It’s one of the design world’s greatest unwritten rules: web designers have to hate print design. They should scoff at it every chance they get. Print design? Ha! That’s so 1985.
Yet while most web professionals are outspoken against this “outdated” field, they’re also secretly intrigued by it. Print design can accomplish textures that aren’t possible on the web. And there’s something magical about how inks mix to create color—something artistic and beautiful in the process itself. With web design, on the other hand, colors show up onscreen at the touch of a button.
If you’ve ever wondered if there’s more to print design than meets the eye, now’s your chance to cross over to the dark side. According to the professional print designers at Company Folders, these four printing techniques can create amazing designs that just aren’t possible online.
Virtual reality games are the latest digital craze, offeringan immersive, 3D experience in interactive play zones. But that super cool technology isn’t yet available for the web.3D elements on a website are still relegated to a screen, making them feel impersonal and limiting “interaction” to tapping a touchpad. Even worse,these elements can only manage to look 3D—the user’s screen will be flat regardless.
But when printers emboss a design, they can create multiple tiers of texture. Embossing presses a custom metal die into the paper stock to create a design that’s raised above the stock’s surface. (You can also deboss the paper to create a design that’s indented.)People can actually touch and feel this texture, engaging multiple senses for a more memorable experience.
Computer screens can have some pretty impressive displays, but they have a hard time achieving a realistic metallic effect. That’s not a problem in the printing industry, where designers can apply an array of metallic foils to their projects. Foil stamping presses a hot metal die onto a thin layer of foil, sealing it onto the paper stock underneath. Then, clients can pick up the design, tilting it this way and that to make light reflect off the foil.
Even if you’re not looking for a metallic foil, this technique can still do things that aren’t possible online. All foils are smooth to the touch, so they naturally contrast the rougher feel of the paper’s fiber. As with embossing, this creates a unique texture clients can physically touch—creating a sensory brand experience they can’t get from running their hands over a computer screen.
The RGB colors you use in your digital designs are created by blending light that’s projected against a screen—which even our printer friends have to admit is pretty cool. That said, RGB colors aren’t going to help you if you run across a design that needs to be printed. Only CMYK and PMS colors can be printed.
Of the two, CMYK is the more flexible color profile. It’s got an infinite range of colors that can be created with custom inks mixed directly during production. With so many possibilities, this technique is perfect for recreating detailed designs that involve complex patterns or hi-resolutionphotos.
The Pantone Matching System is perhaps the most impressive color profile. Invented by a part-time employee and chemistat Pantone Inc., the system was designed to organize ink pigments. Today, printers can create more than 1,000 standardized colors—using only 14 base pigments.
Because PMS is a universal system, any color you print will be exactly the same on any design at any print shop. Not even RGB colors can do that; since computer screens are all calibrated slightly differently, RGB colors don’t look the same on all monitors. PMS printing’s consistency makes it one of the most popular techniques—so much so that there’s even a Pantone Color of the Year. (If you want to get ahead of the game, the 2018 color forecast is already available).
Pretty cool, right?The only thing better than learning how printing techniques work is learning how to make them work for you. This great resource will teach you how to choose the right type of printing and accessories: