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Training for Reproducible Color

(December 2001) posted on Fri Jan 18, 2002

Today, promotional graphics demand process color. Can your screen-printing shop deliver?

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By Bruce Ridge

With today's proliferation of color, it's easy to forget that black-and-white photos, movies, TVs, newspapers, and desktop printers once dominated our lives. In the past, if color was an option at all, it was a luxury. But technology has made full color practical, affordable, and appealing, especially to advertisers who want print promotions to represent their products in color that is realistic or even better than real life.

Color issues are part of a larger set of interrelated challenges that screen printers face today. According to the Technology Forecast 2001 released by the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, four key market trends are influencing all image-reproduction processes: A demand for an increasing number of colors on the typical job. An increase in print complexity on the typical job. A substantial reduction in turn-around time for the typical job. A substantial reduction in the average run length of the typical job.

To remain competitive in light of these trends, many screen printers are beginning to produce process-color graphics. And shops that already have experience with process color are finding themselves obligated to print more process-color work, more predictably, and in a shorter time frame that ever before. What do all these companies have in common? Their success depends on training employees to understand what process-color reproduction is all about and how to make it work with screen printing.

Competitive pressure

For a long time, screen printers were unchallenged in certain niches, including the markets for large-format, short-run, and durable graphics. Then digital technologies emerged, and they seemed poised to take over the business in these niches. While that threat hasn't become a reality, digital technology has raised the bar on color reproduction and led to a growing demand for high-quality process-color on all graphics--including those that are screen printed.

Wide-format digital imaging evolved in direct response to the need for accurate color, high resolution, and rapid turnaround on short-run graphics. Unlike the screen-printing process with its hundreds of variables, digital imaging leapfrogs labor-intensive prepress and production steps that can send screen-printed color out of control if not performed correctly. Digital technology requires much less operator intervention, making the human factor less influential on the printed result.


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