Pressroom Villains and Heroes

(With apologies to the paper industry)

Zap! Boom! Pow!

When it comes to Ink, Paper is the considered the Arch Villain. It used to be that Ink’s nemesis was Water. These days, Water is simply Paper’s sinister sidekick.

Yet Paper is not inherently bad.

He had a normal upbringing, nice parents, a good education. But he got into trouble when he started hanging out at the printing plant. It got worse when he stopped doing acid. (He heard it would make him more attractive and give him a longer life . . . )

Somewhere between seven and 14, he changed his pH and began a wave of headaches that would plague all aspects of the printing industry, from cutting (and dulling precious blades) to printing (and affecting the formulation of the fountain solution from one end of the run to the other, causing toning, tinting and emulsification — not to mention cussing).

And then there’s the color issue.

When Paper fills out the “optional” portion of his voter’s registration, he checks the box marked “caucasian.” But he’s really 40 shades of white, some bluish, some yellowish, some grayish, some “off.” Ink doesn’t stand a chance of correct matching unless he knows exactly what shade of white Paper is going to be today.

And what about this: Paper has the audacity to have varying opacities!

A lightweight or not-so-dense sheet can make Ink look washed out. With the right tools — calibration, color proofing, densitometers, paper samples — we can overcome this audacity . . . I mean opacity.

And did we tell you about finishing school?

Yes, Paper can be coated, uncoated, or even (nightmare!) coated-one-side. Ink goes crazy, absorbing into the sheet on some jobs and refusing to dry on others — or doing one thing on the front of the sheet and something else on the back. And when Paper is feeling “dull,” his matte coating causes Ink a new set of problems. As Paper absorbs Ink’s solvents, varnishes and waxes, the pigment is left on Paper’s surface — causing smearing or scuffing. Ink gets blamed for the mess!

Should we even bring up the subject of hickeys (and the equally disgusting-sounding word “picking”)? Yes, sometimes it is Ink’s fault (tacky, tacky, tacky). But other times, these problems are caused by Paper dust, Paper surface material or poor pressroom housekeeping.

Luckily, Ink has some tricks to fight back. Your ink manufacturer can guide you on specific inks, formulations or additives that can help with these problems, as well as guidance on the proper measurement of paper opacity and other paper characteristics.

What does Paper have to say about all of this? Stay tuned for the sequel … in the never-ending battle between Ink and Paper.

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