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Digital Factory Tutorials

Halftones & Screen Separations

Can the RIP print screen separations?

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is yes, but the RIP is only part of the solution.

You must ensure that your transparent film works well with the ink in your printer to produce solid black regions. Usually when we get this question the user is an Epson printer owner. Epson printers were very popular for this application a few years ago when their ink was dye based. This ink worked very well with a variety of transparent media, and the CADlink RIP was easily able to generate clean, crisp halftones.

Epson has since replaced their entire line of printers, and use a new inkset called UltraChrome, and most recently UltraChrome K3. These inksets are pigment based (archival), and as such do not offer the same opacity as the previous dye inks on the same series of transparent media. Some companies specialize in selling solutions where you either buy a good transparent media that has been tested and found to work well with the UltraChrome inkset, or they replace an ink cartridge with one that is dye based, allowing you once again your choice of transparent media.

While you can easily get the RIP to produce halftone output for screen separations, the entire solution does not depend on the RIP so much as the ink/media combination you are using.

Testing the Media & Ink

To determine if your ink works well with the media you have, print a solid 100% black rectangle on your media. When you hold it up to the light you should not see any light shining through. If you see streaks or lines in the print from your regular driver at 100%, then it's unlikely that the RIP will be able to make it work. If the distortions are very minor then there is a chance that the RIP can resolve the problem, but finding another media or ink solution is recommended before considering the RIP as a solution.

Calibration Wizard

Calibration Wizard

Create color profiles using the advanced calibration wizard

There are many ways to create a color profile from our packages. Some generate more accurate results than others, but require the use of specific equipment, while others allow you to produce a quick profile using a regular scanner.

This document will explain how to generate high quality print modes using a spectrophotometer.

Suggestion:Use the Novice Calibration Wizard for step-by-step coaching in calibration. This document will focus on the Advanced Calibration Wizard.

Supported Spectrophotometers

  • Gretag Eye-One
  • Gretag iCColor
  • Gretag Spectrolino
  • X-Rite DTP20
  • X-Rite DTP41
  • 1. Start SignLab or Digital Factory.
  • 2. Click the Options menu.

Calibration Wizard

  • 3. Click Advanced Calibration Wizard.
  • 4. At the Introduction page click Next.
  • 5. Select Start a new print mode
  • 6. Click Next.
  • 7. Type in a Name for your new print mode. You should include the resolution and something unique to help you remember for which media this was created.
  • 8. Verify that the Printer selected is the one you wish to profile. If it isn’t, then select the correct printer from the list.
  • 9. Select a similar Starting Point print mode. This automatically sets the Printer Options settings to what CADlink considers reasonable
  • 10. Select the Input Device that you will use to measure the targets later. (Anything but Scanner will work for this tutorial).
  • 11. Verify that the Printer Options set are correct for this print mode. Note that the Printer Options that appear will vary depending on the printer selected.

Calibration Wizard

  • 12. When you are satisfied with the settings click Next.
  • 13. You are ready to print your first chart. Choose a Page size for your targets. The larger the page the more swatches can be printed on one page. You can expect about 450 patches no larger than 0.5 inches, each stacked in rows.
  • 14. Ignore the Adjust ink limits button unless you specifically know that the media you are working with has a very low ink limit tolerance

Note: The Adjust Ink limits button is used to preemptively hard cap individual color channels, if you know that a particular color is too strong or will cause you trouble. For example, a given color might be too strong and the Wizard may be pulling too aggressively on it. This is a completely subjective approach to color calibration and should only be attempted if you have a great deal of experience in color calibration with our system.

  • 15. Click the Print button.
  • 16. The job now appears in the Print and Cut Manager.
  • 17. Ensure that the Serial Port for your scanner is correctly selected.
  • 18. Ensure that the Serial Port for your scanner is correctly selected.
  • 19. When the print is done, cut it off and bring it to the scanning device. Return to SignLab or Digital Factory and follow the directions listed on the Wizard page, which helps you with the specific scanner you are using.
  • 20. Click on Start Reading to scan the targets.

