedantic some business card places specificy a particular colour safe set.
4) Doesn't matter. K specifies blackness so at K100 everything is black, the opposite is not true for K0 though as the CMY values will influence darkness.
5) Laminate as in give it a glossy coating, it's not the same as a library card or a drivers license etc. It's preferrable and gives your cards longer life.
6) Not sure tbh, I'll ask the graphic designer I work with - he's a lot more cluey than I am about printing =P~

As a side note, the printing quality may (and probably will) vary slightly from place to place.

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Mreow?
http://www.atomicmpc.com.au/forums.asp?s=2&c=9&t=17306

devoid 
7/8/08 7:53:55 PM
Guru

Ok, I will answer these the best I can

1. Digital is a direct print from the pc to a printer/photocopier or card printer, these use toner which isnt as durable as ink, toner is also prone to uv fading. Offset is running it through a printing press using plates (sort of the same premise as screen printing or etching), the offset ink is very durable and very consistant, Offset is by far the best quality and depending on the press you can achieve some awesome effects.

Also Digi has a far lower gamut range than Offset, the colours cut off way lower in the spectrum (effectivly making them dull in comparison), If you want the colours to really 'pop' offset is the way to go.

2. CMYK is the standard for professional printing, where consumers generally use rgb. Most digi printers do RGB-CMYK on the fly but it will mutilate offset. If you go to offset the best and most cost effective thing to do (if you are using 3 or less colours) would be to use Pantone swatches (PMS), if your using 4 or more CMYK will be fine.

With PMS the offset machinest can accurately repoduce any ink in the PMS range.

3. using the standard swatches on a CMYK document should be fine, instead of tweaking the rather limited range try loading one of the PMS libraries (I reccommend the PMS Coated).

4. There are 2 different types of black, normal black 100%K and rich black which (iirc) is about 75% of all 4 CMYK swatches. the mix you stated should be good, beefing up the standard black.

5. Im not sure what they mean by laminating, it would be best to clarify that with the printer. There are a few different types of laminating in printing. there is the crappy library ones, there is one that puts a layer of plastic film over the card like a credit card and there are liquid coatings.

It sounds like they have a dedicated card printer which should do a good job.

6. Standard profiles should be fine, there is almost no point to go to the trouble of trying to set that sort of thing up if it is only a small job and you do not constantly have access to the machines. Each monitor and printer is different.

Be careful of fine point white on black (and vice versa for that matter) the ink 'bleeds out' a little and swallows white up, nothing less than 6pt and no light fonts.

The most important thing for any designer doing a print job (from years of prepress experience) ALWAYS ALWAYS INCLUDE A BLEED OF AT LEAST 3MM

for the file format .PDF is always safe. 1 important note, when saving it, the output for offset must be set to Press quality, other wise the colours will be screwed when it goes to plate.

At my last job I had a very good setup, but I had the right tools and alot of time, we were running a new Canon C1 with a Fiery rip and graphics package. All monitors (3 of them) were all calibrated weekly with a spectrometer, all software was using spectrometer calibrated profiles. The C1 was spectrometer calibrated daily with output profiles calibrated for every specific paper type we had, all ink simulations were spectrometer calibrated to PMS books with manually tweaked gamut ranges. I worked closley with the offset machinest to match the Digi outputs to the 2 Hiedelberg GTOs we were running. That was fairly extreme, and took months to get really perfect, everything was custom.

hope that helps.

-----
Theirs is no ordinary life they have a secret, By day they are normal but by night things change,
They hot up, they go a bit wild, they get lost in dreams and fantasies, Its like being in a film and living the soundtrack, The music does it, The music.

bluedude 
7/8/08 9:12:14 PM
Guru

Thanks fellas! That is some fantastic help right there.

I think I've always been confused by what colours to choose when it comes to CMYK because I would use the colour picker and couldn't trust how it may come out.

I've since found that using swatches is a much better way :)

Devoid - Just before I was using some basic colours from the 'Colour Properties' swatch folder, but have since opened up 'PMS Coated' and wow! Perfect! I've now got the exact colours I always wanted and can trust that they'll turn out well.

I've got a really simple bus card - 5 main colours (red, orange, green, blue, black edit - and a mid-grey 60,50,50,20 CMYK ) and they're all cheery yet bold colours. We want them to stand out well against a nice black. The colours a 'flat', as in there's no gradients and effects, expect for 4 coloured lines at 1pt.

1. Devoid - in Photoshop the document is 300dpi, 90mm x 56mm, and the line I drew (using shape tool) was 1pt. You say a min of 6pt is recommended, but this looks huge! But did you just mean this for text only? The text (Myriad Pro, using 'Regular' and 'Bold') is 10pt. So will a 1pt coloured line (orange, red, blue and green) be okay on a solid black background?

2. Does digi print and offset differ in 'bleeding' when it comes to 1pt lines, for example?

Thanks for the note on using 'Press Quality' when saving the PDF for offset. Otherwise, for digital, I'll use 'High Quality Print' which is the default I believe.

In Photoshop I had the 3mm bleed + 3mm 'active area', however I'm now converting it into an Illustrator document (as suggest but our most likely-to-be printing place).

3. Are there any special ways of setting up bleeds and 'active areas' for Illustrator designs to make it easier for the printer man? So far I have added a 3mm bleed through File > Print... and under 'Marks & Bleed'. Anything else I should do?

4. When I started the Illustrator document I made it 90mm x 56mm (standard bus card size, I believe) which does not include the bleed. This gave me a doc with a black outline which I presume marks the 90mm x 56mm dimensions. By adding the bleed in 'Print...', do I have to go ahead and drag the background (just a black bg in this case) out past the document's black outline by 3mm, or will Illustrator somehow automatically do some bleed magikz for me?

Edit - Ooo one more question.

5. I'd like to use 'Place...' in Illustrator to dynamically link logos and stuff into the business card. So to edit the logo, I would only need to edit the logo file and not both the logo and business card file. Anyway, this is convenient for me but what happens when I send it to print? When I save to PDF, will in cunningly import and save the logo into the buscard PDF, so I don't need to keep file linked and end up sending the printers 2 or more files just for a bus card?

I think that's all I have on my mind for now :)

Again, thanks a bunch guys. I've got a much better idea of how to go about printing now, cheers.


Edited by bluedude: 7/8/2008 9:17:59 PM

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bonna-wana jeebi-wah?

orcone 
7/8/08 9:22:04 PM
Titan

You can ask for a colour proof of your work before you pay them.

Just so you don't throw down a lot of money then are disappointed. That sucks.

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I love Isa. She rawkz my cawkz. =o)

devoid 
7/8/08 10:17:51 PM
Guru

1 and 2. I was implying text, a 1pt line should be fine, both toner and ink have a bit of 'bleeding' (lack of a better word, I forgot the term) ink more so, it is also dependent on the halftone resolution of the offset machine, the ones at my old work were ~150dpi but the more advanced modern ones go alot higher.

I would concur with orcone, before the print ask for a proof so that you can confirm everything.

3. I am unsure about that. I had a different workflow, never printed final jobs directly from illustrator, They were all c&p into InDesign. I only ever used illustrator for graphics, final layup and text was always done through indesign.

4. You have to manually create the bleed, when you save to pdf, under 'marks and bleed' define the bleed regions to 3mm and enable trim marks, the printer should be able to do everything else like adding colour bars and rego marks.

5. Im not sure about that, once again different workflow. Only thing to do is test it.

What you see in a PDF is what you get, the thing to do with that, if your paranoid about it is to do a final printout for the printer and include all the working files.



So with those colours it will need to be a 4 colour CMYK job, im not sure if you need to or how to do it in illustrator but it might pay to see if you need to change your swatches from Spot to Process. Spot colour for single colour inks (the PMS colours) and Process for the CMYK colours.



-----
Theirs is no ordinary life they have a secret, By day they are normal but by night things change,
They hot up, they go a bit wild, they get lost in dreams and fantasies, Its like being in a film and living the soundtrack, The music does it, The music.

bluedude 
7/8/08 11:07:11 PM
Guru

I found that you can either change PMS colours from spot to process in Print > Output and tick 'Convert all spot colours to process'. However I doubt this stays put when you export to PDF.

I see there's also a colour book for 'PMS solid to process'.

If I Save As PDF, select the profile 'Press Quality' and click then click output the settings read 'Color Conversion: Convert to Destination (Preserve Numbers)' and 'Destination: Document CMYK US Web Coated SWOP v2'. There's also an option under 'Destination:' for 'Working CMYK US Web Coated SWOP v2'. There's also a 'Profile Inclusion Policy' where you can include destination profiles...

Any thoughts on which of these I should do, if I need to convert PMS spot to process?

I imagine just choosing colours from the PMS solid to process colour book would be easiest...

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bonna-wana jeebi-wah?

bluedude 
8/8/08 12:32:17 AM
Guru

Fark. I've got a slight problem.

In Photoshop when using RGB I used a red gradient line on the black background and it looked like this: http://i33.tinypic.com/2cr0avl.jpg

Now, this looks good. This is what I want it to print like. However I'm converting it to Illustrator CMYK and now it looks like this in Illustrator: http://i36.tinypic.com/2dljj7r.jpg

As the red fades to black it goes yukky.

Bad.

Does this mean it will print like this? How do you suppose I can make it look less crap?

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bonna-wana jeebi-wah?

superfireydave 
8/8/08 7:16:39 AM
Titan

Oh wow, I'd assumed that full blackness was as black as black =P~
Turns out I'm completely wrong >_<

Not completely sure what's going wrong for you in Illustrator, but I can look at it over the weekend for you bluedude.

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Mreow?
http://www.atomicmpc.com.au/forums.asp?s=2&c=9&t=17306

bluedude 
8/8/08 2:08:36 PM
Guru

Quote by superfireydave
Oh wow, I'd assumed that full blackness was as black as black =P~
Turns out I'm completely wrong >_<

Not completely sure what's going wrong for you in Illustrator, but I can look at it over the weekend for you bluedude.



Well I'm pretty sure it's because of the colours I'm using, perhaps because of a Pantone colour on a CMYK black.

As long as it prints out without the murky colour then I'd be happy, thought I don't expect it to.

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bonna-wana jeebi-wah?

superfireydave 
15/8/08 9:15:50 PM
Titan

Alright, had a look (sorry it took so long =P~)
Looks like your black might not rich enough [e.g. increase the CYM values more] however I'm not sure if the printer will print it without the greyness.

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Mreow?
http://www.atomicmpc.com.au/forums.asp?s=2&c=9&t=17306

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