Drawbacks of Four Color Process Printing

& Advances in the Industry

What Is Four Color Process Printing

Rules of Four Color Processing

Tips for Four Color Processing

Drawbacks of Four Color Processing


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Four color process printings uses the four subtractive colors – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black or CMYK. It is the most popular form of printing today.

Drawbacks of four color process printing

However, there are several drawbacks to four color process printing. The biggest drawback is that it is difficult to make the colors look as vibrant as they do in an original photo or even on a computer screen. It is also very difficult to get the printed color to match the original.

Reds and violets can be particularly difficult to replicate. Also, with four color process printing any kind of required color correction is very expensive. It is much easier to correct a color problem that is “universal” such as the entire image seeming too green. If a particular section of the image is looking too bright or too dark, it becomes far more difficult and expensive to correct.

Also, the colors of the photo can look very different depending on the quality of the paper being used. A highly reflective white paper showcases the colors to their best. A textured handmade paper on the other hand refracts the light unevenly creating more variance in the perceived color.

To add to the complications, often images that look good in the proof, do not turn out quite so well when printed. Inks are mostly mixed with water. This affects the dot size and the images don’t look crisp. Now making changes at the press stage other than minor color adjustments can require the plates to be pulled off the press. This is bound to cause delay in the completion of the job and add to the expenses considerably.

So how is it that with so many drawbacks four color process printing is still popular within the printing industry.

Advances in the printing industry

The printing industry has made significant advances over the past decade largely thanks to the computer revolution and digitization of images. Digital presses, stochastic screening, waterless inks and hi-fi color have all taken the industry by storm. The time taken to prepare for printing has been considerably decreased. The color quality of reproduction is much improved. And a versatility to printing has been introduced that was previously unimaginable.

  • CTP Printing – Computer To Press printing is an impressive new technology. It takes the digital image and text directly to an image carrier on the press. Thus, it effectively eliminates the need for film and plates.
  • The speed of the printing process is increased significantly. It is also possible to change the information on each printout and last minute changes can be easily incorporated. Labor costs are also lowered.
  • However, CTP technology is great only for short runs. Because the cost per copy stays the same irrespective of quantity it is not economically feasible for larger runs. Another drawback is that the equipment can call for a large investment.
  • Stochastic Screening – is also known as FM printing or Frequency-modulated printing. This kind of printing is very effective in producing continuous tone images like photographs. The stochastic screen uses dots in a randomized pattern.
  • The randomization of the dot patterns has resulted in an increase in the sharpness of the printed image and the elimination of the moirÚ pattern. More colors can also be added now to the printing process.
  • A problem with stochastic screening is that it is difficult to reproduce in prints the results okayed in the proofs. Also, FM printing requires high quality paper for best results that can increase printing costs.
  • Waterless Printing – is another great advancement in printing technology. Water and ink do not mix. Hence this technology.
  • Waterless printing has three main advantages. With little dot gain the images are clearer and more precise. Also, waterless presses can get by with only 50 runs of images before producing useable images. Normal presses require at least 500 runs. Thus the wastage is considerably lesser. Waterless printing also uses a lesser amount of ink and the quality of paper is not as important.
  • The drawback with this technology is that waterless inks are currently available only from one manufacturer and more expensive than other inks. Additionally, the temperature of the press must be maintained at a certain level else the inks will not take.

Thus, with new advances in technology printing is becoming faster, more efficient and economical as well.

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