Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Paper to Pixel to Paper Again: Part 26

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A guide to creating the best looking line art in print in the new digital print world

Part 26
Selecting a Printer, and Other Indelicacies

Greetings!

This is the twenty-sixth (I didn't know I could even count this high!) installment of Paper to Pixel to Paper Again, a series that explains (in an overly thorough manner) the how-to's of preparing line art (and later in the series, color art!) for print.


And as always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

***
Last week, we left off having exported our perfect PDF, tested all of our embedded images to make sure they remained perfect upon export. And now... it's time to work with our printer!

But first, a word about printers... Like any other business, printers vary pretty wildly in quality and cost, and it's really difficult to suss out a bad one from a great one without actually going through a job, or really several jobs, with them. Technical specs mean very little. First impressions of their staff or level of competence mean nothing. Even going through the entire process a few times with a printer only tells you that they did a good job those times. Things change. New managers are brought in, technical staff move on or are let go. Things go wrong. And really, you can't tell you have a great printer until something disastrous has gone wrong, and they then make it right.

Anyway, the best way to actually find a printer is to contact someone at a company putting out publications that you like the look of. Even the paper of. After a fairly disastrous experience with the California printer who printed the High Society restored volume, I made contact with the extremely helpful Mike Baehr, who at the time was the print buyer for Fantagraphics. He very kindly put me in touch with a half-dozen printers they were currently working with or at least taking quotes from, and gave me some basic critical technical information on printers that I had been lacking up until that point, having to do with some of the differences between paper stocks, sheet-fed offset versus web offset, etc.



Going Home signatures spew off the line at Marquis of Quebec, Canada.

For the next book we printed, which happened to be Church & State I, we went with one of the printers they had recommended, Tien Wah Press, partly because of the quote and the samples they sent, and partially because I had a handful of beautiful books on my bookshelf that I knew they had printed. I was especially enamored of the look and feel of the plate-like "woodfree" (i.e. bamboo) paper they printed on.

So am I recommending you go with TWP? Nope—I'm recommending you start by finding some recent publications you really like the look and feel of, and spend a few minutes writing to the publisher and inquiring about some of the technical details, or even checking to see if the name of the printer and type of paper appear in the indicia of the book itself. For instance—the fantastic-looking, fully-restored 17th printing of Cerebus Volume One was printed by North American printer Friesens, on their sheetfed offset presses, on 60lb Rolland Enviro Satin. Every issue of Cerebus in Hell? so far, and the fantastic Going Home restored volume, have been printed by Canadian printer Marquis, on the same paper, using their web offset presses. Marquis is located insanely close to Diamond's main warehouse, which means shipping fees of close to zero, as someone's just driving a car across a bridge to deliver the books: this and their quick scheduling and all-around professional excellence keep us coming back, unless the print run or length of the book makes Friesens' usually more expensive services cost-competitive.

Both printers have done extremely good work for us, and both are also patient with my level of pain-in-the-ass technical concern that other clients would most likely never notice. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT. You need to BE a pain in the ass, detail-oriented client from the get-go, if you care about how your book looks. It is better to be a pain from the beginning then to develop into one over time, after you've already committed time to the relationship. 

Speaking of being a pain in the ass—

Working With Your Printer

STEP ONE- Get some quotes from your printers of choice!

Send each printer you're interested in some basic info about you and your company/imprint/whatever you are, along with a "Request for quotation." In fact, stick that first part into the header of your email along with the name of the publication. "Request for Quotation-- Sillystring Tindersticks #1".

In the body of the email, spell out the following:
DIMENSIONS
TYPE OF CASING OR BINDING (hardback? Smythsewn binding? "perfect" bound? rusty staples??)
PAGE COUNT
AMOUNT OF COLORS (a black and white book is Mono, or 1C. "full color" is 4C or just "full color". If you're printing with a spot color/Pantone color/etc, note this)
AMOUNT OF COLORS FOR COVER
PAPER TYPE (if you know already)
SHIPPING (where the books will be shipped)
ANY OTHER RELEVANT INFO!

Lastly, ask for a quote for a single-signature "wet proof". More on this in a moment.

If you've never worked with the printer before, you should also request a copy of their paper catalog. This is a small book that has paper and print samples from the printer on all of the stocks that they routinely stock at their facility. This doesn't mean that it's the ONLY paper they can get access to, though, so if you have a favorite paper, don't be afraid to ask your new printers if they can get it. (This has geographic limits though. Asian papers will work with Asian-sourced paper. North American printers work with North American papers. Best to find examples of both you'll be happy with.)



Some paper sample books, and a peek inside...


If you ask nicely, they might also send you another very useful item—a dummy, or blank version of the book you're quoting. If you're unsure what some of the binding methods might look like or how the paper might feel in a certain casing, this is a good thing to ask for. But once you've worked with a printer for a while and know what their stock materials look like, there's not much of a point in getting them in the future.

STEP TWO- Look at all of your quotes and make a preliminary decision

Until you receive quotes and get an estimated turnaround time, you'll have no idea which printer makes the most sense to go with from a practical standpoint. Need your books earlier than, say, three months from now? Go with a North American printer, as the Asian printers will all ship them via steamer ship and add minimum of six weeks to your schedule. There are a dozen other issues along these lines that will crop up in the course of figuring this out.

STEP THREE- Time to wrangle your "wet proof".

Next week: More filthy printing terms? What's wrong with these print people? Does the innuendo ever stop?


Sean Michael Robinson is a writer, artist, and musician. See more at LivingtheLine.com.

2 comments:

Carson Grubaugh said...

Vibrator roll, Oscillator roll. I loved those in the printing class I had in high school.

Sean R said...

Does this fit in with our Preflight Alpha Flight parody? The tough guy press operator from out of town (Wolverine) full of aggressive innuendo. "I got your 'dot gain' right here , bub..."