Printing and Purchasing

Posts tagged ‘Print Production’

Print Quality

Do print buyers care about print quality? As I look at printing in the marketplace it gets me wondering if print buyers care about quality. I am not talking about the minor variations found in the normal production tolerances of equipment, but excessive variations as the following images show.

These two photos illustrate extreme variation or poor printing. These brochures came from one CVS store display rack. The main issues were folding, color, and cracking. The sources of these issues are:


  • Cracking can be caused by not scoring the substrate and laying the brochure on the form with the folds going against the grain of the substrate.
  • Folding issues can be caused by many problems such as: Out of register backups, substrate bouncing during the press run, poor trimming, and folder not setup properly.
  • Color inconstancy can be caused by fluctuating ink densities, water and ink imbalance, press not calibrated. To minimize color variation some printers print a PMS ink instead of process builds, however the gray appears to be a PMS and it was inconsistent too. This press appears to be out of control.

There are three key results purchasing looks for, Price, Delivery and Quality. Quality printers will deliver on time and provide competitive pricing because they have minimized waste caused by poor quality. Hopefully this buyer received a great price because this wasn’t a quality printing project.

Is your printing inconsistent? Share your story.


Pastry Magnets printing on a Vutek Wide Format Press

Roll to roll inkjet printing on magnet material, solvent to UV, wide format. Printing six images [individual magnets] across the roll of substrate.

Now that you have seen how the magnet is printed, come in and try Cumberland Farms fall special Pumpkin Yogurt Muffin. Click the following link to find a store near you.

How do You See Color?

Color is everywhere we look today. Whether you are watching television, on your computer, you are outside, or reading printing, color is everywhere. Those in the printing industry know the importance of good color reproduction and the obstacles or limitations faced in that reproduction and the viewing of that reproduction.

“Color or colour (see spelling differences) is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, blue, yellow, green and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light (distribution of light power versus wavelength) interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors. Color categories and physical specifications of color are also associated with objects, materials, light sources, etc., based on their physical properties such as light absorption, reflection, or emission spectra. By defining a color space, colors can be identified numerically by their coordinates.”

Some of the obstacles or limitations faced in color reproduction or viewing are:

– Physical limitations

  • Color Blindness
    • Deuteranopia
    • Protanopia
    • Tritanopia

–  Lighting

  • Stray light
  • Glare
  • Light reflections
  • Ambient Light
  • Fluctuation in room Lighting
  • Color temperature

– Equipment or process capabilities

  • LED, LCD
    • Brightness
    • Contrast
    • Color temperature
    • Lithography, digital printers, etc.
      • Pigments

–  Substrates

  • Color
  • Surface

If there are color issues, hopefully the physical limitations of those reviewing color have been tested and reviewed. The following web links illustrate what color-challenged individuals see.


Have you taken a color test? Try one or all of the following tests to see if there are any challenges you have seeing color.


The Ishihara Color Test for Color Blindness


FM100 Hue Test by X-Rite [Farnsworth Munsell]


Color Arrangement Test

The Daltonien Test

Layouts a Key Element in a Job Bag

Have you ever been on a trip and got lost? If you have, maybe it’s because there was no trip ticket, map or Garmin showing which roads and exits to take. With a printing project there also must be directions to layout, print, and finish the printing project. This direction is provided via the job layout [map]. For every printed component included in the Job Bag there is a layout for each component. Each layout can have one or multiple components.

Layouts have many components. The following are several main or key components:

  • Substrate size
  • Press
  • Gripper
  • Side guide
  • Bleed
  • Gaps
  • Reverse images
  • Take-off bars
  • Folds
  • Grain direction
  • How the sheet is backed up
  • Form number[s]
  • Head direction
  • Items keyed to job bag listing
  • Job number
  • Customer
  • Other

The information provided on the layout should provide production workers with all the necessary information to produce each component of the customer’s project successfully. Calls or questions concerning a form are usually the result of incomplete or inaccurate instructions.

Within the last year, I was in a print shop and they had printed a poster. I didn’t review the layout. However, it was clearly apparent that there was no layout for the project. How can pre-press accept a project without a layout? Without a layout how will the Mac operator know if the image files provide adequate image for bleeds? How will imposition know where and in what direction to place the images in the plate file, or If there are images missing or where to place the crop marks? How will quality assurance verify a press rule-up if there is no layout? The odds are there is no quality assurance in this print shop, or knowledgeable print professionals!

If the layout isn’t complete it is up to the pre-press manager to stop the job or be provided a correct layout. If the pre-press manager is allowing incorrect or incomplete layouts to enter into production, corrective action should be taken. The old adage is true, “you can pay me now or pay me later” [YouTube video Link] and later is always more expensive.

Print buyers, when touring a printing company, should look for a project’s corresponding layout. If you have a project being worked on, ask to see a job bag, and then review it for completeness and accuracy of information. As a print buyer, if at all possible, provide all the information concerning the project when the print order is placed with the print sales representative. During my years in printing, one of the best ways to minimize cost was to insure the layout answered all questions which will minimize added work or extra steps for production.

When should Print Buyers Require Physical Proofs?

In today’s economic environment, buyers and printers are looking for ways to reduce costs.  Physical [hard or traditional] proofs such as; Kodak, Matchprint, Epson and Sherpa, add cost to the printing project.  Physical proofs are a direct-overhead cost.  The smaller the print quantity the greater percentage proofs are to the total project cost.  

Today many buyers accept digital proofs from printers such as Portable Document Format (PDF).  PDF proofs can be sent anywhere in the world via the internet and are inexpensive to create and deliver.  When print projects are short run [small quantities], pleasing color, digital, and require minor finishing, a PDF proof can be a good proofing option.  As the complexity of the printing project increases, the greater consideration should be taken for requiring physical proofs.

Physical proofs add costs to the project, but they also provide value to the buyer.  The traditional proof delivers an inexpensive likeness or mockup of the printed piece without the expense of plates and machine make readies.  Proofs, such as a Sherpa, can be cut, folded, punched, drilled, stitched, collated, etc.  These finished proofs allow the printer and buyer to review margins, back-up, crossovers, alignments, collation, etc. to confirm that the printed piece will represent what the designer or customer intended.

The print buyer should require physical proofs on the following projects:

  1. Saddle-stitched catalog with folio, type or art close to the face trim.
  2. Printing where the design has cross-overs or art which needs to matchups after finishing.
  3. Critical color.
  4. Complicated finishing.
  5. Large print runs.
  6. A project with large dollar value.

Note this is not exhaustive list.

Please e-mail your questions, PDF’s of printing issues or comments to

Thank you for your time.

Knowledge itself is power

Francis Beacon said “Knowledge itself is power.” [] The intent of this blog is to be a resource of knowledge for buyers, designers, procurement professionals or anyone who may have questions concerning the procurement of printing.

When buyers have knowledge about the product they are purchasing, they will be able to purchase the best product at the lowest total cost. The lowest total cost may not be the lowest price, but when all the key procurement factors, such as delivery turn-a-round time, quality and price, are evaluated it is the lowest cost. The lowest price printer may have the worst quality and delivery turn-a-round times, where as the highest price printer might only have the fasted delivery time but lack the best quality.

Over the years I have held many different positions in printing and procurement. If I don’t know the answer to your questions I have associates who will. However for this to be a useful blog, I need your assistance. You can assist by e-mailing your questions, sending PDF’s of printing issues or comments to

Thank you for your time.

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