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Lamination, encapsulation & varnishing your printing

Lamination vs. Encapsulation vs. Varnishing

Lamination, encapsulation & varnishing your printing

Once you’ve decided on a design for your sales and marketing literature and the artwork is ready, consider what finish you will have on the final print. This can make a huge difference to both the look and feel of the final printed document. Will gloss look good, or would matt look better? Should it be used all over, from edge to edge, or only in certain ‘spot’ areas? From a technical point of view, should it be varnished, laminated or encapsulated? Which printing/finishing process will give you the desired result, without breaking the bank?

What’s the difference?

Lamination

Lamination involves sealing a very thin lamina (whole sheet) of clear plastic, under significant pressure, to the front and/or back of a sheet of paper, card or board. So the entire surface of the stock is covered in the laminated plastic. The most common types of lamination are ‘gloss, which is very glossy, ‘matt’, which has a lovely silky feel and a soft, matt appearance, and finally ‘soft-touch’ lamination, which is most similar to matt lamination but has a slight rubbery feel to it – it’s quite a tactile thing, which is subtle but pleasant.

Varnish

Varnishing (specifically machine varnishing) usually involves a liquid varnish being ‘printed’ just as if it were a liquid ink like black. If it’s an overall varnish, no plate is required. If it’s a ‘spot’ varnish, then a printing plate will be needed just as it would if the varnish was a coloured ink. So this difference will affect the price a little. (There are now also some digital versions of varnishing now available and, as we know with most digital printing, no plates are required). ‘Machine’ varnishes can be matt, silk or gloss, however traditional ‘litho’ machine varnishes tend to be more muted than “UV varnish”, which is described below …

UV Varnish

UV varnish is a more specialist type of varnish. It is most commonly seen in a glossy finish and the gloss is so glossy that it is difficult to tell it apart from gloss lamination.** UV varnishing is more expensive than ‘machine’ varnish, as it’s a slightly more complex printing technique, but the effect is way more dramatic. Read more

30 Great Printing Resources (part 2)

30 Great Printing Resources (Part 2)

30 Great Printing Resources (part 2)

Yet More Tips, Tricks & Technical Guides for Getting the Very Best Out of Your Print

Here we continue where we left off in the last post, with the second half of our library of extremely useful print-related resources. These further tips, tricks and technical guides cover things like envelopes, paper sizes, foil blocking, raised print in all its forms, folders, roller banners, variable data printing and why you should use it — and much more. Follow the guides to ensure that you get the very best return on the investment you have made into your printing.

16. Folders

Printed folders come in many shapes and sizes and demonstrate various levels of complexity. Whether used to hold a simple business card or several internal brochures and more, there can often be more to folders than meets the eye. Here’s a handy guide to what’s possible.

17. How to Print Economically

Make the most of your design and printing budget with our handy guide to keeping a lid on printing costs. Here’s how …

18. Roller Banners

Our guide to roller banners – what they are, what they can be used for, sizes, artwork specifications and some examples. Learn more here.

19. Raised Print

If you’d like to add a new dimension to your printing and print something in relief, here’s a handy guide showing how to make your printing stand out.

20. Fonts

Our guide to using fonts in your artwork, including ways to make sure what you design is what you end up printing. Embedding fonts, outlining fonts and more, right here.

21. Printing – Under the Magnifying Glass

Printing under the magnifying glass: our close-up guide to using tints, mixing inks or tints, use of black(s), dot formations and how these differ between litho, digital and large format printing processes. Learn more in this guide.

22. Paper for Printing — A Beginner’s Guide

A beginner’s guide to paper for printing, whether coated, uncoated, recycled, textured or something else. Read our guide here.

23. UK Paper Sizes — A Handy Reference

UK paper sizes – a handy reference. Includes the ISO series of sizes including A sizes (‘A4’ etc.), B, C, D, RA and SRA sizes plus many more. It also includes a few other useful facts that may surprise you. Here’s the guide.

24. Variable Data Printing: for Personalised Print

Variable data and its use in truly personalised printing. Learn all about it here.

25. ‘Print on Demand’ & its Benefits

‘Print on Demand’ – what it is, it’s key benefits, how you can use it to your advantage and where you can get it. Here’s the guide.

26. Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know about Envelopes

Envelopes – our handy guide telling you Read more

30 Great Printing Resources (part 1)

30 Great Printing Resources (Part 1)

30 Great Printing Resources (part 1)

Tips, Tricks & Technical Guides for Getting the Very Best Out of Your Print

Looking back at some of our older blog posts, it’s clear that we have some pretty good printing-related guides and resources on the site. So, we thought we’d pull them all together in a handy ready-reference for our readers — a complete library of useful print-related resources at your fingertips. These tips, tricks and technical guides cover things like creating better design, preparing technically correct artwork, using the most appropriate colour spaces and generally making better choices to ensure that you get the very best outcome from every printed job. Some guides are even downloadable for you to keep. Here are the first 15 of 30 guides …

1. A Guide to Preparing Print-Ready Artwork:

One of the most important and popular guides on our site: how to prepare print-ready artwork that is technically correct in its set-up, to give you the very best printed results. View or download the PDF guide here. Also, see #13 below.

2. The Best PDF Settings for Your Artwork

Covering similar ground to #1 above, but in far more detail, we next have a guide to the settings that you should use when saving your artwork in PDF format. View or download the PDF guide here. More information is also available to read online here.

3. The Difference Between CMYK and RGB

A guide explaining the difference between CMYK and RGB colour modes and when to use each, for example when saving your full colour images. View or download the PDF guide here. More information can also be read online here and here.

4. Digital vs. Litho Printing

At Firstpoint Print we’re lucky enough to have both litho (or ‘lithographic’) and digital printing. But which technology is best for your particular print job? View or download the PDF guide here. More information is also available here and here.

5. Using Transparency in your Printing

Modern page layout and image manipulation software now allows you to control the level of transparency in your images and artwork layers. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid if you’re intending to print with transparency effects. View or download the PDF guide here. More information is also available to read online here. Read more

Spot colour printing

Printing With Spot Colours

Spot colour printing

Spot colour printing refers to the use of inks which are physically mixed to the right colour in liquid form, before being used on the printing press. So, for example, the spot colour ‘Pantone 328C’ can be printed in a single pass of the printing press, using a single printing plate. This is in contrast to printing a similar colour, although not as accurately, by overlapping the tiny dots of the four ‘process’ colours of Cyan (‘C’), Magenta (‘M’), Yellow (‘Y’) and Black (‘K’), otherwise known as “CMYK” and “four colour process” printing. That, of course, necessitates 4 passes of the press, using four printing plates instead of just one. More information about ‘process’ printing can be found in our previous blog post but, for this article, we will concentrate on only spot colour, its uses and benefits.

So why use spot colour?

In essence, using spot colours will generally give you the very best match possible to the exact colour you have in mind. While ‘process’ (CMYK) colours can get a pretty decent match, spot colours can get an exact match. Spot colours are also the only way to print colours such as metallic inks, some pastels, super-saturated and particularly bright colours like fluorescents and even some colours that you might think were fairly standard, for example some blues, which can be troublesome using CMYK. Spot colours compared to CMYK 'process' printingAlso it’s worth bearing in mind that if you are printing a 2 colour job, you can literally print it using 2 spot colour inks (with 2 plates and 2 passes of the press) whereas with ‘process’ printing you’d need 4 of each. (This matters less with Firstpoint Print’s digital printing process, because it is a plateless process, but it potentially makes a significant difference to pricing and colour accuracy on their litho printing presses).

To illustrate the difference in colour accuracy using ‘spot’ vs. ‘process’ printing, here are a few examples showing a representation of the same Pantone colours using both colour models (N.B. slightly exaggerated for illustrative purposes). On the left is the ‘spot’ colour version where the ink is pre-mixed before going onto the printing press. On the right is the same Pantone colour generated using the ‘four colour process’ (CMYK) model. You can see that there is quite a difference for the particular Pantone colours we’ve selected, with the spot colours being more saturated and bright, while the CMYK equivalents tending to be a little less so.

