5 Ways to Care for Our Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Asheville Skyline Working Together to face COVID-19

Here in Asheville and around the nation, we are still in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to understand its impact on our community. Times are stressful to say the least. One of the best ways to alleviate anxiety during uncertain times is to look for ways to be of help and service to others. Many people and businesses in our local community will be heavily impacted by this disease in the weeks to come – here are 5 quick ideas how we can all easily help out right now:

BUY LOCAL – more than ever, community businesses and their employees will need our support to stay open. Shop local, and consider buying gift cards for later use from your favorite shops.

ORDER TAKE OUT – local restuarants have been hit first and hardest in this new world of “social distancing.” If you want to help your favorites and their employees, order take out and let them know you’re on their side.

CHECK ON YOUR NEIGHBOR – the elderly and others at high risk are espcially vulnerable now. Offer to do shopping or run errands for those you know who may fear being in public.

Severe Blood ShortageBE GENEROUS – donate to food banks, churches, animal shelters, or your favorite charity. The needs they work to meet are more critical now than ever. Donating blood is also safe and urgently needed.

POST POSITIVE – we are all inundated with frightening facts and negative speculation about the future. Help others to remember that we will get through this together – your words online can be just what someone else needs to feel stronger!

Of course, follow all the advice from the CDC and your health professionals about how to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy during this time. The official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 website is here. For an easy recap, the White House and CDC have released official Coronavirus Guidelines for America as of March 18, 2020, which you can see below.

Official Coronavirus Guidelines for America

Call us at 828.684.4512 for any marketing needs. As a printer, we understand communication, design, and teamwork. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmentally responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is now partnered with Extreme Awards & Engraving – our in-house partner providing custom engraved trophies and awards for employee recognition programs, sporting events, and promotional needs. With our new sister company, we will be sharing space, resources and expertise in a collaboration designed to further provide you with one place to meet all of your marketing needs… Under One Roof! Visit them online at www.extremeae.com or call direct at 828.684.4538.

 

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

RGB, CMYK, and Why Did My Blue Print as Purple?!

Blue Printed as Purple

“My perfect new reflex blue brand color printed PURPLE!”

Whether you are a designer or business owner who hired a designer,  you expect your color choices to look the same on paper as they did on your desktop monitor — and also the same on your boss’ cellphone where he viewed your proof, on your website where a coworker converted your design into a webpage, on signage, on packaging, and on all your marketing tools that will reach your audience. What sounds deceptively simple at first is actually a VERY tall order in a world where color reproduction and color perception are influenced by so many factors. 

That’s where the collaboration between a  trustworthy printer and experienced designer come to the rescue! Technology makes the creation, production, and sharing of amazing designs incredibly easy. And while color management is now standardized and more affordable than in comparison to “the old days,” it is NOT a given and requires more understanding and communication up front to avoid any pitfalls and nasty surprises at print time.  Digital speed has still not changed some basic, unalterable facts of the science of color and how our eyes perceive it. Your blue came out purple because of the divide between RGB and CMYK color gamuts.

Color spectrum - RGB & CMYK gamuts
Color Gamut Comparison

In simplest terms, the colors available in the RGB color gamut (what you can see on your screen) are much greater than the colors available in the CMYK gamut (what can be printed). There are many ways print professionals try to minimize the color shift in the conversion from RGB to CMYK, but they are not all perfect solutions and some colors reveal much more visible differences than others. While the RGB gamut can display a large number of shades and nuances in darker blues, the CMYK gamut is more limited. In trying to reproduce those faint differences, the cyan and magenta used to create the blue with ultimately blend toward purple. Understanding this way back at the point of inspiration and design is essential to avoiding disappointment at the point of print.

One of the most standard ways to guard against unwanted results (like purplish blues) is to base designs in the Pantone® Matching System library of colors. If you define the blue in your design as a specific PMS blue, then your printer will know, and then be able to take steps to match the color against this “universal” standard. You will both have a standard against which to measure your blue. It is like a built-in instruction of how the color should be rendered.

