Non-profiled offset printing

Bashv

Member
There are printers in my area that are not very sophisticated, but they are affordable.

They do not adhere to any standard (FOGRA, US SWOP...), they set the press by eye while it runs and stuff like that.

Sometimes you have to set the colors on the machine together with them like: "Give me more C, give me more M".

You probably imagine them as small businesses, set in basements or attics, but some of them are relatively big with impressively looking machines and a decent number of employees. But I'm surprised by their lack of interest in improvements.

They are good enough for novels with simple book covers, but not for more graphic projects.

There are exceptions to this, but the client probably payed extra. Or maybe they used Pantones, where you have clearly defined colors. I'm just guessing, I'm not an expert.

My question is: have you ever worked at such printery and is there some trick to get the prints right? I'm afraid no.

You'll say: "Find another printer". I found a more sophisticated one, but they're more expensive and a bit arrogant. They print packaging for big businesses and are not motivated to work with indie publishers.

Thanks.
 

Repro_Pro

Well-known member
Try taking the old fashioned route, ask the printers if they can guarantee a 90-95% match to a hard copy proof produced at their shop (or by someone they regularly works with). If the do, that will be your stating point.
Once you have the proofs and they meet your approval, go and supervise the actual printing of your job and make sure they produce acceptable matches to your proofs.
Experienced press operators will generally achieve better matching when the customer is present...
After working with several different press operators, you may find one that you can comunicate with comfortably.
 
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keith1

Well-known member
have you ever worked at such printery and is there some trick to get the prints right?
In the instance you describe the 'trick' would be experience. And note that there's a big difference between 20 years experience and 1 year experience 20 times over.
For years good operators turned out satisfactory work without all the advantages & features that are available today and even those are no guarantee that a job won't be screwed up.
There's no job so simple that it can't be screwed up!
Finding a good printer is not much different than finding an auto mechanic, plumber or doctor. Communication is the key. Since you found a person arrogant, perhaps that printer isn't for you. Or perhaps you had the misfortune to speak to the one jerk that works at the company.
As Ynot suggested, give us your location and there's a good possibility someone here can point you in the right direction.
As for standing over the press operator while he's trying to do his job. Personally I hated when that happened. As do most operators. Especially if you've nothing of value to contribute.
 

Bashv

Member
Try taking the old fashioned route, ask the printers if they can guarantee a 90-95% match to a hard copy proof produced at their shop (or by someone they regularly works with). If the do, that will be your stating point.
Once you have the proofs and they meet your approval, go and supervise the actual printing of your job and make sure they produce acceptable matches to your proofs.
Experienced press operators will generally achieve better matching when the customer is present...
After working with several different press operators, you may find one that you can comunicate with comfortably.

Thanks, @Repro_Pro, I'll try that.

I also have an unusual idea to order a test sheet with several pages printed on it, each with the same color content, but converted to a different CMYK profile (e.g. the 1st page would be FOGRA29, the 2nd would be US SWOP and so forth). I'm just not sure whether to tag the content with ICC profiles.

If I'm not wrong, this should produce different results on each page. Then I will compare them and I will pick the best one. But maybe I'm misunderstanding the way this works and this may not turn out as intended.

The resulting print will depend not only on the color profile used for the conversion and on the characteristics of the press, but also on the operator, cause he will manually adjust it during the process. I can't predict what he will do there, so maybe my idea is just a waste of time.

And do you think that such test would be expensive? It requires 4 separations per sheet, right? Or maybe 4 separations per page, cause I will have different color profiles? It will also require color inks and other things.

As Ynot suggested, give us your location and there's a good possibility someone here can point you in the right direction.

Thanks, @keith1, but that won't be necesary. My city is not that big and I already know all the printers around me. The ones that I can afford work the way I described. That's their "standard" and it won't change anytime soon.

Communication is the key. Since you found a person arrogant, perhaps that printer isn't for you. Or perhaps you had the misfortune to speak to the one jerk that works at the company.

There's only one certified / profiled printery near me (PSO / FOGRA). AFAIK this requires calibration, training and equipment, which not every printer can afford. But many printers around me don't care about these things.

Once I went to this certified printery and one of their tech guys was kind enough to explain me stuff, but nothing came out of this meeting. His bosses do orders from abroad and packaging for important brands, so they don't seem to care about small publishers and low-volume orders. They don't even bother to answer my mails. That's what I meant when I mentioned arrogance.

In the instance you describe the 'trick' would be experience. And note that there's a big difference between 20 years experience and 1 year experience 20 times over.
For years good operators turned out satisfactory work without all the advantages & features that are available today and even those are no guarantee that a job won't be screwed up.

