Quality vs. Vanity
But even though digital technology has made quality almost a given, many factors still can hinder the quality of the final product.
Print quality not only varies from printer to printer, but even between different plants, presses or crews at the same printer. So, the first step to increasing the likelihood of getting the quality you expect is, when analyzing printers, ask for samples that were printed at the same plant and on the presses designated for your work, using similar paper.
You also need to supply excellent materials. You need to understand how presses work and what their limitations are. If you can design with the press in mind, you will achieve a product that reproduces very well.
Where Problems Start
These days, most color problems originate on the front-end—with the publishers. When printed pages don't exactly match proofs, particularly for editorial pages, the usual culprit is the publisher's poor layout placement, not bad printing.
People often forget that each page of the magazine is printed inline with, and affected by another page. Do not place a fire-engine-red truck ad on a page that prints in line with a closeup of a woman's face with soft midtones. Either the truck will be flat, or the face will be sunburned, or both.
With good imposition planning, publishers can avoid many costly advertising makegoods.
Technology's Effect on Quality and Cost
Focusing on how ink is actually applied also is important in creating good quality.
Over the past decade, a lot of old printing hardware has been replaced with more advanced presses that quickly get up to color; achieving makeready at much lower quantities. Many of these new presses have wider formats that print more pages at a time, which results in excellent quality at lower prices for small-run publishers.