Knowledge Base and How-To Tips

Banding sometimes occurs on large laydowns of screened ink. It happens more frequently on mid-tone colors or tint builds with screen values of 30 to 60%. This can be avoided by reducing the number of screens in the tint build, or by using different line screen angles (this must be done in a printer’s pre press operation). Too many gradient steps in a vignette can cause issues also. One design trick is to introduce “noise” into a gradient. A ghosted image or a pattern can also act as noise. Lower end programs such as Corel can cause banding.

Cracking on folds or scores occurs mostly when using dark colors. If the design permits, a lighter color is a safe fix. Machine or rolling scores tend to crack more than die scores. Die Scores are more expensive but may be worth the expense. Make certain you score along the grain of the paper (a good shop will know to orient the paper in the correct direction). However, the grain orientation may make the job a custom print project. Laminating can also sometimes help avoid cracking.

Rich black obtained in 4 Color Process using a screen build mixture of solid black over one or more of the other CMYK colors. This results in a darker black than black ink alone. Ideal mixes can vary, but 40% C, 30%M, 30%Y and 100%K is a good start. 

To eliminate all values other than K (black), use your Channel Mixer (adjustment layer) in Photoshop; then click “Monochrome” and adjust accordingly.

In the CMYK spectrum, blue is close to purple. Use a low amount of magenta whenever using high amounts of cyan to avoid purple. For instance: C100% M70% Y0% K0%

We require Print Ready files with proper orientation. HEAD to HEAD files are the standard default in most page layout programs, i.e. InDesign. Make sure to setup front and back files with either both sides vertically or both sides horizontally.

First, make sure to specify the color desired. There are standard gold and silver colors, but foils come in a multitude of shades, patterns, and colors. Ask your CSR for details. 

Create a separate layer for each foil color you’d like. Make the foil layer a unique color in your document, such as fluorescent green or orange. The foil stamping will appear as a unique color; leave the areas transparent where you do not want the foil. Name the layers accordingly, “Silver Foil” and/or “Spot UV.” Keep in mind that the Foil and UV can’t overlap. Please avoid using small / fine text or fonts for foil objects. For best results, please make sure that foil coverage is less than 50% of the artwork area. 

Avoid using either process over folds. Also, be aware that there may be up to 1/16″ shift on the placement of the foil.

You can use overprinting to prevent knockout and make the topmost overlapping printing ink appear transparent in relation to the underlying ink. In some cases overprinting black type makes it appear darker and crisper. Be careful with large black type; the color you’re overprinting can shift the black to an unwanted hue. 

Always double check your artwork and, if you’re unsure, disable overprints before submitting, or call your CSR for input.

When using our Xpress site, please submit a press ready pdf. Don’t send additional files, like proofs or samples. 

However, if we’re printing a custom job for you, please start with the press ready pdf but include the native file with all the supporting documents. This will give us the ability to help with most last minute edits and changes.

Any transparency issue must be resolved before saving your press ready pdf. This is an issue that often eludes our pre-flight software and can be impossible to fix without the native file. 

To prevent issues, never use shadows, glows, or any other transparency (image or otherwise) on top of a spot color. Always convert your spot color to CMYK and flatten before sending.

Bleed must extend past the cut line and will be trimmed from the product during the final cutting phase. When the image is required to extend all the way to the edge, bleed is needed to preserve the finished look and the quality of the final product. Additionally, please keep all text at least 0.25″ inside the trim lines. 

  • The bleed for Standard Products is 0.125″ 
  • The bleed for Booklets and Presentation Folders is 0.25″ 
  • The bleed for Banners and oversized work should is 0.5″

Ideally, files/images will be 300 dpi. Low resolution files may be printed as is or may be placed on hold until we receive new files, slowing your turn-around. We understand on occasion a higher resolution file does NOT exist. In those cases, use the following guidelines at your own risk. 

  • Litho sheetfed or digital printing that will be hand held: lowest res 225 dpi. 
  • Oversized printing viewed from a distance: lowest res 100 dpi. 

Please note, any file under 300 dpi will not print with crisp edges and good detail.

The optimum setting is for CMYK (cyan / magenta / yellow and black process color inks). If you submit an RGB file, there is a chance that a color shift may occur and you may not be satisfied with your job.

Yes, but because we cut through many sheets at a time, there is possible slight movement during the cutting process. Thin borders are particularly problematic. There is always cutting run-out (or shift), but it is less apparent on thicker borders.

This is our shorthand for how a job will print on each side of the sheet. 4CP signifies Four Color Process or full color printing 

  • 4CP/0: Four over zero = Full color on the front, but no color on the back. 
  • 4CP/1: Four over one = Full color on the front & 1 color on the back (usually black). • 4CP/4CP: Four over four = Full color on both the front & back. 
  • 4CP+PMS/4CP: Four color plus a PMS ink over four = Full color and a specific PMS number on the front with a full color back.

Pantone (PMS) is the color chart used by the graphic arts world. Pantone colors are formulated ink colors, identified by a number. This number, when used with the “Formula Guide” specifies a mix of certain component ink colors that the printer mixes to put on the press, much like mixing paint. PMS 

match books are books of color chips where each PMS color has its own name or number. They help you make sure that your colors are the same each time you print, even if your monitor displays a different color or if you change printing services. 

