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Give it Your Best Dot

(October 2007) posted on Wed Oct 03, 2007

Are you printing the optimum halftone line count for your screens? Find out how to test the highest resolution that your screens and screenmaking procedures can deliver.

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By Thomas Trimingham

If you talk to your neighborhood printer and ask him what halftone he typically uses for high-quality printing, he’ll tell you what his favorite resolution is. But if you ask that same printer why he uses that resolution, he’ll stall a little. And if he’s honest, he may even tell you he’s not really sure. Most printers simply don’t have a clear idea of what their optimal halftone resolution is. They also don’t know how to determine it.

These problems are often compounded by the fact that no one wants to rock the boat and challenge what has already been established as a workable system. “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” That’s the common attitude in many shops, yet they all want to create higher quality work on a more consistent level. A question that typically comes up is, “Why doesn’t everyone use the same resolution for the same type of work?” The simplest answer for this is that halftone printing comes with a lot of variables, and these variables combine with each other in an alarmingly large number of ways to create unexpected results. A thinking printer will do the homework and then stay fresh for the anticipated surprises in results.

There’s no substitute for knowing what you can handle in regards to halftone resolution and tonal range. You’ll find it difficult to move into deeper areas of more complex artwork and separation issues until you’ve determined the levels of resolution and range your shop can support. Fortunately, you can use a simple test to see what halftone resolution is best for your shop and quickly use the results to standardize your whole process. Before you execute this test, however, it’s a good idea to take a serious look at several of your film- and screenmaking procedures so that the test will deliver the best possible snapshot of what you can print. The initial review of the film and screen production will determine whether these areas need refinement, then the time will come to test your screens with traditional and index dot patterns to figure out what resolutions they’ll support.


Reviewing the films


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