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    I`m a graphic design student, I`ve been asked by my PRE-PRESS class teacher to visit a print shop for a couple of days and see what kind of problems arise during the day and how they deal with them and eventually how they solve them. I`ve already visited two print shops, I tried to go to many more locations, but they didn't let me in, most said no because they were too busy, some (mom and pop print shops) said no because the owner thought I could be some sort of spy from the competition who`s trying to steal their ancient secret printing methods or something :P

    I`ve already spent many afternoons in those two printshops during the week, and I`ve got plenty of information regarding how they, as well as the machines, work. However it`s worthless because nothing has happened! I mean there hasn't been any real problem, they haven`t made a mistake or anything.

    The official assignment is "spend four hours in a print shop for two days and record all the problems (and their solutions) you can", well I`ve already spent a whole week and I`ve got nothing regarding printing problems or the like.

    So I was wondering if you could help me out, like if you have any anecdotes regarding problems you`ve encountered and how they were solved, I`m sure many of you work or have worked in print shops, I would really appreciate that. I`m not only fed up, but I`ve also got other assignments as well and I`ve already given this one too much time. This assignment is due on Monday, so I`m kinda desperate. Hope you can help me out, bye.

  • #2

    Go down a couple dozen threads and this section will cover nearly anything that can go wrong
    in prepress.

    If the shops you went to had no problems then you were treated to something special. A more
    interesting report might be "Why Nothing Went Wrong At xyz's Prepress," unless they were
    dead slow, or a division without a real prepress.

    Happy reading!!!


    • #3

      You asked for it, you got it. Please read it fully. There is knowledge in here that many don't know. If after reading you want clarification on something, please do ask.

      I can understand why a lot of prepress don't want to help. The company would automate them out of a job (if they could, but most aren't organized enough or have the software, hardware, IT know-how in-house, nor inclination to spend the money unless a technology is proven) quicker than you can say "Unemployment line".

      I've shared the problems on here for years, and I'm sure there are those that wish I wouldn't. But this industry is so slow to implement real needed change that prepress will be needed for a while yet.

      I can know what is needed in the industry (and do for the most part), but I can't educate everybody. I do what I can on these forums just for this purpose. It's easier to get information to my worldwide audience (of which you are a part, kinda like my own blog about print) than through the printer's doors to my own customer. I would scare customers away is what I guess they think. I can't make it short and sweet or push a button and get it done. I need a secretary (don't have one) to wittle down what I say into something the printer (who doesn't understand prepress) can understand. I tried to talk about color management the other day with the estimator/customer service, and he said it wasn't going to be done correctly until it's automated. And he's right. Every device needs to calibrate itself and have a standard profile that it calibrates itself to stay matching if possible. Those that can't be totally automated need to at least be as simple to use as possible.

      Make it easy and pretty like Apple does.

      I don't have to know how to fix the engine to drive my car. Software should have questions that ask a user what paper they are printing on and soft-proof accordingly with any other intervention from the user. They should be able to say coated, or uncoated, or know what type of paper type it is. Give them as short a list as possible and automate the rest behind the scenes. It can be done. But it's got to be done at the highest levels (major research needed, like RIT), and distribute one universal ICC profile and ICC profile-making program (with standard out-of-gamut mapping for those that must build their own ICC profiles) for conversion to CMYK with research providing the best mapping of out-of-gamut colors into the printing condition's gamut for each major paper type (and analyzing that to get overall characteristics to derive rules to apply to paper types that may yet come into play in standards that aren't yet, so have a way/method/formulas to apply to get the best possible match to a color's hue. Methods of figuring closeness of color have changed over the years, and are we using the best formula (CIE2000) or are we even talking about (and mostly doing real testing and showing it to the others in the group) it to come to a consensus?

