Inking a Better Cover
Whether through unique substrates, sizes, shapes, or finishing processes such as foil stamping or embossing, publishers need to create distinctive covers that stand out in a competitive marketplace.
Today's book buyers, including those in the educational market, see unique effects as the norm, not the exception. Book covers need to be remarkable enough for customers to pay attention.
But buyers don't want to pay more to get more. With trade book buyers pinching pennies, and school districts cutting budgets, publishers must deliver these dazzling cover looks for less cost and effort.
Publishers are forced to find inexpensive ways to produce unmatched effects. Several innovative printing options, such as stochastic, hexachrome, and UV (ultraviolet) coatings, allow publishers to produce unique, high-end book covers at lower cost.
Stochastic screening is all about print quality. This type of screen produces a far more detailed image, and larger color range. Stochastic printing means the finished product is cleaner, and provides a sharper, crisper image.
Hexachrome is an ultra-high-fidelity, six-color production process that, by adding green and orange to the traditional CMYK ink set, moves the printing process closer to the much larger RGB color space. It works on standard UV or traditional offset printing presses.
Hexachrome printing provides brighter, more vibrant colors. It also results in greatly improved detail, compared to traditional four-color CMYK printing. The hexachrome process virtually eliminates PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors.
Hexachrome's broader palette allows designers to get creative with color. This can result in terrific covers that look radiant when compared to 4-color printed products.
Ultraviolet (UV) coatings involve applying a clear finish to printed surfaces, which is dried using ultraviolet light. The slick UV coating makes the printed piece shine and shimmer, and is an increasingly popular option for book covers and jackets. This makes for an effective lower-cost alternative to lamination.
There are two other ways to use coatings that designers should consider as well: matte/gloss and spot/flood. A matte is a non-gloss (non-reflective) coating, generally used for materials with extensive cover copy, or to create a unique subdued effect.
Gloss, on the other hand, is reflective. It greatly enhances the perceived quality of a finished design, and can make any printed piece sparkle. Gloss is the property that's responsible for a coated paper's shiny, lustrous appearance. Higher quality papers will use a gloss coating to enhance the paper's longevity.
A spot varnish is simply a coating that's applied to a specific area of a book cover. This highlights that aspect of a cover design (perhaps a photo or logo). Conversely, to _flood_ a page means the entire piece is coated.
Book cover designers can also avail themselves of other novel techniques, such glow-in-the-dark text and images, metallics, glitter, thermochromatic, or photochromatic.
Glow-in-the-Dark ink technology allows production on an offset press, instead of the traditional need to screen print. As it's name implies, glow-in-the-dark inks light up in dark environments, and are a favorite with kids.
Metallics are an alternative to foil stamping. They provide an ever-expanding range of cool colors and effects. Examples of metallic inks include gold, silver, bronze, copper, and platinum.
Glitter effects contain distinct particles (flakes) that react with light, generating diverse effects.
Thermochromatic text and images are even more exciting, changing colors when touched, or through other means, as a result of exposure to warm or cold temperatures. Similarly, photochromatic inks alter color when they come in contact sunlight, or in the absence of bright light.
Using these simple, innovative printing techniques can dramatically increase cover appeal, while lowering manufacturing expenses, because they reduce the cost of producing each piece.
They can also cut cycle time with less processes, because the number of make-readies and dies are often reduced or even eliminated.
The quantity of covers produced becomes a driving factor, as typical make-readies on additional equipment (like foil stamping or embossing) can add hundreds or thousands of dollars (literally) for these processes.
This creates opportunities for shorter to medium book covers that were relegated to straight four-color.
- Jeffrey Burg
Jeffrey Burg is marketing manager for Visual Systems Inc. Visual Systems offers the printing technologies discussed in this article. Mr. Burg can be reached at JeffBurg@VSImail.com.