Two New Directions in Color Proofing
You may have noticed recently that blueline proofs from
some of your printers have been replaced with color ink-jet
proofs. If your job is bypassing film and going direct-to-plate,
this would be your only viable option, since bluelines,
Matchprints, Cromalins, etc., require film. But even for
jobs in which plates will be burned from film output, many
printers have moved from blueline proofs to large-format
ink-jet proofs keyed to their presses. These signature proofs,
which often show, in color, full folded eight- or sixteen-page
signatures, can speed up the prepress stage considerably.
After all, no film needs to be produced, and no bluelines
need to be burned prior to plating. The digital proof can
bypass these steps completely at this stage. Furthermore,
since client corrections noted on the proof can be made
before any film has been output, your authors' alterations
costs should decrease as well. In this case you will only
be paying for computer system time and not for revised film
or a revised blueline.
The quality of such proofs has improved
dramatically in recent years. Output is consistent and colors
are faithful. However, there are limited paper stocks available
for ink-jet proofs; it is often not possible to produce
ink-jet proofs on the actual paper on which the final job
will print, particularly if it is an uncoated offset stock.
Also, ink-jet is a continuous-tone process. Even though
ink-jet output when studied under a loupe is seen to be
composed of dots, these are not halftone dots; they are
the dots of the dithering process. If you need to see the
rosettes (dot patterning of four-color work), ink-jet signature
proofing is not right for your job.
Another new technology quickly gaining acceptance is the
"soft proof" (or "collaborative proof"
or "remote proof"), in which your printer sends
you a high-res digital version of your actual plating and
proofing files over the Internet. You check the proof on-screen
and then return it on-line with annotated corrections. This
is particularly efficient if the job requires approvals
from many people. It also removes couriers and idle wait
time from the workflow since it is an immediate, two-way
transfer of the proof. However, your monitor must be accurately
(and periodically) calibrated, and you must remember that
color produced with light on a monitor will never exactly
match color produced with pigment in offset printing.
Varnish as a Design Element
Certainly varnish can be used to protect
printed material from scuffing, but it can also be used
as a design element. Consider coating portions of a foreground
image, for instance, on the cover of a book with a dull
varnish and everything else (the background) with a gloss
varnish for contrast. When the reader holds the book under
the light in one way, the varnished pattern is invisible.
When the viewer holds the publication under the light in
a slightly different way, the hitherto invisible varnish
pattern comes into view. It's subtle and, used with a good
sensitivity to design, can add beauty to your printed piece.
Or you can reverse the placement of the dull and gloss varnish
and produce a slightly different effect.
As an alternative, you can start with
a gloss-coated sheet and print certain areas selectively
with a dull varnish for contrast. Most printers and paper
companies will provide sample books showing how such varnish
effects will look. It is prudent to use such books both
to see the final effect and to communicate your design goals
to your printer.
Another trick with varnish is to add
a tint of pigment to an otherwise clear coating to create
an almost ghost-like effect. The final image will be a lightly
screened image with a slightly metallic sheen of varnish.
It will be visible but subtle. You can do this with halftones,
line art, or type. Again, when the reader holds the piece
under light in a certain way, it will be less visible; held
under light in a slightly different way, it will be more
visible. As with other design uses of varnish, provide samples
to show your printer what you want.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]