Using Rich Black where there is text & fine detail

It’s hard to advise without seeing it.

My bad, I guessed it was a short run digital. Still think it is, but without being sure and unable to choose, don’t listen to me.

I can send in a private message if you want? I just don’t want to post publicly.

If you want to do that you can - I wasn’t suggesting you post the actual full image.

Just a sample - with sample text.

But if it suits to do it in a PM.

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it appears the front is an image with large block text which will be fine.

The back is a rich black background with white text and a barcode.

some small logos in white - not the ideal situation - but as long as the black is a 50% cyan and 100% black it should be ok.

Or a mix in rich black formula - whatever has worked in previous.

Vista Print recommends 60% cyan and 100% black

And super black - which I wouldn’t recommend for text knocking out.

I’ve advised the logos should be bigger as the text is quite small.

I’d recommend for knockout white text on rich black to be at least 8pt in size and in bold - not regular or light - and extra kerning.

But it’s difficult and incorrect to fiddle with supplied logos.

In that case - you can increase as much as possible - even if it means having logos across 2 lines.

It’s better for them to be readable than not readable.

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I mentioned trapping a couple of times, and it’s especially important when reversing small text out of dark backgrounds.

At the risk of being pedantic, I’ll explain.

When printing multiple colors on top of one another, small registration errors can occur — especially on a large printing press where the plates might not be properly aligned and the paper can shift slightly as it’s pulled through the press.

With digital printing, this is less important since there are no plates and the paper stock isn’t typically subjected to the mechanical forces of an offset press. However, registration is still something to consider — especially at the edges where white abuts a multi-ink black where any misregistration can result in magenta, cyan, or yellow edges to the letters. Even when the edges are perfectly registered, the nature of ink soaking into the paper (dot gain) and the inherent fuzziness of how digital inks are applied can still cause small problems.

Trapping is the process that mitigates this problem. Trapping used to be a huge part of every job and used to be handled by the process camera operators during prepress. Today, it’s handled by the software (both in InDesign and in the output RIP).

Trapping is accomplished by something called spreading. For example, in your case, you want the black to print right to the edge of each line or letter, but you want the cmy inks to not print right to the edge. The trapping algorithms in the software automatically pull back those CMY colors by a point or so (called spreading), which means that any misregistrations that are smaller than that won’t be noticeable because they fall within the safety created by the trap.

Most designers never think of these things any longer because they’re handled by the layout and RIP software. Any manual adjustments to the software trap settings are handled by conscientious prepress operators based on their experience with what’s being printed — for example, the point size of the type, the paper stock being used, and the printing technology and press being used.

VistaPrint will have a one-size-fits-all way of handling the traps since they’re just gang running things continuously through their presses in whatever way the work comes in and in whatever way is the best average trap for everything they’re printing,

A good local printer can work with you on things like this to make sure the amount of trapping is appropriate for the job at hand. However, there are still a few things to keep in mind. For example, InDesign doesn’t consistently handle trapping for TrueType fonts very well but does a good job with OpenType fonts. An Adobe RIP, on the other hand, handles TrueType just fine. Live text on placed graphics might not be trapped by the software at all. A non-Adobe RIP will handle trapping differently than an Adobe RIP. Sometimes, in some situations, it’s best to convert the text to outlines and sometimes it’s best to leave it live.

My point is that it typically doesn’t matter since it’s not critical except in cases such as yours where the automatic trapping might not be ideal because you’re working with fine white shapes reversed out of a multi-color black. VistaPrint will claim they can handle it, but they won’t put any extra work into customizing any of their trap settings for your job. A good, quality-conscious local printer will do that — especially if you point out your concerns to them.

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So while I have always been aware of most of what you have said as a designer, I am not familiar with trapping. So, thank you so much for explaining that. I created this post because I do understand the complications that come with the design I’ve created as per the client but I wasn’t sure how to circumvent. You and the others have offered great solutions. I reached out to a local printer right now and they are going to look at the file and requests along with a quote by end of today. That makes me feel a lot more confident now knowing I can work directly with a printer without any big surprises as long as they can finish the project in time.

The client has trusted my advice on multiple projects I’ve finished so far for her and I don’t want to let her down on this one. This project was designed in Illustrator, by the way.

When you said, you manually trap – how do you do that? Is that an option in InDesign only?

While trapping is super important. It’s best left to specialist… Vista or moo won’t give a cow… And rightly said that they’ll have a one size fits all.

I’d highly recommend not dabbling in trap settings unless you know what you’re doing

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I agree. Those adjustments are something for the printer to be concerned with.

The reason I mentioned it is because most designers are unaware of the subject and are a bit confused when working in situations that depend on accurate trapping. A little knowledge about the subject helps explain the issues involved and helps designers avoid bad outcomes that didn’t need to happen if they’d handled the problem a little differently or discussed it with a good local printer instead of shipping it off to a gang printer and hoping for the best.

As mentioned, these are settings for the prepress people at the printing company to concern themselves with. However, if you’d like to take a peek, in InDesign, go to Window > Output > Trap Presets. This will open a box where trapping can be turned on and off. In this same dialogue box, the hamburger icon at the upper right will open another set of options where specific trap settings can be made.

These same kinds of trap settings can be made in Acrobat by the printer when you send them PDFs instead of the original files.

In addition, trapping can also be applied at the output RIP. If you don’t know what that is, RIP stands for Raster Image Processor. It’s the software in the output device (whether desktop laser printer, platesetter, imagesetter, digital printing company printer, etc) that converts the files you send into the high-resolution pixel-by-pixel bitmaps that are necessary for printing. Adobe makes RIPs, but other companies do as well, and they’re all a bit different with different capabilities.

So taking all this into consideration, the right amount of trapping on jobs where the automatic settings need to be adjusted, depends on the job at hand and the equipment the printer is using. A really good commercial printer will do all this stuff (and more) without you ever knowing about it. But when special circumstances exist where I know there’s a problem, I’ll always mention it to them ahead of time so they know I’m paying attention and so they can optimize their setup for the best possible work. VistaPrint (or any gang printer) won’t do this. Instead, it all goes into the hopper and whatever is sent gets printed without too much regard for any case-by-case adjustments.

By the way, here’s a little more information on traps directly from Adobe, if you’re interested.

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OK, so you guys have given awesome advice and really bumped up my knowledge on this topic. I took your advice and reached out to a local printer and am sooooo glad I did. I didn’t expect to receive such a thorough reply, great options, and economic costs as I did nor as quickly.

I encouraged my client to go through with the local printer. Now, we are just deciding between the UV coating for a 16pt postcard where the image on the front will really pop because of the gloss vs a 32pt uncoated postcard with an inseam color that matches their logo. I love the second option. It’s pricier and I do worry it won’t pop as well but I think it adds that awesome wow factor to the final product in other ways. As for the rich black, I already discussed this in detail with the printer and made my concerns known. They said not to worry about it as the final product will be using press printing. Man, I cannot believe I have not gone through a local printer in years. This was such a perfect solution.

Thank you all for pushing me in that direction!

At least with a local print you can get sample