CatPrint Walkthrough: Part Three – Printing and Color Maintenance

If you have been following our CatPrint Walkthrough series, this is the third part!

In the first part, we talked about what happens in Customer Service Pre-Press. In the second part of the series, we talked about what happens in Production Pre-Press!

Read on to find out what happens during the third part of the ordering process:

Once your jobs are screened and pre-pressed by both Customer Service and Production, they are added to the print queue in the order of what needs to be printed and shipped by which day. This is how we can offer guaranteed delivery dates.

After the jobs are prioritized, we load up the paper trays and begin sending jobs to the printer. The iGen runs optimally with limited cool-downs. Therefore, we have 6 different paper trays for the printer, allowing for efficiency and consistent print quality.

To ensure that the prints will match the colors within your file as closely as possible, we run color maintenance twice per day, once 8:00 AM and then again at 3:00 PM. This is an automated process that is completed right through the printer’s software.

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Do You Know What Toner Is Made Of?

If you check out our previous post on Toner vs Ink, you will know the basic differences between the two. But what exactly is toner made of anyway?

Carbon powder up close!
Carbon powder up close!

In the old days, toner was only made of carbon powder. But now, different polymers have been added with the carbon powder to help increase the quality of printing, specifically polymers called styrene acrylates and other various styrene copolymers coated with polyester resin (resin is an organic molecule that plants secrete).

This is what polyester resin looks like up close.

This is what polyester resin looks like up close.

 

This is an example of polyester resin art. Isn't it pretty?

Polyester Resin Art

This is an example of polyester resin art. Isn't it beautiful?

This is another example of Polyester Resin Art.

What does toner powder consist of?

Toner is not actually just one powder; it is made up of a different combination of powders put together in a very specific and precise way that allows it to be used in a laser printing process!

The Big Three

1: Iron Oxide

Iron oxide powders are able to create either positive or negative magnetic charges to become the needed opposite charge of the other toner powder particles during the printing process. It acts as a carrier so that the toner particles stick to the right parts on the rotating drum of the laser printer when printing.

2: Plastic

Heat sensitive plastic powders are melted during the laser printing process. This allows the toner to adhere to the paper and print the image needed.

3: Pigment

Pigment powders give the toner its colors, such as cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Toner powder... such pretty colors!

Toner powder… such pretty colors!

Other Ingredients

Groundup sand, wax, or silica hold the combination of the big three together in the toner. Wax is melted during the printing process to distribute the toner powder on the paper (similar to what the plastic does) while silica is sometimes added to the toner to stop the powder from clumping up together when it is packed in the toner cartridge.

The Future of Toner

Although they’re combined, these individual powder particles are very tiny, ranging from 5 to 15 microns (that’s a millionth of a meter!), which is around the size of your blood cell. Even so, there are researchers working on creating even smaller toner particles. That is because the smaller the particle, the higher the quality of the printed image will be.

Once again, this is just a hint as to a reason why your prints at CatPrint are so beautiful. If you are not ready to print an entire order, receive an instant quote from us and a free hard copy proof just to see the amazing quality of what your prints will look like.

Toner & Ink.. Not the same thing!

Toner? Ink?

Often heard used interchangeably, these are actually two very different things with the same purpose. Ink and toner are the materials that are used to create any printed image, but with different techniques and outcomes, kind of like the difference between writing with a marker and writing with a pen.

catprint q

Ink: For Inkjet Printers

Ink is used in inkjet printers for basic personal printing, like for home and school use.

Two Types of Ink… It matters!

Dye Based Ink

The dye is absorbed by the paper which provides bright, vivid colors, which is very good for color printing photos. Unfortunately, it can fade when left in sunlight for too long and smear when it gets wet.

Pigment Based Ink

These are made of resins (organic molecules that plants secrete) that are ground into small particles. Pigment based ink sits on top of the paper instead of getting absorbed like dye inks, which gives the print less vibrant colors. However, it is fade resistant, and is also resistant to water. This is typically used for printing documents.

Toner: For Laser and Digital Printers

Toner is most commonly used in laser printers and copy machines, which are usually found in a busy environment like workgroups instead of just at home. They’re required for fast, high quality, high production printing.

What’s it made of?

Toner is typically made of electrically charged dry carbon powder that is contained inside plastic cartridges. These powders can either based with carbon or based with organic dry granules with polymers.

When printing, the toner sticks to the paper through a heating process where the toner melts and binds to paper fibers, which makes it hard to smear, making it usually of higher quality than inkjet prints.

Why CatPrint’s Prints are so Awesome

Now you have a hint as to why your prints at CatPrint look so amazing! If you have yet to place an order with CatPrint, you should do so today! Here’s one of the very special things about CatPrint: you can put your entire order on hold and receive a free hard copy proof if you want to see what your print will look like before your entire order is printed. Click here for more information!

PMS: Not What You Think!

What is the Pantone Matching System?

Pantone Colors are colors within the Pantone Matching System that make it easier to match colors across different printers. It is especially useful so that if you talk to a graphic designer in California, they can match the color you want with the printer in New York, and your prints can come out in the exact colors that you want!

Each color within the system has a specific Pantone number which allows everyone who utilizes the Pantone system to know how much of certain inks to put together to create a specific color. These are organized in sheets with the color on top and the number on the bottom.

pantone_color_chart712-814

The History of the Pantone Matching System

The Pantone system was created around 1962 when a part-time Pantone Print Company employee and Chemistry student named Lawrence Herbert wanted to figure out a better way to organize the 60 or so pigments that Pantone had to print on.  Herbert narrowed down the 60 pigments to just 12 colors that could be mixed and matched in specific ways to make every other color.  Due to Herbert’s chemistry background, he came up with mathematical formulas to help decide exactly how much of each color would go into making the other colors.  When Herbert got a handle on this, he bought out the printing segment of Pantone for $50,000 (because the other side of the company was exactly that much in debt) and started systematizing the colors in order to universalize his newly made system.  

Herbert Solves Kodak’s Problem

Herbert realized that not having universal colors for printing was especially a problem when Kodak had multiple companies printing the packaging for their products.  The multiple companies would print the packaging with different yellows, leaving some packages darker than others.  Customers thought that the darker packages were older and meant the product inside had gone bad.  When the Pantone Matching System was released, Kodak no longer had a problem with merchandise staying on the shelves due to the consistent color of their packaging.

Pantone Colors are Important

Since the first universalized color system was made, Pantone has continued to create color systems for textiles, plastics, as well as other types of materials so that everyone can have a standardized color system.  There is also the color guide which is a huge book of all of the colors that has a Pantone number. Different countries and states (including Texas) even claim Pantone numbers for their flags.  

You may have also heard about the Pantone Color of the Year! Allegedly, there is a secret committee that have a secret meeting in a secret location in Europe to decide on the Pantone Color of the Year!  

This year’s color is Emerald, and here is a chart so you can see the colors for the past 13 years.

color-of-the-year

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.

Why You Should Also Love PDF Files!

PDF stands for “Portable Document Format.”  

A PDF file holds data that is readable by multiple types of software, hardware, and operating systems. It is a preferred format to save text, fonts, and graphics – all flattened into one file. In the world of digital printing, this is a great way to keep all layers present in your design software. PDFs are always an option when saving a project created in design software applications such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator.

No wonder it is our preferred file type!