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Ask the Expert: Should I bring my big print jobs in house?

By Lou Tubolino
VP, Production Systems


Graphics Quality Color Digital Printers are becoming more affordable, and many companies are making the investment to insource their marketing materials, business cards, variable data marketing campaigns and high-quality signage instead of sending work out to be printed at commercial print centers.  The convenience of Print-On-Demand for short to medium sized runs has proven to be very convenient and can also reduce costs.  We live in an environment where information changes rapidly and the timeliness of communicating that message to internal and external customers is critical to stay relevant in the marketplace.  The free flow of information is critical in today’s business environment.  A Print-On-Demand strategy can eliminate waste due to unused prints being disposed of due to rapidly changing information- making marketing materials obsolete.

The Challenge of Printing In-House
Many companies are printing in house because they have the design team to create the documents or have easy access to high quality PDF files for reprints.  Companies want a simple process to print a graphics quality document on a wide range of paper media with near perfect registration.  The challenge is to achieve repeatable image quality from page to page and day to day.  Sounds Simple… IT CAN BE… OR NOT…

Once you make the investment in a Graphics Quality Color Press
How do you maintain repeatable color while printing on a wide variety of paper types?

If you follow a simple calibration protocol, you can dramatically increase your chances of success.  Graphics Quality Color Digital Printers require regular calibration to maintain consistent image quality.  Many factors can cause a degradation of image quality from a change in humidity to the weight and type of paper you are printing on.   The printer needs to react differently if you are printing on text paper versus glossy card stock or peel and stick labels.  With regular scheduled maintenance and a disciplined calibration process, your printer will deliver repeatable color output.

What is Color Calibration?
Color calibration is used to describe the whole process to bring the color printer to a certain standard of repeatable color performance. In simple terms, when you calibrate the printer the printer setting is brought back to the ideal settings to maximize image quality.

  • Never calibrate a cold system; warm up the system first by printing 25-50 Color sheets
  • The basic calibration is performed with a Hammermill 28lb or its equivalent.
  • Calibrate to all active media families for best performance (ie- Glossy, cardstock, text)
  • It is only a five-minute investment in time!

How Often to Calibrate?
This is not a simple question to answer.  In carefully managed print environments, the optimal time between calibrations is determined by gathering data over time to determine the printing trends in your environment.  Some companies calibrate once a week, others once a day and some by the job. The overall goal is to get repeatable color regardless of the media you are printing on. As a starting point, in a typical corporate office environment you may start with a cadence of calibrating the printer once a week and work from there based on your results.  It may be necessary to calibrate more often if you are continually printing on different media types throughout the day.  The main point is that if you are not calibrating your graphics printer on a regular basis, you will not maximize the quality that the printer.   We often find in corporate departmental settings, no one has been assigned to perform this essential quality control measure and the corporate image is compromised.

Take the time to Calibrate

  • Achieve the best match for logo and brand colors.
  • Shorten turnaround times by printing on multiple print engines capable of producing the same output.
  • Reduce job rejections with reliable reproduction of complex, graphically rich content files.
  • Produce color to a specified standard at all times.

Print Calibration is like money in the bank
When you find your print color has drifted; print re-calibration back to the same targets; This will enable your existing print ICC profile to be valid again- your color will be back to where it should be!