Today, promotional graphics demand process color. Can your screen-printing shop deliver?
By Bruce Ridge
So screen printing finds itself with a challenger. And this challenger is very focused on imaging all art as a halftone, or more accurately, as rasterized images. Digital processes have proven themselves very good at producing full-color images and are setting the standard that print buyers expect from screen-printed graphics as well.
In some process-color applications, such as CD and T-shirt printing, screen printers have done very well in reproducing color images. But applications such as these have two big advantages: They involve a small print area, and they are accomplished with multicolor printing machines. Textile applications have the added advantage of affordable multicolor manual presses, which can be used to quickly and inexpensively print proofs on the actual job substrates with the same inks that will be used in production. With large-format graphics, time-consuming press setup makes the generation of press proofs much less cost effective.
Screen printing is feeling the greatest pressure to deliver process-color and the heaviest competition from digital imaging in the markets for decals and medium- to large-format P-O-P displays. These are applications for which multicolor screen-printing machines are fairly new to many printers. This is also the area where the need for process-color education is greatest.
Training for accurate process color
Most of the skills that a screen printer develops are usually learned from the person that previously held the job, from a production manager, or from some other employee. In the average shop, we have lots of people learning from lots of teachers without any reference materials or written guidelines. There are very few standard practices, so each employee does everything in the printing process a little bit differently.
When it comes to producing process-color graphics, these little variations in technique from employee to employee guarantee that you'll never get the same results twice and lead to unpredictable and inaccurate prints. So it's clear that standards need to be set, procedures established, and employees trained to adhere to these standards and procedures. But for these standards to make any sense, employees must be taught the fundamental principles behind process-color reproduction.
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