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Printing FAQs
Place

444 N. Michigan Ave
Ste. 1200
Chicago, Illinois 60611
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ALL ABOUT PRINTING

ARE THERE PRINT SIZE LIMITATIONS?

Yes, and no. Our digital copiers will take sheet sizes as small as 4.25” x 5.5” up to 13” x 19”. Traditional offset can accept sheet sizes up to 12” x 18”. Our in-house large format printers can produce graphics up to 41.5” wide. If you have specific questions about our sizing options, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

WHAT IS A PROOF AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

In printing terms, a proof is a one-off copy of your document after all modifications and printing setup processes have been completed. It is your last, and best, opportunity to make sure that your print job comes out the way you envisioned. By carefully inspecting the proof, you can help ensure an accurate, flawless delivery of your print job the first time.

DO YOU REQUIRE MINIMUM QUANTITIES ON ANY OF YOUR PRODUCTS?

Nope! Some printing methods may be more cost-effective than others, but our professional staff are happy to work with you to determine which printing method is best for your project.

DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COLOR SEPARATIONS OR HALF-TONE PRINTING TO GET MY JOB COMPLETED?

Absolutely not!  We handle all the "back-end" production for you.

The terms are pretty easy to understand, though. Color separation refers to our offset printing process, where we use cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in four separate plates that go directly to the press. These four colors can create almost any color you can imagine!

Half-tone printing refers to converting a solid tone of black ink or one color into tiny dots that are invisible to the eye to create your image. You see a solid image, but it’s really created from the spacing of these tiny dots.

IS WHITE CONSIDERED A PRINTING COLOR?

Not typically. Because white is the default color of paper, it is simply recognized as the absence of ink.

WHAT PAPER TYPES DO YOU OFFER?

We have a large collection of “house” stocks in our production area. If you have a specific style in mind, we can check our in-house inventory to see if our selection is able to match your tastes. Or, we’ll check with our paper vendors to see what they have on hand. Keep in mind that special stocks or materials may require bulk purchasing from suppliers.

WHAT IS THE PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM?

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a color reproduction standard in which colors all across the spectrum are each identified by a unique, independent number. The use of PMS allows us to precisely match colors and maintain color consistency throughout the printing process.

WHY DO THE PRINTED COLORS LOOK DIFFERENT THAN THE COLORS ON MY SCREEN?

In short, printers and monitors produce color in different ways. Monitors use the RGB (red, green, blue) color model, which usually supports a wider spectrum of colors. Printers use the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color model, which can reproduce most—but not all—of the colors in the RGB color model.

Depending on the equipment used, CMYK generally matches 85–90% of the colors in the RGB model. When a color is selected from the RGB model that is out of the range of the CMYK model, the application chooses the closest matching color. Programs like Adobe Photoshop will allow you to choose which color will be replaced; others may not. We’ll provide you with a sample print right before we print your job to ensure a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" final product.

COMMON PRINTING TERMS

BIND: To fasten sheets with wire, thread, glue, or by any other means.

BINDING: A name given for any of many procedures used to put pages together.

BLEED: Printing that goes to the edge of the sheet. Trimming is required to make the printing run to the edge of a sheet.

CAST-COATED: Coated paper with a high- gloss reflective finish.

COATED PAPER: Paper with a clay or other coating applied to one, or both, sides. The coating can be dull, gloss, matte, or a number of other finishes. Coated paper generally produces sharper, brighter images and has a more refelctive quality than uncoated paper.

COLLATE: To put pages in a certain order for binding.

COLOR CORRECTION: Methods of improving color separations and definition.

COVER PAPER: A heavy printing paper primarily used to cover books or make presentation folders.

SIDE-STITCHING: Stapling through the spine from front to back. The publication will not lay flat when opened.

 

CROP: To trim a picture, image, or printed sheet.

CROP MARKS: Printed lines showing where to trim a printed sheet.

GLOSS: A shiny paper coating that reflects light.

LAMINATE: To cover with protective film. Also used to bond or glue one surface to another.

MATTE FINISH: Dull paper or ink finish.

OFFSET PRINTING: Printing which involves a plate that makes an inked impression on a rubber-blanketed cylinder, which, in turn, transfers it to the paper.

PERFECT BINDING: An unsewn, flat-spined book binding made with glue.

RESOLUTION: The degree of sharpness of a computer-generated image as measured by the number of dots per linear inch in a hard-copy printout or, the number of pixels across and down on a display screen.

SADDLE-STITCHING: A type of binding that uses wire stapling at the center of a magazine or pamphlet.

