paper & printing info

Color Variations from Screen to Print

Ever wonder why the colors in your design look different when printed?

  Colors typically appear brighter on your screen than they do when printed.

Colors typically appear brighter on your screen than they do when printed.

There are a lot of variables that affect the appearance of color. It’s important to understand that variations will arise from the different models used to create color: 

  • Monitors display color using the RGB color model, meaning they create color by mixing red, green, and blue. All monitors use RGB, but the display typically varies from screen to screen. It’s affected by the device’s graphics card, and also by its backlighting — whether it uses LED, LCD, or plasma.
  • Inkjet printers use the CMYK color model, producing color with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Again, colors often vary from printer to printer due to their settings.

  • Offset presses may use either CMYK or spot colors, which are created by mixing specific proportions of ink. The most popular spot colors are created by Pantone, which mixes 14 base colors. If you’re looking to get an exact color match, use Pantone. (This method can be a little pricey, though, and is not the best option for every job.)

 shades of red

These methods differ not only in the colors used, but in how they emit color. Monitors absorb light, while paper absorbs light. Because of the fundamental differences between monitors and print, if your goal is to achieve a certain color on a printed piece, the best thing you can do is print a sample. Make the necessary changes on your computer, and repeat until you get your desired results.

Related Posts:
RGB vs. CMYK
What Are Pantone Colors?
Offset vs. Digital Printing

5 Common Brochure Folds

Bi-Fold (Half-Fold)

A bi-fold brochure is simply folded in half, either vertically or horizontally, to create four panels. This simple, low-cost fold is one of the most commonly-used brochure types.

 bifold brochure

Z-Fold (Accordion)

To create a z-fold brochure, the paper is folded in thirds, accordion-style, and opens in the shape of a “z.” It has six evenly-sized panels: three on the front and three on the back. It’s compact and can include a lot of content. This type of fold is often used for “quick glance” brochures.

 zfold brochure

Tri-Fold

A tri-fold brochure is created by folding the paper into thirds and then tucking the right panel inside. It has six evenly-sized panels: three on the front, three on the back. This is another one of the most common brochures. It’s low-cost, compact and easy to carry, and offers enough space to include a lot of information.

While the number of panels and the panel sizes are the same as z-fold brochures, a tri-fold brochure offers a sense of timing: one panel is revealed after another.

 trifold brochure

Gate Fold

With a gate-fold brochure, the panels fold out from the center, like a two-door gate. They have a total of six panels (three front and three back), with the center panel being twice as large as the others. Gate folds work well with creative, graphic-heavy designs. The gate-style front panels can convey a sense of invitation to the reader.

 gatefold brochure

French Fold (8-Panel Right Angle Fold)

The sheet of paper is folded in half in one direction, and then again in the opposite direction. A French fold brochure has a total of eight evenly-sized panels: four front, four back. This type of fold is well-suited for maps or any brochure involving large diagrams. 

 8 panel brochure

Coated vs. Uncoated Paper

The decision to use either coated or uncoated paper will affect the overall feel of your final product. What’s the difference between the two? Here are some of the basics.

Coated

Coated paper–as the name implies—has a coating applied to both sides. It provides a smooth finish, which will vary depending on the type of coating used. “High gloss” has a very shiny finish, while “matte” has a subtle shine.

Coated is the best choice for printing art, photos, magazines, and book covers because the ink doesn’t get absorbed but stays on top of the paper, resulting in brighter colors and a glossy finish. 

Coating is more resistant to wear, dirt, water, etc. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s difficult to write on, so some people choose uncoated business cards for this reason.

Uncoated

Uncoated paper has a more natural feel to it. It offers an elegant, classic look and is often used for letterhead, stationary, restaurant menus, and college booklets.

More ink is absorbed and less light is reflected, making it the preferred choice for jobs with a lot of text, as it’s easier to read. It comes in various texture options.

Understanding Paper Weight

What do we mean by 120lb. cover business cards, and what does a paper’s weight refer to, exactly? Here are some of the basics to understanding different paper types.

* * *

Paper is measured in pounds per 500 sheets (one ream of paper) of a standard-size sheet of a particular paper grade.

A paper grade is a category of paper with its own uses and characteristics. The base ream is the size and quantity used to measure a particular paper grade, and the basis weight is the weight of a particular grade using its base ream measurements.

Some commonly used paper grades include cover, text, bond, and book.

Cover is a heavyweight paper stock most commonly used for business cards, postcards, invitations, and paperback book covers. It ranges from about 60-130lb.
base ream: 20x26”, 500 sheets

Text is a lightweight paper stock used for envelopes, resumes, and letterhead. It typically ranges from 60-100lb.
base ream: 25x38”, 500 sheets

Bond is an uncoated rigid stock commonly used in offices for letter heads, photo copies, and for laser printer paper. The standard weight is 20lb., but you may also see it offered as 16lb. or 24lb.
base ream: 17x22”, 500 sheets

Book paper is commonly used for posters, booklets, and catalogues. It may be coated or uncoated. It’s offered in as low as 30lb. (“bible stock,” a very thin paper mostly used for bibles) and as high as 115lb.
base ream: 25x38”, 500 sheets

Paper may also be measured in calipers, which refers to the thickness of a single sheet expressed in thousandths of an inch. So with 14pt. cardstock, for example, the paper is .014 inches thick.

