Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The 100% Original Blog Post

Cool title, eh? Does this prepare you for something completely original? Well I should say mostly original as I've covered Post Consumer Waste paper in a past issue. Wait, since I'm just including web links of other people's ideas, it should be even less original than that. Okay, so before I dive into this, let's rename this post to The 10% Original Blog Post.

Sorry for my diatribe, but it is worth pointing out how often a name, title or label can deceive you into thinking you are getting something that you aren't. This is the case in printing and cooking. In printing you have terms like FSC, 100% recycled and Post Consumer Waste (PCW). However, this doesn't mean that you're making the most environmentally friendly choice. Breads do this too with labels like multi-grain and whole-grain. There are no guarantees that buying bread with those labels will give you the healthiest option.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Counsel) assures that a customers paper product comes from forests managed to conserve biodiversity and support local communities. However, FSC does not mean that a recycled stock was used. I equate FSC to multi-grain bread. Multi-grain sounds very healthy but that doesn't mean that it is. There is no requirement that says multi-grain bread must contain whole-grain. Click here to review the differences between multi-grain and whole-grain bread.

Recycled paper doesn't mean 100% recycled. It may only be 10% PCW which is common for many recycled coated stocks. With recycled paper, to find the most environmentally friendly option, look for high PCW percentages. PCW is recycled paper that has been recycled after it has already left the mill. Paper companies will tell you something is 100% recycled, (composed of pre-consumer mill waste) but if it hasn't even left the mill and been used at any point by the end user, does this really sound recycled and environmentally friendly? A similar misconception is also found with whole wheat bread. Many whole wheat breads still contain all purpose white flour with gluten. The reason for this is you need the gluten found in white bread flour to make the dough "doughy." (Click here for more information on the chemistry of bread). So in actuality the whole-grain bread you buy may only contain a small percentage of the whole-grains that you want. Also, just because a bread contains wheat flour does not make it a whole-grain bread. I found a blog that offers some useful tips for buying healthy bread that I recommend:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I was making bread yesterday from scratch and things didn’t turn out so well. I had just purchased a new food processor and was excited to test it out. After puting the mixed liquid (water, sugar and yeast) into the processor I was ready to add my flour mixture. Little did I know that my food processor would automatically drain the liquid from the mixing bowl if the levels rose to high. With me being very careful not to go too fast and mis a step, I added half of the flour mixture and let that sit a minute before I started mixing. Before I had a chance to push pulse all the liquid drained out, leaving my counter top in a mess.

After a few minutes of peeving at my dilemma, I thought I would start from scratch again and give it another go. This time around I was able to start mixing immediately upon adding the flour to begin forming a solid that was impossible to drain from the processor. I slowly added more and more flour but in my efforts to get it just right, I over mixed it, causing the mixture to seep out into the motor and overheat the entire dough. I went ahead and completed the bread but it hardly rose at all and I realized later that I had probably killed the yeast by letting it get too hot in the processor. The third time around was a success, and my bread turned out pretty good, but I was too bummed out to enjoy it.

How many times have you been in the kitchen and despite taking all the precautionary steps and double checking your work, the meal ends up ruined, over cooked or just doesn’t taste right? This cooking example is comparable to the comedy of errors experienced when a typical print job goes bad.
It’s not that your printer doesn’t care about doing a good job. The process is so customized that it is inevitable that things are going to happen. While we can’t avoid the occasional mishap, we can be prepared. To help your printer and your kitchen experience, I have offered a few easy tips to better prepare you for the next time problems arise (or don’t “rise” at all).

• Take ownership of problems in the same way you would successes. Avoid the blaming others and don’t get defensive. This holds true on print projects and when cooking with a significant other!
• Assume the worst possible outcome and take preventative measures to eliminate that from occurring.
• Respond immediately to problems. If your dinner plans fall apart do you just decide to not eat? No, you figure out what resources and options you have left and work immediately to establish a new game plan.
• Don’t take anything in the process for granted. Whether it is in cooking or in a customized manufacturing process, actions have a ripple effect and neglecting one process can cause a series of errors.
• Always establish open and honest communication about the product and process. I want to know what is in the food I eat and how it got there the same way I want to know the exact type of materials used and the production process for my print project.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Make Your Own Cookbook

This past Thanksgiving, many of you gathered together with your friends and family to enjoy your favorite holiday recipes. Now with those recipes fresh in your mind, why not use this opportunity to create something truly unique: a cookbook that contains all of your family's favorite recipes. With tools such as Blurb, Lulu and Taste Book, you can design from scratch a customized cookbook. After designing your book, you can order printed copies directly from the website. Wouldn't this make a great gift?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


It doesn't matter if you are warehousing a catalog or putting your leftovers in a safe container to freeze, the decision to store food and printed materials is usually based on convenience, money and emergencies. You want the option of having your print project available to ship at a moment's notice in the same way last night's dinner can conveniently become today's lunch. You want to get print projects as cheap as possible so ordering in bulk makes sense. The same can be said for buying food in bulk or saving leftovers to not let anything go to waste. Then there's an emergency - the paper for your project is currently unavailable or a snow storm is on the way and there is no way you can drive to the grocery store! The reasons to store are apparent but storing printed materials takes as much thought and consideration as storing food.
Many of the things you know you should consider when storing food are exactly the things you should think about before your next print project goes into inventory.


