Preparing Artwork for Flexographic Printing
Creating Effective Artwork
Beyond its primary utilitarian purposes of protection, transportation, and sale-marking, packaging serves its product as a vehicle for expression; whether to instill confidence, ethos, or even to simply invoke happiness, packaging art is, in essence, like any other art… and is often a point of pride for our customers.
However, unlike art for the sake of art, creating viable and effective artwork for the flexographic print process requires technical expertise. Here are a few things that you (or your artist) may want to keep in mind when generating artwork for flexographic printing.
1. Mind the number of colors in your art.
Each color in a flexographic printing job requires its own plate, and each plate requires its own “deck” on the printing press. Photo-realistic images typically require four colors right off the bat (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black… also known as “four-color process”).
Most jobs will also require a white plate, which can be easily overlooked taken for granted, but is often necessary to back other colors or the barcode. Barcodes, text, or non-process black line work will usually call for an additional black plate, as “process black” is not ideal for solid black lines. Another important factor to keep in mind is whether or not your finished print will require a varnish coat, which will also take up a deck on the press.
With that in mind, an easy way to save yourself a deck is to print barcodes and text in a dark color already existing in your artwork, like a dark blue or a brown with a low-red composition.
Once the artwork is printed out on a roll of film, typically the next step is “conversion”: the process of cutting, folding, and sealing the flat film into a pouch or bag. This is an automated process, and so often a black bar will be printed off to the size of the artwork, in the repeat direction, as a target for the converting machine’s electronic eye to identify the beginning/end of an individual impression. These are typically sized 1.5” x .5”, but this can vary depending upon the converting machine.
Depending upon the job, it may be necessary to leave a clear vertical lane (in the repeat direction) so that the appearance of the eyespot is unobstructed.
3. Seek advice
Flexographic printing is, by its nature, subject to a number of technical variables… so it is always a good idea to consult us even in the early stages of composing artwork to ensure that it is optimized for the flexographic process. Even if you are already quite familiar with producing art for other printing processes, for any particular issue there may be multiple solutions.