Tag Archives: Printing

Printing Gradients

Perfecting Your Gradients


In this day and age customers expect perfection. Whether it’s the color accuracy of a photo or the perfectly straight fold of a brochure, printers are always trying to squeeze the most out of their tools. In this article I want to cover a particularly difficult area of printing; gradients.

A gradient, in regards to printing, is a smooth blend from one color to another. Gradients can come in all shapes and sizes, they can also include more than two colors. Their use has steadily increased in our industry as designers have started taking advantage of the growing number of color printers in the field. Gradients bring a set of challenges to the printer, especially in digital printing.

There are several guidelines you can follow to get the most out of your gradients. The most effective method for improving your final results starts at the design stage by adhering to some basic guidelines. Things like making sure it’s a vector element and dictating values that won’t clash with the natural dot gain from the print engine. There are also some steps you can take at the last minute to improve your results right at the print engine.

Firstly, vector gradients are far superior to raster artwork. In a nutshell, raster artwork is comprised of pixels with a defined resolution. Each individual pixel has its own color designation. A raster gradient could be described as a picture of a gradient. Vector gradients are mathematically defined. A vector gradient is essentially a line with points along its axis with color anchors. This more simple method of creating a gradient is far simpler and more forgiving once it hits the print engine. Vector gradients allow the RIP system in the print engine to do its own calculations of all the colors in between the defined anchor points. In essence it gives the printer a degree of flexibility to smoothly draw the fade based on its own math. A raster gradient comes predefined and the printer simply outputs what it receives, which isn’t always a good fit for the printer (Figure 1).

Second, we’ll talk about color limits and dot gain. This can be a deep topic but there are some simple rules to keep things simple. This part focuses on the color choices and what specific colors are used within the gradient. Simply speaking, you want to avoid having your gradient reach the limits of the color channel. That is to say, your lowest and highest color values should be within the center 80% of the full range of color (Figure 2).

When venturing outside of this safe range you are likely to experience a phenomena when printing where your gradient will have a hard step. This occurs when the color values defined in the artwork cross over the dot gain that happens during printing. Printers have a word for this, it’s called plugging. Basically what’s happening is the artwork is calling for such a high fidelity dot that it falls outside of what’s possible for the printer to reproduce (Figure 3).

Those tips are great if you have the luxury of going back to the source document. Often times, trouble doesn’t arise until crunch time when a job is due. In that situation, options are limited to changes on the output side. There are a couple things you can do to help improve your results.

Calibration is critical for smooth gradients. Calibration, or more specifically linearization, is your first line of defense when having trouble printing a gradient. A proper linearization forces the print engine’s output to be true to dot. When a machine falls out of calibration you can start to see unwanted shifts in small ranges of color. On most printers, the calibration or linearization process is rather user friendly and it’s just good practice to keep the printer calibrated.

If you’re still struggling to print a smooth gradient and your printer is well calibrated you may need to explore running at a lower line screen. Printing at a lower LPI will increase the size of the dots comprising the printed image. This can help to ease the load on the print engine and help it to produce a smoother looking gradient. It can have some adverse effects on other elements in the job but this trade off can help in some situations. If your print engine or RIP system allows, you can also experiment with alternate dot shapes, such as stochastic or a line shaped dot.

Gradients can be difficult, in many ways, they are one of the toughest elements to print. With a bit of planning ahead you can circumvent many problems by just changing some properties of the gradient. In a pinch you can also experiment with the output settings of the engine and get out of trouble.

