Short run digital printing:

Avoiding problems

Short run print intro

What is digital print?

Why go digital

Picking the right printer

Preparing artwork

Avoiding problems

If things go wrong

As we’ve already said, digital print can be very much the same as traditional print.

There are, however, a few points to bear in mind. Large areas of flat or graduated colour can be problematic for digital printers, particularly the ones that use toner rather than ink. If you’re concerned about this, the same techniques developed for improving such things in traditional print can also be very helpful here. Consider adding a small amount of noise or slight patterning to the area to break up the flat colour blocks. This can be very effective in disguising slight weaknesses in imaging, although it does this at the expense of truly flat colour. You can often reduce or kill off banding effects in graduations if you use starting and ending hues which are made of two or more base colours, each of which varies at a different rate.

You should also find out the printer’s recommended halftone screen frequencies and don’t attempt to set higher ones. Doing that will limit the number of different tones the halftones can create, leading to banding and posterising in what should be smooth tonal ramps.

Getting good, rich blacks is done with the same methods as with regular print. Add mixtures of the other process colours to a custom black, for example add 50C, 40M and 40Y to 100K, to get a richer, more solid black. Your printer may have their own preferred settings for rich black, so ask them what mix gives the best results on their equipment.

Make sure you check for paper sizes and set things according to their instructions, and always include your own instructions with the artwork. Don’t rely on verbal instructions, and beware of potential problems such as pages with cropmarks being printed ‘to fit’ rather than at 100%. Although you can have a complete job printed in a day you should still ask to see a proof to check for basic issues such as colour, paper stock, correct scaling, and anything else that could possibly go wrong. Allowing extra time for proofing will save you a lot of stress in the long run.

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