4 Popular Print Finishes

In addition to the many cardstock options available, there are also a number of printing finishes you can add to your business cards and other print jobs. There are a variety of effects, which people use for different reasons: to add protection, to give their cards texture, or to draw attention. See below for some commonly used finishes.

Spot UV

Spot UV refers to a glossy coating applied only to some parts of the cardstock. People use this finish to add interest or draw the eye to specific places. A varnish is applied and then sealed with UV light, resulting in enhanced colors and a glossy final product. The coating also adds protection.

Foil Stamping

Foil stamping is malleable metallic material applied to certain elements of a card — often the text or logo. It will add a reflective surface to your card, helping it to stand out. The foil is often gold or silver, and many consider it to be a luxury finish. 

Embossing

When something is embossed, parts of the page (such as images or text) are raised, creating texture and emphasis. This effect adds a tactile dimension to your card — you can actually feel the text and images.

Letterpress

Letterpress is sometimes referred to as “debossing,” or the opposite of embossing. Instead of raising certain parts of the card, letterpress indents text or images. Just like embossing, this finish creates a three-dimensional effect, producing shadows and highlights. (Letterpress and embossing can both get pretty pricey.)

These are just some of the basics to get you started. If you have any questions, or if you'd like to stop by our office to look at some samples and additional finishing options, get in touch.

Choosing a Cardstock

When you’re choosing paper for your business card, there are endless options available. Here are some of the basics you may want to know when choosing your cardstock.

First, “cardstock” is the proper term for the paper used for business cards. There are different thicknesses available, which is often measured in “points,” or the thickness of the sheet in thousand of an inch. For example, 13pt. card stock is 0.013 in. thick. It may also be measured in “grammage,” which describes the weight of the paper in grams per square meter.

Commonly used cardstocks for business cards include coated, uncoated, linen, laid, and silk laminated.

Coated

Coated cards have a glossy, shiny finish. They offer a polished, contemporary look. They feel firmer to the touch than an uncoated card, and provide greater protection from water damage and tearing.

Uncoated

Many people like the texture of uncoated cardstock. It has a traditional, elegant look, as these cards used to be the norm before digital printing and coating was introduced. Unlike coated cards, they’re easy to write on.

Linen

Linen cardstock has a subtle grid woven pattern, and is made to look like a linen cloth. It has very slightly lifted grooves, and its texture will leave both a visual and tactile impression.

Laid

Laid cardstock subtle, slightly lifted horizontal lines. It has a robust texture, and is similar to linen. Both the look and feel of the paper will help your card stand out.

Silk Laminated

Silk laminated cards have a soft, smooth finish that mimics the appearance of silk. They provide some extra durability, and are water- and tear-resistant. They have a sophisticated look, and the gloss is more subtle than standard coating. You may be familiar with it from product packaging, such as on boxes for Apple and Google products.

These are just some of the basics to get you started. If you have any questions, or if you'd like to stop by our office to look at some samples and additional finishing options, get in touch.

Offset vs. Digital Printing

Offset and digital are the two most common printing technologies, and the question is often asked, “Which is better?” There’s no real answer to that, because the best choice of printing methods depends on several factors specific to each job. Here’s what you need to know.

How They Work

Offset printing works by applying layers of ink to paper (or another surface) using a series of rollers. Ink is transferred from a plate to a rubber sheet, which is then used to roll the ink onto paper. Each roller has its own ink, which can be CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) or Pantone colors.

Digital printing does not use plates. Most digital presses apply ink to paper in a single step, from one ink head — similar to the inkjet printers found in many homes and offices. Digital printing uses a four-color matching process, mixing CMYK colors.

The Finished Products

The end results for offset and digital printing are very similar. The untrained eye won’t tell the difference. Some say that offset printing has a slightly better quality, but this is becoming debatable as digital printing technology is improving. There are some more options available with offset printing, such as heavier cardstock and special finishes.

Offset printing uses actual Pantone ink, so if you’re using Pantone colors, this will give you the best match. However, digital printing can simulate Pantone using its four-color matching process.

Because there is little visual variation, the main differences with these two printing methods really come down to setup, maintenance, cost, and time.

Which Method is Best for You?

The most important factors to consider are the price, quantities, and time requirements of each job.

Offset printing is less expensive — but only if you’re printing large quantities, because there’s setup involved. Every job must be made into a plate, and the press must be set up individually for each job. Once the process is started, however, offset presses can print very quickly, which helps lower the overall cost. The larger the print job, the lower the price per piece.

Digital is your best choice for printing small quantities (generally less than 500 units). Because digital printing doesn’t use plates, the cost can be calculated per printed piece. It’s also the best method for rush jobs – again, because there’s no setup.

Still unsure which type is right for you? Contact us — we're happy to help.