Arvest Press Inc.

252R Calvary Street
Waltham, MA 0245

Fax: 781.894.4434

Open Monday thru Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


Directions to Arvest

Arvest Impressions:

An inside look at the printing process

In Armenian, the word Arvest means "art". At Arvest Press we love what we do, and treat each new printing project with the artistic care of a skilled craftsperson. This passion translates to a high level of customer satisfaction, and top quality products.
Another Super Cool Fold from Digital Nirvana


Trish Witkowski has a great blog called Digital Nirvana, and each week Trish posts a short video called The 60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week. A cool folding idea is a great way to make your piece stand out in the crowd. This fold is an octagonal fold. We won't spoil the surprise on how it works. This one was done for Texas State by Capital Printing of Austin, Texas.


Enjoy the short video and remember, Arvest Press does all of their finishing in house. We are happy to advise you on creating a memorable piece for your next promotion.

5 Things Your Local Printer Provides ...


... that an online printer doesn't.


1.  A Proof. Online printers typically only provide a virtual look at your piece. The screen preview isn't color accurate and can't show you if your text is jagged or your image lo-res. Your local printer can output a proof that represents color accurately and will show you exactly how your text and images will come out in the final print job. And, you can feel the weight and texture of the paper the job is being printed on.


2. File preparation. Your local printer has a dedicated prepress staff that understands how to prepare a file for printing. That means if you file has text created in jpeg format that will print jagged on the final piece, the local printer's prepress crew is on the phone to let you know before you print a thousand copies. From there, they will either apply a fix from their expert knowledge, or coach you through the changes as you make them yourself.


3. Quality and Service. An online printer looks like they provide a lot of different services, but chances are they are simply acting as a middleman in the process. Many online printers gather jobs from multiple sources and shuttle them off to large print houses to be gang run. Your job is just a number on the press sheet in a gang run, and quality is usually secondary to how fast the jobs can be run. Your local printer takes your project from start to finish as a single job, paying attention to all the steps to ensure a quality piece is the final result. Try to get that level of service from an online printer.


4. Choices. Yes, the quality of the paper your business card or letterhead is printed on matters to your potential client. Your local printer can help you choose the right style of printing to represent your brand professionally and effectively. Many online printers take your color selections and convert them to CMYK, usually with a shift in color. Your local printer uses PMS inks along with the standard CMYK values, and can also enhance your image with things like foil stamping, spot varnishes and other high end accents to make your company stand out in the crowd.


5. They're local! That's right, you can stop by their plant and say hello to the people who are taking care of your print job. Your local printer shops in your stores, eats in your restaurants and gets gas at your station. They pay taxes to your town like you do, and provide jobs for your neighbors. Their grass is cut by a local landscaping company and they get their cars, delivery trucks and other vehicles repaired by a local mechanic. For your next project, try a local printer and see what a difference they make to your job.


Speaking of local, here is a link to our local news site courtesy of the Waltham News Tribune



5 Summer Projects to Tackle


It's summertime, the weather is nice and it seems like everyone but you is off enjoying the beach. Most industries, including printing, slow down during the summer, especially in the city.  It's a good time to catch up on all those nagging projects you've been putting off because you were just too darn busy. Here are five to consider:


1. Upgrade. Software, hardware, operating systems; now's the time to get the latest versions up and running. Stay on top of potential security issues and be ready for your customers before they get the latest and greatest, instead of having to react after the fact.


2. Update or Revamp your website. Still got a picture of that guy who hasn't worked here for six months on your team page? Now's the time to check your content, add your new services or maybe look at the total look and feel of your site and think of something fresh.


3. Try something new. Thinking of ramping up your email campaigns? Summer is a good time to work out the kinks of the process. You can expect a lot of our of office replies, and if your email message isn't quite up to snuff, chances are it will be lost in the return to work shuffle anyway. Summer is a good time to check out trial versions of software you might add to your mix later.


4. Learn something new. Chances are you've settled into a comfortable groove with how things are done. Slower production days are a great time to dig out the manual on your design or prepress software and see if there's a tool, trick or tip you may be missing out on. Production is slow now, but when it fires up again you'll be armed with new methods to make your day run just a little smoother.


5. Get thee to the Beach too! That's right, the printing business can be plenty stressful at times, so when it slows down take a little R&R yourself. Leave early one day a week, you know you'll make up the time later, when it's busy again. Or, gasp, take a personal day in the middle of the week and enjoy the beach when it's not quite as crowded.


Enjoy the sun!

Last thoughts on Printing Green


One big misconception about printing is how many trees are wasted in the process of making paper. The printing industry has taken steps to keep that waste to a minimum. Recycling, of course, is the best way to use material that would otherwise be dumped into landfills. Making paper from old paper and cardboard takes time and energy, but the end result is less forests are destroyed. Also, much of the fiber used in paper manufacturing actually comes from the shavings and chips left over from making lumber. Much like particle board in constuction makes use of waste, so has the paper business.


Another shift the paper industry has worked towards since adopting a more environmentally responsible attitude towards the forest is the creation of sustainable forestry. Tree farms, grown with the sole intent of producing paper years from now have been established. Most are FSC certified as well. Research to find a fast growing, easily replaceable tree is also in effect. The use of bamboo as a wood replacement is a good example of this.