I agree. I have some fantastic photo-books in my personal library that were published decades ago.
 

Magnus59

Well-known member
Thanks, @Repro_Pro, I'll try that.

I also have an unusual idea to order a test sheet with several pages printed on it, each with the same color content, but converted to a different CMYK profile (e.g. the 1st page would be FOGRA29, the 2nd would be US SWOP and so forth). I'm just not sure whether to tag the content with ICC profiles.

If I'm not wrong, this should produce different results on each page. Then I will compare them and I will pick the best one. But maybe I'm misunderstanding the way this works and this may not turn out as intended.

The resulting print will depend not only on the color profile used for the conversion and on the characteristics of the press, but also on the operator, cause he will manually adjust it during the process. I can't predict what he will do there, so maybe my idea is just a waste of time.

And do you think that such test would be expensive? It requires 4 separations per sheet, right? Or maybe 4 separations per page, cause I will have different color profiles? It will also require color inks and other things.



Thanks, @keith1, but that won't be necesary. My city is not that big and I already know all the printers around me. The ones that I can afford work the way I described. That's their "standard" and it won't change anytime soon.



There's only one certified / profiled printery near me (PSO / FOGRA). AFAIK this requires calibration, training and equipment, which not every printer can afford. But many printers around me don't care about these things.

Once I went to this certified printery and one of their tech guys was kind enough to explain me stuff, but nothing came out of this meeting. His bosses do orders from abroad and packaging for important brands, so they don't seem to care about small publishers and low-volume orders. They don't even bother to answer my mails. That's what I meant when I mentioned arrogance.



I agree. I have some fantastic photo-books in my personal library that were published decades ago.
If you are supplying content as CMYK, changing the profiles will not change the output values unless the printer is doing CMYK-CMYK profiling, which is uncommon for offset printing.
The purpose of the profile is to simulate the output of one device on another, usually when changing colourspaces, so tagging content as FOGRA51 for example will simulate the output from a CMYK device conforming to FOGRA 51 standards when viewed on a correctly calibrated and profiled screen.
We have standard press densities and plate curves which achieve a standard on our offset presses, then use a profile to match proofs and our digital presses to the same standard.
 

Repro_Pro

Well-known member
A test print prior to production is a very good idea.
If you aim high - it is mandatory, IMHO.
It should be done on the same stock and on the same press as your actual printing.
Start by having the press operator print some sheets with the machine set up as "normal" as possible.
Make sure they include a standard CMYK Color Bar on this test sheet.
If at all possible, use a color densitometer to verify that it's printed "by the numbers" (with the standard ink densities) before attempting any modifications.
Your aim should be to receive a "benchmark sheet" before you start comparisons with your proofs.
Also, I strongly advise you add a few sheets of a different paper stock to the printing when the press achieves your "standard sample".
Sometimes a different paper may show surprising quality differences.
 
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Ynot_UK

Well-known member
Thanks, @keith1, but that won't be necesary. My city is not that big and I already know all the printers around me. The ones that I can afford work the way I described. That's their "standard" and it won't change anytime soon.

There's only one certified / profiled printery near me (PSO / FOGRA). AFAIK this requires calibration, training and equipment, which not every printer can afford. But many printers around me don't care about these things.

@Bashv the reason I suggested adding your geographical location was, doing so will likely make much more sense of your situation, in context of your posts.

I may be wrong & don't want to offend, but it appears your location may be within a developing country, as certainly in the UK, US and most of Europe, there are an abundance of printing firms heavily invested in sophisticated modern technologies and working to ISO standards. In fact I can't think of any UK firm where the customer would be on the floor with the press-person having the "give me more C, more M" conversation you cite...

That's why your location would be useful to make more sense of and offer better response to your questions, as ways of working are very different in say, third world countries.

There are printers in my area that are not very sophisticated, but they are affordable.

They do not adhere to any standard (FOGRA, US SWOP...), they set the press by eye while it runs and stuff like that.

Sometimes you have to set the colors on the machine together with them like: "Give me more C, give me more M".
 

Bashv

Member
@Bashv
I may be wrong & don't want to offend, but it appears your location may be within a developing country, as certainly in the UK, US and most of Europe, there are an abundance of printing firms heavily invested in sophisticated modern technologies and working to ISO standards. In fact I can't think of any UK firm where the customer would be on the floor with the press-person having the "give me more C, more M" conversation you cite...

That's why your location would be useful to make more sense of and offer better response to your questions, as ways of working are very different in say, third world countries.

No offense taken, no reason for that. I'm from a small and not so technologically advanced south-east european country. But I don't see how revealing my exact location will solve my printing-related problems. If the press is unprofiled - it will still be unprofiled.

