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Printing has metamorphosed from cave drawings to clay tablets to illuminated text to the first printing presses to DTP to electrons such as these. While the form has changed greatly, the stages of creation and underlying function of print have not changed at all.

First, you need to have something to say. Whether that something is simply selling a product, selling an idea, or laying the framework for the next paradigm shift it is the message that is central. In the world of business this message translates into power the power to command attention, to compel sales, to influence buying habits. In a book, it may be the worldview, the immersion in a fictional reality, a moral message or simply information that drives the design.

Next your audience must be considered. Where do they live? What age groups do you want to reach? What do they read? What is your competition? Why does your potential audience care about you? What do you have to offer that is unique or interesting? These questions must be answered whether your objective is a simple newspaper ad, a company newsletter, a business card or a college textbook.

Then your budget and the number of copies defines the choices available to you. Do you need cheap flyers to mass distribute or an elegant, polished piece to present to the Board of Directors? Will you be using the Web to build a brochure and the printed media to attract visitors there?


Before you begin the design phase, the final method of production must be determined. And there are many choices in traditional print:

Computer printer

  • Monotone laser
  • Color laser
  • Color inkjet
  • Dye sublimation
  • Thermal wax
  • Photocopy
  • Monotone
  • Color

Offset printing

  • Black ink
  • One-color ink
  • Multiple spot colors
  • Process color
  • Die cuts, embossing or debossing
  • Foil
  • Etc.

At Riley Works the focus is on ensuring the maximum impact for your money. We consider your output needs and build a marketing package that incorporates cost-effectiveness with flexibility. We can set up your computers to output your logo or letterhead when you need it minimizing front-end cost and inventory or help find the optimum price per piece versus total cost ratio for your business.

Monotone (Black) Laser Output

Monotone lasers are similar to black and white copiers in the method of placing the images onto the paper. This printer uses a laser to energize a tiny part of the drum so that it picks up toner electrostatically as it passes the toner cartridge. The drum is uncharged as it passes over the paper dropping the toner onto the paper. Then the paper passes through a fuser which heats the paper and toner to a temperature sufficient to fuse the two together. This produces a permanent bond that is durable and waterproof. The disadvantages of this process include the tendency of the toner to crack when folded, relatively high cost when producing a large quantity, slow speed compared to a printing press, and a limited line screen capability.

Most office lasers today (June 1998) are limited to 600 dpi. Some will include one or another method to smooth letters to minimize the stair-steps or jaggies which would be apparent otherwise and are great for text only applications. However when it comes to printing a picture, the laser suffers compared to offset printing.

In order to print a continuous-tone image (say a standard photograph ), you must first screen the image. This means turning the image into discreet dots of varying sizes that will then appear to the eye similar to the original image due an optical illusion hard-wired into the human brain. While not proven, it is accepted in the industry that the human eye can see only 256 shades of gray. If you imagine that you are going to convert a photo into a screened image, first lay an imaginary , transparent piece of graph paper over the photo. In each tiny square the tone varies a little bit, but you will ignore this and average out the tone in the square to a given level one of 256 (at maximum) choices from black through gray to white. This is quite similar to digitizing music for a CD.

Next you tell your laser to print from 0 (white) to 255 (black) at that location to simulate the tone of that screened square. Since 16 x 16 equals 256, it takes 16 of your printer's dots and 16 lines to make one of the screened dots. If your laser has 600 x 600 dpi (dots per inch) capability, then you can make 600 / 16 rows of screened dots (called lines per inch, line screen, or lpi). This equals a line screen of 37.5 which is very coarse and usually unattractive. Line screens of 133 lpi to 150 lpi are used in magazines and glossy brochures and line screens of about 90 lpi are used on newsprint. From this information, you can see that an lpi of 37.5 is terribly inadequate. To improve the apparent quality of the laser output you can decrease the number of levels of gray in your screen job and thereby increase the line screen. If you change the gray levels to 64, the corresponding line screen becomes 75 lpi. This improvement in detail of the image, which is determined by lpi, comes from a lessening of the overall tonal depth. Some find stochastic screening (a process that randomizes the screened dot placement) produces a more pleasing image, by avoiding the regularity of traditional screening. The problem with this work-around is that the final output will not photocopy well.

There is no way around this compromise. Finer detail means less tonal depth. And then when you want to photocopy the laser output, you discover that maximizing the appearance of the original produces a poorer copy. Photocopiers can only hold a 60 to 70 lpi line screen, leading to gray tones appearing spotty on the copy when you use a higher line screen.


Riley Works

37366 Camp Creek Road, Springfield. OR 97478 USA

Phone: 541-726-7220

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