Offset Printing Quality Issues: Hickeys, Ghosting & Picking (Oh My!)

In offset printing, quality is an ever-present concern, both for the printing company and the customer.

Offset Printing Quality Issues: Hickeys, Ghosting & Picking (Oh My!)

Some defects and problems occur due to the customer’s choice of paper stock or ink while others relate to problems in the design of the artwork. In many other cases, however, quality issues arise due to a problem in the print shop, with the equipment or setup.

Hickeys, Donuts & Bullseyes in Offset Printing

These terms all basically refer to a single offset printing phenomenon, best known as the hickey. A hickey is a spot or halo on the printed image that resembles a donut or bullseye.

A hickey occurs when a piece of dust or random mote sticks to either the plate or blanket of the offset printing press or the printing medium, which causes an imperfection on the printed page. Other potential causes include degradation in the press rollers, paper fibers and solid particles suspended in printing ink.

These flaws are virtually impossible to eliminate 100 percent of the time, but the finished print job shouldn’t be plagued with hickeys.

Some offset presses have automatic “hickey pickers.” However, print shop employees may have to stop the presses to clear away the offending particle if their press is not so equipped.

Ghosting & Offsetting

When an offset run has shadows of images, the resulting printed pages reflect the phenomenon known as offsetting or ghosting.

This problem — which has plagued printing companies since the advent of the offset press — occurs when too much ink is used, when the ink mix is incorrect or if the print shop attempts to finish the job before the ink dries sufficiently. The design of the press itself can also be to blame, as can the print job’s design.

To address this issue, your printing company must identify the source of the problem and adjust accordingly.

Offset Printing Plucking & Picking

Plucking (also known in the industry as picking) occurs when the paper stock itself sustains damage, which either removes some of the paper’s coating or causes the coating to blister.

The paper stock may be to blame, as some stocks are more prone to picking and plucking than others. However, the problem may also be traced to overly sticky ink or ink that is too sticky for the strength of the paper. In some cases, the paper itself may have a manufacturing defect.

The printing company can attempt to avoid this problem by cleaning the offset printing rollers, by changing the ink mix or by starting a new production run.

At Sun Print Solutions, we are proud to have a highly trained and experienced production team as well as state-of-the-art printing technology. This helps us minimize these and other quality-related issues so you get a perfect print run every time.

In addition to digital and offset printing, we provide a variety of value-added services, including direct mailing, packaging printing, kitting and fulfillment. Contact us today to learn how we can offer our customers exceptional quality offset printing at an affordable price.

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