Icon Graphic Design Adelaide – designers with a difference.

September 11, 2015

Why we are graphic designers with a difference.

At Icon Graphic Design, we claim to be graphic designers with a difference. So the question is, what is the difference and how does this difference benefit our clients? For over 15 years part of our service was preparing the artwork, of other graphic design companies, for printing, in particular label printing (letterpress printing). This can be a challenge as labels that are printed by the letterpress printing process has limitations that must be considered.

A few things to consider when designing labels that involve the Letterpress printing process.

An example of this involved a wine label that was supplied to us for print preparation. It had been designed by another graphic design company using 16 spot colours. The label looked lovely but the problem was that the printing press was only a 6 colour press! Our task was to reduce the number of colours down to 6 colours (or less) without compromising the look of the original label design. This was achieved by analysing the colours used on the label and deciding which colours were best left as spot colours and converting the rest to process colours. In this decision making process it was very important to understand that colours like orange, blue and purple can ‘die’ when converted from spot to process, and are best left as a spot colour where possible. A great investment, to assist you with this, would be to purchase a Pantone Colour Bridge book (also know as a Pantone Process to Spot book) which can be purchased at pantone.com (see about halfway down the page).

From the Icon Graphic Design Adelaide blog - Graphic designers with a difference. An example of how spot colours can die slightly when converted to process colours (right side).

An example of how spot colours can die slightly when converted to process colours (right side).

Another challenge to consider with letterpress printing is that, because printing is made up of dots, the smaller dots (which are measured in percentages) lower that 3% or 4% are very difficult to reproduce (or hold). So if a design has a colour gradient (vignette) starting at 1% it is highly likely the printer will not ‘hold the dot’. It’s a good idea to check with the printing company to see what dot range their printing presses can manage. Also, when designing something for letterpress printing, avoid using ‘drop shadows’. As lovely as they can be, when the dots aren’t ‘held’ they look like a dogs breakfast! They are not impossible to reproduce but, once again it’s a good idea to check with the printing company before you complete your design.

From the Icon Graphic Design Adelaide blog - Graphic designers with a difference. True Blue Party Dips label, a good example of how drop shadows can fail when printed using the Letterpress printing process.

True Blue Party Dips label, a good example of how drop shadows can fail when printed using the Letterpress printing process.

The letterpress printing process can have slight movement on the press in comparison to traditional offset printing. Because of this, it is a good idea not to design with fine lines thinner that 0.5pt. This is a real challenge for letterpress printers as they need to trap lighter colours underneath darker colour so that if they do get movement on the press you won’t see the paper (stock) underneath. An excellent explanation of the ‘trapping process’ can be found here, it’s worth a read.

In summary, check with the chosen printing company to understand their press limitations.

When we design packaging, labels or any other printing for that matter, we ensure that we know any limitations of the printing press that it is intended for. This can avoid costly last minute alterations to the design and/or colours used, missed deadlines, a poor quality finished product and all round disappointment. There is nothing worse than your customer signing off on a design only to find it has to be dramaticaly changed so it can be printed.

Graphic design and printing can be complex and it is ever evolving with changing technology. Ensuring you use the right people for your next graphic design project will ensure a great outcome. This is just a few examples of why we are graphic designers with a difference, keep an eye out for more posts from Icon Graphic Design Adelaide.

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