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Finding the Full Potential of Variable-Data Printing

(October 2015) posted on Tue Oct 20, 2015

Personalized and printable, Big Data isn’t just for the tech geeks.


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By Mark A. Coudray

Variable-data printing (VDP) has been around for a long time and has become a familiar part of our lives. We’re all familiar with inkjet-printed address labels on magazines, bills, and other direct mail we receive, all generated from variable-data fields. These applications took off in the mid to late ‘90s as the first digital commercial presses hit the market, capitalizing on the technology’s ability to combine multiple types of data to create unique final documents with each print.

Today, the primary uses of VDP remain in direct-response marketing, the huge industry we think of as junk mail that is still growing year over year. In our segment of the printing industry, VDP is used far less often, primarily because specialty graphics printers have tended to think of their businesses as commodity deposition of ink onto a substrate. VDP requires a different mindset that owners are beginning to adopt as they realize they are in the graphic communications business and the products they produce aren’t dependent on a specific printing method or process.



VDP offers some very exciting possibilities for even the smallest shops. You don’t need super-sophisticated software. If you just want to personalize soccer jerseys with the team name, player, and number, no problem. You can get great results from the Adobe Creative Cloud (Illustrator, InDesign, etc.), CorelDraw, or even Microsoft Word.

There have been many great examples of graphics that combine variable images and text using direct-to-garment and wide-format inkjet printers. Since images can be merged into the same databases housing the other variable data, you just need to know what you want to accomplish with the finished graphic. You may want to change the color combinations on a graphic depending on the color of the garment, for example. Or you might want to substitute different logos for each team in a league. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.


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