Some Assembly Required
Planning for the 2017 FLEXO Magazine Cover Project started shortly after the three 2017 FTA Technical Innovation Award winners were announced on April 30 at Forum. Over email and in conference calls, the October 2017 cover’s design—based on a multimedia piece by artist Michael Tompsett that depicts Fall Conference 2017 host city St. Louis—was conceived, tweaked and solidified.
A St. Louie Rainbow
Ideally, the image used in a FLEXO Magazine cover project incorporates strong and vibrant colors, has a thematic tie to either the issue on which it appears or the event at which it is discussed, and captures the attention of both a reader who wants to examine it for accuracy and a reader who notices it and thinks, “That looks interesting.” That criteria applied to the image chosen for both the 2015 project—a canal in Burano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon—and the 2014 project—a close-up of Halloween candy—and it was the driving force behind the selection process for the 2017 installment.
The final choice was a multimedia piece by artist Michael Tompsett. “The artwork is a combination of actual painting, illustration graphics and digital manipulation,” he explains. “First, I painted the colorful background and scanned it. I then created the skyline of the buildings as vector graphics. Finally, I combined and manipulated both of these in Photoshop, resulting in the finished artwork.”
With an image selected, FTA Creative Services Manager Katie Dubois went to work adjusting and adding elements like the Reflex Blue spot color FLEXO masthead and cold foil FIRST logo.
“Our usual focus for FLEXO covers centers around images that are colorful and relevant,” she says. “In searching out an appropriate image fitting that criteria, we came across this great work of art and it allowed us the perfect flexibility in the cover layout to add graphic elements which helped the technologies involved.”
The actual printing took place from Aug. 7-11, 2017 at Mark Andy, Inc.’s global headquarters in Chesterfield, MO. In attendance were a handful of industry members:
- Jason Cagle, application development specialist at MacDermid Graphics Solutions
- James “Nat” Davis, new business development – digital product manager at Mark Andy, Inc.
- Wade Fouts, VP of sales at Wilson Manufacturing Co.
- Stephanie Gallagher, digital prepress solutions administrator at Mark Andy, Inc.
- Rory Marsoun, VP business development – flexo, Americas at Esko
- Mark Samworth, product specialist – color at Esko and member of the FTA Flexo Hall of Fame
- Steve Smiley, owner of SmileyColor & Associates and member of the FTA Flexo Hall of Fame
- Florian Stroe, print services and demo room manager at Mark Andy, Inc.
- Joe Tuccitto, education director at FTA
With a group like that—made up of individuals who collectively have spoken at FTA events for more than an entire day, who are living and breathing spectrophotometers, some of whom are in the Hall of freakin’ Fame—there’s no need for modesty, but it never hurts to have a little honesty.
“We know color quite well and we know flexo quite well,” Rory boasts of the team assembled in Chesterfield. “But you start bringing digital in and it’s a different world for us. So, we’ve been interacting with people who know digital, and what we’ve begun to realize is it’s still going to be treated much the same way—we’re going to build curves, we’re going to build a profile, we’re going to do all these same things.”
Spread the Love
To call the print job that took place in early August 2017 at Mark Andy, Inc. the cover project is a slight misnomer, as it was not just the first page that received special treatment, but also the second, the second-to-last and the last—more a cover form project.
The outside spread of the October 2017 issue—consisting of the magazine’s cover and Mark Andy, Inc. advertisement—was printed on the company’s hybrid press and incorporated both flexo and digital. The majority of that spread was done digitally: the cool-colored image of the St. Louis skyline, the Fall Conference 2017 logo and “Special Demo Project” tag, and most graphic elements, as well as the entirety of the Mark Andy, Inc. ad. The FLEXO masthead (the giant, all-capital-letters name of the magazine) and the letters which spell out “FIRST” were the only flexo-printed elements; the former using a Reflex Blue spot color and the latter cold foil. Finally, the entire outside spread was varnished.
“Our ad was designed to be clean, with a focus on the press, a CMYK flat solid to show uniformity and a small image of the magazine cover to show detail,” Nat said of his company’s back-of-book advertisement.
Three plates were used in the hybrid press: one for Reflex Blue, a glue plate for the cold foil and one for the varnish. All plates were made by Schawk! at the company’s St. Louis location, on an Esko XPS Crystal 5080.
Digital proofing of the CMYK graphics in the outside spread was done using standard CMYK profile conversion technology (the source profile being Characterized Reference Printing Conditions, commonly known as CRPC and specifically CRPC-6; the destination profile being Mark Andy Epson 7900). When it came time to digitally proof the Reflex Blue spot color used in the FLEXO masthead, as Mark puts it, “There’s no simple way to describe that in a sentence,” so, in true Mark Samworth fashion, he did it in eight [Editor’s Note: Which were then condensed to four].
“Digital proofing of the Reflex Blue was done with some advanced spot color matching technology. To understand the technology, it helps to separate color from tone,” he explains. “First, the colors of the ink as printed on the flexo press—the solid and 10 tint values are measured as spectral data and stored in Esko’s Color Engine software. This ensures the color will be correct. Then, a proof was made with enough tint values to create a curve.”
From this point, the process of making the curve was the same for the flexo press as for the proofer. Using the new ISO-20654 measurement known as Spot Color Tone Value (SCTV), the group was able to assure the flexo press printed the Reflex Blue tints linear in SCTV, and that the proofer printed the Reflex Blue tints linear in SCTV. “We therefore assured they matched each other,” Mark concludes.
He adds: “The actual visual match is truly amazing.”
The inside spread was 100 percent flexo and was printed on Mark Andy, Inc.’s Performance Series P7 press. Featuring advertisements for Esko (described by Rory as, “An image for color comparison to digital, an image of the XPS with neutrals for G7 demo, a faded drop shadow and a normal drop shadow, and solid tints to show capability”) and Flint Group (which the company’s own Patrik Gavelin explains as, “An image to capture attention, a large cyan and magenta solid to show ink strength, yellow and magenta text for emphasis, and a black tint to show screening”), this spread also utilized both companies’ Technical Innovation Award-winning technologies.