To read more about what the paper and print industry see for the future visit the Choose Print website.

Printing with Soy Based Inks


The creation of soy based inks began as an alternative and cleaner alternative to the more toxic, petroleum based inks. Adaption by the print idustry didn't really take off, though, until oil prices skyrocketed and ink prices climbed along with them.


Soy Inks produce a brighter color image because the soy oil is clearer than a petroleum distillate. Less pigment is required, another reason the inks are more environmentally friendly, and some printers report they use less ink overall in the process. For newspaper printers, the use of soy inks helps to brighten color images.


A downside to soy based inks is they are not able to be used in ball point pen products, and for some print jobs, drying time is extended. The soy inks still contain pigments, but the good news is the higher oil to pigment ratio makes the soy inks easier to recycle, and when washing up the press, the ink waste can be treated more easily than petroleum inks.


For more information on soy based inks click on the link below.



Super Cool Fold from Digital Nirvana

Trish Witkowski has a great blog called Digital Nirvana, and each week Trish posts a short video called The 60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week. Take a look at this week's fold, a long triangle fold designed by The Whitmore Print Group of Baltimore Maryland.


USPS Mailing Discount for Using QR Codes

The USPS will apply a 3% discount to your postage from July 1st through August 31st if you include a QR code on the piece.*


You've seen the funny looking, square barcodes popping up everywhere. QR (quick response) codes are designed to take your potential customer to a predetermined URL or to deliver a text message to their Smartphone. Companies are using the code to drive traffic to their social networks, for coupons or incentives, and even to supply additional information with a simple business card. Take advantage of this postage discount to enhance your next promotion.


There are many free QR Code Apps and QR code generators on the web


Watch a 30 second video of how to use QR Codes here:



*First class and standard postage rates only.



Click here for more information on the USPS incentive.


FSC Certification - What does it mean


Arvest Press has been FSC Certified. What that means is we have established the proper processes to establish a chain of custody for the paper products we use in any FSC certified print job we do. This chain of custody follows the wood used in the paper all the way back to its original, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, forests.



The goal of the FSC is to try to add a level of management to the world's forest while still meeting the social, economic, political, ecological, and cultural needs of today's and the future generations. The spirit of FSC is to use wood material cultivated from managed forests to keep deforestation to a miminimum.


For more information on FSC Certification, visit their webisite:


Next blog:

How Paper is Made


Making Paper:



Making paper is an interesting process, but the explanation is best left to the experts. Today's link comes courtesy of How Products Are Made and features a detailed explanation of paper making along with some illustrations.


One important element that the printing industry has tried to address is the impact paper making has on the environment. There have been a number of initiatives taken by the both the print and paper industries to reduce the amount of forests consumed to make paper. Two of the most successful have been using more and more recycled products, paper, cardboard, cloth, to make paper pulp. The second has been actively planting trees solely for making paper, with an eye on developing hybrid plants with faster growth cycles and renewable products like bamboo. The biggest impact for everyone has been the reduction of everyday printing. For more information check out:


Lastly, below is a short film by the Paper Mill company on how paper is made from recycled goods.


Next blog: FSC certification

Colors: RGB vs. CMYK



Color is a byproduct of light and created when light is either reflected off of an object or viewed from the source. As an example, light beams passed through a prism changes direction, and if you point the prism toward a wall, a spectrum of color can be seen. Rainbows are similar light refracted through water particles in the air. Humans only perceive a small portion of this light spectrum and it is the frequency of the wavelength that determines the color we see. All colors have their own wavelength. Some are lower than visible ligh, like Infrared, microwave, and radio waves, while others are higher like ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays.

The primary colors of light are red, green (not yellow) and blue, commonly referred to as RGB. These are the colors we view together on our computer monitors, televisions and handheld devices. RGB is considered an additive color system, meaning we start with black as the absence of light and add color to it. So in Photoshop’s color picker, we create black in the RGB spectrum by setting the RGB values to 0, but white is created by adding the three colors in equal value (R255,G255,B255). All other screen colors are created by mixing various combinations of RGB. The secondary colors of RGB are CMY (Cyan, magenta, yellow).

CMYK, on the other hand, is a subtractive color system. The CMY refers to the primary values in the system, cyan (C), magenta (M) and yellow (Y), and the letter "K" stands for black. The subtractive color process is based on light being reflected from an object and absorbing color waves. Most printing begins with a white sheet of paper. To produce color on the paper, we use CMY to act as a filter for the RGB waves in different combinations. In theory, CMY should be all we need to create black, but the reality is the blending of CMY on paper results in a dark, muddy brown. Black ink is added to boost the shadow areas and give the piece a true black. The secondary colors of the subtractive system are RGB (red, green and blue), the primary colors of the additive system.

All good science, but what does it really mean? Mostly, what you view on screen as you are creating your artwork is difficult and sometimes impossible to produce on paper, at least without some tweaking. A great example of the kind of color shift you might encounter is working with rich blues. Often on the screen the blues will have a deep color, like ocean water, but when they are produced for print in CMYK, the color will shift to a purplish blue. It’s important to know what your artwork might be used for, and when you plan to print the piece, it is good  practice to create your images and graphics using the CMYK gamut for color.

