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Heavy Coverage and Bleeds

When specifying a job for a printing estimate, it is very important to let your printer know whether the ink will bleed (extend off the edge of the page) and whether there will be heavy ink coverage on your printed piece.

Let’s take these one by one and explain why.

Ink bleeds off the edge of the printed sheet when, during the finishing process, the trimming knives cut into the inked areas of one or more edges. The ink doesn’t really extend off the page; rather the trimming knives cut more closely so the ink appears to extend off the page. What this means is that your printer may need to use a larger press sheet, which may in turn require the use of a larger press, increasing the price of the job.

The same is true for heavy coverage (or solids). If your printer must “paint the sheet,” or lay down a heavy coating of ink on your printed piece, more ink will be used, again increasing the price. If the job is large and the press run is long, ink costs will be affected. This is particularly true if your printer must print a screen of one color and then print over this screen with another color to ensure the evenness of the solid.

Sometimes, a printer will be forced to use a larger, more sophisticated press to ensure even coverage within solid areas and to avoid mottling. These presses provide more consistency due to their additional features, but they will cost you more.

Don’t keep your printer in the dark about heavy coverage and ink bleeds, or you may find quite a discrepancy between the initial bid and the final bill.

PMS vs. Black Ink

A related matter involves the cost of black ink vs. the cost of a PMS ink or match color. In simplest terms, a PMS ink costs more than black ink. Therefore, when you specify ink for a print job, note not only how many colors you plan to use but also whether they are process colors, PMS inks, or black and one or more PMS inks.

For example, in printers’ shorthand, you might note that a job will print PMS + K / same (2/2). This means that one side of the sheet will be printed with a match color and black, and the other side will be printed with the exact same colors. Remember that varnish is also considered an ink (actually an ink with a vehicle but no pigment). Therefore, if you were to flood gloss varnish both sides of the above-mentioned job, you would spec it as follows: PMS + K + flood gloss varnish / same, and you would consider this a 3/3 (three-color over three-color) printing job. The K, by the way, is printers’ parlance for black. It stands for “key.”

To complicate matters, make sure to alert your printer if your 2/2 job or 3/3 job does not use the exact same colors on both sides of the press sheet. Otherwise, he may assume they are the same colors and estimate your job accordingly. Then, when the bill comes, it may be higher than you expect.

Tinted Varnish

A good way to save money in printing is to mix ink and varnish. A little varnish mixed with ink makes the ink more scuff-resistant and at the same time can add a sheen or dull down the luster of the printed image. On the other hand, adding a little ink to varnish can provide a barely visible, almost ghostly image. Both of these techniques will yield interesting results depending on the amount of ink relative to varnish. It is always wise to discuss your goals with your printer. Showing him actual samples that meet your expectations is a sure way to take the guess-work out of the job.

The Skinny on Press Deadlines

Give your printer time to do the job right. Discuss your expectations first. Ask pointed questions about what is and is not realistic, but keep the following in mind: Your job must go through electronic prepress, press, and finishing. It will then be sent through mailshop (with its own series of steps) before being dropped in the mail. Once it is in the mail stream, it will still take time to get to its destination. Discuss all of these steps with your print provider, and keep in mind that if one of these steps takes longer than expected, the rest of the target dates will usually move, too.


[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.]

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