Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Designing for Digital Printing - Part 1: Pre-Design Stage

Choose the printer, then design. Chances are, each printer can provide you a list (and samples) of digital paper stocks they commonly run that work well for their particular presses. These may be different from printer to printer so it is important to know what stock works well for your printer. 

What type of color reproduction can you expect? Can your printer provide you with a digital chart or samples that indicate how PMS colors will print digitally once processed out?

What are the font limitations?  Depending on your printer’s device capabilities, they might run into issues when printing small fonts.

Choose the paper.  Ask the printer for digital paper samples ahead of time. When you spec paper, don’t think in terms of #3’s or #2 grades, think in terms of digital grades. Your printer should be able to provide you with digital paper samples of various finishes, weights and sizes.

Estimate before designing.  If you have a rough idea of your project (size, quantity, color, etc) talk to a printer and have them give you a rough estimate for how it will be produced. Is it more efficient for them to produce the project digitally or offset? Do they recommend any sizes that are close to your estimate but offer greater efficiencies?

Find the grain.  In your printer’s estimate, which direction will the grain run?   Paper that folds against the grain will crack easier than paper that folds with the grain direction. The ideal grain direction should be parallel to your fold.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Genetically Modified

Over the past few years, there has been a growing popularity in organic food. This has stemmed from the increased knowledge the public has on how our food is made and where it comes from.  One of the primary reasons for the push to organic options is the food industry's production of genetically engineered foods.

Genetic engineering takes the genetics of one organism and puts it into something else. With genetically engineered food, animals and plants are transformed primarily so we can produce more food faster and cheaper. Genetically engineering food has become so prevalent that the majority of processed foods in a grocery store contain genetically engineered ingredients (

There are many who argue that genetic engineering has adverse effects on humans, animals, wildlife and the environment. A recent documentary, Food Inc. (, focuses on some of these concerns. While there are many concerns, in a world where people starve, is the ability to bring more food to market at a cheaper price a bad thing? It is a moral paradox and I suggest you do a little personal research to come to your own conclusions.

A similar genetic engineering concern has also been recently publicized in the commercial paper industry (Forests Of ArborGen Genetically Modified Trees OK'd For U.S. South).  For years, paper companies have been planting forests of trees to be used for commercial paper. These forests help protect the conservation of natural forests.

Eucalyptus trees are being planted as they grow faster and produce high-quality pulp but they only do well in warm year-round climates such as Florida.  Genetic engineering has allowing the company ArborGen to change the genetic makeup of these trees by modifying them to withstand freezing temperatures which will enable their growth in states north of Florida.  The concern is that these genetically engineered trees will invade the natural ecosystem. That could cause a number of problems. ArborGen is confident they can control the trees but questions still remain.

Again, as with genetically modified food, this creates a moral paradox. We know trees are good as they take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Is it bad that paper companies are looking for more ways to increase the number of trees put in the ground? From the paper company's perspective, the alternative is to use trees from natural forests but no one wants that. In the effort to produce more trees and paper though, one has to be concerned about genes being transfered from a genetically engineered tree to a natural tree especially when it is believed by some that the eucalyptus tree uses more groundwater (lowering the human supply) and could be more flammable.

There are strong arguments for and against genetic engineering which creates the dilemma. Perhaps in a few years we'll have conclusive knowledge to know whether genetically engineering our food and our trees was a good or bad idea.  

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What is the Expiration Date for Paper?

Sell By ...

Just about every food and beverage product you buy has an expiration date. The sell by date is the point of no return, where the perceived quality and safety of the product can not be guaranteed.  Often times when this date has passed, the physical and sensory properties of the food change.  An odor is present, mold is detected or the food/beverage changes color.  As food and beverage consumers, we watch these dates closely and we expect and prepare to replace items as needed.  These dates make our lives easier.

The luxury of an expiration date is not available however in printing.  When your looking through a paper swatch book, you won't see an expiration date.  You will however see key terms that give you an idea of the durability and lifespan that you can expect from the paper.  Have you ever noticed when a paper is identified as acid-free or archival?  This is the paper's way of providing you with an expiration date.

Acid-free paper eliminates the lignin and active acid pulp (aluminum sulfates) during the processing.  Lignin is found in wood and when exposed to light and oxygen, it will cause the paper to turn yellow and deteriorate.  The components of paper naturally contain cellulose fibers that produce acid so it is impossible to create an ageless paper.  Acid decay can completely breakdown paper over time by deteriorating fibers.  However paper made acid-free, will at least slow down the eventual deterioration process.

Expires 08/10/2532

When an alkaline reserve is added in the paper production process, it will further strengthen the papers ability to fight off naturally occurring acid that forms from the cellulose fibers.  This alkaline reserve acts as another protective agent or buffer in the fight against acids.  When a paper is alkaline, you can expect an average life expectancy of a few hundred years.  Depending on the grade of the paper this can vary from 100-1000 years.

Archival paper is also used to identify paper based on a strict set of standards from ANSI.  It means that not only is the paper acid-free with large amounts of alkaline reserves, it is also durable enough to be used for printed items with potential significant historical value to them.  Archival paper is considered such because it isn't made from wood-based pulp that contains lignin.

So when you're searching through paper books for your next potential print project and you see that a paper is acid-free and archival, expect it to at least withstand the remainder of your lifetime.