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VDP: Debunking Urban Legends

October 2007 By Bob Wagner
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AS DIGITAL color printing reaches the tipping point, it’s time to set the record straight on popular misconceptions about today’s systems.

Which of the following is a true statement?

Tapping the side of a can of soda will prevent its contents from foaming over when you open it.

The Great Wall of China is the only man-made object that is visible from space.

Offset presses are still the only real option for high-quality color printing.

The answer: None are correct. In reality, tapping a can of soda does little to prevent foaming, the Great Wall is barely visible at altitudes of 180 miles, and today’s digital color printing offers a “no-excuses” complement to offset.

Still these urban legends persist. And, in the case of digital printing, a handful of urban myths continue to warn many creatives and print buyers about digital printing pitfalls that either no longer exist or are easy to avoid.

Fortunately, these urban myths—grounded in what was reality less than a decade ago—are easier than ever to dispel. So set aside your preconceptions and see how you, too, can bust the urban myths of digital printing.

• The image quality isn’t good enough.

In reality, several digital color presses released in recent years successfully complement offset output. Digital print quality compares to offset as digital photos compare to analog shots. Each technology has distinctive characteristics that affect output, but the quality achieves professional standards in nearly every application.

From a technical standpoint, today’s premier four-color digital presses typically achieve a larger color gamut than four-color offset presses. For example, some digital color presses can match about 80 percent of PANTONE colors, compared to about 67 percent on the Heidelberg Speedmaster.

Perceptions of digital image quality usually are favorable, as well.

“Digital print quality is equal to or better than offset, and most of my clients don’t notice a difference,” claims Linda Dickinson, director of print production and purchasing at Meridian Communications, a Lexington, KY-based advertising and public relations firm. “For me, deciding between digital and offset printing is more about turnaround time and costs—and other factors, like printing variable information. We print more jobs digitally all the time because the quality is there, the fast turnaround time is there and, often, the cost is equivalent to offset.”

Digital print quality holds up on a wide range of applications. At the 2006 ADIM (Art Directors Invitational Master) Conference—a four-day event surveying the latest computer-based design tools for designers, illustrators, art directors and photographers—participants digitally printed wine label design comps, final labels and promotional posters in a personalized book.
 

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