We should point out that the difference is less pronounced for many other colours in the Pantone range. Read more

Print vs Pixel - the rebirth of printing

Print vs. Pixel – The re-birth of printing

Print vs Pixel - the rebirth of printing

In a world which is becoming increasingly digital, it is encouraging to know that physical printing is enjoying renewed popularity — and in no small way. Not long ago, with the arrival of electronic literature in the form of Acrobat PDFs, e-shots, ‘page-turning’ browser app’s and even the one time massive growth of e-books, one could have been forgiven for thinking that ‘traditional’ printing was well and truly on its way out. However statistics now show that there has been a reversal in the fortunes of physical printing and, unlike the music industry, it is bucking the digital trend and is growing in popularity. Meanwhile its electronic equivalent, which seemed for a while almost ready to take its place, is losing ground drastically.

Take e-books as a ‘print vs. pixel’ barometer

Many predicted that printed books would soon be a thing of the past when e-book readers like the Kindle arrived on the scene. Indeed the sale of printed books did drop radically while e-book sales grew enormously for a couple of years (a 1260% sales increase between 2008 and 2010). However this trend is now reversing. We are now seeing a mass migration back to the printed word. Forrester Research reports that last year sales of e-readers were 40% lower than in their heyday back in 2011 and the sale of e-books accounted for only a fifth of book sales in the entire U.S. The Association of American Publishers also reports that paperback sales are increasing — sharply. So the predicted print revolution, in the form of digitisation which affected digital music so profoundly, never actually came to fruition for the printed word. Some surveys also suggest that young readers prefer reading printing on paper, despite being ‘digital’ down to their DNA. The American Booksellers Association says that they’re now in a healthier position than they’ve been for years. Printed matter matters again and major publishers are indeed radically expanding warehouse storage to cope with the re-born demand for physical, printed products.

So what has helped printing to prevail, despite the odds?

Again using printed books vs. digitised books as a good example, I for one tried a few e-books on my new Kindle and, for the first couple it seemed fantastic. But this feeling was short-lived as I found it difficult to obtain particular books that I’d had in mind, while also tiring of the cold, sanitised feel of the electronic e-book reader. I missed the comforting intimacy of the paper, the rustle of the turning page, the feel and even smell of the book and, of course, the full colour, graphically printed cover with its notes, review extracts and ancillary information. I also missed owning something physical and tangible. In contrast to the real thing, e-books felt intangible and sterile. ‘Sterilised’ really sums it up.

Printed paper has a character and an identity

Printed paper has a feel, it has a texture, it has an identity and it even has a smell. They combine to form the character of the printed piece in question. Try accomplishing that with a digital version of the same thing — it’s simply not possible. Digitally reading what should have been printed matter is rather akin to viewing the world with one eye closed. Things look kind of similar but something is missing. Everything is two-dimensional, soulless and that word again — sterile. Read more

Print management services

Top 10 Reasons To Use A Print Management Service

Print management services

So — what is print management?

Well, basically Print Management means that the organisation, ordering and delivery of your entire printing requirements are taken on by one supplier, who manages the whole process for you. So whether you have a small, occasional requirements for simple stationery items or require a huge array of sales and marketing collateral on a regular basis, it’s all handled for you seamlessly. Print management is, however, of particular benefit to the latter category, for example companies or organisations who need a whole suite of printed literature like brochures, stationery, mailers, leaflets, flyers, forms, catalogues, manuals and so on. Here we’ll take a look at those benefits.

Benefits of having your printing managed:

 

1). It’s convenient

Sourcing your printing from just one supplier makes life easy! With all your printing needs managed for you, every item of sales, marketing or training collateral is ready and supplied ‘on tap’ as and whenever required. When handled well, there is no reason why you will ever need to run out of a particular printed piece ever again. Using a centrally managed print service means you also never have to wonder who printed what and who has the artwork files — they’ll always be in one place.

2). It saves space

With our print management service there is no need for you to take delivery of thousands upon thousands of printed pieces, until the moment you need them. You can order in smaller batches on an ad hoc basis or get us to set up a regular drip-fed supply, as preferred.

3). It frees up your time

Think of the time you’ll save leaving all the work, worry, organisation, inventory and supply to us. That’s time you can spend doing something else!

4). It saves you money

Because we can potentially manage all your printed matter, we can identify areas where savings are ripe for the picking. We can spot instances where a small technical or size change can save you money or even print more than one job at the same time (so there are less printing plates to pay for) without necessarily needing to take delivery of them all together. So you get the cost savings, without needing to find a home for the stock — until the moment you need it of course!

