Tom Kubinski
Printing Consultant
Direct: 612-278-1568
Fax: 612-334-5879
Cell: 612-760-3700
1109 Zane Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN. 55422
Phone: 612-375-1150
Fax: 612-334-5879
Toll Free: 1-800-230-2828

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
PURL - Avoid Dog House Campaign
QR Codes
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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?

February 2010 TK's Korner

Press Check Tips

One of my clients, Susan, was wondering if there was anything available as research for tips on press checks. I'm glad to say, there most certainly is. The information below is a compilation from: Sappi's-"How to Read a Press Sheet" book, Potlatch's-"Potlatch Problem Solver" book, and "Understanding Color" per Stora Enso's, plus some very valuable input from various press operators as well as my own 'Two Cents Worth', (Ok, we both know that I like to share...a lot! So, lets go with my non-stop rambling...)

Actually, TK's Korner Press Check Tips really was published! in a National Magazine called "Print & Media Buyer" in December of 2007.

Wow, who'd a thunk that someone would actually want to know what I know. Ha Ha Ha

Click here for a link to Print & Media Buyer Magazine, Winter issue 2007, and my article 'In the loupe'

To people outside of our field, who simply look at pictures and read words, it may seem odd that pictures aren't just pictures. For those of us in the industry, however, pictures are not passive - they're tools used to convey ideas; which are affected by every shade, nuance, and detail (or lack thereof) that they contain. Logically, the degree to which we control this process determines how close we come to realizing our ideas.

Up Front STEP BY STEP Process:

Establish communication with Tom Kubinski, your printing consultant, early on in the design stage

Talk about specs, budgets, expectations and deadlines. Most importantly, talk about the vision of the piece and impact you want it to make, the look and feel you are going after. How is the client expected to feel when handling the piece? Is it meant to be a one-time view/throw away or a high profile piece with a long shelf life?

Discuss the actual design, images, techniques or anything special that you have in mind. By getting me involved with advance planning and discussions, you are ensured that what you present and get approved is what you will receive back. Maybe you are open to options that may enhance your piece or give it that little something extra. I want to make sure that what you are creating can actually be produced or to find you available options.

Remember, that what works or doesn't for one project, doesn't necessarily mean it will or won't for the next.

Each project is unique in and of itself.

Original Images
Mood settings and your expectations on the color separations will require some considerations. Are you going for overall pleasing color or are specific areas needing to match the original image? Keep in mind the Compression Chart, located on page 14 of Sappi's book, that shows what the human eye sees vs. what the camera or film can capture vs. what the printing press is actually capable of producing! (Some colors are more easily reproduced than others.)

Remember to discuss the proper paper selection in addition to the line screen you choose and how they will affect your final outcome. The more dots an image contains equates to a greater number of tones you can create as long as the resolution of the scanned image is high enough to begin with.

Because offset printing involves physically putting ink on paper, where the ink goes has an impact on the things around it

Cross Over Hook-Ups - images above/below others, 4cp tint stripping-amount of, size of areas, number of different tints, etc. will dictate if a solid PMS color may be a better choice.

Mechanical Ghosting - ink unevenly deposited in a particular area is another concern that may creep into consideration. If preplanned, we can work the layout on press to try to eliminate the threat. If it occurs while on press, we may have a few options to try.

NOTE: Remember that your design and how it appears on your computer screen may be viewed differently on a press sheet or signature

Has an enormous impact on the final printed results of your images - not only on color, but sharpness, print contrast, level of gloss and detail! Variables to consider when choosing a paper: brightness, whiteness, smoothness, flatness, type of surface - gloss, dull, silk, matte, uncoated, paper weight and even opacity. Keep in mind that if you have or are planning on family member pieces, you need to keep everything on the same stock. I have an excellentsample, FLINT's Ink Color Quiz, that shows the same PMS red color on 15 different stocks that looks as if there were about 10 different colors of red used. See also my Picking the Right Paper Issue, Ink Tour, and Paper Mill Tour - Coated and Paper Mill Tour - Uncoated issues

Aqueous and varnish not only protect your piece, but can enhance the images and add a level of tactile richness not otherwise possible. Your options for where and how to use these are almost limitless. I have a great binder with numerous one of a kind samples available for you to view!.

NOTE: What you have done on one family piece, may need to be done to all. Otherwise, you run the risk of color variations even if you used the same images and paper

Keep in mind my issue that spoke directly to UV concerns as well, see UV Burn, and Creative Coatings Techniques

Due to the variety of options available, there is only one thing to keep in mind - none of them can duplicate the final result perfectly. Knowing what your final piece must look like helps you pick the most cost effective option.


A) Soft Proof
(Approval Required for Contract Proof) Proofing has just gotten a little easier, thanks to Sexton Printing. No more cumbersome email attachments and wondering if someone has the correct version of software, or if they can receive files larger than 1mb. Soft proofs (also called Vproofs) allow you to proof your files virtually anywhere, anytime and all you need is a web browser.