Best practice is to always proof your artwork before it is printed, something we insist on here at Arvest Press.


Next Blog: Paper

GreenStar Show 2011




On Tuesday, May 3rd, Arvest Press participated in the GreenStar Show 2011 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center downtown. GreenStar is organized annually by the State as a way for the state's vendor to meet the people from the many government departments that require goods and services. GreenStar also focuses on vendors who make an extra effort to provide services with an eye on being environmentally friendly too. At Arvest, we use only soy based inks on our presses, recycle all of our waste paper from trimming and cutting and use the technology available in the printing industry to make sure our waste is kept to a minimum on all of our print.


The show was a great success for both the state and Arvest. We were proud to be a participant this year, and in years past. Below is a phot of our booth and setup.




Next Blog: Paper

On the Press: More Ghostly Images

Gas Ghosting:

Gas ghosting is another way for a printed image to transfer to a different sheet. This chemical reaction usually happens during the drying process, and results in an image ghosting from the front of one sheet to the back of another. Unfortunately, gas ghosting is typically discovered after the drying period has elapsed, and is then costly to fix. Sometimes, gas ghosting can be caused when the ink on the second side of the sheet either dries too quickly or too slowly.


One method some printers use to combat ghosting is to use an inline coating for sheets with heavy coverage which seals the sheet. Other ways to keep ghosting to a minimum is to increase drying time, adjust the ink mix, and talk to your paper supplier. Sometimes a simple paper change will make all the difference. Shorter skids, so there are less sheets drying on top of each other, is a manual adjustment to help the cause too. Once a job has ghosted, it can sometimes be salvaged by applying a thin coat of varnish, but more often the fix is to reprint the ghosted lot.


Here at Arvest Press, the experience of our production staff helps to evaluate the job before it goes to press, so we can anticipate potential ghosting issues and make adjustments to the layout on the sheet before we start printing. Also, we have the advantage of being able to apply a coating in-line with our 5-color Komori, which eliminates any gas ghosting problems we might run into.

On the Press: Ghosting, the haunted press.


Ghosting on the PressSheet:


Ghosting is the faint image of an element in a design that is sometimes carried into another part of the design on the press sheet. A common culprit in Ghosting is artwork with heavy ink coverage that moves from light or no ink coverage back to heavy coverage. The mechanical transition on the rollers leaves a ghostly impression in an area of the press sheet where it does not belong. This is difficult to correct. Sometimes adding a simple take-off bar will help the design transition from a troubled spot to the next area, but sometimes more detailed measures are taken.


To explain by example, a job we recently printed used a specially mixed ink color. Even the draw down, the sample of the ink with the paper used to evaluate the color before printing had evidence of some light streaking. With a pigmentation that would challenge any pressman, coupled with a design that employed larger knockout text on a full solid, the job needed extra attention.


Running the job as it was set up in prepress immediately brought to light two issues, streaks in the solid and ghosting of the knocked-out text. The pressman's first response, a common one, was to make some adjustments to his water/ink mix to try to get rid of the streaks. For the ghosting, he angled the design on the press sheet to get rid of the ghosted lettering. Not the most popular solution with the finishing dept. but they know how to adjust the cutters for a tilted design. Lastly, the pressman altered the layout on the sheet to shift the patterning so the ink was carried in different directions.


Some days in the pressroom are more challenging than others.


Next blog: Gas Ghosting

Set up: An Imposing Task


Creating an Imposition:


An imposition, in its simplest terms, is the way the prepress department arranges the pages on the press sheet to maximize the paper area and minimize the labor once the piece gets to finishing and bindery. There are many different styles of imposition, typically based on the number of pages, how the final piece is going to folded and finished, and what press the layout is going to be printed on. For this example, we will use an eight page brochure that will be printed on a 4-up press.


A picture is worth a thousand words in trying to explain the process. The first graphic below shows the eight pages of our document, 4-up, imposed to be printed on two sides of a press sheet. Side A contains the pages 1,8,4,5 and side B 2,7,3,6. When side A is printed and turned so side B will print, the pages will back up correctly. Also note pages 4,5 on side A and 3,6 on side B are upside down.


This setup is called head-to-head, because the tops of each page come together in the middle of our sheet. There are also circumstances where the bottoms of the pages are in the middle, foot-to-foot, and when the tops of some pages meet the bottoms of others, head-to-foot. Page setup on the sheet is often determined by the artwork, and to minimize any potential press issues like "ghosting" of the ink.




The next graphic shows the printed sheet backed up. The black numbers represent the front of the sheet and the reversed, grey numbers the back. As you can see from the example, the front page has the correct corresponding page on the other side. When we fold the booklet together, pages 1 and 8 will be the outside and pages 4 and 5 the middle. Folding the top pages down will also orient the top pages so they are now right side up.




This graphic represents the first fold. Pages 1 and 8 are the outside front and back cover of the booklet and the other pages are in order inside. All the pages are now oriented correctly.




The final fold down the spine creates the complete booklet. From here the booklet would be saddle-stitched along the spine and then given a side and face trim to create neat, even pages. When we see this process it becomes more evident why a bleed and safe area are so important in the initial layout of the pages.


final book


Of course this process is simplified to give a the general idea of how an imposition is put together. Multiple pages, or as we talked about in the last post, a binding style like a perfect bind, would require a more complicated imposition than this 8-page booklet.