Calibration Wizard

  • X-rite DTP41 Notes
  • X-rite DTP20 Notes
  • Gretag Eye-One Notes
  • Gretag Spectrolino Notes
  • 21. If you know that your media is not at risk of severe over inking then you can skip to step 28.
  • 22. Click Print MaxInk Charts.
  • 23. When the Nesting dialog appears set the roll width to the width of the media in your printer.
  • 24.Click OK.
  • 25. The job will appear in the Print and Cut Manager. Print the job.
  • 26. With the print in hand, choose which image is the best without over inking. If you need to see within a smaller range you can edit the values in the dialog and reprint another set within a smaller range.
  • 27. Enter the number next to the print you like the best, in the desired Max ink value field.
  • 28. Click Next.
  • 29. Ensure Create Print mode using cadlink ICC target is selected.
  • 30. Click Next.
  • 31.Ensure that the proper device is selected for use.
  • 32. Ensure that a reasonable Page size is selected.

Note: Some Roll settings are hard coded depending on the scanner's capabilities. Ex., DTP41. Roll size is 4.5 inches wide x 25 inches long.

  • 33. Click Print.
  • 34. Output the job and bring the print back to the scanner.
  • 35. Ensure that the port is properly set for the scanner you are using.
  • 36. Follow the directions on the Wizard page for your particular scanner to scan the target.
  • 37. When the scanning is done you will see a new dialog asking to confirm the creation of the ICC.
  • 38. Click Yes.
  • 39. The generation of the ICC file may take awhile. Allow up to 20 minutes on slower computers for this process to complete.
  • 40. Once the ICC file has completed, a dialog with input and output selections appears. 41. Ensure that all boxes are checked.
  • 41. Click Next.

Calibration Wizard

  • 42. Click on the Finish button.

You have completed a print mode using the Advanced Calibration Wizard.

Choosing a Print Mode for Your Media

Choosing a Print Mode for Your Media

For the graphics that you see on your computer screen, printing all of those graphics is actually a pretty involved process because you want to make sure that you consistently get crisp and colourful results. If any of your settings are off, then you can get imperfections, pooling of ink, or even faded colours. So a print mode is used to help produce high quality prints because it contains all the information that tells the printer HOW to perform the job. This includes such considerations as the spectrum of available colours, absorbency of the media, the types of inks that have been loaded, and the resolution at which the graphics are being printed. So with respect to what a print mode looks like, it is merely a data file that has been created for use with a specific printer using a specific media with specific inks at a specific resolution. There will be any number of print modes designed for the printer that you are using, and you just need to select the print mode that best matches the quality that you want.

The following list should help you decide where to begin when approaching a print job:

  • Begin by considering how the graphics will be used. For example, if there are rich gradients and colours, then you will likely want a high quality print.
  • However, keep in mind that the higher the quality, the more time that will be required to complete the job. This can incur more expense due to quality of materials and greater use of machine and operator time.
  • In cases where there is a large viewing distance, such as for banners, then it may be possible to print at a lower (i.e., faster) draft resolution without impairing how the print is perceived.
  • Each media has a selection of print modes available. By having an idea of how the graphics will be used, you have an idea of what the print mode to choose.
  • When choosing the print mode, begin with the print resolution, which has the main bearing on the overall quality of the print.
  • If necessary, there will be print modes that increase the printing time (greater operator time) with the result that a higher quality print is obtained.
  • Alternatively, draft print modes will print faster at a lower resolution (lower quality).
  • In the case of speciality media, the availability of print modes will be restricted to what works well for that media.

The following sections elaborate on the settings that are determined by your choice of print mode. By reviewing these sections, you will have the ability to discern the print mode that is desirable for your particular printing requirements.

Print Mode Naming Convention

Print modes are organized into a hierarchy that indicates the printer model, ink set, media manufacturer, media category, and media description. In addition, each print mode file is named according to its part number, print resolution, and print quality. The following diagram shows a typical print mode hierarchy, along with how the print mode filenames would appear.

print mode hierarchy

Print Mode Hierarchy

Print modes are organized according to the following hierarchy

  • 1. Printer Model This directory is named for the printer that the print mode is designed for.
  • 2. Ink Set This directory refers to the inks that the print mode is designed for (i.e., CMYK, CMYK Lc Lm, CMYKOG, etc.).
  • 3. Media Manufacturer This directory is named for the company that produced the media.
  • 4. Media Category This directory is named for how the manufacturer has chosen to categorize their
  • 5. Media Description This directory is named for how the manufacturer has chosen to describe their media.