Temperature plays a huge role in food safety and print warehousing. For instance consider bread. If you leave bread out at room temperature it has a very short life span, yet by freezing it, you can safely keep it much longer. By freezing, you can also store items for long periods of time that are already prepared such as meat loaf, vegetable beef stew or lentil stew.
As with food, in general cooler, humidity controlled temperatures are better for storing print materials.
A perfect example of this is the potential deterioration of an envelope. Any printed material that contains an adhesive of some sort is subject to potential damage from bad storage conditions. An envelope contains remoist glue. If a warehouse gets too humid, the additional moisture content could cause the remoist glue to activate. The humidity can also affect paper that will naturally accept moisture causing mold growths and potential color loss (or yellowing) over prolonged periods of time.

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk is a huge way to achieve great savings on both food items and print projects. Companies such as Sam's and Costco are continually increasing their membership due to the ever growing trend of buying in bulk. My wife and I buy in bulk for items that we will store for prolonged periods of time like meats, poultry, fruits, vegetables, fish, sauces, oils and everyday condiments.
As much as it makes sense to buy in bulk for food, many people don't take advantage of bulk buy opportunities in the print industry.
If you have a common paper you use for your print projects, buying this paper in bulk to use for multiple print projects may qualify you for a better price. Also, with the high cost to setup a non-digital print project the cost per piece almost always goes down with the more you buy. If there are no (or very minimal) art changes and eventually you will use more than your current order, then it makes sense to buy more and just store it. If there are minimal art changes you might consider printing something like a shell. Take for example business cards. If you print multiple business card orders for your company each year and the only difference in everyone's card is a black only name and number change, print the four-color portion of this in bulk ahead of time (the shells). When you need to order more, the printer will merely have to imprint the black text on the cards saving considerably in setup costs for each run. If you have any projects you are currently printing frequently, at least have a discussion with your printer about potential savings from creatively printing and buying in higher quantities.

First In, First Out

In addition to the considerations above, I firmly believe in a first in, first out policy. When your fridge is getting empty and you restock, take the remaining items and move them to the top and front. These have been in the fridge the longest and should come out and be eaten (or thrown away) before any newly bought item is touched. The same is said for a warehoused printed piece. If your warehouse counts are low and you order to get your inventory levels back up, make sure someone is making it a priority to place the remaining materials in a section where they are sure to get used next. It may seem like common sense and practice, but in reality it is usually extra work to make sure this happens. It doesn't hurt to monitor that your warehouse does this because if something printed sits too long, it can eventually deteriorate.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oil & Water

Have you ever noticed how certain recipes always ask you to pat your poultry or fish down dry after rinsing it with water? We do this exercise but why? The reason for this is because oil and water just don't mix. If you wash a piece of chicken by running it through water and do not dry the chicken before adding oil, the water will repel the oil. If you pat the chicken dry it will be more receptive to absorbing the oil and you will achieve a nice coating.

This same concept, that oil and water do not mix, is the main principle behind offset printing. The poultry in printing would be your plate. Not to be confused with something you put your food on, a plate is a metal sheet that attaches to a cylinder on press.

The plate contains the actual dotted image that will be printed for each color we use (CMYK). The plate’s image area contains chemicals that are highly receptive to oil based inks but naturally repel water. When we attach the plate to the cylinder on the offset press, the plate will rotate and come into contact with dampening rollers (water) and then ink rollers (oil). The water dampens the plate and when this happens the oil receptive image area will repel the water, while the non-image area will receive the water. When the plate comes into contact with the oil based ink, the ink will only adhere to the oil receptive image area and it can not adhere to the non-image area because that part of the plate is coated with water. Because plates do not transfer the cleanest image to a sheet of paper, the inked image is then transferred (or "offset") from the plate to a durable rubber blanket that conforms to the surfaces of all types of paper stocks. The blanket prints the image to the paper completing the process of offset printing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Oven Part 2: Web Growth

In the world of web printing, the web roll is pulled through an oven to dry the ink to the paper. This is done to take advantage of in-line finishing that a web press is capable of. As the form leaves the oven, it is completely dry and ready to be folded. While this creates efficiencies and cost savings, it can also result in an unattractive phenomenon called web growth.

Have you ever seen a catalog that looks like the cover was trimmed about 1/32 short of the text? This is a result of a sheetfed-printed cover binding with web-printed text. A few days after binding the two together, the text will physically expand. What has actually happened is that the text has swelled slightly after absorbing moisture from the air. The OVEN is the culprit. When the text is pulled through the oven to dry the ink, the moisture already in the paper is literally cooked or sucked out. For a consistent product and ease of handling, the folded text signatures are then baled together tightly. They remain air tight right up until the point that the bales are cut and the signatures are bound together and trimmed. After the product is completely bound, is the first time the text is exposed to moisture in the air. Over the course of a few days, the moisture creeps back into the paper and web growth begins.

