Ok, I'm back. Yes, I've been back for a while but describing this process is taking longer than I thought. :) The press check went well. It's a good day when that happens!!!
Please bear with me with these photos. As most of you are aware, flourescent lighting isn't the best for taking photos and I didn't think to bring my big flash. Everything has a yellow/green haze on it...including me!!!
Anyhow, here we go.
This is an offset printing press (sometimes referred to as litho). Offset printing refers to the printing technique where ink is applied to a metal plate that is etched with images (my designs), then transferred to a rubber plate and finally imprinted on the substrate (in this instance, paper). Basically the paper is fed at one end (far right) and it goes through each of the press towers (you can see 6 on this press), picking up a color in each tower. Depending on the number of colors you are using will depend on how many passes the paper will go through a press. We print everything in CMYK which means there are 4 main colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) which are printed one on top of the other. Using CMYK is the most economical approach and we have the opportunity to make up thousands of colors. To read more about offset printing, you can check here.
Here's Matt loading the paper to feed into the press.
Here's the other end that the printed paper (it's worked it's way through each of the towers) is stacked.
There's a stack of "scrap" paper. Since we're doing a press check, they use old recycled stock to set-up the machine, print the first samples, and re-print samples until we get the colors just right. You can see there's some kraft paper mixed in with the white.
This is Tim. Tim is my buddy. He has been there from day one helping me with everything. I knew nothing, and I mean nothing about offset printing before starting Jillibean Soup. All of my prior work experience is with food. I could tell you how milk gets processed but not paper. Tim has basically held my hand through all of this, explaining the process, helping me source products (like corrugated paper), putting together numerous quotes to see what will fit with my budget, just everything...he's the man.
Sorry for the quality here, there's overhead lights at the press table that my camera did not like. Anyhow, do you notice that all the papers are on one large sheet? This is the way they get printed...not in the pretty 12x12.5 size that you buy in the store. There are both smaller and larger presses that can print on smaller or larger paper (up to 49"x74"). It works well for us with 6 in our collections. Normally, we do double sided sheets so we have to print the front sides first, wait for the paper to dry and then run the sheets back through for the backside.
Here's me holding the 26"x40" sheet with all 6 designs up on it.
Here I am at the press table. I'm using a tool called a loop to see if everything is "fitted". When the paper goes through the press and it picks up each color and they have to "fit" perfectly on top of one another. When you see a magazine that has colors hanging off the side of the text, that means it was not "fitted" correctly or the registration is off. During a press check I'm looking for lots of things...how it's fitted, if it's clean, if the details print the way I want them too and of course the colors. With CMYK we can easily manipulate the colors which is nice.
This is doing some color comparisons. Because we use so many of the same colors in our lines I usually pull in papers we have printed in the past to make sure the colors are accurate. We can also bring in a Pantone PMS book as seen above. This is the book that I use to choose the colors in the first place. This is the way everyone communicates (designer, designing program, printer) about color.
Here's the finished product. Love those colors!
Here goes the first pallet of "scrap" paper. This will not be used to sell but recycled for the next run. Once the thousands of sheets get run, they sit to dry and then get cut and shrink-wrapped.
Hopefully you have a better idea of what goes on and why patterned paper costs more than the paper you buy at Staples or Office Max. :)
If you would like to win some "hot off the press paper" leave a comment telling us what your first job was. We'll pick a winner bright and early Monday morning.
Good Luck! Happy Momma's Day to all you Mother's out there!