Helping Designers Bring Bling to Inkjet

By Mary Schilling / Published:

We spend a lot of time talking about how important it is to design for compatibility with production. Sometimes we actually get to do more than talk. Recently we had the the chance to help a talented designer from Chicago design for inkjet.

Crystal is the graphic designer for Alison & Ivy, a custom jewelry manufacturer in Chicago. She was working on their product catalog and had read “The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet” book, so she reached out with questions about printing with high-speed aqueous inkjet.

It wasn’t variable content or the desire to be different that drove Crystal toward inkjet printing. She needed 1,000 catalogs for a Las Vegas trade show that was fast approaching and wanted to reduce the cost. Ordinarily, Crystal would opt for offset printing, but a broker suggested high-speed inkjet as an option to reduce the per-piece cost.

We talked about how important the paper choice would be for achieving results. I encouraged her to establish expectations by requesting a sample sheet from her design or a fingerprint containing important color and print quality elements prior to production. I explained that inkjet can look different than offset. Since her catalog contains highly detailed images, I underscored the importance of using quality paper. Also, since the piece was not initially designed for inkjet production, I recommended enhancing detailed images by applying image effects, ensuring that important tones were sharp and commanded attention.

Crystal and her team went right to work, meticulously masking out diamond areas, adding Photoshop filters and enhancing color effects. She then contacted her print broker, Steve, at Precise Printing Network and requested a sample proof and a quote for her 10 11×17˝ signatures, finished to 1,000 8.5×11˝ saddle stitched, 40-page catalogs.

Pleased with the color and print quality of her proof, Crystal’s order was placed with a printer in Illinois. It was printed on a Screen Truepress 520ZZ on 71# Mitsubishi Gloss coated stock.

I received this picture (above) along with the following text: “Thanks Mary for your help. The catalog does print different than offset, but different is good! My price per piece for inkjet is 26 percent less, looks great and arrived on time to the show. I was really nervous switching processes, (but) now I am confident for next time.”

I asked Crystal a little while later, what she would have done differently.

“I would have taken more time in testing the machine, ink and paper combinations to get the best product,” she wrote. “I know now how important it is to prepare the item for inkjet initially and the effects which I can use to enhance my images, as well as getting a fingerprint done on the right paper to be used in production. I want to get the best print quality from inkjet and now understand each machine; ink and paper contribute to that. I would also like to better understand how customizing and versioning could increase sales. I am now hooked on inkjet!”

This is the excitement and education we need to generate with designers to move the inkjet industry forward. Crystal took a chance in moving such a highly detailed catalog to inkjet and now she is open to new ideas and positioned for success.

Attention: Designers, print brokers, printers or buyers. Do you have products that you have printed via high-speed inkjet that you are especially proud of and would like to share? Let’s talk; I would like to see and hear about your successes using inkjet.

It is stories like this that we all should celebrate.


About the Author

Mary Schilling


Mary Schilling writes about technical inkjet industry articles, provides RIP and workflow training, manages print quality analysis evaluation, ink management and color management for OEM’s and end users for pre and post machine installs. Mary Schilling consults with paper mills, fluid and inkjet machinery suppliers on how to improve color and print quality for high speed and industrial inkjet involving paper, plastics, metal, fabric and glass with UV and aqueous inkjet fluids. This experience led her to receive Innovator of the Year awards from the Flexographic Technical Association and from Xplor International for her efforts in closing the gap between inkjet printing for document, and digital corrugated packaging. She is the owner of Schilling Inkjet Consulting, Published Author and Certified ColorGate Color Trainer and Distributor. Her latest published works can be found

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