Reflex Blue Swatch v. ProcessDefining a “spot blue” in your work does not mean you must always print offset, using the spot ink. Still, it gives your printer a marker of what you intend that blue to be at output. Now here comes the next hurdle – you will need to take into account the color shift that will happen when printing a PMS-defined color in CMYK. Again, we can thank the differences in color gamuts for that. For many colors, the shift is slight – for others it can be significant. Designers and printers should be able to show you both color swatches of the PMS color you chose, and of any color shift that will occur from switching to the CMYK equivalent of that color.

And not to make things seem even harder, but color perception is also influenced by a host of other issues. The type, color and material of substrate you are printing on can vastly alter certain colors. Specialty finishes like gloss overlaminates or UV coating can as well. Screen calibrations of monitors used in the design and proofing process can influence how colors appear, and the lighting where any screen or print is viewed is also a factor.

One more interesting phenomenon: metamerism. Without getting into the science behind the term, some colors that are actually different will appear identical to the human eye under certain lighting conditions and different under others. There are at least 12 conditions that can create this metamerism: light, angle of view, size, distance, time, scenery, gloss… even differences in the human eye itself. 

So what about that problem with dark blues? If you are using blue in your logo or designs, and are concerned about a color shift toward purple, be certain that the cyan and magenta values in the CMYK definition of your blue color vary by at least 30% (some recommend 40%). Anything less than that, especially with dark colors, and the blue and red will mix to render purple – it is just a fact of physics. 

Knowing these types of technical color issues is important if you choose to buy your print online from a large, bulk print provider. They will print exactly what you sign off on when you submit your file. When you work with your local printshop, a good relationship between you, your designer, and your printer will bring you a team approach to getting the exact color you want on all your valuable marketing.  

Call us at 828.684.4512 for any marketing needs. As a printer, we understand communication, design, and teamwork. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmentally responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is now partnered with Extreme Awards & Engraving – our in-house partner providing custom engraved trophies and awards for employee recognition programs, sporting events, and promotional needs. With our new sister company, we will be sharing space, resources and expertise in a collaboration designed to further provide you with one place to meet all of your marketing needs… Under One Roof! Visit them online at www.extremeae.com or call direct at 828.684.4538.

 

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Foil Stamping Shines – More Options from Metallics

Foil Stamping - Hot, Cold and Digital

Foil stamping is a great way to add eye-catching shine and metallic glow to your print projects. Even a small touch of foil on a printed piece can bring it alive in a way regular inks never can. Foils have been around a long time (having once been done by hand) and today there are also several new digital and toner-based processes that can help meet the demands of any print budget, deadline, or run length. From the design side, defining the foil stamp area is generally no harder than defining a new spot color in your layout.

Probably the most well-known foiling process is Hot Foil Stamping. It requires a special metal die that is heated and pressed into the paper, creating a nice indentation in the finished piece. The hot foil process uses only one color of foil at a time, and is generally too costly for short runs. The final effect, however, elevates any print piece from average to classic – in other words, perfect for that customer who always says to “make it pop!”

Sample Foil Swatches Cold Foil Transfer is accomplished on a 6-color press. The first 2 units apply adhesive and foil, the other 4 are for CMYK printing. Overprinting CMYK onto the foil creates a whole gamut of metallic colors that would not be possible with one-color hot foil stamping. Besides gold, silver, and copper foil, there are also holographic foils which reflect a broad spectrum of colors back to the eye, as well as matte, gloss, pearled and pigmented foils from which to choose. Again, this can be a costly process, is often limited to coated stock only, and is not a great fit for a short-run budget.

New digital processes use either toner or a polymer varnish to attach the metallic foil, and can be cost-effective on short or medium sized runs. Also, metallic foil substrates are a great option – opaque CMYK inks are illuminated by the metallic media, and white can be under printed on specific elements to retain true or non-metallic color where desired. PaperSpecs has a great “Foil Cheat Sheet” you can download free here, outlining all the current processes.

InDesign Layout for Foil Stamping

To define the foil stamp area in your layout, just make all those objects be a new spot color – name it “FOIL” if you choose. You can get clear specs from your vendor or PSP, but in short they will need a separation from your design that only contains the area to be “foiled.” Foil stamping is also a great option when choosing from the huge variety of promotional products that can be branded for your marketing. Foiling can be used on most items from keychains to coffee mugs – in a wide variety of colors and finishes.