Mid-State Litho, Inc.
5459 Fenton Rd.
Flint, MI 48507

Efficiency in Small-Format Offset Printing

Efficiency in Small-Format Offset Printing

baumprint18With its high level of automation, the BaumPrint™ 18 creates the ideal conditions for cost-effective production of one- two-, and multi-color jobs. The compact single-sheet feeder can handle an exceptionally wide range of formats and printing stock.
The BaumPrint 18 is the ideal press for high-quality print items for private and business use. Its compact design and ease of operation combine with versatile standard and optional equipment to handle a variety of formats and stocks efficiently, with high quality and consistency, and less waste. BaumPrint 18 features include bearer-to-bearer pressure for consistent dot transfer, longer plate and blanket life, and increased quality of all printed pieces, sensor-controlled pile feeding, outstanding sheet separation, and much more!
The BaumPrint 18 printing unit delivers superb color brilliance and top quality. Here are the advantages for your printing process at a glance:
  • Make-ready Times: The AutoPlate automatic plate changer enables rapid job changes and cuts make- ready times.
  • Productivity: The high level of automation enables you to complete a large volume of jobs in a short time, thereby delivering measurably greater efficiency when producing one- and two-color commercial jobs.
  • Quality:The large inking unit, alcohol-free direct continuous dampening system and smooth sheet travel deliver consistent, high-quality print results.
  • Cost-effectiveness: You can produce one- and two-color jobs using a range of formats and printing stock incredibly cost-effectively.
  • Ergonomics: You benefit from the ease of use and compact, space-saving construction of the press.
Don’t miss your chance to demo the BaumPrint 18 on November 6th & 7th, 2013, right here in Flint! If you haven’t RSVP yet, time is running out CLICK HERE.
Mid-State Litho, Inc.
5459 Fenton Rd.
Flint, MI 48507

Colordyne’s Digital Conversion Program


Colordyne’s Digital Conversion Program

1600pcColordyne’s digital conversion program allows you to turn your existing press into a state-of-the-art hybrid digital web press. The Colordyne CDT 1600PC Retrofit digital label and tag printing platform offers an industry-leading combination of high print quality, fast job production, and low equipment cost.

The 1600PC Retrofit is an ideal print production solution for Label Converters looking to add full color digital inkjet printing to their existing flexographic press. Avoid setup expenses by printing small jobs digitally and add full color variable data to traditional analog processes. The superior performance and price proposition, ease of use, self-maintainability, and scalability of the 1600PC Retrofit platform create a powerful productivity tool suitable for use in a variety of business environments. Label converters can utilize the 1600PC to profitably augment and grow current CMYK printing activities on print jobs of 5,000 feet (1,530 m) or less.


  • Variable Data Integration
  • Color Management Software
  • Over 100 Recognized Substrates
  • Full Process CMYK+S
  • 1600 x 1200 dpi
  • Print Speed 160ft/min
  • 8.69″ Max Print Width
  • Waterfall Print Head Technology
  • 70,4000 Nozzles per Print Head
  • 1.2 Pico Liter Drop Size
  • Water Based Dye Ink
  • 10 L Ink Tank Per Color
  • Operator Touch Screen
  • 24″ Raised Vacuum Platen

For additional information, please visit MSL at www.midstatelitho.net or call 1-800-343-4231.

MSL – Print & Graphic Art Supplies

Mid-State Litho

Print & Graphic Art Supplies

Search our printing and graphic arts supplies and products by visiting our webshop.

MSL offers a wide variety of printshop and graphic art supplies. A number of products are in-stock and available on our webshop, while many more are available for order over the phone.

MSL has made shopping online for your graphic supply needs simple. You can shop by solutions or manufacturer. If you need help with any items you contact us at 1-800-343-4231 or you can email us at sales@midstatelitho.net



For additional information or ordering assistance, please contact us at 1-800-343-4231 or by email at sales@midstatelitho.net

Mid-State Litho, Inc.

Imagine What You Could Do With MGI…

MGI JetVarnish 3D

MGI JETvarnish3D – 3D Spot UV Coater

This revolutionary machine has changed the way the graphics industry views spot UV coating.  It provides a 100% digital solution that simplifies the spot UV process, allows for personalization and costs drastically less than traditional silk screen or offset methods.

The new JETvarnish 3D pushes the limits of traditional spot UV coating with a new 3D effect that varies in thickness depending on application requirements, providing a unique advantage to finished documents not only in appearance but by its unique and tactile feel.

If you would like to receive additional information about MGI JetVarnish 3D contact MSL at 1-800-343-4231 or you can email us at sales@midstatelitho.net



Heavy Stock Digital Color Print Systems

Xante Ilumina 650 GS Series Image

Ilumina 650 GS Series

Features at a Glance:

  • 2 Dimensional Textured Stocks
  • Oversized Up-To 13″ x 47″
  • Run Variable Data at Full-Speed
  • Heavy Card Stocks Up-To 32 pt (650 gsm)

The Ilumina 650 Gs Digital Color Press features high definition digital color technology and it includes iQueue Color Smart Workflow with two production models: Ilumina 650 Gs Digital Color Press and Ilumina 650 GS Digital Production Press.

