In Offset Printing, Proper Ink Coverage Is Critical for Success

Offset printing technology provides an affordable way for companies to obtain high-quality results at a reasonable per-piece cost.

Although this technology has been around for almost 150 years, it’s no more foolproof today than it was a century ago. In fact, the success (or failure) of any print project lies largely with the design.

One of the most common challenges to an outstanding final product is ink oversaturation.

In Offset Printing, Proper Ink Coverage Is Critical for Success

Total Ink & Area Coverage in Offset Printing

Offset printing uses a four-color process (CMYK) to render all the colors in your design onto the printed page. Every color on the spectrum can be created by combining tiny dots of two or more of the four shades — cyan, magenta, yellow, key (black) — in various proportions.

To make bright red, for example, coverage might be 2 percent cyan, 93 percent magenta and 90 percent yellow, for a total of 185 percent coverage.

In the printing industry, we use the terms total area coverage (TAC) and total ink coverage (TIC) to quantify the highest percentage allowable that offset printing equipment or a certain type of paper stock can handle. Some printers max out at 240-260 percent while others can go as high as 300-320 percent.

Why Oversaturation Is Perilous to Your Printing Project

When you exceed TIC/TAC limits, you can overtax the press capacity and oversaturate paper or cardstock during the printing process. This can leave you with a variety of problems.

At best, oversaturation can create a muddy effect in your printed images. But it’s likely to result in other problems that are more technical. For example, oversaturation can prevent the ink from drying quickly enough. As the printed sheets stack on top of one another, the wet ink may rub off on the back of the sheet above, a phenomenon known as a set-off.

Applying Good Offset Printing Design Principles to Avoid Oversaturation

Today, many companies design their own printed materials in-house. Graphics and design software is sufficiently user-friendly to allow even novices to design marketing materials and ship them off to the printer. Unfortunately, your software may lack the ability to warn you about oversaturation risks.

Depending on which software application you use for design, you should be able to check the stats for your TAC and make adjustments to address any potential oversaturation.

If you’re not sure how to accomplish this, the offset printing experts at Sun Print Solutions can help. As a part of our value-added services, we have electronic color pre-press experts who can review your files prior to sending them to print. We can ensure that your files are optimized to produce the best results for you. Contact Sun Print Solutions today for assistance with all your digital and offset printing needs.

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