There are four main steps in producing a printed project. We've outlined them below:

1- Conception: developing a project management plan and defining project goals/scope, design and framework. You're probably most familiar with this step, which involves a start-to-finish project plan, but you may not realize the value of bringing your printer and other suppliers like packaging and fulfillment specialists into the process. For example, you'll want to ensure that everything from the project's dimensions to paper selections is best suited to the equipment you'll be using and the end use of the materials. Mistakes can be costly, both in terms of aesthetics and your budget. Even areas like fulfillment, warehousing and distribution can't be afterthoughts if you want to lower costs and optimize results. They need to be part of the upfront discussion that includes such tasks as creative development and campaign execution.

2- Premedia: processes and procedures that occur between the conception of original artwork and the manufacturing of final output channel; often referred to as prepress in the print medium. Today premedia is increasingly shared between the client and the printer. While you don't want to take on more responsibility than you can efficiently handle, you'll miss out on savings (and increase your headaches) if you don't learn how to create error-free, print-ready PDF files and keep your monitors and printers calibrated so that you see more accurate colour representations of your work.

Depending on the type of presses used, the prepress workflow could include the following steps:

  • Content creation, where page geometry, image attributes, colour management, graphics, text and transparency parameters, among others, need to be considered as per the press used to print the final product.
  • PDF (Portable Document Format) creation, where Adobe Acrobat is used to generate all the elements of a design file as an electronic image that you can view, share and ultimately print as a CMYK file on virtually any printing device. PDF uses the PostScript printer description language and is also highly portable across computer platforms. The industry uses PDF as its default standard, since it's an open standard for document exchange.
  • File submission to the printer.
  • File refine, where the files are preflighted, trapped and colour optimized. By preflight, we mean checking for anything in the file build that will affect the runability of the file.
  • Proofing of files, where we can accurately predict colour output based on industry profiles and colour management best practices. A printer can either provide a hardcopy or a virtual proof to its customer for approval.
  • Imposition, which is the process of arranging pages correctly prior to printing so that they fold in the proper sequence. The imposition is chosen based on the project page count, page size and binding method.
  • Imposition proofing by customer.
  • Plate imaging, where an image is burned onto an aluminum plate, which then transfers the imposed pages to the press and ultimately the paper. Printers need to create four plates to form an image (one plate per CMYK colour. 

3-Press: production machines falling into two major categories:

  • plate system machines (such as offset lithography, flexography and gravure printing)
  • plateless system machines (ex.: digital printing presses)
    Offset Lithography: By far the leading printing process, offset presses come in sheetfed  and web.  Offset presses have three printing cylinders (plate, blanket and impression) as well as inking and dampening systems. As the plate cylinder rotates, the plate comes in contact with the dampening rollers first, and then the inking rollers. The dampeners wet the plate so that the non-printing areas repel ink. The inked image is then transferred (offset) to the rubber blanket and paper or other substrate and is printed as it passes between blanket and impression cylinders. Offset produces a smooth print without embossing an ink ring or serrated edges that are characteristic of flexography and gravure, among others.

    Uses: Offset process is used for a wide range of materials including books, magazines, catalogues, newspapers, flyers, brochures, folding boxes, posters and art reproductions. Whether you use sheetfed or web depends on a variety of factors including run length, dimensions of your piece and substrate used. 
  • Image source: Climate Civics's Blog ''Flexography – applying the flexibility principle in printing'' March 17, 2014.

    Flexography: This is a form of rotary web-relief printing using flexible rubber or resilient photopolymer relief plates and fast-drying, low-viscosity solvent, water-based or UV inks. Flexographic presses are web-fed in three types: stack, in-line and central impression cylinder. An advantage of flexography is that it can print virtually any substrate that can be put into roll form. It is adept at printing large areas of solid colour with high gloss and brilliance.

    Uses: This process covers a wide range from printed toilet tissue to bags, pressure sensitive labels, flexible packaging like potato chip bags, corrugated board and materials like cellophane, polyethylene and other plastic films.

  • Image source : Siemens ''Gravure Printing'', 1996-2014.  

    Gravure: This process involves engraving the image onto the cylinder of a rotary printing press, which serves as an image carrier. The recesses are filled with ink and the raised (non-printing) portions of the plate or cylinder are wiped or scraped free of ink leaving the ink only in the recesses. The paper or other material is pressed against the inked plate or cylinder and the image is transferred to the paper. It can produce fine, detailed images and can be used for short- or long-run printing. Because it can carry more ink to the substrate than other processes, it is known for its remarkable density range. Costs can be significantly higher than other printing processes.

    Uses: Newspapers, magazines, catalogues, fine art and photographic reproductions, postage stamps, corrugated packaging and printed electronics can all employ gravure printing.
  • Digital Printing: This category enables the creation of images directly on plateless presses. Among the most popular methods are inkjet and laser printers that deposit pigment or toner onto a wide variety of substrates ranging from paper to canvas, photo paper, glass, metal, marble and many other materials. A great advantage of digital printing systems is that many enable 100% variable text and images on every piece, thus allowing one-to-one customization and greater response rates. Digital printing eliminates many steps in the premedia process and also requires very short makereadys, which make them suitable for on-demand scenarios. Nonetheless, they have dimensional volume limitations.

    Uses: Digital printing can be used for books, manuals, specialty publications, direct mail, labels, promotional billing statements, coupons, photos, photo books, yearbooks, fine art prints, menus, brochures, stationary, business cards, greeting cards and small signage.

4- Postpress. Perhaps the most important lesson about the postpress area is that decisions you make in the planning process can have a big impact on finishing. Lots of things come together here, including collating, binding, trimming, inserting, die-cutting, adding a flap on the cover, personalizing, applying involvement devices and packaging. Every design decision can definitely influence both the appearance of your piece and the cost.

To learn more about the graphic chain production, contact us.