What can you do to combat this? The best remedy is to print the cover and the text on the same press, however this often isn't the most economical solution. Another solution is to trim the books post web growth, but again this adds time and costs. Perhaps the only real remedy is to accept web growth is possible and thus design your piece to eliminate how much it stands out. Placing a coordinating color on the outside bleed edge of the first text page can eliminate how noticeable it is.

The Oven - Part 1: Cooking Tips

While dishes can be used in a microwave, avoid placing dishes that have silver or gold trim (metal) in the microwave.

Before starting any meal where the oven is in use, the first step should always be pre-heating.

Convection ovens cook much faster and more evenly. Because of this, it is usually necessary to cook at a lower temperature or for less time than the recipe asks for (Most restaurants use convection ovens).

Don't open the oven door too often when cooking. Each time you do, the oven temperature decreases at least 10-20 degrees.

If you like you're meats rare, use an oven. It is much easier to control the internal temperature of the meat and not over cook than it is by using a grill or stove-top grill pan.

Set your oven at a very low temperature and use as a warmer for your plates so your warm food doesn't get cold by dinner time. This will also help guard off bacteria that will infect the food as it cools. (WARNING - Do this with caution as a plate can crack if it gets too hot. It doesn't take more than a minute or two to warm the plate.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Folding Tips - Part 2: Folding Print

Score (verb) - a crease in a sheet of heavyweight paper to facilitate folding.

Why is this important? If you are printing on thick stock, scoring will help prevent cracking. Cracking occurs along the fold as small white paper fibers appear and look as if the inked image is tearing apart at the spine.

Think in 4's. While a printer can do a number of varying folds, in most cases only page counts divisible by 4 will work when the printed product must stitch. This is not a rule and there are exceptions to this (in fact our own web press is capable of folding an 18 page signature). However on most standard stitched books, page counts divisible by 4 are a must.

Signature (noun) - in printing and binding, the name given to a printed sheet after it has been folded.

Why is this important? The more signatures you have, the more costs are involved. If you print a 32 page booklet and the printer is capable of fitting up to 16 total front and back pages on one large sheet of paper, your booklet would have a total of 2 signatures (one for each press sheet comprised of 16 pages). Each press sheet/signature needs plates, paper, ink and finishing services. Anything you do to reduce the total number of signatures (not necessarily pages) will save you big money.

Folding Tips - Part 1: Folding Your Food

Beaten egg whites are folded into batter to create a light and fluffy texture. When you beat egg whites until their color turns white, you create air bubbles. The purpose of folding is to retain those air bubbles in the batter mixture. Because the beaten eggs can settle rather quickly and the bubbles can go away, make sure all other ingredients are already mixed in and that this is your last step right before cooking. Also, eggs at room temperature whip better than cold eggs. To fold eggs, first gently pour the beaten egg whites on the batter. Use a rubber spatula to cut down the middle through the mixture and move the spatula across the bottom and up the side, bringing some of the mixture from the bottom to the surface. Turn the bowl one-third of a turn each time until you complete the process.

When making and folding an omelet, always cook on low heat. The omelet will not uniformly cook on high heat (the bottom will burn and the top will be too runny to stay together when flipping or folding).

Folding food can be effective, but it does not mean it is the easiest method. For instance when making deviled eggs, mix the yolks and combine with all other ingredients in a zip lock bag and squish them together (many recipes call for folding the ingredients into the egg yolks but I think this works better). Once the ingredients are mixed together thoroughly, cut a small hole in the corner of the bag and squeeze to fill your eggs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Prep Work - Part 2: Cooking Preparation Tips

The preparation that you put into a meal is just as important as cooking the meal. Good prep makes cooking easy.

  • When de-frosting meat, poultry or fish I have found that it is more effective to place the frozen food in a leak proof plastic bag and put this in a sink filled with hot water. It de-thaws much more evenly than a microwave will.
  • For most recipes, chopping your vegetables should be one of the very first things you do. This will save you much time for those later steps in your meal.
  • Google it. How many recipes have you discarded because you didn't have a particular item it calls for in your fridge? If you Google that item, you'll find there is a substitute for just about anything. Also, sometimes when my refrigerator is about bare, I will Google four or five items together of whatever I have left in my fridge (ex - "chicken, bacon, cheese, oil, vinegar) and do a quick search. You won't believe how many recipes you can find online that get you by with your limited food inventory.

Prep Work - Part 1: Pre-Press at the Print Shop

Prep work consists of various steps in a printer's prepress department. There are thousands of different topics on prepress so in the interest of your valuable time I will focus on merely one: alteration charges.

Many of you have been hit with excessive alteration charges at some juncture in your printing lives. Often times you don't know about it until you receive the invoice. That is why it is extremely critical that you keep these things in mind:
  • Do you anticipate there could be any changes after the first proof is created? If so please ask your rep to notify you of the alteration charges before hand.
  • Simple does not always equal cheap. Whether you are making a small type correction, replacing photos or altering your layout, in most cases the printer will still need to start from scratch on that entire page and go through the process of putting your file in a printable format again.

Any prepress activity after the first proof and before final approval usually has some type of additional charge to it. Simply put, ask your rep "What will this cost?" and you can avoid an expensive surprise.