Tom Kubinski
Printing Consultant
Direct: 651-255-1225
Fax: 651-457-7040
Cell: 612-760-3700

Sheila Stai
Customer Service
Direct: 651-255-1222
250 East Lothenbach Ave.
Saint Paul, MN 55118
Phone: (651) 457-9255
Fax: (651) 457-7040
Toll Free: (800) 388-2914

Branding - 22 Laws Of
Brand Warfare
Creative Coatings Techniques
Desktop Techniques
Digital / Variable Printing
Direct Mail Raise Response, Lower Costs
FSC Certification
For Direct Marketers
In House Mailing Capabilities
Ink Tour
Paper Mill Tour - Coated
Paper Mill Tour - Uncoated
Picking the Right Paper
PDF Formats
PDF Info & Quark vs. InDesign
PODi - Digital Print Success Story
Postal Increases & Requirement Changes
Post it to the Web vs. Print
Press Check Tips
PURL - Avoid Dog House Campaign
QR Codes
Save Disk Space
Social Media -- The Basics
Social Media vs. Print
Top File Issues
UV Burn
Ways to Save Money
What Sets Sexton Apart?
Why Print in a Down Market?
Why Work With TK?

May 2012 TK's Korner

Duotones, Tri-tones, CMYK Quad-tones

Michelle, a client asks, "How do you set up Duotones?"

And another, Todd, wonders, "What are my options for proofing Duotones and why do they look different when on press?"

Well, they are not alone and it has been difficult to understand these techniques much less visualize their effects.

It is important to realize, for example, that duotone effects can vary considerably, dependent upon the intensity of color showing through, thereby giving a different effect without a change of ink.

There is no doubt that the printed effect can be changed endlessly, either by manipulating the tonal scales of each halftone, or by utilizing different inks and paper. The combinations are many, and each changes the effect slightly.

For example, the combination of certain inks will sometimes change a color. Yellow and black often become brown in appearance.

Yet, no matter how important ink is, it is only as good as the paper it's printed on. Thus, there will be a difference when you print these effects on an uncoated versus a coated sheet. Let's not forget the line screen either!

With all this said and done, let me take you down a proven path that has produced great results and given many an excellent idea of what they will get when on press.

Step 1
Start with your image(s) as four color to capture all the values.

Step 2
Convert your image(s) to grayscale.

Step 3
Group all images into three different categories; Dark, Medium and Light images.

Step 4: Select your Primary or Dominant color as well as your Highlight or Secondary color. In this case, we are using Pantone PMS 300 and black.

Step 5: Create your Duotone Curves for the Primary & Secondary colors. (Note - you will want to create a specific Duotone curve for each one of the groupings or your Dark, Medium and Light images.) It is best if you keep the curves as normal as possible; meaning curves and not zig zags. By having a master curve, you have created a look that now can be manipulated to fit the image better without recreating it from scratch for each image. In addition, you will have a better chance of keeping them similar throughout the piece.

Step 6: Drop each image into the curve that it belongs to. If you don't like the result for that particular image, it is ok to make adjustments for each image by changing the curve in the Highlights, Mid-tones and Shadows.

Step 7: Proofing: Before we discuss your options, it is important to state that you have been viewing these on an illuminated RGB monitor and now will be going to a CMYK printing format. There will be differences right off the bat.

You have the following choices:

The least expensive (and least accurate), is a Laser proof on uncoated paper

  • Then comes an Epson™, etc.
  • The contract matchproof will get you closer, yet is still a CMYK version.

Step 8: Now that you have the proofs all approved, you're ready for the Press check. Keep in mind that there still will be a variance of what you'll get on press versus what your proof has shown you. But, you'll at least have a better idea of where you'll turn out

These steps may be taken for Tri-tones and Quad-tones as well. Yet, each subject, PMS color and stock will dictate what additional steps will be necessary.

Quad-tones look best on coated paper via Stora Enso's #2 ED. Just like most four-color images. That's because the hard, relatively non-porous surface of coated paper holds each halftone dot precisely without allowing it to run into other dots or be absorbed into the capillaries of the paper.

This superior dot hole out and reduced dot gain means that each layer of ink can precisely filter the light that strikes the surface of the paper and reflect back clean, un-muddied colors and tones.

Other images, especially those that have faded or been made from a print, often have poor tonal ranges. Printing them as quad-tones can expand the range of tones and add an antique quality to the image.

Adding yellow to highlights accentuates the glare of the sun. Increasing the density of all colors in the mid-tones and shadows adds to the contrast of the image and makes the sunlight even stronger.

Application of cyan, magenta and yellow under the black ink can serve to identify shadow areas of an image

Using magenta on mid-tone areas could help add extra warmth to a portrait, while using cyan in highlights and mid-tones will give the image color and feel.

Also, it is important to mention that Metallic inks do gain and spread, which will require you to pinch, back the dots accordingly.

A fun and exciting tool, is from Sappi called - Choices. I have scanned it in to give you an idea. See it here at Choices. They have taken one image and broken it down to sections that represent a CMYK quad-tone. Each section has then been detailed out for you on how it was created in the Highlights, Mid-tones and Shadow areas for each CMYK percentage.

I do have this available to show you if you are interested. Just give me a call and we'll get together.

SPECIAL NOTE, if you run duotones on a colored stock such as a cream or ivory, you could gain not only a 3 color look and feel, but an old time photo look as well. Just food for thought. Enjoy.

Stay tuned for the next issue of TK's Korner. You just might be surprised!

Please refer back and visit often the entire library of TK's Korners where you will find information on subjects that may be of interest to you like:

Other issues of TK's Korner that you may find of interest:

Creative Coatings Techniques

Desktop Techniques

Ink Tour

Paper Mill Tour - Coated

Paper Mill Tour - Uncoated

Picking the Right Paper

Press Check Tips

Why Work With TK?

What Sets Sexton Apart?


Hope this helps and stay tuned for the next issue of TK's Korner. You never know what might be covered!

If you have a production issue not discussed above that you would like me to address, or a project that needs to be looked at, please give me a call or send me an email. I will do whatever it takes to ensure you get the best value for every marketing dollar invested.

You can also check out my profile, join my network and view more client comments on LinkedIn at:

Referrals are greatly appreciated, if you know someone I could help, or who might like to receive TK's Korner, please let me know.

Take care and have a great day!

Tom Kubinski, Printing Consultant

Printing Consultant Who Helps You Make Good Impressions
Direct: (651) 255-1225
Cell: (612) 760-3700

Selected portions reprinted in Print & Media Buyer, a national magazine for the print industry. (Search for Tom Kubinski)

Print & Media Buyer Magazine, Winter issue 2007

Below, please find a PODi case study of nationally recognized campaign plus 3 issues that have been published in a National magazine.

* PODi - Digital Print Success Story .pdf 2.9 mb
* Kubinski to Contribute to Print and Media Buyer Magazine .pdf 144 kb
* "Press Check/A Step by Step Process" SPRING 2008 .pdf 536 kb
* "File Prep" APRIL 2008 .pdf 704 kb
* "How to Plan Your Print Project/Nice Price" JULY 2008 .pdf 320 kb

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