Microtype: Because One Size Typography Does Not Fit All

MicrotypeSeeing something enlarged to a great size can reveal unseen tiny flaws – think of that bad selfie in harsh lighting. But by the same token, greatly reducing an image can create it’s own problems with recognition and readability. That’s where microtype and optical sizing can create better design.

Microtype of product labelGreat typography is a pleasure to read. But the requirements for that readability change with a font’s size. Today the need for easy-to-read small or “micro” type sizes is increasing in both print and digital applications. Why now more than before? E-books, smart watches, phones, and other devices with small screens require fonts with quick readability at a small size and resolution. On the print side, prescription bottles with dosage directions, food packaging with nutritional info, and almost all product packaging that includes ingredients or warnings need a readable font at small point sizes to clearly impart information.

Type size limits in InDesignIn general, most fonts were designed for the average reading environment – as in comfortably reading a book or newspaper – in the 8 point to 14 point range, and for a viewer with 20/20 vision. Being vector-based – they can scale both tiny or huge with no loss of detail. The assumption is generally that “one size fits all.” Yet the human eye definitely has different requirements. 

When fonts are scaled up larger – think billboards or wide format signage – small imbalances that were unnoticeable at 10 point become very noticeable. Designers usually adjust tracking and kerning to compensate, which works well as there are usually a relatively small number of words on most really large displays. 

Microtypography deals with type generally below 8 point in size. Certain letterforms at small sizes tend to blend together or become indistinguishable from other similarly shaped letters. Loosening kerning and tracking to give the type more “air” is a quick fix, but definitely not an ideal solution. The great type foundries and classic font designers are now addressing this need for easily legible microfonts.

Monotype's Helvetica NowOne great example is Monotype’s Helevetica Now. They have redesigned all 40,000+ characters in the font for the 21st century and its demands. Designers can choose from three optical  masters: Micro for small point sizes, Text for what we consider normal print applications, and Display for large, wide format designs. Each is designed to perform most effectively at its own size, taking into account all the visual nuances and needs the human eye demands for a comfortable reading experience.

 

 

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.

Marketing Plan: Get More from Your Print Flyers

Marketing flyers

The humble flyer – a staple of print marketing, remains one of the most familiar print pieces through the years. In a digital world, it is easy to under appreciate their impact. But flyers are as successful and versatile in marketing today as at any previous time, especially when you create them with multi-purpose uses in mind.

We often think of flyers in a limited way:  they announce the band playing this weekend on the corner, or the 20% off Back-to-School sale. Those get the job done but are temporary and single-use. They are also easy chances to go “off brand” in design and tone, which is not helpful. To get more for your money when printing flyers, consider ways to develop multipurpose content within a broader vision for your message. You may want to distribute a thousand flyers in a targeted mailing by a certain date, but with a content tweak or two, that same piece can do more work.  You can print extra in the same run to use as collateral in sales outreach or distribution in-store, without incurring extra print costs in production. If you need a flyer to announce a new product, for example, the same piece can also be used as:

  • a stand alone direct mail piece
  • an insert into a company overview folder
  • an in-store handout
  • a sales call leave-behind piece
  • and also as a print advertisement or digital ad

Catering flyersPlanning a strategy to your market outreach, rather than just looking from event to event, is a game-changer for small and medium sized businesses. Just as a restaurant might develop different menus for lunch, dinner, take-out, or catering, you can create a series of flyers that target different types of customers with the specific products or services that would appeal most to them.  The more targeted you craft your message, the greater your chance of success – just like online. The trick to making that work is the upfront planning.

Folded flyersThe flyer does not have to just be a boring sheet of paper. Consider die-cuts, folds and perf, attachments, special spot coatings, or foil metallics are some of the options you can try. Placing that flyer within a smart marketing plan will make your print more successful and cost efficient. Consistent branding across multiple creative projects will supercharge flyers. 

Print and direct mail get proven results. They are at the core of a successful marketing mix, no matter what size business you have. Developing a marketing plan to drive it all is the key to powerful print and cost efficiency.

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.

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.

Print Surprise: Optical Illusions at the Press

 

 

Optical illusions – where the perceived reality of a viewed object is different than the actual physical attributes being viewed – are interesting phenomena. Occasionally an unintended illusion will pop up in the print work here at our shop, and it usually takes a little convincing to prove to our press operators and art department that the problem is in the viewing…not a mistake in the print files or print process itself.