And speaking of varnishes, spot UV varnish coatings can give a flash of highlights to a printed piece in much the same way a metallic foil does. When the paper catches the light, these elements shine and give the illusion of depth and dimension but in a more subtle way than a metallic ink or foil. They too are simply defined in prepress as a spot color separation in the same way the foil is setup.spot UV coating adds gloss to print

So the options are out there today for employing great metallic foils and effects without any extra hassle for design, prepress, or budget concerns. The main limitation is often envisioning what the final product will look like — you will not really be able to create a digital or hard copy proof that will accurately preview the often stunning effects foil stamping can create. Perhaps the best way to do that is to ask your print provider for a sample of previous projects that successfully used foil. They should be happy to help you out.

In fact, rely on your printer for advice and direction with all of your integrated marketing. They should be able to provide you with everything from encouragement along the way to complete design, layout, copywriting, production, multi-purposing, online implmentation and distribution of your marketing outreach. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

USPS Stamps Have a New Feel – Textured Coatings & Thermochromic Ink

 

USPS Stamps: Textured Sports Stamps and Thermochromic Ink Eclipse Stamps

The USPS continues to excel with great design, print and marketing ideas in their innovative new postage stamps. Their newest releases take the plain printed stamp to a whole new experience level. They combine cool, engaging print techniques with a topical interest in current events and culture.

USPS Sports Stamps

In honor of the America’s favorite sports, the USPS chose the kick off of the U.S. Open golf championship to debut a series of stamps with an actual “feel.” The Have a Ball! Forever stamps are round, and honor the sports of baseball, basketball, football, golf, kickball, soccer, tennis, and volleyball. Each has a special textured coating to simulate the surface of each ball. You can feel the baseball’s stitching, the golf ball’s dimples, the tennis ball’s seams, raised panels on a soccer ball and volleyball, and the unique patterns of a football, basketball and kickball. For the philatelist, you can order first-day-of-issue postmarks and first-day covers here. On Twitter, follow the hashtag of #Haveaballstamps.

Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever Stamps

To top that creative print idea, the USPS will commemorate a rare total solar eclipse, which crosses the entire width of the continental United States on August 21, with the Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever stamp. What makes this stamp as unique as the eclipse which it commemorates? The heat of your finger pressed onto the stamp will transform the image of the darkened moon blocking the sun into an image of the full moon. This is the first time the USPS has used thermochromic ink in printing stamps. This ink is vulnerable to UV light and, since it is a forever stamp, should not be exposed to direct sunlight to preserve the effect.  For collectors, you can also purchase a special envelope to help protect the stamp pane. On Twitter, follow the hashtag #EclipseStamps.

Remember, the USPS receives no tax dollars for operating expenses. They fund their operations through the sale of postage, products and services.

Using an actual stamp – as opposed to a permit imprint –helps to boost “open rates” for direct mail marketing, providing a personal touch. For a specially targeted mailing of limited size, these textured and innovative forever stamps might prove eye-catching enough to pay for themselves in improved response.

 

Call us at 828.684.4512 for any marketing needs. As a printer, we understand communication and design. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmentally responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is now partnered with Extreme Awards & Personalization – our in-house partner providing custom engraved trophies and awards for employee recognition programs, sporting events, and promotional needs. With our new sister company, we will be sharing space, resources and expertise in a collaboration designed to further provide you with one place to meet all of your marketing needs… Under One Roof! Visit them online at www.extremeae.com or call direct at 828.684.4538.

 

 

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Using Templates to Design – Print, Promo Products & Signs

 

Designing on templates

Trade show booths, converted envelopes, coffee mugs, die cut folders, POS displays, folded mailpieces… what first step do all these design projects share? In each case, you will want to ask for a template from your printer before you design.

The print, signage and promotional products world continues to diversify with custom branding opportunities that allow you to print on just about any object you could want. Throw in the creative use of die-cuts, spot coatings, textures, and folds and starting your project layout on the right foot becomes all the more important. For the designer, that means working with vendor-supplied templates to make sure your design ends up printing in the right spot with no expensive surprises or added cost.

