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The Search for the Supreme Separation Method

(August 2007) posted on Mon Aug 20, 2007

Explore common color-separation techniques, the ideal situations in which to use each one, and how to combine the methods for optimum results on press.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Simulated process produces the brightest prints, but the production end of it is not a simple matter. Overlapping hues and halftones often re-quire custom color matching, and press issues can create unwanted dot gain in colors as they stack up on top of each other. Handling all of the variables effectively takes practice and consistency with separations, screens, and press setup.

Should you use simulated process? This premier separation method is an obvious choice for companies that produce a lot of full-color, illustrative work on dark shirts. Biker shirts and a lot of nature/animal apparel are printed using simulated-process separations. Companies moving out of spot-color separations and working more into process with a lot of halftones and blends will find that the simulated-process prints are forgiving on press and tend to maintain quality better than some of the other processes. Finally, printers who have a large call for dark shirts and designs with lots of shadows and transparent effects need to consider simulated process.

Illustrative work on shirts is back in vogue right now, so a lot of printers are looking at simulated process to try to develop a method that will create bright prints on dark shirts (Figure 3). Printers who win a lot of awards are usually experienced at simulated process because this method of separation provides the most control over the final print and gives extraordinary results if the time is put in.

The largest downside to high-end simulated-process separations and printing is that each job needs its own tweaking to be really successful. In many cases, you’ll have to customize a separation set so that the design’s saturated colors are incorporated in areas like shadows and highlights to really give it a pop factor. For some printers, this level of individual, per job, adjustment is a nightmare; for other companies, it’s an exciting challenge. A shop’s personality and mentality really make the difference. I respect those who enjoy a challenge, but I equally respect the mentality of knowing what works for a business and when to say no way.


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