Archive for PJ Cassel

My Heroes

The pre-press heroes of InDesign and Acrobat, are the Separations Preview Panel and the Ink Manager. I get files from customers that have more than one Reflex Blue swatch. Most likely, there are or were different people working on the file. Someone used Reflex Blue C, someone else RB U, RB M, RB CVC Reflex Blue, and a user defined, My Reflex Blue. All of these versions of Reflex Blue are a reality. Some apps, when Reflex Blue is defined, names it plain ole “Reflex Blue.” The C designation comes from the coated library, U comes from the uncoated library, M from the matte library, as far as I can tell, CVC means it was set up in an RGB file, because when I see CVC, it has an RGB icon next to it (I have not been able to recreate a CVC swatch at this time). The user can also define a color and name it Reflex Blue, even if it appears Purple on the screen.

The problem with all these swatches is output. They all want to be Reflex Blue separations for the press. Reflex Blue, no matter what designation, all comes out of the same can. The designation determines how the proofing device handles the color. In reality, if all these inks came out of separate cans, the shop would be buying lots more ink, and that would reflect in the print prices. From InDesign, Window > Output > Separations Preview show you all the active inks in the file. From Acrobat, Advance > Print Production > Output Preview. This will help you determine, if you have multiple versions of a color in the file. I have seen files with three versions of the same color in the file, I may have seen four versions once. I use Ink Manager from either InDesign or Acrobat to set up alias names for the duplicates and got one plate. Most of the time I use InDesign. At this time, there is no Ink Manager for Illustrator, though the CS4 version does have separations preview.

I have a link to a pdf file here. You can download and experiment with it. You can check out the print production tools with Acrobat, and/or place the file in an InDesign file to see how the Separations Preview and Ink Manager work. All of these swatches will also look different on the screen, especially the user defined swatches that I dropped in. Once the colors have an ink alias, they will all appear the same on the screen.

I hear a question from the guy in the back with the sunglasses, “Shouldn’t the file be corrected before it goes to press?” Yes, if time allows. And the young lady in the Hawaiian shirt, “Can’t you just delete swatches and replace them with one swatch?” Yes, if the swatches reside within InDesign, you can delete Reflex Blue coated, and replace with Reflex Blue uncoated, but when the swatches reside within placed Illustrator files, they can not be deleted and replaced. If there are two place files, each with a different version of the color swatch, they have to be modified in Illustrator, not InDesign. A color alias can be set for spot to be process, such as Reflex Blue to output as Cyan, process colors can not have an alias set, such as Cyan to Reflex Blue.

If you have inherited a file that someone else has started, multiple color versions are a possibility. Knowing it can happen is half the battle. Having the time and opportunity to correct it, is good, but not always an option. I have set up template files for my customers with the correct color swatches, when the file comes in for print, there are three versions of the swatch. I open Ink Manager and make the file print.

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More on Trapping

A colleague recently used a gang printer with some of the best prices on the planet for 4/4 postcards. Beware of these guys who offer the best prices on the planet, and I’m going to tell you why. There was a lot of rich black, rich black is four colors touching top to bottom, trapping is a good idea when using rich black.

If you are unsure how to set up rich black, or trapping, talk to your friendly pre-press technician. Speaking of friendly pre-press technicians, these so called gang printers are supposed to have pre-press technicians. Sandee wrote a good article on trapping, if you are unsure what trapping is, or why it is needed, see the article, or refer to “From Design into Print,” the book.

Back to the postcard, one side had heavy goldenrod and black coverage, using Copperplate Bold. The mail side had an image in the upper left corner, and left the required room for the Post Office to put bar codes and met the requirements set down by the post office. My colleague called the gang printer, and asked about trapping. “If you want trapping, that is something you will have to set up.” So she did. She sent in the file, and when the samples arrived, trapping had been ignored. The small serifs on Copperplate Bold were only hints of what there should have been. The text over the photo, Myriad, looked somewhat skeletal. When the file was printed to a postscript file, with trapping turned on, the black separation fell to the bottom. From Acrobat, Advanced > Print Production > Output Preview, check simulate overprint, and the black showed up as trapped.

She said her customer did not notice when he saw one of the samples. She cringed, knowing she saw something he did not. The best price on the planet means nothing, if the shop can not or will not apply trap. She talked to the gang printer before the file went to press about the trapping. Each time, she was assured that the file would be ok.

When you hear, “We don’t trap, we just print,” run. I would also suggest, that if you are sending in multiple orders, and the gang printer in question can not offer combined shipping, run. Most gang printers will send out samples upon request. When you get the samples, get out the loupe and look closely at the rich black samples. You should be able to see if the file trapped.

Disclaimer: Not all gang printers ignore trap. As a designer, if you are going to use one of these gang printers with the best prices on the planet, talk to them. Ask questions. Not everyone ignores trap. There are gang printers that will tell you not to worry about trap, they will take care of it, and they do. Do advise them, when you send in a file.

Here are links to two files, one has trapping, one does not. PJ.SampleTrap01 traps the black text to the yellow background. When overprint preview is turned off under the Advanced menu, or on the Output Preview dialog box in Acro 9, the yellow fills in around the black letter. PJ.SampleTrap02 does not have trapping and the character looks like it is supposed to. With the second file sent off to a gang printer that does not trap files, there could be a slight misregistration of CMY plates, and a halo will appear on one side of the letter. Just because there is CMY in the black formula, and MY in the yellow background, trapping is still a good solution to make the print job a success. A slight misregistration of all plates is possible, giving a rainbow halo around the character. Feel free to download the files and check them out.