Vendors are usually glad to supply a pre-press template for your specific project. In fact, many require your files be submitted on their template – and for very good reason. The positioning, size, and bleed area are critical for successful output on projects using various substrates and printing surfaces, and complex bindery or finishing processes. When you submit files that need no adjustments, you save prepress and art department fees that would be needed to correct or modify your files, or perhaps save having to pay for a job that did not print as you hoped.

Often, however, instructions are vague about exactly HOW to work with the template. Here are a few pointers that may help. In MOST cases, the template you will receive is a PDF. If you are using the most common desktop publishing software – anything from Quark Xpress to the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite – the PDF can be used in several ways to guide your layout without getting in the way of your work.

We love Illustrator for many great reasons and it is generally our preferred software for design of promotional products, wide format signage, vehicle wraps, and even some regular print jobs that have complex die cuts or folds. The PDF template can be placed into Illustrator like an object, on its own layer, and used as a guide. But the most helpful way is to begin by choosing File–Open With (rather than just File Open) and pick Illustrator as your app rather than Acrobat. (If, as sometimes happens, the template PDF uses fonts that your computer does not have, just ignore the warnings. While they may not print well on your end, the vendor who made the template will have them, so no problem.)

Trade show booth template

Templates are almost always vector objects that will open and be editable in Illustrator. Of course you don’t want to edit the template, but it can be helpful to have the ability to manipulate it when using many layers or when you need to hide parts of the template in order to proof your project to a customer. You may also need to copy and use curved shapes or other features of the template when creating masks or other design elements.

Layers palette in IllustratorMany PDF templates are very user-friendly in Illustrator. They use specific non-printing colors to designate the layout and help you see the placement of things like folds, edges and dyelines while specifying how much bleed area you need to allow as well. They will generally have the template elements on locked layers so you don’t accidentally edit them. Most have a blank layer already prepared for you to work on. If not, always leave the template on it’s own layer(s) and create a new layer to contain your print elements.

Layers palette in InDesignSometimes, it is preferable to prepare your layout in InDesign or another page layout application. You can simply File–Place the PDF template into your document. It makes sense to create – and lock – a layer just for the template file. You can then turn visibility on and off as needed and move it up or down in the layer order as well. Your document size in InDesign should be the same size as the entire template, including crop marks if applicable. Upon export, you would generally turn all fonts to outlines and create your PDF/X1A with no crops or bleeds other than whats included in the template.

These PDF templates generally include other important information to guide your design. They will specify whether you need to use PMS spot colors or stick to all process. They define needed bleed area. And they usually spell out the resolution, size, and embedding specs for any images you include.

Templates save time, headache, and money throughout the course of your design project. Make it a practice to ask ahead of time for a template, and make the template your friend.

Call us at 828.684.4512 for any marketing needs. As a printer, we understand communication and design. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmentally responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is now partnered with Extreme Awards & Personalization – our in-house partner providing custom engraved trophies and awards for employee recognition programs, sporting events, and promotional needs. With our new sister company, we will be sharing space, resources and expertise in a collaboration designed to further provide you with one place to meet all of your marketing needs… Under One Roof! Visit them online at www.extremeae.com or call direct at 828.684.4538.

 

 

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

The Rebirth of Brutalism – Graphic Design’s Edgy Experiment

Virgile Flores, Art direction, Graphic design

Playful or angry? Radical or bland reproduction? Utilitarian or chaotic? Brutalism in graphic design thrives on uncertainties.

A common goal of design, especially in a print marketing or web commerce environment, is to stand out from the crowd – to grab attention. As a result, the current or hottest trends in the design world are often reactionary… an effort to gain notice by their difference, unique nature or even shock value. While this may not be a good fit for everyone’s brand message, it can convey the spirit of innovation, freshness and creativity that just following the norms can never accomplish.

Brutalism---Just2

The latest trend, according to many experts in the design world, is a current reimagination of the genre of Brutalism. Brutalism is based in the modernist architecture movement of the 1940s-1970s, closely associated with the work of Le Corbusier. The word itself is from the French for “raw,” as in the raw exposed concrete used on much of the buildings’ facades. Think stark, rugged, cold, institutional – much like the architecture that comes to mind when you think of gray cities in eastern Europe during the Cold War era. The structure and utility of the object is shown, not hidden. There is little room for ornamentation. Perhaps the best way to describe Brutalism is to define what it is not: the goal of a brutalist approach is not to appear easy or comfortable. It is not light, fun or friendly.

