Thinking Ink: 4 Ways To Cut Costs
The third point contains some good news: Two techniques for improving color fidelity just happen to save ink. If your color separations utilize gray component replacement (GCR), cyan, magenta, and yellow are reduced, with black forming a larger proportion of the printed dots. Because black is the least expensive process ink, GCR is a technique for saving money as well as improving color fidelity. Almost all separations rely on a certain amount of GCR, but the baseline percentage is usually conservative, and could be nudged up.
Using less ink to produce the same printed result is also possible with stochastic screening. This screening method replaces the dot structure of a conventional line screen with a more random array of dots, constructed based on frequency modulation, an analysis of density. Moving to stochastic screening requires close coordination with your printer, and will require you to make and review proofs quite differently. Those beloved, traditional halftone dots are gone, and only a printer with experience using stochastic will perform well with their successors. Both of you will be happy with the drop in ink usage.
When ink’s raw materials increase in price …
The final aspect of controlling costs is surviving ink-manufacturer price increases. Ink costs have been rising lately, and oil-price increases get the sound-bite blame. Petroleum derivatives make up a major part of ink’s raw materials, particularly the carbon black in black inks. But the economic dynamics of ink costs include a broad array of supply and demand forces affecting chemicals and pigments. As an example, consider acrylic acid, a key component of UV and water-based inks. It so happens there’s been a big spike in demand for acrylic acid, because it’s the critical ingredient in super-absorbent diapers. That’s what we’re up against, print buyers.
If ink manufacturers face some serious pressures from cost increases in their raw materials, they also must navigate the current ink overcapacity that limits their pricing power. Printers are sometimes successful at resisting a proposed increase, or at least blunting its degree. The smart print buyer also knows that an announced change in price from ink manufacturers doesn’t immediately translate into a price hike and should never be taken at face value.