At Arvest, our finishing and binding are done in house, so the imposition is far easier than if we were sending the piece out to be bound at another location. We keep the quality under our control at all times.


Next Blog: So what is ghosting?

Finishing Touches: Almost Perfect

What is Perfect Binding:


Perfect Binding a way to finish books, booklets and magazines with a soft cover and a spine on the edge. The process is straight forward, gather the pages, run a layer of glue along one edge and attach the one piece cover and spine. Arvest Press has a perfect binder in its finishing department. How it works is an interesting process.


First the book pages, rather than being imposed as a full book with an interelated page structure, is broken up into sections. These sections are divisible by four, and typically are printed as eights or sixteens. This doesn't mean you can't have a book printed if the number of pages is an odd number. The next time you're reading a paperback at the beach check the end of the novel, chances are there will be some blank pages. This is how the page count is brought to a number divisible by four.


The next step is to prepare the spine for glueing. The page sections are gathered together and the area where the spine will be adhered is then "ground". This process grinds what would be the nub of the folds in each page section into a flat surface. Hot glue is then applied to the flat edge.


The last step is to wrap the cover around the book so the spine rests against the ground edge. The glue cools, holding all the pieces in place. The book is then given side trims and a face trim, the trim on the outer edge, so all the pages are even. Voila', the latest pageturner is ready to read. 


Next blog: Impostion

Finishing Touches: Score one for the Team!


Scoring: Why do we need it, how is it done.


Scoring is a preliminary step used before the folding process when the ink or toner coverage on a piece is heavy at the fold, or the printed sheet is on thicker paper or needs to fold against the grain. Scoring stretches the paper fibers and actually creates a thin channel where the fold will eventually occur.  By scoring the sheet, the folding is made easier, and cracking or splitting of the spine at the fold is reduced or eliminated.

There are a few different methods of scoring usually determined by the specific paper stock being printed. The simplest and most economical score is called a press score. With this technique, a thin piece of metal with an adhesive is placed on the impression cylinder of the press. As the paper passes through, a channel is created on the piece where the fold will occur. When the printing process is complete, the score is there. A press score is more efficient, but does not always give the best result.

Most automated folders also have a scoring wheel or wheels that attach to the machine and can be used as an inline part of the folding process. This a rotary score. The printed piece is shuttled first through the wheel, which has a raised bump in the center and creates a fold channel similar to a press score by rotating through the printed sheet. When the piece hits the folder, the fold score is already in place, ready to go. This method is best when folding with the grain of the paper, not against it.

Another, more complicated way to create a score is by using a die-cutting press. This is an extra step in the production process, so more costly, but a die score is also the best way to reduce cracking in the fold. The die score is created by placing one or a combination of steel scoring rules into a jig or by imbedding them in a piece of wood. The die is set-up or clamped into a die-cutting press and then the sheets are run through the die. The die score is used on artwork that may have multiple or complicated folds, like a box or a pocket folder. A die-cutting press can also be used when a perforated section accompanies the folds in a printed piece.

At Arvest Press, we have our own die-cutting press and do all of our finishing, scoring and die-cutting in house.

Next Blog: Perfect Binding


The Finishing Touches: A Stitch in-line Saves Time


Saddle Stitching:


You may have heard the term saddle-stitch but aren't sure what it means. Saddle stitching is the method and device used to assemble a booklet after it's been printed. The pages are gathered at the fold and then stapled together. The term saddle-stitch comes from the way the booklet is placed on a triangular base with one edge hanging to the right and one to the left, like a saddle on a horse, while the staples are inserted.


There is more to the process than just simply stapling the books together. There are manual stitchers for small jobs, but for larger runs of booklets, an automated machine is the way to go. The process itself is pretty impressive.


Once the pages have been printed, they are sent to the stitcher either as pre-collated books, or they can be gathered by an automated collater. The group of pages is shuttled to a jogger, which aligns the pages, and stopped for the stitching. The reason the process is called stitching is because the metal material that will eventually be the staple comes on a spool, like sewing thread. The metal is weaved into the pages, cut and then pressed down so it resembles a staple.


Pages in place, the booklet is then conveyed to the in-line folder where it is folded in half. It is important that the outside edges of the booklet, or the "face", has at least a quarter of an inch edge to it. As the book is folded in half, a cutter will give the book a Face-trim so that the outside edge of the booklet is even as well. Some machines have three cutters, and will trim the top and bottom edges and then the face. Others will jog the sides so they are even before the stitch, fold the booklet and then do the face trim. The result, either way, is a nice, even, stapled booklet.


Next blog: What is a score?

In the Pressroom: Ready, Set, Makeready.



Bringing a job up to color:


Makeready, in print jargon, refers to the steps a pressman takes in order to get each print run ready for the press. At a basic level, it means things like hanging plates on the press, making sure the paper is cut to size and filling the ink wells. But offset printing also requires a certain amount of finesse to get the press up to speed for the full print run, and a skilled pressman can make all the difference in how quickly the Makeready is achieved.


