I want a good print!
You know, we hear qualitative terms in our industry a lot. We have customers that want “the best looking print possible” or “colors that really pop”. Others are looking for “great quality at high print speeds”. At the end of the day, we all pretty much want to have the best result possible, especially when we are investing our hard earned money into a finished product. But what makes a print “good” or “the best possible”? How do colors “pop”? How does a provider of services help customers reach goals that cannot be quantitatively defined?
Well, we know how. 😉 And there are a couple of things that made it possible for us to know. In fact, we can quantify such goals! So I thought we would explore a little bit about how quality can be defined in the printing world and what “quality” means.
Probably the first consideration given when printing is the print resolution. Printing in wide-format, however, means that you don’t always have to have a crystal clear image. In fact, the fine details of a print are lost when you are printing a banner that will be seen from 50 feet away, so printing for those details is just a waste of time and ink. So before trying to print the most perfect image, it is important to consider the application for which you are printing. Fine art and other commercial applications will require a very high resolution – that is where it is important to catch details such as individual hairs or details of patterns.
Understanding the reason for printing helps us determine how detailed a print needs to be, which allows us to find the best resolution for the application.
Another important consideration is the amount of printing that needs to be done. If you are a print shop printing a flyer for something like a political campaign, and you need to deliver 10,000 copies to your customer in three days, the speed is of utmost importance. While you want the image to look good, this isn’t a precious memory that needs to be preserved. So the image quality can be eased a little without losing any impact on the final result. In this type of print, we don’t need to see the miniscule details, and instead, quality means profitability. Print speed can vary greatly, but for mass printing jobs, quality is defined by having a print that is clear and recognizable, but is also printed in a way that allows costs to be reduced and job to be completed more quickly.
Measuring Color/Color Management
In the opening of this post, I posed the rhetorical question of how to help customers reach goals that aren’t quantitatively defined. I also asked how to make colors “pop”. These were kind of misleading, because the fact of the matter is that when you are color experts, you can indeed quantify color! In fact, our CEO, Marco, has been doing this so long that it is absolutely crazy how good he is at identifying the most miniscule differences in color. But for those of us who weren’t given his hawkeyes, we fortunately have tools and resources that turn our team into color wizards! Getting a color exactly right may not always matter, but if you are a large, recognizable brand like McDonalds or Starbucks, subtle differences make a huge difference.
But think about it – these brands are recognized worldwide. How do they manage such consistency in all locations? Certainly people in Europe aren’t having their Starbucks franchise cups printed in the US and shipped to the EU? The answer is of course they aren’t. So print experts rely on tools to help them. With instruments called spectrophotometers, we are able to measure the light values of color, allowing us to very carefully quantify the light values in a color, so that the color can be matched and reproduced – even half a globe away! This helps ensure that very specific colors are consistent no matter where they are printed!
Of course, there is a lot more involved in making sure that everything we print is “quality”. But these factor are some of the most common ways that color and workflow management can help you raise your standard!