Gradients Can Trick the Eye

Optical illusion on press sheets

Above is the press sheet layout for a 4-up printed card which will later be cut out and folded in half. However, coming off the press, the 4-up sheets appear like the left side is darker than the right, especially on the outer side of the card. (In person, the effect was even more dramatic than it shows up here onscreen as it was printing on a metallic paper.) We were stumped at first as to what could cause this – the pdf file was preflighted, all the images were rendering correctly. We wondered about a problem with the press, the imagesetter, the layers within the pdf file. Finally, it took cutting a finished sheet apart by the crop marks to see that once separated, the gradients looked fine. Placed next to each other, the light to dark gradient tricked the eye into thinking one side of the press sheet was darker.

Gradient optical illusion

 

 

 

Repeating Patterns and Distortion

repeating pattern optical illusion

The 2-up sheets printed above have a decorative border with a repeating pattern that flows in one direction to the halfway point and then reverses its orientation for the second half on all four sides. If you let your eye wander slowly along the borders, especially the longer vertical sides, it appears that the borders are bent and not a perfect square shape overall. The eagle eyes of our press operator noticed the subtle “bend” in the lines and decided that either the file or the imaging plate itself was somehow warped. Placing a ruler or straight edge on the press sheet reveals that, despite what your eyes are telling you, the line is perfectly straight across all four sides of the paper.

Optical illusion of a square decorative border

You can read more about optical illusions and view galleries of them at a surprisingly great number of websites as many people find the tricks our eyes can play on us to be a fascinating topic.

 

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.

Quick InDesign Tip: Discover the Story Editor

 

InDesign Story Editor

Many InDesign users may primarily work on image heavy, single page documents such as flyers, office stationary, business cards, posters or ads. But if you have ever found yourself in charge of laying out significant amounts of text for projects such as annual reports, directories, or even your great American novel, the often-overlooked Story Editor in InDesign can be your best friend.

 

Toolbox for PageMaker 4.0, before Adobe Systems purchase
The Aldus PageMaker 4.0 Toolbox

Like most every feature in an Adobe product, you will discover layers of functionality the deeper you decide to explore. This article intends to just open the door on a feature that is a little bit hidden. Back in the days of PageMaker, the InDesign predecessor originally produced by a company named Aldus, manipulation of text was the heart and soul of the program. Tools to import and arrange graphics and photos were essential and expanding with every upgrade, but PageMaker’s “reason to be” was styling and control of text and the Story Editor was it’s powerhouse. Whenever you work with large amounts of text, it still is today.

Artwork from PageMaker Story Editor

The most basic function of the Story Editor is to allow you to see overset text that fills up a text frame or page without having to go ahead and flow the rest of your text onto new pages or off on the pasteboard area. Click within a block of text and hit Command+Y (Ctrl+Y) or Edit > Edit in Story Editor to open up your text in its own window. Think of it like a “word processor” view of the entire placed text, scrollable even for hundreds of pages in one long view. (The original Aldus software manual described the Story Editor as “PageMaker’s word processor.”) This view of your text does not show line breaks, styling (other than basic bold, italic, underlined), or other design/layout attributes – what you get is the raw complete text where you can write, edit, correct, search and manipulate without the distractions of the layout. (If you are familiar with WordPress, the Story Editor is similar to the Text or HTML view rather than the Visual tab.)

From this window you can work on large amounts of text flow in a multi-page document. If you are still writing your content, or just searching out edits and corrections, this view gives you the control to write and edit without turning pages, screen redraws, or design distractions. If you ever find yourself confused as to why a portion of text is not “acting” as expected, check the Story Editor to see any hidden text variable or markers such as Drop Caps, Index Markers or Hyperlinks. Often you can delete or edit these here much easier than in the normal layout view. Even if you are just working on text that is difficult to see on screen due to size, rotation or special effects, a quick Command+Y will let you see and edit the text in a straightforward window and the changes will update live in both displays. The Story Editor is also the place to manage more advanced tricks like footnotes, XML or tagged text, and conditional text.

Open your Story Editor just to get a feel for how it can benefit you in your own style of working with InDesign.

Story Editor Preferences Pane
Set the font and appearance for your Story Editor view

Be aware that each independent text block or series of linked blocks will open its own Story Editor window – there is not one single Story Editor for an entire Indesign document. Also know that you can customize the look and display of your editor from the InDesign Preferences/Story Editor Display window. Take a few moments to explore the Story Editor and save yourself a lot of time, clicks and frustration on future design jobs.

 

 

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 & 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.

 

 

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.