Print Mode Filename

Each print mode name is unique and uses the following filename structure

  • 1. Part# This refers to the manufacturer assigned part number for the media
  • 2. Resolution refers to the print resolution, which controls how fine the graphics will appear..
  • 3.Quality This refers to the additional qualifier that is specific to how this print mode has been set up, such as the ink volume or a printer setting

Choosing The Print Resolution

Choosing The Print Resolution

Consider how the graphics will be used. For example, a short viewing distance probably means that a high quality print is required, though this may require greater printing time to complete the job. A high resolution generally equates to nicer graphics, which controls how fine the graphics will appear.

When choosing your print mode, part of its name will indicate the resolution. To give you an idea of typical print resolutions, please refer to the following table. Your digital print shop will likely support print modes that are set for the following or similar resolutions.

720x720 Often The 720x720 mode is often the most frequent choice for high quality graphics.
360x720 Often The 360x720 mode is probably the best resolution for fast graphics, where the best quality is not required (i.e., banners).
360x450; Maybe The 360x450 mode is not frequently used due to the amount of banding in the print, which appear as faint lines in the direction of the print head. But banding can be acceptable where there is a large viewing distance. This would be considered to be a draft mode.

Slowing Down the Print

Depending upon the model and manufacturer of printer, there will be various printer options that can be set in the print modes. Depending on how these options are set in the print mode, the effect is a reduction in printing speed. Though more operator time is required, the net result is a higher quality print because the slower speed allows the media to absorb more ink, thereby producing a greater range of contrast (i.e., higher quality).

When choosing a print mode, its name will indicate whether there are specific printer options that have been set. It is difficult to summarize the available options for you because they indeed vary between machines, and the precise terminology can also vary. However, some examples of printer options that affect printing speed are as follows:

Head Passes
This is sometimes called Print Quality or Microweaving. It controls the number of times the print head has to pass over the media in order to print all the pixels in a single line. More head passes will result in better quality but slower performance.
Print Direction
This control determines whether the print head will lay down ink in a single direction (Uni-directional), or in both directions (Bi-directional). Printing bi-directionally will typically require half the time of uni-directional, but the former is more likely to produce banding and cause issues with over inking (i.e. the media being unable to absorb the ink easily).
Firing Rate
This is also sometimes labelled Scan Speed. This is the speed that the print head travels across the page.
Scan Interval
This is also sometimes labelled Head Pass Delay. This will put a delay in at the end of each head pass. However, adjusting this option is rarely used because it slows printing speed dramatically.

Increasing the Print Speed Using Draft Modes

At a cost to print quality, the printing speed can be increased by printing at a lower resolution. This is known as printing in draft mode, and it is done by choosing a print mode that has a low resolution.

When printing in draft mode, you still want a certain volume of ink to produce good saturated colours. At the same time, you want to avoid applying ink so quickly that bleed occurs. As such, draft modes are a compromise between increased printing speed and lower print quality. However, draft modes can be acceptable where there will be a large viewing distance.

Dealing with Specialty Media

Some media can be rather difficult to work with, or there are other constraints, such as limited availability or cost that prohibit how the media can be used. As such, the number of speciality print modes will be less than for a common media. The print modes for speciality media will be focused upon what works well (produces good results). Some print modes, such as low-resolution draft modes, will not be available because their output is not reliable.

As an example, consider how a gold vinyl would be used:

  • Thinking about gold media, you would not want to use an underbase / primer, as this defeats the purpose of choosing such a media. So you can foresee that the colours applied to such a vinyl would have to be very solid blacks and solid 100% colours.
  • In printing to such a media, there would not be many gradients, since there would be gold speckles shining through anywhere there was an “off” pixel in the print.
  • So for the graphics that you want to print, it should contain solid colours and have a graphic feel akin to a corporate logo, magazine advertisement, or such.

As a general rule, you can print on almost anything, provided that the printing is slowed down enough. If the media is difficult, then it is better to print slow at a high resolution, rather than print fast at a low resolution.