Rules of Four Color Process Printing

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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The rules of four color process printing are really simple. Talk to any professional printer and they will all say the same thing. To get really great prints one needs to pay attention to proper artwork, separations, mesh, frames, tension and inks amongst other things.

Here are some rules to follow to ensure great four color process printing.

Rule 1: A GREAT piece of artwork is a must

With four color process printing the artwork needs to be absolutely flawless because it will loose quality in printing. If you start off with poor quality to begin with, you really cannot expect it to get any better.

Rule 2: Always use the right SEPARATOR and avoid separations provided by the customer

Using a local separator may give you good results but if you want great results there are three possible ways to go about it. Do the separations yourself, get industry approved software to do the separations or have the separations done outside which can cost anywhere between $300 to $500. Industry specified software like Fastfilm when used with Adobe Photoshop gives the best results by far.

Rule 3: Use a perfect printing PLATE

In order to reproduce the halftones exactly as they are you will need to use retensionable frames with the correct mesh and tension. You simply cannot print correctly with hand stretched screens at low tension.

Rule 4: Use a dual care or pure photopolymer direct emulsion

Using thin coats allows you to hold finer detail. The photopolymers will provide excellent edge definition. It is absolutely vital that the screen is not over-exposed. 

Rule 5: Use a good printing press

Your printing press needs to be able to hold registration. While automatic presses produce more consistent printing, you can get great results with manual presses too.

Rule 6: Set up with care and patience

It is important to keep the off contact very low. The screens need to be kept parallel to the pallets. Any out-of-register will result in the prints looking soft and out of focus.

Rule 7: Ink selection

The four color printing process is designed around the four process colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK). It does not allow for the use of standard colors out of the can. However, with recent developments in industry standards, you can now almost use inks straight out of the can. On some jobs you may still have to make some adjustments but by and large gone are the days of hours adjusting inks.

Rule 8: Using a squeegee

Hand printing requires good technique and strokes. The strokes need to be consistent. In the case of automatic printing, monitor the squeegee pressure and use a triple durometer 70/90/70 for good results.

Rule 9: Use a good printing surface

Having set up a great press, you need to ensure that the printing surface is prepared and ready for printing. Some surfaces like paper print better than others like cloth.

Rule 10: Know the limitations

It is always better to know the limitations of the process and make your client aware of them as well. A job with reference colors requires extra care so ensure that the print is approved before the production run.

Armed with these rules, if you apply them correctly, you can get absolutely perfect results from four color process printing.

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