Pantone has several swatch guides. The most commonly used are: 

  • Coated: Shows how a PMS ink will look on coated glossy, satin or dull paper. 
  • Uncoated: Simulates what a PMS color looks like on uncoated, vellum, or smooth Paper. • Metallic: Inks formulated to have a metallic look. Metallic inks are duller than foil stamping

• Metallic inks containing powdered metal or pigments that simulate metal. This effect is best achieved on coated paper. It is also best to print this color, let the sheet dry, and then print any four color process. • Fluorescent inks produce vibrant and bright colors; however they do not retain their colorfastness as long and may not be suited for large quantity jobs.

Flat size refers to the size of a product after printing and trimming, but before it has been folded or binding. A magazines flat size is usually 17″ x 11″

Finished size is the size of the final finished piece, a magazine’s finished size is usually 8.5 x 11″

• C1S: Short for “coated one side,” refers to paper that is coated on one side only. • C2S: Short for “coated two sides,” refers to paper that is coated on both sides.

Coatings or finishings are protective layers that increase the durability and aesthetics of your printed piece. You cannot print (inkjet or by hand), glue, or foil stamp over coatings, so you need to leave an uncoated window if you want to do any of these. 

There are several types of coating: 

  • Varnish: Varnish is essentially ink without pigment. It comes in gloss, dull, and satin • UV Coating: UV Coating is a clear liquid spread over the paper like ink, which is then cured instantly with ultraviolet light. It can be a gloss or dull coating, and can be used as a spot covering to accent a particular image on the sheet or as an overall (flood) coating. Keep in mind that this thick coating may crack when scored or folded. 
  • Aqueous: Also known as AQ, is water based. It has better hold-out than varnish and does not crack or scuff easily. Aqueous does, however, cost twice as much as varnish. Aqueous comes in gloss, dull, and satin sheens.

Most common type of binding, is stapling sheets together where they fold at the spine. This process is commonly used for booklets, brochures, newsletters, pamphlets, direct mailers, magazines, and catalogs.

  • Fast and inexpensive [least expensive of all binding options]. 
  • Widely and readily available, since most printers saddle stitch in-house. 
  • Lays relatively flat. 
  • Accommodates special inserts like business reply envelopes, membership forms, order blanks. • Gatefolds and foldouts are possible. 
  • Can use a self or separate cover.
  • Longevity. Not recommended for pieces intended for heavy use. 
  • Lacks a printable spine. 
  • Not possible to bind in a single leaf of paper [as in perfect binding], but single leaves can be stitched into a saddle stitched book if it has a 3.5″ inch flap, or extension. This is a costly process. • Thickness limitations. Documents thicker than 0.25″ inch may require another binding technique. • May require special design adjustments for creep, especially small formats with high page counts.
  • Signatures are folded with a bind fold (a fold in the paper, which allows a mechanical suction device to find the center). 
  • Signatures are opened with suction cups or mechanical grippers. 
  • Open signatures are hung over a chain or “saddle.” 
  • The signatures may then be transferred to succeeding feeding stations. This is how saddle stitched signatures are married together other to form an entire booklet. 
  • Covers are scored and folded on the saddle stitching machine. Then they are laid on top of the signature[s]. 
  • The product is stitched through the fold, and trimmed on three sides.

On a perfect bound or double loop cover, you may print the entire area of the spine, but be sure to consult with us beforehand. You’ll need to measure the spine using a bulking dummy to be sure of the exact width. Ink coverage that traps to scores or bleeds across the spine will also need close attention to ensure proper registration and to avoid cracking. In addition, perfect bound books will need four scores on the cover [two backbone plus two hinge] for durability and to protect any glued areas when opening. The paper you choose is also a consideration for perfect bound books; text and cover pages must be parallel with the spine or the covers may wrinkle.

Common binding techniques, like saddle stitching, loop stitching and side stitching are the simplest – and most economical – choices for short runs.

The binding techniques that can best accommodate tight registration on crossovers are saddle stitching, loop stitching, double loop, split wire, plastic comb binding, perfect binding, lay flat and sewn binding. Spiral wire and plastic spiral wire are not good choices when crossovers are critical because the registration from page to page will vary slightly. Be sure to check with your sales representative at the onset of your project so we can plan for tight crossovers in your design.

Paper can be folded in countless ways. Understanding folding is essential, since mis-measured folds are often the perpetrators of many reprints. Folding is not a precise art. Generally, you can expect a tolerance of 1⁄32″ inch per fold. This depends on the weight and caliper of the paper stock and the placement of the folds. This impacts the way the job will finish; proper planning and making sample mockups in the design and production stage will help eliminate errors. These are some of the most common folding styles used in print production today. Use of standard names will help ensure good communication between designer and printer.

Scoring is critical to any binding job. Ask to see a scoring sample before your job is finished to ensure you get a clean and accurate fold. The score should run in the same direction as the grain of the paper. If the design format requires folding in both directions, the primary fold should be parallel to the grain. Test the sample score by gently folding the paper; a good score will not crack or tear on the outside edges. If the paper does crack, the score may need to be wider and deeper. Some scoring problems are caused by improper moisture content in the paper; paper should remain covered when not in use to avoid drying out. If the paper has been exposed, it might help to run the paper through an offset press with a fountain solution to help remoisten the stock. Check with your printer.

A finished book may appear as if it is made from a stack of loose pages. In many cases, multiple pages.