      As far as pay. I've watched my own career go from around 9 hot dogs per hour to 6.5 years later going to eventually 23.06, then the company shut down and I took the only thing available after 3 months for 18, and after 5 years make 19.25. My pay went down after I completed my journeyman. I've passed my prime in this industry unless I learn JDF and CIP, which is not something this company I work for is going to pay for anyways. Old equipment outside of prepress, or custom programs that probably don't tie in with the rest of the company. Prepress in a mushroom. Kept in the dark, fed crap, notlistened to, not appreciated. It was not like that at the company I started at. It was family there. Now I work for a small family printer, and anyone who is not family is just an employee. I've seen people take crap no one should have to just to earn a living. Frankly I'm tired of it and am looking at multiple other income streams in hopes of escaping this dead-end career and maybe enjoy some years without the stress and aggravation of being in the only industry on earth where the customer provides the materials and is not giving clear instructions on how to do so even though there has been an international standards and ISO has the answers you need. BVDM has also published Print Standards 06. Read in there. 300 dpi we need. Sometimes we get 72. Ask for something else and so we have to go with what we've got. Sh*t in sh*t out (it actually looks OK to some customers believe it or not). ICC profiles? What are those? We want it to look a certain color, but we don't have time to learn anything as designing for the actual output condition. H*ll, even the "experts" building software (Quark, cough, Quark) don't understand that when encountering an untagged RGB (RGB without a profile embedded), that sRGB IEC61966-2.1 is what makes the most sense in most cases. This ICC profile is also the standard for internet RGB. Good enough is what it's about now, and price. Color management is as simple as this: If you embed a profile, it should be honored. If there is no profile is embedded, then we don't know what it's supposed to look like. And because of problems in implementation, CMYK is not color managed by prepress and maybe shouldn't be. We just print those numbers. We color manage RGB if possible. PANTONE has changed it's formula so often, and still does not conform to the international standard ISO 12647-2, so that when a printer prints to the international standard, then they don't match the PANTONE swatch books in many cases. So instead if releasing an updated color bridge that does conform to ISO 12647-2, the internaqtional standard in effect for more than 10 years now, and just recently was officially given a description (ICC profile), GRACoL2006_Coated1v2 for the matching the international standard in the U.S. (Asia has adopted also). There's also FOGRA39/ISOcoatedv2 for Europe, because the countries can't decide to move a percent to a percent and a half (because only different 2-3 in midtones in each CMYK separation) to make a compromise, so that we can actually have one universal printing condition/tone curve to be applied to all paper types.

      Note: mid-tones are at 50% in file, which is 18-22 TVI/dot gain to equal 68-72 on plate - I don't have the exact figures in front of me, but I built a calculator using equations from Bruce Lindbloom's LabDotGainCalculator2 as well as Don Hutcheson's website). I have verified as well as Louis Dery from PerfXPress Curves has verified that my calculator is within 1% accuracy. There is just no enough difference and we now know there are no good reason we can't come together and have a printing condition that customers can just separate to (one ICC profile for separation, preferably at this point GRACoL2006_Coated1v2 (or ISOcoatedv2, I don't care) with low enough TAC (Total Ink Coverage)/TIL (Total Ink Limit) that the same separation could be used for coated (paper type#1), matte (paper type #2), SWOP2006_Coated3v2 (paper type #3), uncoated (paper type #4 which we don't have an ICC profile for yet but do have ISOuncoated although not a G7 profile officially, it may be found to be one practically speaking), SWOP2006_Coated5v2 (paper type #5). Then there is more paper types, but these cover the vast majority of commercial printing. Then there's newpaper. Then we move to today where PANTONE is trying to keep their niche by trying to own color just because they come up with some number. I'll tell you a number to follow. Lab. Lab is an independent color space that let's you know what color you want to match displayed as a number. And you must know that what you see on monitor (RGB) is much larger gamut (can display many more colors) than an offset press, and therefore you can't get that nice bright saturated blue on uncoated paper. It just doesn't get as saturated as when on coated stock. Also, we have PANTONE Goe with no way to get the accurate CMYK values to most closely match a color. I've done the research and can tell you that there is no way we are going to get to a point of being able to match out-of-gamut colors on presses across the world unless one universal ICC profile is used (the same EXACT profile used in all apps: Adobe, Quark, Microsoft), and for rules on how to deal with untagged RGB and CMYK (CMYK only if we actually decide whether or not as an industry if we want to color manage CMYK or just print the CMYK numbers we receive. I for one go for just printing the CMYK numbers we receive and if the customer does not like the proof, then color management can be used to either obtain Lab values from PANTONE for the PANTONE color in question wanting to be matched, or scan a previous print with a spectrophotometer to get Lab values to match as close as possible on a given paper/ink/device limitation. The reason I say that we must have one universal ICC profile is because the program that makes the ICC profile from the official characterization data determines how out-of-gamut colors are mapped in-gamut. This is why we definitely need one ICC profile. As it stands now, if you use ISOcoated (not v2, which one should be using if in Europe) or ISOuncoated, your blue will turn to purple. Some profiles will make a blue, but some resulting blues are better than others given the same source (starting/input) Lab or RGB values. There needs to be a study done to determine the best ICC profile that can be made (because with the Goe system, as well as the existing PANTONE system where only 40% of colors can be matched in CMYK), we need better mapping of out-of-gamut colors. After years of research, I say that anything less may provide good enough color, but we all could have the very best if we can only get together and compromise 1% to make a universal printing condition, and get together to get the best agreed-upon mapping of out-of-gamut colors.