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The Great File Hunt

A good file naming structure cannot be stressed enough. Imagine me on a safari, dressed like they did in King Solomon’s Mines with Stewart Granger. Reality check, T-shirt and jeans, with a black ball cap to cut down on fluorescent lighting.

Why hunt files? I get to the point where there are so many files on the computer, I have to backup because there is a possibility that the hard drive will crash. So I need archive storage. There are customers that I don’t hear from anymore or hear from in years, so these files aren’t necessary to keep on hand. Mostly, the hard drive crash. I make DVD backups and wipe the drive clean of customer files and start over.

A customer calls up to order gift certificates for his restaurant, one of our favorite customers, and I open the disc cataloging utility, and search for the gift certificate. The one that pops up is not the one he wants. Grr. I start searching on different word combinations, based on how the file could have been saved. At one point, I realized, that I was going about file hunting the wrong way. Instead of locating the file in the catalog, and then opening it. I should be locating file possibilities and browsing them with Adobe Bridge.

I did find the file, instead of being filed under the restaurant, it was filed under the designer, then under the restaurant. The file naming structure also left a lot to be desired. I gave the file a new name, and saved it to the current folder for customer files. I may have been responsible for the bad file name, I could blame it on an intern that we had during the last printing of this job, or that’s the way the designer set it up when she brought it to us, I don’t remember that far back. At this point, who cares where the fault lies? I did find the file, and I gave it a new name, and gave it a better filing. If the customer ordered every month, the file name would be fresh in my mind. Every two years, I have to stop and think how the file could have named, what the file might have named, and if there is an off the wall possibility for the way he named the file.

Files can have names up to 255 characters, that’s extreme. When the files are backed up, I burn DVDs, that 255 characters also includes the path for the folder structure.
/computer/user/kingkong/customerfiles/ I pulled a name out of the air, I’m sure you can see where this is going, on a back device, the file name is truncated after 255 characters. File names should have enough information to give a good description without writing a novel.

Non-descriptive files names reduces our productivity. Leaving us to spend more time than what is necessary to locate and print files.

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Psychics in the Print Shop

I know I’m good at my job. But I think some people rely on me to be a mind reader. I’m not.

For instance, if a job is spec’d to print with Reflex Blue, is it wrong to set the color up as PMS 300?

From my point of view, yes. I’m looking at the file, getting ready to order ink and paper, and I see the designer has assigned the color in the file as PMS 300.

I go to verify with the job ticket that came in from the print broker, and it’s Reflex Blue.


I don’t like to make assumptions, so I call and ask the print broker to verify the color. (The clock is ticking. This adds time to my setup before I can get it on the press.)

I also wonder if the proof was sent to the customer with PMS 300 instead of Reflex Blue.

Does this mean the customer is expecting to see something closer to PMS 300?

As long as the ink is set up consistently, on correct plates, I can have the pressman assign the correct color on the press.

Yes, PMS 300 and Reflex Blue are in the same ball park for color, but they are different.

There was a time, all one color layouts were set up as black, and the colored ink was assigned on the press. Some people would rather set up their files that way.

I’m a little more advanced. I feel that when you specify the correct color in the file before printing, it helps the pre-press technician do their job more efficiently. The pre-press technician is more likely to think the sun shines off your head, and will look forward to getting files from you.

But today’s file confused me.

The designer had one color listed in the file. But the purchase order had a different color. And as I said. I’m not a mind reader.

It has been an interesting challenge to get the ink ordered. It is a good thing I try to make no assumptions. A pre-press technician develops a feel for the files he can and can not trust to come in without corrections.

I like the files that come in without needing correction.

What are your thoughts?

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Reduce Print Costs

You have designed the most awesome business card or post card ever! The quote is higher than expected. How can you save money and still have awesome at the same time? Have shells printed. The card does not have to be complex to take advantage of printing shells.

Shells work best if you go through 10,000 or more business cards or post cards a year. It can work for smaller amounts, however the cost savings will not be as significant. Reasons for shells include embossing, foil stamping, large areas of ink coverage, tight registration (two or more colors touching), a quick turn time on the cards or just plain frugalness.

The quote will be two part, the cost for printing press sheets for inventory, and the cost for overprinting cards. The customers at the shop have quantities printed that range from 5,000 to 50,000 shells. When an order is placed, it is usually a black or one color overprint at minimum cost to cover setting up the press. The minimum cost for setting up the press will be the same for 250, 500 and/or 1000 cards. The cost may go up slightly for more than 1000 cards.

For example, we have shells for a company that has printing (front and back), Embossing and Foil Stamp applied to their business cards. They usually order 250 cards at a time for their employees. They order 10,000-20,000 shells at a time.

Another company has enough shells printed for 50,000 cards, as far as business cards go, the layout is simple. The usual quantity per order for business cards is 1,000, some orders have been more, others less.

There are advantages to a shell program other than cost. Speed. A one color overprint can be printed faster than a card with two-three colors, that requires at least two days to dry because it may have a heavy ink coverage. Reflex Blue has been documented as the ink that requires the longest dry time. Reds and Brown can also take a while. Cards with heavy ink coverage will need time, no matter what color of ink was used. Embossing and Foil Stamp applications take up to three weeks to be processed, maybe four if both processes are required at the same time.

How do you determine if shells are right for you? Look at the common elements of the card. The logo will the first thing you will need to look at. A backer, could be text, could be graphic or could be a solid block of ink. Embossed areas. Foil stamp areas. The print shop calls because to process 250 business cards is expensive, and they want to run shells to bring the cost down. You want a shop that is going to look out for your best interests, trust me on that.

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