I also posted a question about tipped-in pages (its for a book that I'm planning) and you asked me what's my role in that project or do I have more than one role in it (publisher, author etc.). Why is that relevant? How will that prevent the tipped-in page from falling off? No offense, I just find this a bit funny.

Speaking of that, the monty pythonesque scene in which I instructed the operator to "give me more cyan / more magenta" is true. It was not ages ago, but last year. Another shocking thing is that the printery was not small, its was not in someone's garage. Its a serious company with big machines, Heidelbergs and stuff.

I was standing in front of a machine together with the operator and there was no screen on which we could monitor what we are doing. I was like: "Give me more magenta". The guy would click some buttons to adjust the colors and then he would print a sheet. "Is it okay?" - he would ask. "No, give me more magenta". Again, he would click the buttons and then a new printed sheet would come out. "Is it okay now?" - he would ask. "No, the previous one was better, can we go back to that, please?" and then he said: "No, I don't remember the previous settings".
 

Magnus59

Well-known member
Speaking of that, the monty pythonesque scene in which I instructed the operator to "give me more cyan / more magenta" is true. It was not ages ago, but last year. Another shocking thing is that the printery was not small, its was not in someone's garage. Its a serious company with big machines, Heidelbergs and stuff.

I was standing in front of a machine together with the operator and there was no screen on which we could monitor what we are doing. I was like: "Give me more magenta". The guy would click some buttons to adjust the colors and then he would print a sheet. "Is it okay?" - he would ask. "No, give me more magenta". Again, he would click the buttons and then a new printed sheet would come out. "Is it okay now?" - he would ask. "No, the previous one was better, can we go back to that, please?" and then he said: "No, I don't remember the previous settings".
That's how offset presses work, you don't see the result of your adjustments on a screen, the operator will start off by getting the sheet to the correct densities for the standard they are following, this is generally done using a densitometer on the console, hand held on older presses, but automated on modern presses where the densitometer will scan a colourbar often specific to the press manufacturer.
To increase or decrease colours, the operator will either open or close individual duct keys or adjust the sweep on the duct for an overall adjustment.
Following each adjustment, several sheets need to be run in order for the changes to make their way through the ink train onto the printed sheet. It can take 20 or more impressions for the change to be apparent and 50 or more for the press to "settle down" after an adjustment.
Customer press checks can take hours out of production time and most press operators dislike them.
 

keith1

Well-known member
My city is not that big and I already know all the printers around me. The ones that I can afford work the way I described. That's their "standard" and it won't change anytime soon.
Well then it sounds like that's what it is. If the shop you select has a good experienced production crew there's no reason you can't get top notch results. As mentioned previously, it's how colour printing was produced for years before becoming more high tech, and all those bells & whistles is no guarantee either.
It sounds as though you're looking for reassurances that no one here can give you. Get a proof that you're OK with or give them a sample and request that they hit that. It's all you can do.
If it's any consolation, most end recipients of what you're having printed won't know the difference (how accurate it is, or isn't) anyway. I've had lots of people tell me jobs looked beautiful when as a printer I thought they were puke.
 

Repro_Pro

Well-known member
Experience and basic knowledge is sorely needed at the customer's end too.
But it must also be taken into account that a typical pressman, running a multi-million dollar monster, will generally try to get a fast approval, even if he knows that the sheet he pulled out is "not yet there".
Everything from (below par) press condition to low quality paper may cause problems the pressman is not at liberty to discuss openly.
I used to tell pressmen to call me to the viewing station to sign off my approval only after they achieved a really good match to the color proofs (meaning "please don't try me out with "so-so" results).
Sometimes it works, but in too many cases you hear different versions of "this is as good as it can get" on really flat prints.
I came to the conclusion that in most cases pressmen want approval on prints that are too low in density. Hence the need for the hand-held densitometer.

Beyond all that, you must remember that matching a color proof is a "moving target" since there are so many variables involved in the actual printing process.
I once heard from a printer who had a training at Heidelberg that they were told that more than 200 variables are involved in the press while printing.
 

danremaley

Well-known member
Here's an easy method to get the best reproduction. . .
 

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michaelejahn

Well-known member
the goal is to color manage the workflow, which assume you have a method to proof you work to a standard ( like GRACoL) and then provide them a PDF/X file that embeds that output intent profile ( so the printer knows what target ) then ( of course ) they know HOW to accomplish that.

With PDF/X and color standards, no need to be adjusting "more magenta" - the press sheet matches the proof.

there are companies that one can hire that teach you how to do this.

We used ColorCasters

 

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