Leveraging the Power of Digital Printing by Understanding Print Standards
Digital printing is a flexible and powerful way to create graphics. While digital printing used to be more expensive than traditional printing, it is now coming into its own. To get the most out of digital printing, it can be helpful to understand how the process works and its various requirements. Knowing print standards can help.
Digital Printing VS Printing Presses
Digital printing has come a long way since its early beginnings. Dot-matrix printing goes back only to 1968, with single-color laser printing coming out a year later in 1969. Conversely, traditional printing goes back to the invention of the Gutenberg Press in the 1400s. Modern screen printing began in the early 1910s.
Traditional printing methods still in use today include lithography and offset printing, which incorporates lithography to create the “plate” which is used for printing. Offset printing is commonly used for large scale printing projects. The image to be printed is imprinted on a plate, and then that image is moved or “offset” to a rubber blanket. The blanket is then used to move the image to the final printed surface.
Still incredibly efficient and useful for large-scale print runs, offset printing has its limitations. Primarily, it requires the creation of plates and the utilization of other materials besides ink to create the finished product. This makes offset printing typically cheaper when printing large quantities, but more expensive for smaller print runs.
Digital printing is often more expensive at larger print runs, although this is changing. It is cheaper for one-offs and smaller print orders. The primary benefit of having a digital printing press is that you can more quickly make proofs and adjustments, as no plates are needed.
A significant difference between digital printing and offset printing is how the ink adheres to the paper. In traditional offset printing, the ink is oil-based and soaks into the paper. Digital ink more adheres to the paper surface, which may make colors more vibrant but less resilient over time.
Digital printing technologies continue to evolve. Organizations like the Idealliance Foundation (formerly the Digital Enterprise Education and Research (DEER) Foundation) have been advancing digital technologies in graphic arts and media since 2005. So expect digital printing to improve over time.
Print Standards and Other Considerations for Digital Printing
Getting the most out of your digital printing takes some knowledge and expertise. Fortunately, many useful resources are available. For example, the Idealliance Foundation provides a set of six “Design to Print” posters that offer tips and guidelines for digital printing.
Here are a few places to start:
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) offers several standards for best practices in print. For example, the GRACoL and SWOP standards managed by Idealliance utilize guidelines from ISO 12647-2 while emphasizing grey balance during calibration. Following these standards can help improve your printing quality.
Color gamut refers to the color range visible to the human eye. In practical terms, it refers to the colors that are available to a digital device such as a television, monitor, or printer. Different products have different color coverages. Several color standards are available to provide consistency, such as sRGB. Wide gamut, available via OLED technology, removes the old technology limits on color gamut to offer more pure and natural colors.
When it comes to digital printing, you’ll want to be aware of what color gamut is available. If your printer can only handle a specific range or is different from your monitor, what you see on your print preview may be different than what comes out on paper.
CMYK vs. RGB
CMYK and RGB are color systems used in the digital world – with two significant differences. RGB is used primarily for screen colors; CMYK is used for printing. You don’t need to fully understand the difference between CMYK and RGB (though RGB is “additive” and CMYK is “subtractive”) to get better printing results.
The main thing you need to know is the following: When creating a graphic, say in Photoshop, you would use RGB as the basis for your color palette for a website and online graphics, and CMYK as the image mode for print pieces.
Your Digital Printing Experts in Seattle, Washington
There are many other ways to optimize your digital printing, such as ensuring your graphics are at the right print resolution (300 dpi at a bare minimum). Consider working with a qualified consultant. At Kelley Connect, we are experts in all aspects of digital printing, from creating custom graphics to widescreen prints and banners. We even handle pickup and delivery.