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Terms and Concepts

Commercial printing is a combination of art and science. Generally, just four inks are used to create the entire range of colors needed to reproduce photographic images. Additional colors, called spot colors, can be added, but the bulk of the work is done with just four inks. Knowing how and where to put the ink to correctly re-create an illustration or image requires a substantial level of expertise. General knowledge of principles of printing must be supplemented with specific knowledge of the individual printing presses and the particular inks and paper being used for the job, and sometimes even weather conditions.

Perhaps the most important guideline when preparing artwork for process printing is the simplest: Talk with your printer. In most cases, you are not expected to know (or even understand) the specific tolerances of a huge piece of machinery in another company’s building. The people who work directly with that machinery do, theoretically, know its capabilities and foibles and can compensate for them as necessary.


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