The Digital Lizard Blog

Designing for Digital Printing

Submitted by Janice O'Driscoll on March 16, 2017 at 2:01 PM

Designing for Digital Printing.jpg

As little as five years ago, designers had to make some serious concessions when preparing a file for digital printing. Substrates and personalization were limited. Quality was inconsistent. And Pantone matching? Fuggetaboutit.

Fortunately, all this has changed. Digital printing has become one of the most versatile opportunities in marketing and publishing. But to get the most value from digital printing, you need to leverage its full potential. This means understanding its capabilities and limitations, and applying these for best effect.

Quantities, Color-Matching & Substrates
While digital printing is great for many applications, sometimes color-copying or offset is a better choice. If you have 10 flyers and color/paper weight is not critical, opt for color copies. While the quality may not compare, the per-unit cost may make up for it.

For an absolute 100% PMS match, flawless metallic, or touchplate job, you may wish to go offset. But if your job is low quantity, test it out on digital first. Advances in color on the latest digital presses are amazing. The HP Indigo 12000 and HP Indigo 50000 print almost exact to offset. And an economical, short-run foil stamp may give you a better effect than an inked gold or silver.

Finally, if you haven’t explored digital printing lately, you might be surprised by stock possibilities. There are more than 3,000 substrates “certified” to HP digital presses, and we’re always happy to test out new ones.

Inks & Coatings
When printing digitally, large color blocks can “band” because it’s toner instead of ink. If your design calls for several inches of a solid color, consider adding a subtle pattern into it. Rich blacks may also be an issue. Use mixtures of 30C, 30M, 30Y, and 100K for solid black areas. But remember to keep your type 100K — digital or offset — as a slight shift in registration can make type illegible. And rethink your grays. While a 5K versus 15K can be vastly different on uncoated in offset, a 10% shift will be barely discernible digitally.

As to coatings, inline digital options are not yet available. While they’re not needed to “seal” against scuffing, coatings such as spot gloss vanish or tinted/textured aqueous can add new dimension. Talk with your supplier about whether you can add them offline.

The best part about printing digitally is that you can personalize every piece at very little cost. If you’re not customizing, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Studies have shown that personalized print achieves 20+% higher returns.

While personalization can open up creativity, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you’re using variable name fields, test out your design with long names instead of “Jane” or “John Doe.” The U.K. Government Data Standards Catalogue suggests allowing 70 total characters to accommodate hyphenated or multicultural surnames. If you’re using variable photos, make sure the ones you supply are a consistent aspect ratio and work with the designated variable image box. Finally, double check your pURLs, and test scan personalized 2D barcodes on an actual printed sample before full production. Readability may change on different substrates.

Digital print technologies can vary by vendor, so be cautious. The capabilities of one press may be vastly different from another. Want to see how your design might appear when printed? Send us your file, and we’ll be happy to run a free proof. Call Digital Lizard 702.852.3400 today or click below.

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