Print perfect

The art of litho and why printers are kings...

By: Clare Howdle,   2 minutes

I’m like a lot of people who work with words. I write, I edit, I send to design, I proof, I rest. The notion of exactly what happens once artworked spreads have been sent off to the printers rarely crosses my mind. That’s mainly because I am all too quickly on to the next project, teasing ideas together and crafting sentences from scratch. And so the wheel spins.

Until today. Occasionally I get the chance to take a turn inside a print factory and it’s always eye-opening. I’d hazard that many of us, whether involved in the industry or otherwise, imagine the machines at a printing factory are sort of like a giant, well, printer. The sort we have at home, or in our offices. Feed in the paper, press a button and out it pops.

I know I do. Which is why I always find it fascinating the level of human skill I’m exposed to when I do get a chance to see the printing process. Today I was visiting R J Booth, Penryn-based printers who have been working with us on The Parabola Project since the first issue. Zander Grinfeld from Venn Creative was press-passing the spreads before print and I got to go along for the ride.

Now fair enough, this is litho printing – digital printing is a bit more like the printing experience we’re all used to at home – but litho is still used for many jobs because of superior quality or value for money.

So its litho I’m talking about when I say that stepping up to the machine itself it felt like I was walking into an artists’ studio. I saw the pots of ink, that were being mixed together to make our selected pantone, the daubed out splodges of colour the technician had spread to test the accuracy of our colour against the chart, the first sheets of 16-up pages run off the printer to check the intensity of the black.

Watching Zander and the technician talk through the sheet, focusing in on fine details and how to address them, trying out different levels of black in the machine until the mix was just right, I realised. Printing – when it’s done by professionals – is as much of a craft as writing and design. Without a great print job, it’s all pointless.

So here’s to the specialists that are at the other end of our ‘send’ emails, using their knowledge and experience to make our words and images print perfect.

If you get the chance to look around a print factory, I urge you to do it. You’ll never look at a flyer quite the same way again…

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