Once the paper is loaded and the ink and water balance established, the pressman has to set the ink zones for the rollers. Each area of the press is divided into zones, and each zone is fed by an ink duct and controlled by an ink key. With technological advances in the printing process, it is now likely that the pressman starts with a CIP3/CIP4 ink definition file which will set the initial keys for the job. The pressman will then run a small number of sheets, take densitometer readings manually or use a color bar reader, and make adjustments to the various keys. Each press is different, but the goal is to run to a measured ink density. The pressman uses the color bars on the sheet to measure the density of each ink.


Once satisfied the inks are running to the proper density or "to color", he or she will then run more sheets and tweak the color as needed. Once the pressman is confident the job is ready to go, he or she will proceed with the full print run, but will still pull a sheet now and again and measure the colorbars to check the concsistancy of the printing throughout the entire run and job. Using a set density goal makes it easier to keep the color in multiple sheets of a project properly balanced and ensure the run stays uniform.


Setting the right ink density is an especially important practice when it comes to crossovers in a booklet, images, graphics or text that begins on one page and crosses the spine of the book to another page. Typically crossovers are not on the same printed sheet, so two different sheets will be joined together later in the binding process. Any fluctuation in the color would be immediately noticable.


At Arvest Press the combination of our technology and the skill of our press people helps to maintain a level of consistency we are proud of and keeps your project on budget and on schedule.


Next: Steps in Finishing

Next Steps: Ink, Paper, Scissors


Ink and Paper on the press:


We need ink to create an image on the paper, simple as that. At Arvest, we switched over to the environmentally friendly soy based inks before it was in fashion to be green, primarily as part of our committment to being more green in our printing, but also because we discovered the soy inks are actually brighter and economical too. The soy oil is clearer than a petroleum based product and so the pigments are less muddy, also, we found it took less ink to get the impressions we needed than when we used an oil based product. And of course, oil based inks are affected by the fluctuations in oil prices just like the gas for your car. All in all a win-win for us and our planet.


As for the ink pigments, the most common colors we produce at Arvest are the four color process colors; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK) and the PMS colors. PMS stands for the Pantone Matching System, and are specially mixed inks that provide a wider gamut of specific color, for instance Reflex Blue, which could not be produced with a standard mix of CMYK. Pantone colors are trademarked and allow for an easier way to match color across multiple formats and paperstocks. PMS colors are often found in a company's logo. CMYK, on the other hand, provides more color choice withing a piece. For instance, a design that includes multiple photographs or illustrations. This type of design might be further enhanced with the addition of a single PMS run inline on a 5-color press, like the one here at Arvest.


Along with the standard inks, there are also many specialty inks like metallics or flourescents that can be added to further accent a design. Varnish is also a common addition to brighten (gloss) or soften (dull) a particular piece.


Choosing the right style of paper for your project is an important part of the process as well. There are too many options and combinations to cover in a single post, but typically our customers are choosing a weight or "feel" for their piece and also the finish or coating the piece is printed on.


For paper weight the customer is usually choosing between a text style stock, similar to the paper you might run through your computer printer at home, and a thicker, card style stock. In a booklet, for example, it is common to run the inside pages on a text style stock while having the cover be thicker, more firm on the outside. A booklet described in printing terms would probably be a 60# to70# text weight paper on the inside with an #65 or #80 cover piece. Think of an annual report or the directory for the local Chamber of Commerce. Magazines also follow this model, though some will use what is called a self cover, the cover is the same weight as the inside pages. A pocket folder would take a thicker style of paper too.


There are three common styles of finish to paper. A shiny, bright finish would be a gloss coating, an eggshell style finish is called satin and a dull style finish is a matte style look. In the above booklet, one might find the inside pages done in the dull, matte look, while the cover may have more of a sheen with a satin finish. Or the finished style might be something like gloss throughout, like your favorite travel magazine with bright, welcoming images on every page. Then there are custom finishes like textures, metallics and weaves. Or the different looks your piece might have printed on recycled materials. As with the inks, the paper choices are too numerous to list, but making the wrong paper choice would be a disaster.


Never hesitate to consult with your printer about the paper options, and try to get a sample when you can. For our digital output, Arvest always makes a proof on the intended stock so our customers know exactly what the final output will look like. This is not an option for offset work, obviously we are not going to fire up the press and output one proof, but there are ways to generate a proof that comes close to what the final offset printed design will be.


Lastly, the scissors. And all we really need to know about that is paper comes in big sheets, we print on those sheets and then cut your design down to size. Ink covers paper, paper dulls scissors, scissors opens Ink. Voila'.


Next blog: Makeready

Next Steps: Hold Those Presses!


Inside the Pressroom:


Your job has been plated, so what happens now? In simplest terms, the pressman hangs the plates on the press, inks up the rollers and starts printing. How the image on the plate is transferred to the final sheet is the offset process.


The printing press consists of a series of rollers, in the case of our equipment there are five stations, and each bay carrys a different ink color. For process, the standard is a CMYK makeup, and with the five color press, adding an accent varnish is a common practice. The plates attach to a roller, and there is always a portion of the plate that is not imagable, what is known as the gripper, where the plate is gripped and held in place. The other roller in the process carries what's known as the blanket, a rubber cylinder.