Here's how it works: This digital proof can be accessed through any internet browser and is intended for proofing corrections. Sexton's Sales Dept can track the status of a Soft Proof by browsing to:

<> (login required)

B) Digital Dylux
(1 & 2 Color Layout Contract Proof) Ours is a CMYK backed-up, two-sided, inkjet proof required for all jobs regardless of other proof usage that also gives you color designation. This proof is a complete mock-up of the printed piece that is folded and cut down to size. There is a choice of 70 or 80lb uncoated paper. One could use this proof only for non-critical color projects and to check copy, size, positioning of artwork, pagination etc.

C) Match Proof
(Color Contract Proof) This is an ICC profiled single-side,inkjet proof for jobs that require the most accurate proof-to-press match. This proof is required for scatters, press proofs, or color corrections. There is a choice of coated or uncoated paper for this proof, and a clear overlay simulates varnished, die-lines or a 5th color.

D) Press Proof
An actual printed piece using your images or stock art to see how they will reproduce. Naturally these are more expensive and time consuming and should be used only when other methods can't simulate the effect.


Make sure that you are in a controlled and color balanced (5000K ANSI* standards) room when checking color. The environment in which color is viewed can change it dramatically. There is a RHEM Graphic Arts Light Selector for Color Viewing available that helps you check to see if you are in a properly controlled room.

In addition, how well you articulate any corrections determines whether or not you'll get the changes you want. I recommend noting general statements about your wishes unless you feel confident in giving specific percentages and or color moves. ie. Brighter, cleaner color, Skin tones too warm, Soften highlights, More definition, detail, Open up - too heavy, etc.

"Understanding Color" per Stora Enso's #5 issue: It's important to know that when printing, light passes throughtransparent inks of the three subtractive primary colors - C=cyan, M=magenta and Y=yellow, striking white paper and reflecting back to the eye through the colored ink film. Call me if you need more information on how this is beneficial not only during press checks, but earlier in the proofing stage as well.

How each one affects the outcome -

Cyan - pigment absorbs red and reflects or transmits blue and green light
Magenta - pigment absorbs green and reflects red and blue light
Yellow - pigment absorbs blue and reflects red and green light
Black -is added to enhance the depth and extend the tonal range of the colors

Conventional four color printing can only reproduce approximately 100,000 distinct shades, while the human eye can be anywhere from 1 million to 10 million. See the Compression Chart link for additional info mentioned under Original Images earlier in this issue.

NOTE: Difficult colors to capture in 4 color process: Oranges, greens, purples, and intense shades of any color plus metallic tones

By this time, you & I have covered all the bases, made the necessary changes and corrections. This means the press OK should go fast, fun and uneventful.


Extra measures that most are not aware of that are offered and used on EVERY press run by Sexton (not utilized by other companies) -

A) Keep in mind that Sexton uses a CIP4 Cooperation for Integration of Processes system (processes in, pre-press, press, post-press). This means that all the settings for color in our proofs are transmitted directly to the presses once you approve your proofs, which makes for faster, more accurate and more economical press checks. Thus, making your job a whole lot easier!

B) Heidelberg's Image Control color measurement system
analyzes color differences and sends them to the press online. Quality control outside the press supports the spectrophotometric measurement of the entire printed image and simultaneous online color control. Operation is easy and convenient, thanks to the touch-screen color display. A measuring bar scans the entire printed image and breaks down a print sheet into more than 160,000 measuring points. Each of these individual points is then compared with the corresponding point on the OK sheet. Prinect Image Control then determines the deviations from the predefined reference values and tells the operator automatically what adjustments are needed. These are transferred online to the press, which regulates the ink zones in the printing units. Up to four presses can be connected to Prinect Image Control.

Check out the following links to see the machine and learn more about it.

C) Plus there are other important extra quality processes that we have implemented. I'll show them to you at your next press check and you'll know why they are important and not mentioned specifically in this issue.

NOTE: Keep in mind that the cost of making changes increases significantly as the process moves along
1) Laser stage, 2) Final Proofs, 3) Plates, 4) Press Proof


Make sure you have all supporting materials on hand, ie. dyluxes, final color proof, companion pieces,etc.

Furnish me with your family of pieces with any specifics so the press operator can start with your end goal in mind.

Establish a rapport with your operator who really understands their press capabilities and how to get what you want.

Reader Sheet-
(a make ready sheet that isn't for color, but can be used for proofing content)
Check copy changes noted on dylux
Check design elements
Check positioning of art and type
Lastly, check stock - paper, weight and finish

Sheet Two-
Mark sheet #1 and number all following to track your moves
Check print quality
Overall color and balance
Flesh tones
PMS color
Type, crisp edges, any broken type? clean knockouts
Check for hickies, dirt or scratches
Check for consistent densities across page. (Especially with cross over hook-ups etc.)
If you find areas of concern, be sure to circle and draw a line out to white area of the sheet so your notes don't get missed.

