This is the blog of the Brisbane Based Print Broker/Consultancy Paradigm Print Media.

We specialise in brokering printing in Australia and offshore in Asia. We can advise if a project is too small to print offshore, or alternatively if a larger project can be printed more economically offshore.

More information about our services/contact details is available on our website:

Ink on Paper.

November 7, 2008

The universal use of computer technology in modern desktop publishing has made the process of typesetting, paganation, compositing and other aspects of the art of publishing much easier and faster. Although most artwork designed on-screen has the appearance of being able to be achieved at the push of a button, one aspect of the graphics industry that still needs thorough, real world thinking through, is colour. Even though a design can look magnificent on a modern LCD screen, there are still practical “ink on paper” aspects to a project that need to be considered when working with colour.

This article looks at the two most commonly used colour systems in today’s printing industry. These are CMYK (or more commonly known as ‘Full Colour’) and PMS (more commonly known as “Spot Colour’) colour systems.

CMYK is an acronym for for Cyan (a light blue), Magenta (a pink hue), Yellow & Black. These four colours when mixed together in various percentages can achieve full colour representations of artwork such as photographs. One of the advantages of printing in CMYK is that a number of different jobs can be printed on the same print run thereby creating an economy of scale that reduces cost (commonly known as “ganging up”). The art of printing in CMYK is matching the print run to a pre-produced hardcopy proof (which is usually a digital proof calibrated to the printing press) by raising or lowering the percentages of each of the four CMYK inks. The colours achieved in this process are from mixing ink ‘on paper’.

PMS or Pantone ‘spot colour’ printing on the other hand is a ‘pre-mixed ink’, in the same sense as when you select a paint colour for a house. There are Pantone Swatches that display the different codes for various hues. The advantages of this type of printing system is that the colour result on paper is more consistent across many different print runs and types of media than CMYK. This is because there are less variables involved (therefore 1 ink going to paper instead of 4 inks being mixed on paper to create a colour). While PMS colours are pre-mixed inks, there is still an art at the print press to use the correct level of ink on paper. Instead of matching the colour on the press to a full colour digital proof, the printer is matching the PMS colour to the strength of the colour in the standardised Pantone Swatch.

Another aspect of colour that needs to be taken into consideration for both CMYK & PMS systems is the type of paper stock that is being printed onto. Most commonly in the printing industry there are two types of stock, coated and uncoated. Without going too heavily into the details, uncoated paper is a more fibrous stock and coated stocks have a layer of clay which seals the fibrous aspect of the paper to create a more glossy appearance. Ink (whether it is CMYK or PMS) behaves differently on both types of stock. On an uncoated stock the ink will soak into the paper and in doing so the colours will become somewhat subdued when compared to the way ink sits on top of coated paper. For this reason PMS books come in ‘coated’ (C) and ‘uncoated’ (U) versions. This makes it easier for graphic designers and printers to determine how a particular PMS colour should look on differing stocks.

On most desktop publishing software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, Quark Xpress & InDesign, you are able to setup your colours as CMYK or PMS. While artwork can look shiny and clean onscreen, the graphic designer and client should be mindful of the way ink will work on paper in the real world. A classic example of this is where a design will have a black solid in the artwork in CMYK as 100% Black. This may look solid and black onscreen, however when you see 100% black on an uncoated stock at best it looks dark grey. A real world technique to overcome this is to print 40% of the Cyan, Magenta & Yellow inks to create what is called a “rich black”. This will ‘fill out’ the ink coverage and give the appearance of a denser black. In PMS printing there is also the term ‘double hit’, which means that a PMS colour, for example PMS 485 (Red) is printed in the same area twice to create a richer, more vibrant tone. This type of effect is something that cannot be conveyed by looking at a monitor, and requires the imagination to move beyond the boundaries of the screen when thinking through an integrated approach between computer design and printed result. Other real world inks which cannot be accurately displayed on-screen are PMS metallic and fluorescent inks which require light to interact with the ink on paper for the desired result perceived by the final consumer. For example in the case of metallic inks, there are actually metallic particles in the ink that glisten as light is reflected.

Even when viewing CMYK and PMS colours in various programs on-screen it must be remembered that computer screens use a different colour mixing process to create colour. They use a combination of RGB (Red, Green & Blue) pixels to additively create white, whereas CMYK and PMS use a subtractive process to achieve white in the colour spectrum (therefore the colour of the paper when no ink is applied). In the purely digital arena of binary code there is a perfect numerical representation of a particular CMYK colour (e.g 100% Cyan, 80% Magenta, 20% Yellow, 10% Black) however it is when that digital data is displayed through digital media (computer monitor) and print media (digital hardcopy proof) that differences in colour representations become more apparent.

