Black: What Do You See?

Although it may seem as though black could only be one color, there are actually multiple different “shades” of black that exist. The color that we call black is actually what is known as
pure black.  When we see things that aren’t quite pure black, we use the inaccurate term “shade” of black. The term “shade” for these off-black colors is inaccurate because according to color theory, a shade of a color is any pure color mixed with black to decrease the brightness of the color you choose.  A more accurate term for these “shades” of black is calling them off-black.  Off-black colors differ only slightly from pure black while still keeping the low lightness and the low relative luminance that black has.  Off-black colors have their own hue and saturation.  Some examples of off-black colors are onyx, black olive, charcoal, and jet.

The reason we see these black tones differently is due in part to the photons and the reflection of light that colors have.  Black is when there are no photons at all reaching your eye.  A black surface is one that absorbs all of the photons so that none of them can hit your eye. The reason we can see different variations on the color black is because of the saturation of different colors that are making up the black.  For instance, in the color Onyx, the RGB levels are 53,56, and 57 respectively, whereas in pure black the RGB levels are 0,0,0.

Quick Explanation: Offset vs. Digital

Most people don’t realize that there are two ways to print, with huge differences between them: offset and digital.

Offset printing is most commonly used for high volume commercial jobs. The process starts by burning an image onto a plate, transferring (offsetting) the image to a rubber blanket, and then onto the paper. 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, color proofs, and making plates. Think of it as a larger version of what you have at home but capable of handling larger sheets of paper.

A few reasons why digital printing can help include the following:

  • Shorter turnaround time: At CatPrint, if your order is placed by 2:00 PM EST it can be delivered the next day if you choose 1-Day Delivery. The quick turnaround also allows us to send you a single hard copy proof for free with your paid order.
  • Affordable 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. This is why CatPrint is able to offer no minimum quantities on your orders.
  • Variable Data Printing is a form of customizable digital printing. Text and graphics can be changed on each piece without stopping or slowing down the press. For example, clients ordering business cards from CatPrint are able to print the same design with multiple employee names and job titles in a single order.

Still not convinced digital printing is right for you? Feel free to contact one of our Customer Service Representatives to answer any other questions you might have about digital printing.

FYI: What is DPI?

DPI stands for dots per inch, which refers to the small ink dots that come on paper during the printing process. The amount of these ink dots in one inch of paper is the number you get for your DPI.  These little dots are important because they determine how well your file will print.

You may ask, how do they do that?  The dots per inch determine this based on another small number known as PPI or pixels per inch. To make sure your file prints in a high resolution you need to make sure that your dots per inch are larger than your pixels per inch.  An example would be having a DPI of 1200 and a PPI of 300, leaving you with 4 ink dots for every pixel.

Finding out what the DPI of your image is can seem like a difficult task but is actually quite easy! If you are using a Mac computer, you simply open up the file in preview, click tools > Show Inspector.  To resize on a Mac open the image or file in preview click tools> adjust size.  If you are working in Windows, you want to open the image or file in the picture viewer on your computer.  Once opened you will right click the file, then select “properties”, after that click on the “summary” tab.  If “title”, “subject”, or “author” fields are displayed click “Advanced>>” on the bottom.

Why You Need to Know About Paper Weight

What paper weight do I choose for my letterhead? What is the weight of my business card? How could it be that on one order you had 65# paper and on another order you have an 80# paper, but the 65# paper is heavier?  It all has to do with paper weight and understanding how they come up with these numbers.

We need to first define a few terms that will help us see how the above example can happen.  We will do that by defining Paper Type, Basis Weight, and Basic Size.

Paper Type: There are many different types of paper out there.  Some of these include Ledger, Mimeo, Rag Paper, Book, Text, Cover, Tag Stock, Index, etc.  CatPrint works with several styles of text weight (which we call “Letter”) and cover stock (which we call “Card”); so we have already lessened the confusion on what to choose.

Basis Weight: This is the main guide involved in knowing our paper weight.  The basis weight is the fixed weight of 500 sheets, measured in pounds (labeled on paper with the # sign).  This is, however, using the Basic Size for the sheets of paper (see below).

Basic Size: Here’s the tricky part. This is the size each of the 500 sheets (from above) measures.  The very important thing to remember is that the “basic sheet” size is not the same for all paper types. The measurement for text weight paper is 25” x 38”; while the measurement for cover stock is 20” x 26”.

So, 500 sheets, measuring 25”x 38” each, of our Heavy Letter Matte would weigh 100 lbs. and 500 sheets, measuring 20” x 26” each, of our Heavy Card Matte would also weigh 100 lbs.  Due to the differences in the paper’s “basic size” and the standard of 500 sheets being used one can see how confusing figuring out paper weight can be.

Don’t Forget About Thickness

When we are talking about the thickness of a paper we are actually talking about it’s “Caliper”.  Caliper refers to the thickness of the paper sheet and is expressed to the thousandth of an inch.  This measurement is taken by using a micrometer.  There is a general relation between caliper and basis weight that the greater the caliper and greater the weight.  Unfortunately, if you start to compare papers of different categories or paper types, this is where you start to get the same “weight” but a different thickness.

Metric Simplifies Paper Weight with GSM

As we gradually become more comfortable in the world of metric measurements and its principles to keep the math a bit more simple in the paper world, we come across GSM.  GSM stands for Grams per Square Meter and is the metric systems classification for paper.  GSM is an absolute value that disregards whether a sheet is bond, card stock, text, etc. It is the grammage a single sheet measuring a fixed size of 1meter x 1 meter.

If you are debating between two types of paper and have concern of how sturdy they are, we suggest inquiring about the GSM to better make your decision.

Bringing It Together

So after all of this, what do you choose for your letterhead or business cards?  The choice is always yours to make depending on the application.  The general rule is that letter stock is thinner than card stock.  Here are a few suggestions to help you make your choice:

Text Weight or Letter Stock is used for many things including newsletters, flyers, letterheads, pamphlets, booklets, programs and more.  When printing items that will be written on, an uncoated stock will work best, though other stocks may be used.

Cover or Card Stock is commonly used for greeting cards, business cards, tickets, announcements, place cards and more.  Want a sturdier card stock?  Choose a paper with higher poundage or higher GSM.  Be careful not to choose a text weight or letter stock that has a higher poundage; you’ll just be disappointed.