Rushing the separation process can lead to disaster in production. Find out how to determine which approach represents the best mix of quality and speed for your shop.
Preparing files for color separation is one of the most underrated activities in the art department. The artist may not know how or have the experience to prep the file, the designer may not want to revisit the work before separation to avoid looking inefficient, and there is always the communication process that needs to happen between the art department and the sales department when the look of the artwork is adjusted. These issues may cause a design to go to separation with a lot of inherent problems that will cause significant separation challenges or may not show up until the screens go onto the press. Deal with your art and separation problems before pulling out colors. Colors become more difficult to define once the separation process starts.
Prepping an art file for separation involves reviewing it in three major areas: color pollution, resolution and file size, and edge quality. Once you review and correct for all of these aspects—if necessary or applicable as budget and time permit—the final colors are almost always easier, clearer, and simpler to duplicate correctly in a final print. Here’s a quick look at the three areas of art prep in regard to how they contribute to the separation process:
Color pollution This is the one of the least addressed areas in prepping artwork. Ironically, it is also one of the easiest to correct. An image that appears at a distance to have a flat area of color may, upon closer inspection, have a lot of colors that are crowding together to effectively pollute the intended color (Figure 1). Separations may have a lot of holes in the solid areas of color when this color is pulled, and extra colors may be ghosted onto other screens where they don’t belong.
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