Brutalism - WildTurtles

Brutalism web design

A great place to get a feel for the range and style of a brutalist aesthetic is the Washington Post’s gallery of Brutalist Websites. The Post describes the genre in this way: “In its ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy, Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today’s web design.” Brutalism - retroOften it bears a resemblance to the images of the early days of digital graphic design and the internet – pixellation, jarring color combos and clunky typography – a partial nod to the retro or nostalgic approach.

Check out the creative work all over the internet now and see if your brand or marketing might benefit. It will mean breaking a lot of rules design school taught you never to attempt – in color choice, font selection, imagery, content and even the coding of webpage development.

(For a humorous take, look at ux.design.cc for their idea of what an imaginary framework for what a brutalist design process might look like.)

Brutalism - roTopo

Brutalism---SportsTragedy

Vitelli website

 

Call us at 828.684.4512 for any marketing needs. As a printer, we understand communication and design. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmentally responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is now partnered with Extreme Awards & Personalization – our in-house partner providing custom engraved trophies and awards for employee recognition programs, sporting events, and promotional needs. With our new sister company, we will be sharing space, resources and expertise in a collaboration designed to further provide you with one place to meet all of your marketing needs… Under One Roof! Visit them online at www.extremeae.com or call direct at 828.684.4538.

 

 

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Smash Gives Creatives What They Want: Easy, Unlimited, Ad-Free File Transfer That’s FREE!

 

Smash File Transfer logo

Free? No registration? No size limits? Mobile friendly? And specifically designed for designers?!!

SMASH is a new digital content sharing service based on a model designed to truly give users exactly what we all want when sharing digital files: free, unlimited file size, drag-and-drop simplicity. Throw in mobile accessibility, and easy previews with absolutely no ads and Smash can win you over with one use.

Smash landing page

The idea for Smash came out of a group of creatives in Lyon, France who wanted an easy, no-limits, user-friendly file sharing service that would also bring creatives into closer collaboration. While waiting for your files to transfer, the screen showcases creative works and gives useful information about exhibits and events of interest to creative professionals. The potential here for other great collaborative ideas is huge and the founders are still incubating ideas.

Smash lays out in their news release the benefits and unique characteristics of their file-sharing site in a few simple points:

  • No registration (and no fees, ever!)
  • No size limit on transfers
  • Secure
  • Aesthetic interface (with no ads!)
  • File preview
  • Mobile device access
  • Ability to preview all, then select which files to download

The process is perfectly intuitive: drag and drop files, enter your recipient’s email and a message if desired, then they receive an email with a link to the files where they see previews and can choose what to download. You receive a confirmation email with the links as well, and another notification once your recipient downloads files. The files stay securely on the Smash servers for 7 days and are then deleted. Sweet!

Smash email notifications

 

Launched in February 2016, SMASH encourages a growing community of artists, designers, architects and creative professionals to get involved – showcasing works in their Artist’s Corner, and as a work in progress, the site also encourages suggestions for additions/new features/capabilities for Smash in the future at Smash Ideas.

How can they afford to do this with an ad-free interface? Smash answers: “Smash is free… and will always stay this way! In order to finance Smash, we are working on a new offer that would include many more features, so stay tuned!”

Smash link
Your recipient will see a preview of the attached files and can choose if and which to download.

Give Smash a try and see that file transfer can truly be easy, seamless and free of charge. I hope they are successful and can maintain that model and reach their goal of being able to “impact crucially the creative world.”

Find them at about.fromsmash.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Call us at 828.684.4512 for any marketing needs. As a printer, we understand communication and design. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmentally responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is now partnered with Extreme Awards & Personalization – our in-house partner providing custom engraved trophies and awards for employee recognition programs, sporting events, and promotional needs. With our new sister company, we will be sharing space, resources and expertise in a collaboration designed to further provide you with one place to meet all of your marketing needs… Under One Roof! Visit them online at www.extremeae.com or call direct at 828.684.4538.

 

 

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.