The printing process is accomplished by a mix of ink and water, and this is where the craft and skill of the pressman comes into play. The areas to be printed pick up ink and repell water, while the opposite happens on the other surface. The pressman has to control the water/ink mix for a clean print. The ink is transferred from the plate to the blanket, where the image would be reversed or "offset", and then back to the paper in the correct format. Like magic!


Two sided jobs sit and dry and then print on the other side. One sided pieces wait for the cutter or bindery. The press is washed up for color changes and then each night before the pressman gets to go home.


Next blog: Ink and paper

Next Steps: Behind the Curtain - Prepress


The Prepress Department:


So you've crafted a beautifully designed piece and gathered up the files, support graphics, images and fonts. You've pulled your bleeds, and made sure the work had a safe margin all around. Perhaps you're confident your revision process is complete, so you've generated a "Print Ready" PDF file. The files are on a thumbdrive, disc or zipped and ready to send over the internet. You deliver the job to Arvest Press.


Now what happens?


First, we open your files up and check all the same elements. Images, graphics, Bleeds etc. Then we run the file through a RIPing software, in Arvest's case we use a Rampage RIPing system, which processes the file and gets it ready for the platesetter. The most important part of the RIP process is trapping the piece.


Trapping is simply making sure the elements or colors that are top or beside each other, touching in some manner, have a miniscule amount of overhang where the colors meet. This is so any natural movement on the press rollers is accomodated for. Similar to a bleed but much smaller. There are two basic types of traps, a choke and a spread.


Using a simple example of Blue text on a tan background, if there was no trap and any shift on the press, there might be a slight gap which would expose the paper beneath or leave a halo effect where the two elements had common color. In this case we would "choke" the tan into the darker blue to create a shared area that is barely visible, but keeps the paper beneath from being exposed and also the text from looking "fatter", which in smaller font sizes might plug up around certain letters. Reverse the color scheme, tan text on a blue background, and we would "spread" the tan text into the darker blue for the same trap effect.


Next on the Prepress list is to generate a "proof" for the client. Because the RIPing software is able to deliver a proof that exactly matches what will be printed it is important to treat the proof as if it is the finished piece. This is the last chance to make sure everything is correct before it goes to press. Finding a mistake after a job is printed, or in the middle of a press-check (we'll cover those in a later blog) can lead to costly reprints or down time on the press, which the client would be responsible for. The proof is one of the most valuable tools in the printing process.


Once we have that final approval for the designed piece, we can then send that same RIPed data to the plate setter and generate plates for the printing press. Your job is now ready to be printed!


Next Blog: The Pressroom



Starting with the Basics: Sizing up the Page


Setting up a Document Correctly:


We've talked about  Images, Graphics and fonts for writing copy, now let's bring all those elements together on the page. To start with, and this sounds so basic, but the dimensions of the page are important. If a design is created on a letter sized page, it won't stretch to fit on a legal size of tabloid size layout. Nor can it be easily shrunk to fit on a 4 x 6 mailer postcard. Also, if the design is being built in a program like Photoshop, it's important to set enough resolution in the file and to keep the fonts and vector information that may have been imported as "smart" graphics in the program.  Best Practice, especially if the destination of the piece is the printing press, is to use a layout program like Adobe InDesign.


Start by setting up the page at the proper size. Whether the design is going to be a large poster or small postcard, setting the document dimensions to the final, finished size will ensure you maintain the feel of your design all the way to the finished product. In the document setup, you can also typically specify a page margin all around (which can be set to your safe margin), and also a bleed. The Arvest default when we design a page is one-eighth of an inch. Now you'll have a clean page with clear boundaries ready for your creative inspiration.


Next, use the tips we've talked about in previous posts. For instance, you may be using lo-res, watermarked placeholder images in your initial design to get the right feel before you commit to purchasing a licensed image, a common, preliminary design practice. Once you buy the high res version, however, make a copy for your piece and put the original in a safe place. This way you can use the best practice tips we described below, convert color (CMYK for printing) and resize the image to fit the design. Arrange your font copy and add in any graphics and you'll be ready to send the file off to be printed. Or, using the tips in the previous post, you'll create and send a print ready PDF.


Next Blog: The Prepress Department

Starting with the Basics: Make a great PDF

PDF creation basics for the web and Print:


PDF settings are determined by what the final PDF will be used for. Some typical options are an offset press, digital printing or on a website, maybe as a linked document or a downloadable form. In the example below, we've set the general setting, the first setting in the list, to Press Quality for offset printing. This will export a high resolution file for making plates. Some other available choices in the general tab are high quality print, for digital printers or proofing devices; and optimized for the web, the default website setting for the best looking, yet smallest website file. In most layout programs, you can also customize these settings and save specific profiles to use over again.


The other setting which we've highlighted in this example is the View PDF after Exporting setting, because it is always a good idea to take a look at the PDF that's been created before sending it to a printer or webpage.




