This is post five in a series about my experiences in publishing a book. The series starts here.
From the mail bag:
Having followed your blog for quite some time, this is a topic I might actually be able to contribute something for the first time. I’ve been producing art books as a (now freelance) designer for the last 8 years or so.
First: Basically every printing company can produce wonderful results. What’s key is the person you have at the printing machine the day that your book is printed. If he (rather seldom she) loves his/her job, is patient with a layman, and has no boss standing behind him/her counting the seconds that the machine is not running, you have all the chances to get the results you want. Be prepared to spend some extra money on re-making some plates, though. Make sure not all plates are done at once. Start with one set, get it right, then let them make the rest of the plates.
Second: Chose your paper wisely. It’s single most important choice in regard to what the results can possibly look like. Have a look at a lot of samples. Not plain sheets, but ones printed on – with similar subjects as you will print.
Third: Know about the pros and cons of the screen pitches and methods of rasterization. I understand that you want to print colored images. Stochastic is not the best for every subject, small pitches are not the best for all subjects. There are mixed rasters which can bring the best of both worlds to your highlights, mid-tones and deep shadows. There are wonderful books printed with wide rasters. Small pixel pitches tend to flatten your images, you will not be able to get a substantial d-max. The printer might be able to work against this with non-standard high density pigmented inks, but the company must be experienced with such a workflow. Again: Find examples that please your eye and ask the printer to make it exactly like that.
Fourth: Be careful with varnishes. Some get yellowish rather soon. Sometimes it’s best to have a mix of varnish and ink in the black ink compartment of the machine only. Again: Look out for examples you like.
Fifth: Let go your proofing and color management ideals. Printing machines are living subjects. They react to temperature and humidity. The age of every single part has an impact on the result. The inks and papers are natural substances in the way that they resist standardization like the shapes of trees an the colors of flowers do. Anyhow, the defined limits, by which something in the printing industry can be »according to the standard« are really (really!) wide. Be sure to come to the press with a vision of the desired result, a proof print is not enough.
Sixth: Always print stronger than what you actually aim for. The ink will settle, the paper will soak up some, the colors will soften and the blacks will lighten up within 24–48 hours after printing. If you print »exactly« to match the proof, you might well be disappointed afterwards.
Good luck! It’s a pleasure to follow your adventures.