Remaining Design Limitations on Digital Presses?

By | April 6, 2012

Years ago, I remember writing about the design limitations for those wanting to output on digital presses. Over the years, many of those limitations have been addressed and I don’t find myself talking about them anymore. Or maybe it’s that, plus the fact that marketers don’t care about any remaining limitations as much as they used to.

What do you think? I’d love Digital Nirvana readers’ input on this issue.

To get you started, here is the section that acknowledges that issue from my CSR/marketing/sales staff education primer “Digital Printing: Transforming Marketing and Print Management.”

The technology used to drive digital presses has, in the past, made for some limitations in graphic design. Some presses (especially older presses) have tighter registration than others, for example, which could be a challenge if you need to match hairlines across the fold. Digital presses have also been notorious for having difficulty with large areas of solid color and with vignettes and other subtle gradations.

With the newer generations of presses, however, this is far less of an issue that it used to be. In fact, there are many who would argue that these issues no longer exist. Newer presses have largely overcome traditional design limitations, and especially in publishing, the issues of registration and halftones have been remedied. Still, every press is different, and even if your digital printer is working with an older machine, its prepress and design staff can often help you overcome these challenges with workarounds.

Thus, as with print quality, these and other design limitations are really a non-issue in most cases. If you have settled on digital output for your next print job, talk to your service provider about any accommodation your designer might need to make, if any.

Do you agree with what’s written? Are there still design limitations that bug you or your clients? If so, which ones?Last time I asked a question like this, it generated a terrific discussion. Let’s get it going again!

Also, for those who observe, I wish you deep blessings on this Good Friday — a day we call “good,” not of its own accord, but because of the joy that followed three days later.


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2 thoughts on “Remaining Design Limitations on Digital Presses?

  1. Shahar Klinger

    If you really want to upset a digital printer at a demo booth, ask them to print a large 50% CMYK solid block of color. All the bad things will show up nicely. That’s why they always print those orgies of color, because it’s easy to hide problems.

    My point is, in my opinion there are definitely design limitations, even with today’s high end digital presses. I operate an Indigo 3rd generation machine, and the worst jobs I get are solid blocks of color, separations comprising of 2% tints, 4pt orange colored text elements, and so on.
    Every technology has limitations. There is no such thing as a perfect process. You must know the limitations and pitfalls in order to get a quality product. Sadly, it seems education in this field is completely nonexistent, and many graphic designers don’t even understand why I rant so much…

  2. Octavian Cretu

    Yes, digital printing has come a long way. As an early adopter (2001 Indigo UltraStream) I could tell you many horror stories and detail the financial burden of “subsidizing” the digital press with offset operations. In the beginning many buyers were very resistant to digital printing. It took a lot to convince designers that this was a new viable way to produce work.
    What I find upsetting today is the proliferation of “fake” digital press devices and the way buyers accept anything under the label “digital printing”. One could just spend a mere $5-10,000. on a glorified color printer/copier and they are a digital printer. Why should one spend $ 400,000 for a high end device to be outbid by some toner based device that doesn’t register or print w/o serious defects. It is a rhetorical question not a conclusion. The term “digital press” is being so abused these days. Hopefully, the market will sort out amateurish from professional digital work over time. If not investing heavily in state of the art equipment will not be practical.

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