The next example illustrates some recommended settings for optimizing images in a PDF. Again, in this window we are preparing our PDF file for press quality output again. Bicubic downsampling is designed to downsample the images placed in a layout to both reduce file size and optimize the resolution for output to the chosen device. For example, if a designer has placed a 300 ppi color image into a layout and then reduced that image to say 25%, the file resolution of the image is now 1200 ppi. The export algorithm recognizes the file has an image above the max setting of 450 and downsamples that image to 300 ppi in the final PDF. The compression settings allow the user to set a max resolution for color images, greyscale images and monochrome images, bitmaps and linework. Using these settings correctly makes the resultant PDF "Print Ready".


There is one additional setting under the compression tab, Crop Image Data to Frames. What this setting does is discard any hidden data in the layout. For example, a designer needs a headshot of an individual, but only has a large image of the person in a group shot. The designer imports the large image into a layout program's picture frame, and then zooms in on the individual headshot. The rest of the image data is still part of the file, but remains hidden from view. By selecting Crop Image data to frames, the unnecessary data is discarded when the PDF is created and file size is optimized.




The last setting we'll discuss is the Marks and Bleeds setting. The example below shows how to set up marks for your PDF and more importantly, to make sure the document bleeds for the printer. Most layout programs have a default set of marks, and in this case, the program allows the user to also select all marks, or choose a unique combination. Some printers prefer marks on a PDF file while others don't.


If a file has bleeds, as discussed in a previous blog, it is important to check that the bleed is also incorporated in the PDF when it is exported. Some layout programs default to a setting of "0 in" for their bleed setting, and expect the user to set a value if the file contains a bleed. In the example below, we have set a value of one-eighth of an inch for the bleed and made that value uniform on all sides of the page. This is probably the most common place where a bleed is left off of a "Print Ready" PDF file. Best Practice is, as discussed above, have the PDF open automatically after creation to ensure things like bleeds and marks have been set up correctly.




The last subject we'll mention briefly is embedding fonts in a PDF. In newer software versions, font information is embedded automatically into the PDF file. This gives the printer, essentially, a onetime license to use a font for printing. On occassion, Fonts companies will require a user AND the printer to purchase a license for font information. Unlikely in most cases, but it does happen. Best practice is to be aware of any licensing restrictions to fonts you own and relay that information to your printer to avoid any delays in your project.


PDF's can be a great way to transport files with all the necessary information intact, and also are great for using on your website to pass along information to a customer with a quick and easy downloadable file.


Next Blog: Setting up your document correctly

Starting with the Basics: Living on the Edge

Bleeds and Safe Margins:


With Bleeds and safe margins we are basically talking about the edge of the page and how the design of a project interacts with the paper when the project is printed. Starting with the safe margin first, the safe margin is how close to the edge the text is and how it may be affected by the trimming process once the design is printed. The most common example would probably be a business card, when the typesetting is usually a smaller size font and text is laid out either close to the side or bottom of the small card. Because the printer is working with such a small item to begin with, it is good practice to keep your text elements at least an eighth of an inch from the sides and bottoms. This allow the, usually large, cutting blade to cleave through stacks of business cards without inadvertantly chopping off a very important last digit of a phone number, or the a chunck of the .com in an email address.  In the layout program, it's easy enough to either set your interior margins when you create the initial layout page, or to use the guides to drag a boundary into place to ensure the text stays away from the edge of the design.


Bleeds are probably one of the most commonly misunderstood parts of a design for the beginning designer. When an element in the layout extends to the very edge of the paper, the printer needs the element to extend beyond that edge, or "Bleed" off of the paper. Images are typically used for this purpose, as a corner or a heading. Sometimes an image may be used as the full face of a piece, like a postcard mailer for instance, with text on top of it. A layout like that would be described as "bleeding" on all four sides. Decorative text or graphics may bleed as well, or a line or solid colored footer might extend fully across the bottom of the layout.


Having a bleed in each of the above cases is important when the printing is complete and the piece is ready to be trimmed. If the finishing person had to trim to an exact edge, he or she would have to trim each piece individually, losing both uniformity and obviously, production time. By extending the design element over the edge of the page, there is built-in compensation for any tiny shift in the trimming process as the cutter slices through stacks of printed paper. Best practice is to have a minimum one-eighth overhang or "Bleed" for any element that runs to the edge of the paper. If creating a print ready PDF file, it is especially important to set margins and bleeds correctly when exporting from a layout program. We'll cover that subject in the next blog. 


Next Blog: PDF creation

Starting with the Basics: Getting Graphic

So far we've covered fonts and images, the next element we'll discuss is Vector Graphics. Vector graphics differ from images in that they use algorithmic information to define areas rather than pixels. Because of this, vector graphics do not have the same resolution restraint as pixel based images. Vectors can be easily scaled up or down in a layout program without losing quality, and also tend to be much smaller in size than their raster based cousins. Vector graphics are typically used to create logos and illustrations.


There have been changes in the world of Vector graphics in the past couple of years, primarily because of the the cross purposing of artwork for web use, but also because of the introduction of effects in Illustration programs such as Adobe Illustrator. Since effects and some mesh grid functionality is flattened when the Illustrator file is exported for use in another program, the effect is essentially rasterized at that point or converted to pixels. At that point, scaling the graphic so it is larger in a layout program might effect quality. Also, it is important to check the Illustrator setting for rasterizing graphics on export to ensure it is not set too low and one ends up with a pixelated drop shadow or glow effect for example.