      This is one man's rant who has done all I can. I am tired. I am prepress of 14 years or so (I forget, but a long d*mn time). Hope this helps.

      You know this won't get done? Money. Each vendor has to have something they can patent, so they won't use the same CMM (color management module), won't use the same ICC profile, and won't make it simple because if it's simple they won't make money keeping everyone believing it's hard. I know standards work takes time. But it progresses so slowly, and companies don't listen to reasonable advice and screw their customers in the process when it could be made simple instead. As for me, my patience has about run out.

      Don Isbell


      • #4

        And although I didn't mention it, missing fonts (because they are not sent and the customer wouldn't know where or how to retreive and send them to us) is also a problem.

        PDF 1.5 or higher with "live" transparency, layers, type being editable using the embedded fonts, full pictures that are clipped and not cropped, access to ICC profiles for assigning a different one if need be, all are the future (and now the present at some printers although not mine yet). Quark doesn't get this. Adobe can now do this. We don't have to have native files with a great PDF editor like Neo (just the best one I've used).

        Don Isbell


        • #5

          WOW! thanks a lot people! I really appreciate it!


          • #6

            You sound a bit bitter Don.

            After 20 years things are still looking up for me.

            11 years doing pretty much doing everything one can do in this business and another 9 as the prepress manager. Due to my old companies shaky footings I took a job out of state. The money was better (although not insanely better) and a relocation package made it too easy to quit my old job plus we moved to a nice area of the country with lots to do for the kids and adults alike. It was a bit difficult at first but we survived.

            Although back to being an operator it's been a good experience I've been able to sharpen my skills that I have let get a bit rusty and it's nice not getting beat up every time someone else makes a mistake.

            My first performance review EVER went very well and I actually got a nice little raise (go figure and I didn't even have to quit and come back to get more cheese).

            My next move is to take the Management test and try to snag a supervisior/manager gig.

            I have found that life is what you make it, no one else is responsible for you success or failures and that a good attitude and a little talent can take you a long way.

            That being said good luck to you in your future endeavors and I hope you find what you are looking for that you didn't find in this biz.

            G (the eternal optimist) Town.


            • #7

              Oh and one word FONTS FONTS FONTS!

              Ok make that 3 words.


              • #8

                The thing is G, I can know what needs to get done, but I don't own the purse strings, and can't make any body else give a crap about changing or upgrading. Add the fact that Quark is the way it is (although I've given plenty of my time that if listened to wouldn't be as bad), I don't like what I'm seeing as the future of prepress at all. Yes I'm bitter when I do care (too much?) and try to help and for what? I'd make better progress continuously sitting in one place banging my head against the wall. Actually it's about the same amount of progress. Painful.

                I am looking at other opportunities, but I'm not outta here yet. May take a while to set something else up.



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