NOTE: Take your time and don't try to do it all at once. Step back and get an overall view and impression. Compare the sheet to your color proof and understand where a give-and-take may be necessary. Speak in generalities about adjustments so the press operator can decide what the press actually needs to do to get there.

Also keep in mind the difference between your proof material (its brightness, whiteness and coating) compared to your printed stock. These differences will dictate what may or may not be obtained on press

Subsequent Sheets-
Continue to mark sheets in numerical sequence
Double check previous adjustments
Check tints, with each color move, they may have shifted
Check side to side, similar colors, especially cross overs
Confirm areas that get (or don't get!) coated, quantities, version differences, etc.
Finally, make sure that any changes you've made aren't revising other critical areas due to the signature layout.
NOTE: Don't be afraid to cut or fold sheets, lay them next to one another, especially important with cross over hook ups
And for those seasoned press checkers, the color bar area has a lot of information to use to your advantage. Pages 24 & 25 in the Sappi book has an excellent description of each.

Sign Off Sheet-
When you like it, sign it! If there's a chance the piece may need to reorder, ask to have it recorded.

SPECIAL NOTES: For some colors, even the smallest variance can shift the color significantly. The industry standards are 5-6%. However, for some PMS colors and 4cp tints, a 3-4% variance can have a profound effect. Neutral grays, purples and colors that have a lot of transparency color in them are the biggest culprits.


Potlatch's "PROBLEM SOLVER" Trouble Shooting:
Don't forget that proofing materials will look different than the printed piece. First check the whiteness, brightness, gloss etc. of your proof material to your projects stock. Even the coatings will affect your final outcomes.
ie. A yellow stock to proof material will mean that your colors will be yellower and glossier, no coating on piece may mean colors are not as rich or vibrant, etc.

Hickies occur when particles adhere to the plate or blanket, causing either a donut effect or an unprinted void surrounded by printing
   Solution-dip out ink fountain, drop fountain blade, clean, hot water wash, rollers, add fresh ink from new can, change inks

Pick outs Ink is too tacky or coating is defective causing stock to be pulled and deposited onto the blanket. Subsequent sheets show partial filling or absence of color
   Solution-clean blankets, change inks, reduce ink tack, reduce impression cylinder pressure, try different grade of stock.

Ink build up on the blanket, eventually lifts off a portion of the image, pulls the fibers or coating from the sheet.
   Solution-try a different lot of ink, adjust fountain solution levels, replace blanket or try different grade of stock

Delamination occurs when paper itself pulls apart during printing.
   Solution-reduce ink tack, back cylinder pressure or try different grade of stock.

Misregistration or Slur-printing dots don't align, causing a blurred image or color variance.
   Solution-adjust & clean grippers, lower ink tack, re-adjust feed table, try different grade of stock.

Mottling happens when ink lies unevenly on the sheet or in a solid area.
   Solution-for 4cp/reverse cyan/magenta ink sequence tack. Put heavier coverage down last and solid colors in last unit, increase press speed, try different grade of stock.

   The only solution is to try a different grade of stock. Usually heavier or no coating may be the answer.

I hope this gives you some tools to use, and please keep your recommendations for subjects to be covered in future issues coming at me!



1) ___ Bring all supporting materials with you - companion pieces, sign offs, etc.

2) ___ Look at final proofs and dyluxes

3) ___ Number all press sheets in upper right hand corner consecutively with the changes you are making

4) ___ Look at overall color to see if OK or needing adjustment

5) ___ Make general color comments so operator may adjust according to where the press has been, and can go - ie. "Flesh tones too warm/jaundiced looking, Whites too dirty"

6) ___ If cross overs are present, check color consistency of different positions

7) ___ If using 4 color process tints, check color consistency throughout

8) ___ If PMS colors are being used, check against PMS book or color chips

9) ___ Check registration marks if color is not adjusting properly

10) ___ Check for hickeys or picking, before final sign off

11) ___ If coating with varnish or aqueous, check for registration and smooth application

12) ___ If mailing and using a coating, is a knock-out necessary for ink jetting, lasering or written information?

Lastly, 13) ___ Sign off when everything looks good! Make any last minute notes on sheet for operator to watch for or do while getting up to speed on press and ask for the number of press sheets you'd like to take back!

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.

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

Creative Coatings Techniques

Ink Tour

Picking the Right Paper

Press Check Tips


Desktop Techniques

Ways to Save Money

Why Work With TK?

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 who I should contact, please let me know.

If you would like to join me on one of our upcoming tours, if there is something that you would like me to address, or if you know of someone who might like to receive TK's Korner, please let me know via e-mail at or phone.

Take care and have a great day!

Tom Kubinski, Printing Consultant

Printing Consultant Who Helps You Make Good Impressions
Direct: 612-278-1568
Cell: 612-760-3700

TK Out Standing in his Field

(PS: If you'd like, Go to and sign up for the Sexton E Trends, a FREE e message service offering print production tips and industry trends designed to make your job easier and your production workflow more efficient.)

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

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