Being able to properly communicate the parameters of the job is essential to the artist-printer relationship, especially when it comes to large format graphics, according to Peter Markatos, co-principal, Markatos Moore, a San Francisco, CA-based design firm.
“It seems like every large format project we print is different. Even if we determine that it’s printed on vinyl, there may be three or four different options for affixing that vinyl to the structure. And, as designers, we may not know all of the technicalities; it’s impossible for us to know all of the variables. We look to our print partners to provide a level of guidance,” confides Markatos.
At times, this guidance must come in the form of a proof—hard or soft. There is still debate over the benefits of soft—or virtual—proofing. It can be efficient and inexpensive, but many variables influence its perfection. Monitor calibration is one. In an industry that heavily relies on color, especially hitting a brand’s red or orange, designers, print providers, and customers cannot take a gamble on a faulty proof.
Many designers use on hard copies to assure customers that the final output is what they expect. Firms that outsource their printing, such Markatos Moore, rely on print providers to get it right the first time.
For proofing, Eric Schneider, owner, Optixa Gallery & Studio, based in Raleigh, NC, says that nothing takes the place of a hard copy proof. “I like virtual proofs at the beginning of the project, but there comes a time when you need a true hard copy,” he stresses. “I ask printers to produce a 100 percent rendition, in one-foot squares, on the actual material we’re going to print on, and with the final laminate. I won’t accept any substitutions, which allows me to go to my client and say, ‘This is the color you can expect.’ I may also ask the printer to produce test strips of critical areas, like flesh tones of a person’s face.”
Ink on paper proofs from a printer are also essential to Belle & Wissell Co., founded in 2003 by Gabe Kean and located in Seattle, WA. The firm offers content creation, audio visual exhibit designs, and curatorial services for museums, media companies, and retail brands. “The material varies for large format pieces, and hard copy proofs represent a critical step to ensuring the pigmentation of the printed material holds the expected color. Virtual proofing may be great for verifying placement and making sure that everything translated through the RIP process, but in terms of seeing what you’re really going to get, it’s deficient,” he says.
As alluded to in the first part of this Web series, designers and print providers must work together to achieve high-quality, large format prints. This occurs throughout a long process, which starts with creating a design. Read more about the importance of collaboration in the September issue of Digital Output.