Posted by: AG | May 15, 2009

Make Your Piece Unique

There are some more cost-cutting ideas to consider when it becomes necessary to finalize the budget on a printing job. Two of these are common and will need to be worked out between you and the graphic designer should they want them. They are 1. using extra colors, over and above using the normal four-color process, and 2. using extra varnish coatings.

Most designers are more than satisfied with using the basic 4-color processes which give a full-color photo image. But others, in an effort toward creating a unique impression that stands out from the mass of direct mail, have elected to add extra colors. One well-known magazine, “Wired,” was one of the first to use custom “hot” colors throughout their magazine and on the covers. Besides the abnormally larger format of the magazine, these impact colors added a lot to the uniqueness of their publication.

wired1

 

Adding custom “match colors”

Both of these add-ons can add a beautiful touch to the finished piece. When a designer knows you, the print buyer, will be using a press that has five or six print heads instead of the typical four, they may decide to jazz up the image by having a fifth or sixth color printed. These extra colors can include either a super black or gray to give photos extra impact and contrast. Or the colors can be custom designer colors of any type, such as hot pink, metallics, or flourescent colors.

Those extra colors are referred to as “match colors,” and they’re selected from color swatch books such as the Pantone sets. Selecting a custom “match color” is similar to picking a paint color for your house. There are many thousands of colors with subtle differences to choose from. As in the paint comparison, the printer will hand mix the inks using various combinations of standard colors to get an exact match. This custom color matching takes time and adds extra press-run details, and they naturally will add to the cost. It’s also vital in those cases for the customer to do press checks to make sure the colors are correct.

After realizing that mixing colors to create exact matches were a real chore for most printers, I developed a slide-rule for printers called the “Color Matching System” which made the calculations of how to get any color fairly simple. I marketed and sold the system to a few hundred printers and they all seemed more than satisfied with it. Not being an expensive or profitable item I eventually shelved the product.

Using a varnish coating

Another add-on coating similar to adding more colors is the addition of a varnish. Varnishes create a more sophisticated look to things like brochures or book covers. It’s useful to think of a varnish as a colorless ink which gives an added layer and coating to all or part of the sheet. When used to create a full sheet glossy coating, it gives the effect of a thin lamination. If the varnish is applied to only a portion of the sheet, such as over the photograph, it’s called a “spot varnish.” They tend to make the photo pop off the page in relation to the unvarnished background. And varnishes can also come in gloss, dull, or matte finishes for different effects.

But whether either of these add-ons are used will usually depend on the press type the job is running on. The standard four-color press in the majority of print shops has four color heads, called cylinders. For those, adding extra colors means a new press run with substantial extra costs. But other larger companies will often have five or six color heads which makes the piece much simpler to run. All they need to do is create an additional plate and add the ink. The press run is the same after that. If you, as buyer, know that the press has more than four heads available, you should to point that fact out to your designer so they can take advantage of the extra capability.

In summary, those are two more ways to both jazz up your printed piece or reduce cost if you don’t really need it. Extra colors can create a unique and dramatic impact but make sure the printing company already has the right kind of press before you have the designer incorporate it.

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