- This issue will focus on 1 of the two main ingredients in every printed piece.
The first is paper, followed very closely by ink.
The time and effort you put into your printed materials design and researched techniques can only be as good as it can be reproduced during the printing processes.
Here are some ??? to think about concerning your next project and how ink plays a part -
How well will the type be read???
How will images/photos and art pop (or not! according to your desired intention???
What special techniques do you have in mind, and how well will they materialize???
Will the piece produce the results with your target audience that you wanted???
Where to begin to answer these questions and more? I'll try to shed some light on this subject as it pertains to it's basic ingredients, shelf life, special notes about metallics, color matching, draw-downs and job continuity. It should help guide you in making decisions when it comes to your next piece.
A tour of Flint Ink will show you the process of making ink. (See photos from the tour).
Listed below are types of inks Flint produces:
- Oil Based Inks for web heat set, newsprint, offset for both commercial and packaging industries.
- Water Based for flexo.
- Solvent Based for flexo, gravure and news injector.
There are 100's, if not 1000's, of Different Inks being used today. They all share the same 3 basic ingredients.
- Colorants (liquid dyes or dry pigments), gives the ink its color.
- Vehicle carries the pigment and can include petroleum/vegetable oils, solvents or water.
- Additives provide the desired performance characteristics.
- DRIERS help the ink dry more quickly. (See how inks dry based on different types).
- WAXES help the printed surface resist scuffing and reduces setoff, (the transfer of the image from the front of one sheet to the back of another).
- Other ADDITIVES allow the pigments to cover more area, protect against drying too quickly, and improves the way the ink bonds with the paper or other substrate.
Terms to describe the Different Characteristics of Ink:
VISCOSITY is the degree to which the ink resists flowing. This can change under the heat and pressure of the printing process, especially during long runs or at high speeds.
BODY is the overall consistency. This can range from soft and pliable to stiff and rigid.
OPACITY is the degree to which it allows the whiteness or color of the stock to be visible to the viewer.
LIGHT FASTNESS or COLOR PERMANENCY the ability to resist a shift in color caused by UV radiation or heat.
Shelf Life of ink:
REGULAR INK has a shelf life of about one year. After that time, it can start to body up and become tackier. The driers can also become weakened and cause some drying problems.
METALLIC INK has a much shorter shelf life, which is only about one month, dependent on the amount of the metallic pigment in it. Pigment oxidation also comes into play, which is where the ink color starts to tarnish and the tack or viscosity of the ink changes.
Special Notes about Metallic Inks:
Metallic inks contain metallic particles such as bronze or aluminum. The metallic particles make the inks opaque, rather than transparent. This is why you noticed the trapping of a metallic over another ink.
These metallic particles stand on end top to bottom when printing and only lay flat to give you their true color when they dry. That is why they tend to look different when press checking rather than the metallic color swatch books. (There are techniques one can use while on press to try and get the true color to come forth.)
It is also important to note that screening metallics can cause you some concerns. Each metallic color has a different break pointthat it can handle before a screen will plug. What this means to you, is that you may not be able to run the metallic as heavy as you want or need in order to keep the screens clean and open. Consult with me in order to have a better understanding on what can be accomplished in this area.
Also, because the particles cannot be ground as fine as conventional pigments, they can often cause problems on press. They require a different ink-water balance than conventional inks and it may be necessary to include extra drying time. They also can cause post-printing issues with your finishing techniques such as UV coatings, film lamination, foil stamping and some laser applications.
Metallics are very soft and susceptible to rub-off and tarnishing, which can necessitate the use of varnishes or coatings. Unfortunately, coatings will tend to soften the metallic effect.
NOTE, when using an Aqueous or UV coating, you'll need to be aware of UV burn. For more info, please go to UV Burn.
Finally, the type of paper you use with metallics is very important. (Read more on paper below.)
The INK ROLLERS spread the inks onto the imaged areas of the plate, while other rollers apply water to repel the oily ink to the non-image areas of the plate. Each plate then transfers the ink to a rubber blanket that in turn transfers the ink to the paper. Like a squeegee effect - the result is a crisp, clean print job, unlike the old metal type onto paper where smearing occurred quite often.
NOTE, the ink must be sticky, or tacky enough to stay exactly where it's put, but not so sticky that it pulls the coating away from
the surface of the paper.
The type and color of the paper stock can have a major impact on the color. Coated vs. uncoated papers will yield somewhat different results and each has its own swatchbook for colors. For more information on papers, please see (Picking the Right Paper).
There is a GREAT TOOL provided by various ink companies where one PMS color is shown on many different types of paper. Once you view it, you'll understand why picking the same family and type of paper for your brand or identity is critical.
If you are planning to use different types of papers, known as substrates, lets talk about it. We may either want to run the standard ink, or make a custom ink (color matching) based on each different type of paper being used. In either case, DRAWDOWNS will come in handy to let you know how the inks will look on the various papers.
Computer color management is used in matching colors as well as in quality control. I have used computer color matching many times where a client had been varnishing a project in the past and now wanted to change to an aqueous. Or a brand PMS color was running on white stock and they wanted to go to a colored stock.
The ink company calls drawdowns prints or proofs. They are created (pulled) on a lab proof press called a little Joe. All drawdowns are made one at a time, one color at a time, by hand. It normally takes about 3 to 5 pulls to get an acceptable one.
You can also have these made with different types of coatings applied to see if the desired effect you want will be obtainable. (Please note this does take time to get paper in, plus the time it takes to produce could incur a charge based on specifics.)
Keep in mind that ink can vary by lots just like when buying another can of paint after running out during a project. When you know that you'll have companion pieces, (especially with very light colors or tints), you may wish to discuss having enough ink made for all of your pieces at the same time.
(Some of this info was obtained from Flint Ink, StoraEnso's "This is Ed #9, Understanding Ink" and of course my own past experiences.)