When discussing digital printing solutions with a professional, it's helpful to understand some of the basic concepts they're using. Here are three ideas that often dictate a lot of what happens when you have a digital printing project.
Color Processes and Profiles
One of the earliest decisions you'll have to make when doing printing work is what color-based process you wish to use. Color processes reflect the number of distinct types of inks used on a job. For example, the classic four-color process known as CMYK uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.
Your choice of the color process will also dictate the color profile that the printer will use. This is very important if you're sending digital files you or someone you paid to the printing company. A color profile is a collection of digital settings that tell graphics cards, screens, and printers what the colors need to look like.
If you send someone a profile designed for a six-color process on a four-color job, for example, there may be shifts in how the colors look. The best move is to get a copy of the color profile the printer intends to use, load it to your editing systems, and use it to create the files so everyone will be on the same page.
Weight and Brightness
The paper for a job is just as important as the ink. Paper's heaviness level is rated in weight. For example, a 20-pound paper is like the lower-end stuff you'll use from draft printing in an office. A 100-pound paper, on the other hand, is closer to what printers use for cards.
Brightness refers to how much light the paper will reflect. The brightness scale goes from 0 to 100, and 100 is the brightest. For practical reasons, most print items on white paper are rated somewhere between 90 and 98. A 92 rating is what you'd expect to see on a standard letter.
File Formats and Compression
Nearly every digital printing job goes into an electronic file for storage and reuse. To save storage space, many file formats use compression technology. However, a compressed file can create ugly artifacts in a finished print product.
Ideally, imagery should use what's called a lossless format, such as RAW for cameras, and you should avoid compressed files every step of the way. Be aware that moving from a lossy format like JPEG to a lossless one will leave the artifacts in place. If you're unsure what formats to use, contact your digital printing solutions provider and ask what their preferences are.
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