Computers in the world of modern publishing are essential in the way they have increased ease and turnaround times, when compared to previous methods. It is essential to see the place of computers in the publishing process as a means to an end, not the end in itself. Graphic Designers and their clients can’t afford to ignore the real world ‘ink on paper’ aspects of colour and colour reproduction. It is indeed a virtual trap that a designer can be caught in, believing that print processes and colour reproduction should behave in the same clinical way a design appears on-screen within the digital domain. Unfortunately the perfect binary world still needs to express itself in not so perfect physical manifestations such as screenprinted, digital and offset printed media. It is a wise and sensible approach for the clients of the graphics industry to minimise issues of colour consistency by being aware from the beginning of a project of the gulf between the expectations induced by looking at the perfect medium of computer screens and the reality of the less than perfect way ‘ink behaves on paper’.

Ben Aitchison.

Principal, Paradigm Print Media.

Copyright 2008.

There are a number of variables that need to be thought through before deciding what style of business card you should use for your business or organisation. You may wish to have all the bells and whistles such as Gold Foil, Embossing, Debossing, Die-Cut Shapes, UV Spot Varnish, Spot Fluorescent Colours and Specialty Paper stocks. Or you may opt for a more economical CMYK business card, printed on regular weekly runs.

There are endless possibilities in printing and on the whole unique finishing techniques provide a point of differentiation for your business. They can help make your organisation’s business cards more easily identifiable amongst competitors’. Taking for example the following business card : Die Cut Round Corners, Black Speciality Paper Stock, Embossing with registered Coloured Foil.

When this card is being printed for the first initial print run for 10 staff members, the overall cost of the job is more than a straight forward printing run. However on a cost per unit basis, they are still reasonably economic. The issue is when a staff member leaves and a new one arrives. Printing one card using the same format of print and finishing techniques is expensive on a cost per unit basis. The biggest expense in printing are the set-up costs. When the cards were printed for 10 people, the setup cost was divided by 10, now it is being applied to 1 card only.

The best outcome is a balance between unique differentiation and the cost to achieve this result. We would recommend to at least make sure a few people’s cards are printed at the same time. If you have new 2 staff members, but notice that 3 staff are getting low on cards, it would be better economy to print 5 cards instead of just two. Business cards are most economical to print as 4up, 5up, 10up, 20up or 21up.

Paradigm Print Media utilises “gang printing” and high quality Indigo Digital printing as well as setting up custom runs for specialty business cards. The benefit of gang printing full colour cards is that they are always going through the press each week, and because of the economy of scale of printing 21 cards at once, there are good cost savings. On the down side, colour consistency between any 2 print runs will always vary subtly because of the nature of CMYK printing (where 4 inks are mixed on paper to provide a full spectrum of colour).

When thinking about balancing cost and specialty printing clients need to assess how important it is to have colour consistency across print runs. If it is highly important then it would be an idea to consider printing in PMS Colour instead of CMYK. This colour system is more consistent across different print runs. However if absolute colour consistency isn’t that important, printing on ganged up print runs can be more flexible and offer you more economy for staff members coming and going. This is because you would not have to print a number of staff members cards at once to achieve a saving on a cost per unit basis.

Whatever option you wish to pursue for printing your business cards give Paradigm a call beforehand to discuss the options carefully.

What is a Print Broker?

June 28, 2010

The term ‘Print Broker’ is loosely used by some businesses in the graphics/print industry to reflect their partial role as a print manager. In reality these businesses are usually graphic designers that have relationships with two or three printers they regularly send work to. This approach is fine, however there’s usually no analysis of quoting trends from a large number of suppliers. This makes it impossible to make intelligent decisions about which suppliers to approach for specific projects. Clients therefore, will not know if they are paying above the “mean” price from a wider spectrum of the print market.

In contrast Paradigm Print Media, is a dedicated print broker. We have custom built software that helps us procure and analyse printing quotes from a vast array of Australian and Asian (for larger offshore projects) suppliers. We offer the benefit of the competitiveness of the open market, with the convenience of one point of contact.

We do not internally handle graphic design requirements from clients. Any requests for these services are referred to graphic designers we have existing relationships with as clients. We prefer this business model because it gives our clients the flexibility to choose a design company in line with their budget and stylistic requirements. This allows us to concentrate on our core focus – securing the best print deal for you.

Because Paradigm deals with so many different suppliers (currently 70+ South East Queensland, Australian and Asian printers), we have gathered a vast amount of information and experience – this gives us a much broader depth of industry knowledge than any one printing company has at their disposal.

If you are looking for a professional solution to ALL your ongoing print media needs (Offset, Digital and Screenprinting), Paradigm provides the right combination of quality, price and turnaround for your specific needs.