Tips and Tricks Ė Printing Basics

One of the keys to great graphics is printing techniques. There are many details that we overlook when printing a job that can make or break an installation. Iíll just review a few of these details to give you the best chance for a great finished product.

One of the first noticeable errors during the printing phase is profile selection. Whether youíre doing large format signage, vehicle wraps, or just POP, choosing the correct profile for your media is crucial. Often the naked eye cannot tell the difference between a rip which laid down too much ink, and one that is just right, but the oversaturation of the ink solvents will attack the vinyl over time. Because they take time to download and update, many printers choose not to use the specified profile, but if you want to ensure a well printed graphic, this step cannot be skipped. To go along with proper profiling, be sure to use a minimal amount of ink saturation, which can also harm the vinyl if handled improperly. Because all printers are different, I generally prefer the middle setting of the output (usually 720x720) because the resolution of large format graphics doesnít need to be as high, and generally any more is overkill.

The next important ideal to follow is having a clean and controlled printer facility. I can assure you the cleaner you can keep your printer surroundings the better it will operate in the long run. Additionally, it is very important to keep your printer at a constant temperature and humidity. This is especially important in the dryer, and/or colder climates where below 50F degree temperatures can ruin the print heads, and extremely dry humidity levels can distort the ink flow as well. Make sure you never procrastinate when it comes to regular printer maintenance, it is as important as a the oil change on your vehicle every 3 to 5,000 miles.

Consistency is another factor when dealing with your graphic prints. You want to make sure you are using the same type of inks, the same rip program, and the same environment when printing. To keep things consistent I suggest printing out a sample proof of the main colors in each job. You can put this in the customers file to refer back to at a later date for any reprints or concurrent jobs, and you can compare the entire job start to finish, eliminating color shift or opacity. Also be sure to keep a maintenance record for each printer so you know when and which heads or other components have been serviced or replaced.

The final step which I always remind printers of, is properly curing the graphics when printing any solvent inks. The minimum dry time for a printed graphic is 24 hours before laminating, and this means unrolled or on a flat open surface where air can move over the graphic. I often preach this as an absolute necessity, because many printers just donít understand how the solvents attack the adhesives and ruin nice quality graphics. These are just a few tips Iíve come across which can help put your printer at the top of its game.