What You Should Know About Printing Inks
Ink is such a broad subject.
One could write an entire book about it. But the following
is a good, short primer on a few qualities of ink that could
prove to be problematic if you're not aware of them ahead
of time. Make sure to discuss these with your printer when
bidding out a job.
Reflex blue ink takes a long time
to dry. Some printers say it never dries completely. If
possible, choose an ink composed of fewer--rather than more--parts
of Reflex blue. Sometimes even moving one or two colors
away from (for instance) PMS 286 in your PMS book will make
a positive difference. Note that your PMS book will usually
show the proportions of various inks used in a particular
PMS color. Also, expect your job to take an extra day to
dry if you use Reflex blue. This time isn't always needed,
depending on the humidity, but it's better to be safe.
Specify wax-free inks for jobs
you will imprint in a laser printer, like stationery. The
high heat of such printers would otherwise smear the ink.
Also, let your printer know if you plan to coat the piece
(UV or aqueous coating) since wax-free inks will be needed
in this case as well.
Remember that process colors are
transparent. If you are printing on a colored stock, ask
your printer about adding opaque white to the ink formulation.
This will minimize the effect the base paper's color will
have on the colors of ink you are using. Some printers will
even paint the sheet with opaque white first to create a
neutral base on which to lay down ink.
To avoid uneven ink coverage when
printing a heavy-coverage background of black, consider
a "double hit" of the color (requires two printing
units), or consider laying down an undercolor build of cyan,
magenta, and yellow (your printer can determine the percentages
so you can set up the files accordingly). This will provide
a rich, solid black. If you're working with large solids
made up of colors other than black, you can also use the
double hit technique. Again, this will cost more since two
printing units will be needed.
Consider using fluorescent inks
to achieve bright colors, particularly on colored stocks.
Some printers even add these inks to their CMYK mixes to
intensify the colors. Talk with your printer early, though.
These do not behave on press like regular PMS colors, more
ink is needed than with non-fluorescent colors, and it is
harder to match these colors to the inks in color swatch
Metallics can also add variety
to your printed pieces. Keep in mind, though, that the metals
used may tarnish, and the ink may scuff. Consider varnishing
the metallic to minimize scuffing, but remember that varnish
will also subdue the metallic sheen somewhat. It is a trade-off.
Also, if you are printing companion pieces that must match,
print them at the same time if possible so the tarnishing
will be similar. Or at least have the inks mixed at the
same time, since the most dramatic color change will occur
within the first 24 hours.
If you are printing on metal foil
or plastic, discuss ink formulations with your printer to
ensure good drying and adhesion to the substrate.
If you are designing packaging
material, discuss the product with your printer. Some products
will cause the inks on the packaging to smear, bleed, or
change their hue. The ink manufacturer can alter the ink
formulation to avoid this.
If you are producing signage to
be used outside in sunlight and weather, discuss lightfastness
and water resistance with your printer.
How Big Should Your Envelope Be?
If you have chosen a standard sized
envelope and you need to design a fold-over card that will
fit comfortably, how can you determine the proper size of
the insert? As a rule of thumb, allow for 1/4" on either
side when the piece is inserted (a total of 1/2" shorter
than the envelope's horizontal dimension), and make the
piece 1/8" shorter in height (top of the envelope to
the bottom fold). If you are producing a complicated marketing
campaign with many inserts, discuss with your printer how
much smaller you will need to design the inserts to allow
for the increased bulk of the envelope's contents.
[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.]