Ilumina 650 GS Digital Color Systems are a complete print solutions that allow you to produce high volume full color sheets, cards, envelopes, brochures, banners and more. They can print on a wide variety of media from text weights to extremely heavy card stocks (up to 32pt), textured stocks, metallics, and label stocks. Ilumina 650 GS Systems are available in two production model and are driven by the automated iQueue Color Smart Workflow.

Workflow Feature Include:

  • Monitor Preview/Job Cost Estimating
  • Project Management/Job Archiving
  • Track Multiple Run Counts/Count Sheets
  • Imposition/Page Nudge, Rotation and Marks
  • Automated Color Management
  • Wide Variety of Screening Options

To receive a copy of your Xante Ilumina 650 GS Series information packet contact us at 1-800-343-4231 or email us at sales@midstatelitho.net or you can CLICK HERE! 

Notes on Aqueous Coating

Aqueous Coated Printed Sheet

Aqueous Coated Printed Sheet

Aqueous coatings are bigger than ever in today’s printing market. An aqueous coater is often built directly into a printing press because it is ideally applied immediately after the ink. The coating itself has numerous benefits including a beautiful glossy shine to the finished product and improved durability for jobs that might be going through the mail.  Benefits on the production side are quick dry-times that allow the job to be shipped out right away or flipped over and printed again in a short amount of time. There are many misconceptions in the world of aqueous coatings that we will address in this article.

Many variables exist in aqueous coatings. Differences in infra-red dryers, anilox application rollers, coating formulas, and mixes all play into the behavior and final look of the coating. All reputable coating suppliers offer guidelines for their coatings providing specific details and instructions to follow.

In addition to manufacturer specifications, there are many broader guidelines and general rules to follow. First we’ll start with the coating itself. Plan ahead; when shooting for a high gloss, large amounts of coating must be used. This will limit your options later on.  Jobs with a heavy coating applied for high gloss can only be coated on one side whereas lighter coatings can be done on both sides of a job.

Coatings are applied to the sheet by means of an anilox roller. An anilox roller is designed specifically for this purpose and has a special surface covered with a large number of tiny pockets or cells. The cells act as buckets to evenly disperse the coating on the sheet. Cell count is measured in LPI or lines per inch which is a count of the rows of cells per inch around the diameter of the roller. Cell depth is a specification exclusively for anilox rollers. Cell depth determines how much and how thick the coating applied to the sheet is.

Anilox Roller Cells Magnified at 400x

Anilox Roller Cells Magnified at 400x

The viscosity will cause the look and behavior of your coating to vary. Viscosity is a measurement of how runny or thick your coating is. This is controlled by adding water. Viscosity is measured with a tool called a Zahn cup, which is essentially a bucket with a hole in it. Measurement is made by filling the Zahn cup with coating and using a stopwatch to measure how long it takes for the coating to run through. Viscosity will also vary based on the environmental temperature around the press. A cool coating will be thick and a warm coating will be runny. Most suppliers suggest an environment between 66 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit for an optimum performance. You should consult your supplier for mixing guidelines to control the viscosity of your coating.

In regards to drying your coating, it is generally recommended to maximize the airflow in the dryer rather than simply turning up the heat. Aqueous coatings dry by evaporation, and while heat accelerates evaporation, without proper airflow the surrounding air becomes saturated and moisture has nowhere to go. Excess heat in the dryer can cause problems like curling or in extreme cases can cause fire. As a general rule, it is recommended that coatings are dried at 95 degrees Fahrenheit on the first side and 90 degrees on the other side. Most manufacturers recommend that your heater never exceeds 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjusting the speed at which your press is running also has an impact on drying because of the simple fact that a slower sheet will spend more time inside the dryer. Work and Turn printing offers the best dry times.

When considering foil stamping, ink jet, laser printing, or ink over coating to name a few specialty applications, consult your supplier for specific information.