Using vector graphics on the web does have some advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is being able to convert a vector graphic to the .gif format. With .gif, it is easier to reduce the color gamut without losing quality, so a designer is able to reduce the size of the graphic and have it load in the webpage as quickly as possible. The .gif format also allows the designer to keep the background of the graphic transparent. Vector graphics can also be exported as .jpg or .png images, but only the .png maintains transparency, but .png can sometimes be problematic for some web browsers.


Illustration programs have come a long way over the years, and designers can now create really complex designs with a number of excellent effects within the programs. Also, vector illustration programs allow the user to import and incorporate raster pieces to the design. The opposite is only true if a vector design is fully rasterized when it is imported into a program like Photoshop. The results is usually not as pleasing as creating the design in the Illustration program or using a layout program like InDesign or Quark to bring all the elments together, text, illustration and images.


As with other aspects of preparing your piece for printing, the Arvest prepress staff is always available and willing to help out if you have any questions about how to best incorporate vector graphics into a design.


Next Blog: Safe margins and Bleeds 

Starting with the Basics: Image is everything

On a basic level, the most important thing to understand with bitmap or pixel images is how much resolution is needed for the project you are working on. Other pieces of the puzzle might be - What type of format is best for each image, and what is the right color space to keep the images in?


Starting with resolution, the old adage was to set the resolution at twice the linescreen the project was going to be printed at. So if your printer planned to produce the piece with a final linescreen of 175, the ideal resolution would have been 350. The problem was in most cases whoever was preparing the files didn't necessarily know what linescreen the printer planned to use, and in the case of a print shop with multiple presses, linescreen may not be determined until right before the work is printed. So what do you do?


A good rule of thumb is to have a minimium resolution of 240 dpi and unless you are doing a really high end (300 linescreen plus) piece, keep the top resolution at around 450 max. Best practice is also to place images at 100% within the layout as well, which means if you need the image to be 3"x4" in your design, save a copy of your original at the proper size and resolution before you import it into your design package. Remember, a placed image shrunk to 50% size is essentially twice the resolution. Also, more resolution does not mean a better result. In some cases, having an excess of resolution will actually make the image appear less sharp, and flatter.


As for color space, again, best practice is to do the color conversion on a copy of the original before placing the image in the layout package. Images typically start in the RGB color space. This is the color space for your computer screen, digital cameras, scanners etc. Mainly because RGB will have a larger color gamut. There have been a number of advanced developements with images that allow the user to attach various color profiles within a single image to allow for a variety of uses (e.g. Print, web, digital billboard) but since we are working with the basics to start, we'll keep things more simplified and do the conversion by hand.


Unless you are using a monotone or duotone mode with specific PMS colors, the best color mode for printing a 4-color image is CMYK, the process colors used on the printing press. By doing the color conversion prior to printing, you will be able to determine if any color shifts occur, and use the tools in a program like Adobe Photoshop to correct the color so the printed result is more to what you expect. Here at Arvest, we can provide a color proof before the job is printed to catch any issues before they show up at presstime.


As a last point on resolution and color, typical resolution for the internet is 72 dpi with an RGB color space. Perfect for viewing on your computer screen but not for high end printing. If you choose to use an image from the internet the results will probably not be what you expected.


Next Blog: Vector Graphics.

Starting with the Basics: Are you my Type?


Many of you will be familiar with the items we'll cover in the blog, but it's good to remember that the roots of a good print job start with the initial files. We have a great production staff here at Arvest Press and one of their real strengths is their ability to troubleshoot problem files. Files with issues can sometimes clog the works though, and may lead to delays that push the stress levels as deadlines approach. So here are some simple tips to help smooth the way starting with:




Fonts, fonts, fonts. There are lots of good fonts out there, but sometimes that one you downloaded off the internet for free, and then used in your high end design piece, may not be the best choice. Using fonts from the established and reliable vendors may be the better path. The right to use a font for a particular purpose can sometimes be an issue as well. Sometimes a font will be available to view on the screen as you design, or in your webpage, but when it comes time to print, the font is locked for the printer. Then it's redesign or break out the credit card and purchase the additional rights. It's also good practice to always include the fonts with the files you submit, or if you supply a print ready PDF, make sure the fonts are embedded in the file. Most design programs have a function that gathers the working file and all the supporting documents, e.g. InDesign's Package feature. This provides the print shop with all the necessary files to do your job; working file, fonts, graphics and images.


Next Blog: Images


Welcome to the new Arvest Blog


Hello Print world!


Here at Arvest we understand there are many factors that go into bringing a successful project to fruition. It starts with the basics and follows a distinct path through the press room, finishing dept. and finally, to delivery. Sometimes we all need a little help from our friends in the process.


Our goal is to make a good impression, and to let you know we are available to help. We've gathered a lot of insight, skill and knowledge through the years and are happy to share that information in order to keep your project running smooth and your deadlines on track. We'll try to keep our blog entertaining and interesting, and though some of the posts may be a revisting of the basics, we hope to slip an "aha!" nugget or two across your screen on occassion too.


We're glad you stopped by. Feel free to leave a comment, we'd love to hear from you. We'll sign off with a thought from an old printing friend.


"Take time for all things."
- Benjamin Franklin


Happy printing.