During the pre-press stage of printing, we prepare your digital file according to the specifications unique to your project and the printing and finishing processes we’ll use for it.
This may include confirming the file resolution is 300 dpi (necessary for printing), converting RGB (Red Green Blue) files to CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow Black) format, verifying the exact size of the final image, adding registration marks for precisely aligning the printing plates, adding color bars for quality control, and indicating trim lines, so we know where to cut the paper after it’s printed.
Pre-press work may also include checking and cleaning data used for mailing labels or variable-data printing.
The right file type: RGB versus CMYK
The RGB color model refers to colors of light, such as those emitted by your computer monitor, which together create the spectrum of visible colors. The CMYK color model refers to colors as we use them in printing, mixing layers and densities of ink to create the colors we see. As you can imagine, light and ink mix in different ways, so it’s important to use the right file format for digital versus printing purposes!
For four-color printing, we use files in the CMYK format, because we print each color as a separate layer of ink. So when we talk about doing a color separation, we essentially mean converting the design into a digital version of film negatives for each primary color (CMY) plus black (K). We use these “digital negatives” to create the pictures on each of the color plates that we use in the printing process.
Before we print a thousand of something, we want to make sure the first one is right! So once we have your file finalized, the plates ready, and the press set up, we print a one-off copy of your project so you can make certain everything is correct and looks just the way you want it. Carefully inspecting the proof and letting us know about any changes is the best way for you to make certain you will be 100% satisfied with the final product.
Plate Making (Direct-to-Plate)
We use CMYK files to create a separate “plate” for each of the colors in the offset printing process: cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow, and black. The plates are sheets of aluminum or polyester that we use to transfer ink during printing.
The blank plates have a very thin coating of photosensitive chemicals on the printing surface. To prepare a plate, we project onto it the digital image of a color layer from your design. In response to the projected light, a chemical reaction occurs that “fixes” the light parts of the plate so they don’t attract ink and “activates” the dark parts of the plate so they do attract ink. On the cyan plate, for example, the activated, ink-attracting areas correspond to the areas in your graphic design that contain blue; on the magenta plate, the activated areas correspond to red in your design, etc.
During the offset lithography (litho) process, the printing plate for a single color is first dampened with water and then rolled with an oil-based ink. The ink sticks to the “activated” parts of the plate corresponding to the digital image. Water clinging to the blank parts of the plate repels the oil-based ink, keeping those areas cleanly ink free.
Next, the litho machine rolls the plate against a rubber blanket, transferring the ink to the blanket, which is then rolled against the final paper or surface, transferring the ink again. The process is called “offset” because the ink is transferred twice.
We layer the CMYK colors and use different ink densities to achieve the full spectrum of printed colors. Once all layers of color have been added to complete the image, the paper passes through a low-temperature oven to dry, then through chilled rollers to cool and set the ink.
Bindery & Finishing
In the bindery we perform the full range of finishing services. Depending on the project, we can emboss, foil-stamp, cut, fold, collate, score, perforate, drill, tab, pad, bind, laminate…you name it. Because we offer all of these services in-house, we can closely monitoring precision and quality at every step.
While we’re delighted to have you swing by the shop, we do offer convenient, fast door-to-door pick-up and delivery throughout the Wyoming and Colorado Front Range. But that doesn’t limit our delivery ability! We have created strong relationships with several couriers to deliver both nationally and internationally with high delivery and economically efficient expectations, same as if we were delivering personally to your front door. Getting your project to you on time is just as important to us as delivering a top-quality product.