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FLEXO Magazine : July 2012
cation is one of the advantages that prepress providers with their own internal creative services department have over external agencies when designing for an expanded gamut process. One of the most critical steps that prepress providers can take to help guarantee quicker turnarounds and success to the CPC is to partner with designers and educate them on the fundamentals of expanded gamut. Using FIRST (Flexo- graphic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances) as a guideline, the prepress provider should cover the basics of separations with the designer. The prepress provider should also explain the impacts of expanded gamut and the break- down of spot colors into the different process channels. And because prepress providers are the keepers of the recipes for spot color refinement, they ’ll need to help the designer under- stand the impacts of their color selection decisions. WORLD ISN’T FLAT Unlike the traditional CMYK + Spot methodology of print- ing, where single inks comprise large solid areas and the four process colors typically get used only for photographic images, all expanded gamut elements print as a combination of various overprinting tints. Spot colors get refined into these process channels according to predefined color recipes determined by the separator. PANTONE 186 C, for example, will likely separate into some combination of magenta, black and orange or red, depend- ing upon the ink set used by the printer. This breakdown of color into tints has some very important design implications. Remember, all solid areas of expanded gamut print are really just overprinting tints. If that solid area were still a spot color, we’d be using a solid surface area on the plate, a hard cushion tape, and a high volume anilox roll to deploy ink to the substrate, and the only way to vary that color on press would be to adjust the thickness of the ink. Instead, we’re using a softer cushion tape and a finer anilox roll with a higher cell count to lay down a halftone, and half- tone dots are susceptible to press gain. Because we’re doing this with mul- tiple channels and inks, we now have to tightly control up to four decks in the press in order to maintain consistency of that one flat color. Let’s take it a step further. Imagine a package with a solid, light beige background—a common trend with brands want- ing to convey a “natural” message to the consumer. Let’s assume that when separated, the light beige breaks down into highlight tints of magenta, yellow and black to form a three-channel build. Those familiar with flexographic printing and press gain understand that highlight dots are notoriously the most difficult to control throughout the course of the run. Due to the very nature of relief printing with photopolymer and the wear that plates take at ac- celerated press speeds, these highlight dots will experience dot gain in unequal amounts. What started as light beige may drift to a warmer red shade, as the magenta plate experiences more dot gain in those areas than its coun- terparts, and the shift in color could be very noticeable in a large solid background color made up of so many highlights. Designers should avoid these types of elements in their work and focus on using more images, patterns, textures, glows, transparencies or gradients. RULES FOR TEXT In order for printers to have success with expanded gamut, they must maintain tight register on press between all colors over the course of the run, somewhere in the vicinity of 0.004 in. to 0.006 in. In addition to making elements of the package unclear, less sharp and less visually appealing, misregis- ter can even impact the appearance of color itself. As tints overprint on top of one another at different screen angles, halftone dots overlay to form the defined color builds; misreg- ister can position the dots at incorrect coordinates in relation to the other halftones, causing a shift in the hue of the color. Fortunately, modern press and sleeve technology has greatly improved press registration. Despite such tight control over registration, the color of small elements, particularly typography, needs to be consid- ered when designing for the expanded gamut process. Type smaller than 12-point generally works best as a single color. A package with a brown weight mark in CMYK + Spot printing will print with a PMS brown color. However, in expanded gamut printing, that brown weight mark will likely be processed into a three-color (sometimes even four-color) build. Because the weight mark is such a prominent item on the package, the CPC will not want to tolerate any misregister in that area. If the package has to be reprinted six months later, due to a reduction in ounce weight, the brown color will force the CPC to order three new plates. A better alternative would be to overprint a single ink color for the weight mark. A reversed instance of small type presents similar prob- lems. If white type is reversed out of a background build of multiple colors, then all but one of those background colors will need to be pulled back from the white type in case of mis- register. This pullback leaves a border around the reversed text in a single color, creating a reverse trap. RAINbOW COLORS Research suggests that people prefer an image with high- er levels of chroma than the same image with less chroma. This generally holds true, though it varies by subject matter; Design Guide An SPI Project Industry Indicators Printing a Rembrandt Preparing Designers for the realities of Flexography By tyler Mills 28 FLE XO july 2011 www.flexography.org Eliminating Errors • Communication between the printer, the prepress provider, the designer and the CPC iscritical in order to successfully process work without error and consis- tentlyacross a family of jobs. • Printing assessments are a cooperative meeting of the minds to discussdifferent facets of a job: the best waysto separate a job, placement and build of control targets, etc. • Templates shouldinclude dimensions and live print areas. The printer, prepress provider or CPC should provide them to the designer as early as possible in the production process. • When releasedinto the worldof flexography and adopted by major CPCs, expandedgamut became a total game changer for designers. Iteliminated restrictions on the number of colors that a package could have. It made overprinting colors a concern of the past. It alleviated worries over combination colors inprinting. More importantly, it introduced a whole new series of design considerations. • It’s a lot to ask of designers because it can be limit- ing to their creativity, but you want them to think like a separator. Members of thecyber Graphics design team examine proofs and analyze color reproduction. www.flexography.org july 2012 FLEXO 41