5). It helps cash-flow

Read more

Specialist print finishes

Special Printing Options & Finishes:

Specialist print finishes

If you want to give your printed pieces that little something special then you could consider some of our optional extras. These are specialist printing or finishing processes which will ‘lift’ your printing and design in one way or another, make it stand out, and give it a feel of real quality. Here are some of the options we can supply at Firstpoint Print, London:

Spot colour

Spot colour can be used when an exact colour match or hue is essential and when it can’t be replicated from standard ‘full colour process’ (CMYK) printing. With spot colour the ink is actually mixed to the right colour before going onto the printing press and, by doing this, you can print colours which simply cannot be replicated using traditional full colour or digital printing. Colours can be more bright and saturated and, indeed, you can even print fluorescent colours when printing with spot colours. Spot colour printing also allows you to print a huge range of metallic inks which, again, is simply not possible using traditional CMYK or digital printing. It should be noted, however, that for every single spot colour being printed, a new printing plate will be required so unless the job only uses two or three spot colours, it can work out quite a bit more expensive than full colour process (CMYK) or digital printing. It is also only possible using the litho process.

Foil blocking

Foil blocking is printing which looks like metal, and indeed it consists of imprinting a very thin layer of metallic foil onto the surface of the paper or card. In its shiny form it has a mirror-like surface which is way more shiny and reflective than the spot colour metallic printing mentioned above. It is also, however, available with a matt or satin finish. A limited range of standard foil colours is also available and, of course, this includes various golds, silvers, coppers and a gunmetal finish, along with a limited pallete of greens, blues, reds, lilacs and pinks etc. Holographic foil is also available and this resembles some of the foiled details you often see on bank notes. Foil blocking is usually confined to a few elements, for example a logo or titles. The smaller the total area to be foiled, the cheaper it’ll be to print.

Embossing/debossing

Embossing and debossing is traditionally produced using metal dies (similar to how foil blocking is done, in fact). The result will be that the surface of the paper or board is either imprinted inwards (debossed) or raised outwards towards the viewer (embossed). So the printed piece is given a third dimension. It is important to remember that the reverse side of the sheet will also be affected so care should be taken with the design as a whole. Embossing and debossing can be combined with other printing techniques such as litho printing and/or foil blocking so, for instance, a logo could be both printed in colour (and/or foil) and be embossed (and/or partially debossed). The very finest stationery often uses this approach, for example where a coat of arms or emblem is both printed and embossed, giving the resultant stationery a very luxurious quality and feel. Also see UV embossing in the relevant section below.

Lamination

Laminating your printed covers or folders etc. can Read more

Printing under the magnifying glass

Printing – Under the Magnifying Glass

Printing under the magnifying glass

Have you ever wondered how standard printing manages to replicate so many colours from so few actual inks? With just 4 inks at play (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), it’s staggering when you think about it –  a whole rainbow and more can be rendered while, at the same time, the palest of pale hues are possible despite the original 4 individual inks used in the machine being, on their own, quite punchy and saturated.

Tints

The secret is the use of tiny spaced out dots, called ‘tints’. So, for example, the ‘sky blue’ ink called cyan can be printed as anything from a grid of tiny spaced dots to a full solid. The solid will obviously still look like sky blue but the smallest spaced dots at the other end of the scale will end up looking, to the naked eye, like a very pale blue. The printing trade grades these tints as percentages (i.e. a percentage of how ‘solid’ they are) where 100% is solid cyan and 1% is the palest of pale tints.

Tints of process cyan

Mixes

This process is taken a stage further by overlapping the tints or solids of each of the 4 ‘process’ colours as they’re also known. So a solid magenta (rich pink) overlapping a solid process yellow will result in a primary red being visible to the onlooker. 50% tints of each of those will result in a mid pink, 10% tints of each resulting in a very pale pink and so on. Similarly process yellow overlapped with process cyan will result in various shades of green, depending on the tint value used. It is this type of overlapping of tints, mixed to a much more complex level, which allows the 4 colours to mimic full colour photographs like you see in magazines and in printed brochures.

Photo close-up showing printed dot formation

Black is just black – isn’t it?

Black is just black right? Well, yes and no. Read more