I was raised by my great grandparents on a small farm on the outskirts of a retirement community in Southern California. I spent most of my time either playing with Hot Wheels or riding my bike and pretending to be Evel Knievel. (Younger readers: look him up on YouTube.) You could say I was Social Distancing before it was trendy. Outside of school, I was involved in two activities: Little League and Boy Scouts. I still remember the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”
Which brings us to today. If anyone had described on January 1st what the world would look like in August, we probably would have thought they had read too many Stephen King novels (guilty as charged). Who could have predicted the huge disruption to our lives and businesses? The challenges for Print Service Providers (PSP) have been extensive. I would like to talk about just one: press checks.
Who could have imagined that a simple press check could become such a challenge? Many companies have travel restrictions in place and limits on non-employees entering their facilities. Looking to our Boy Scout motto, let’s “Be Prepared” and look at three things that can help mitigate the need for in-person press checks:
1) Print Standards
Especially with newer print technologies, like production inkjet, buyers and marketers may be nervous about your ability to accurately reproduce their brand colors. Print standards go a long way toward reassuring clients that production inkjet can meet their color needs and result in reducing the need for press checks. By establishing and printing to standards across all print technologies (especially production inkjet), you create a more consistent and predictable product that gives the buyer more confidence in your ability to reliably reproduce brand colors. You are able to produce hard proofs that are extremely accurate, and in some cases, can even employ soft proofs that are very accurate as well. IWCO Direct uses two ISO print standards, one for coated and one for uncoated, based on stock. Everything is calibrated to reproduce one of those two standards. In this way, we provide our clients with an extremely consistent product that usually negates the need for a press check.
2) Spot Colors
With most production inkjet presses producing all color using four-color process, spot colors, especially for brands, can often be a sore spot that requires the need for a press check. The buyer may be looking at a Pantone Solid Coated book (you know, the one that has been sitting by the open window in the sun for the past four years). Maybe they are comparing that to something printed on uncoated stock and wondering why they don’t match. The whole thing can devolve into a big, finger-pointing mess. One way to help alleviate that is to settle on digital Pantone and brand color standards. These are more consistent software-to-software than Pantone books will ever be. The information is also easily shared. These digital standards are a great way to remove subjectivity from the equation. IWCO Direct has established digital standards and measurable tolerances for all of our critical color matches. Everything we print is pointed toward these standards. This gives us better color consistency that again can negate the need for a press check. We can measure our color match with color reading instruments and even provide a report back to the client. Which brings me to my last point:
3) Process Control
The need for a system of consistent process control to monitor all of your printing processes cannot be overstated. We have found that even our most demanding clients are much more comfortable when they know how closely and consistently we are monitoring their print. I won’t spend a lot of time going over this as I have talked about it extensively in a previous article. Suffice it to say, the ability to send a client a report showing them how their job ran on press can often make press checks obsolete.
We are living in unprecedented times. The silver lining is that times like this often force us to implement changes that we really should have made long ago. Let’s use this time to tighten up our own ship and “Be Prepared.”
Mike Todryk is a Color Technical Specialist for IWCO Direct. He has more than 20 years of printing industry experience and has specialized in Color Management for the last 18.