SCORE: Creasing paper to help it fold more neatly.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

WHAT TYPES OF PRODUCTS AND SERVICES DO YOU PROVIDE?

AlphaGraphics is a full service marketing communications provider, and offer a wide range of products and services. To see a full listing of our services, check out the Products & Services area of our website.

WHAT TYPES OF MARKETING TECHNIQUES CAN YOU ADD TO MY PRINTED MATERIALS?

OUR MULTI-CHANNEL MARKETING OPTIONS INCLUDE:

  • QR Codes
  • PURLs
  • SMS and MMS marketing
  • Video production and editing
  • Variable mapping
  • Social media marketing
  • Mobile optimized websites, and so much more!

 

Call our team today to learn more about the tools we can use in concert with your printed communications to improve your ROI.

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MORE OF YOUR PRINTING QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Types of paper: There are two main types of paper; coated and uncoated. As the name suggests coated paper has a coating applied that makes it appear smooth. Uncoated stock has no coating and can appear slightly textured to the touch. 

Coated papers tend to give colors a more vibrant finish. It is important to note that when choosing a PMS color, the end result will appear duller and deeper on an uncoated stock and brighter on a coated stock. This is mainly due to the uncoated stock absorbing more of the ink. Uncoated stock is ideal for using for corporate stationery, writing pads or projects where a textured finish is required. Coated stocks are best used for brochures, catalogues, flyers or posters, any kind of marketing or promotional material where the desired end result is a glossy finish or bright colors. Increasing awareness of the environment and climate change has meant that there are also a greater amount of environmentally responsible fiber sources available. These include Recycled fiber and alternative fiber. 

Whether you are stopping by our offices at 444 N Michigan or our production house at 811 W Evergreen we have samples of every paper you could want. We also offer hardcopy proofing for prints so that you can see how the print looks on the paper you selected before making your order.

CMYK vs Pantone Color: As noted in our article on Sign Design and Production, color plays a huge role when considering print media. Color can sway thinking, affect mood, change actions and cause reaction. There are two main ways to print color, Process - CMYK and PMS - Spot.

In four-color process (CMYK) digital or offset printing, primary colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black or the 'Key' color) are mixed together to produce any and all of the colors that are seen in  magazines and color books. This is often referred to as a ‘full’ color print.

Spot colors, also known as PMS colors, and officially as the Pantone Matching System colors, are specific color formula's used in offset printing that will reproduce accurately in print. Instead of simulating colors by combining the CMYK primary colors, spot (PMS) colors are pre-mixed with existing and published color formulas. Because of this, you can rest assured that the PMS color that you have chosen from your pantone booklet will be matched accurately every time. The use of CMYK or PMS colors largely depends on the print process you choose for your prints…

 

TWO COMMON TYPES OF PRINTING

Digital vs Offset Printing: The vast growth of digital printing technology has brought a number of technical advancements, exciting new features and more options to today’s commercial printing. It's also brought some confusion. An understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of digital printing and how those compare to traditional offset printing is critical in making the right choice in terms of price and end result. 

Offset printing is the most common high volume commercial printing technology. With offset printing, the desired print image is burned onto a plate and is then transferred (or offset) from the plate to a rubber blanket, and then to the printing surface. The process is based on the repulsion of oil and water. The image to be printed gets ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free. Digital printing eliminates many of the mechanical steps required for conventional printing, including making films and color proofs, manually stripping the pieces together and making plates.

Advantages of digital printing include:

  • Shorter turnaround. 
  • Every print is the same. More accurate counts, less waste and fewer variations.
  • Cheaper low volume printing. While the unit cost of each piece may be higher than with offset printing, when setup costs are included digital printing provides lower per unit costs for very small print runs.
  • Variable Data Printing is a form of customizable digital printing. Using information from a database or external file, text and graphics can be changed on each piece without stopping or slowing down the press. 

But, there are also many advantages to offset printing:

  • High image quality
  • Works on a wide range of printing surfaces including paper, wood, cloth, metal, leather, rough paper and plastic.
  • The unit cost goes down as the quantity goes up.
  • Quality and cost-effectiveness in high volume jobs. While today’s digital presses are close to the cost/benefit ratio of offset for high quality work, they are not yet able to compete with the volume an offset press can produce.
  • Many modern offset presses use computer-to-plate systems as opposed to the older computer-to-film work flows, further increasing quality

We offer both offset and digital printing services at our production house at 811 W Evergreen Ave. Stop by anytime and talk to one of our experienced reps as to what paper, color and print process makes the most sense for you project.