Our good friends at Canon Solutions America (CSA) recently led a workshop for IWCO Direct focused on best practices for designing direct mail that will be produced using our continuous digital inkjet platform. One of our most important responsibilities is helping customers use this exciting new technology to drive a higher return on marketing investment (ROMI). That starts with understanding how the inkjet process differs from traditional offset and toner printing.
For example, in the words of our workshop leader John Moore, paper should be considered the “first color” for your design. Colors are filtered by the paper, and better paper results in better color. This is why we’ve worked extensively with our supplier partners to find the best options for this platform—and why CSA developed the premium pigment inkjet inks we helped bring to market.
Digital Inkjet Printing and the FM Difference
Radio has AM and FM bands and printing has AM and FM screening rasters. Offset printing and toner printing use Amplitude-Modulated (AM) screening. The size of the dot is variable while the lines per inch (LPI) have a constant distance. Inkjet uses frequency modulated (FM) screening which is also referred to as stochastic screening. The dot diameter is constant with a variable distance referred to as a random or “dither” pattern. If you’re interested in seeing examples of AM-FM comparison, use our comments link to request a comparison print.
There are multiple advantages to FM screening raster. There are no moiré (or rosette) patterns. Photographic detail is improved. Highlight areas are cleaner resulting in lighter “light” areas. The reproduction of pastel colors is beautiful, and there is smoother tonal value progression resulting in less banding. Finally, color to color registration is less critical.
Optimizing Your Files
CSA has compiled a list of common file preparation issues or “failure” points. First on the failure list is providing low resolution (under 200 dpi) images rather than high resolution images. Low resolution images are fine for online reproduction, but you won’t be happy with how they print. Another common failure point is not embedding fonts and providing Type 3 raster fonts. Extra data outside the printable area is another common error.
Optimizing Your Design
So far, the focus of this post has been on file optimization. CSA’s tips for design optimization are more “lessons learned.” These include avoiding the use of large, solid areas of color, especially full width “bars” in your design. Dark or fully saturated colors and/or images should also be avoided. As mentioned earlier, compressed low resolution art at 72 dpi should be used online, not in print. Try to avoid the use of reverse text and don’t use fonts smaller than 6 point if you want to be able to read the text.
We’ll continue sharing best practices for designing for digital in the near future. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or would like a copy of the AM/FM print I mentioned in the third paragraph.
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