Digital CMYK+ Ushers in a New Crop of Design Enthusiasts

Marc Mascara
Jan 29, 2019

Designing for offset print is nothing new; the PDF revolution is a distant memory at this point and the “how to design for print” guides are long gone. For quite some time, designers have understood how to extend gamut and design for that hit of varnish. With that said, designing for these offset jobs was always difficult and somewhat restrictive to the creative process. Any creative liberties typically added a significant amount of time to the process because prepress often needed to make corrections to the designers file for reliable printing. As a result, commercial printers have always had a love/hate relationship with the creative members of the design community. This all began to change when the HP Indigo Digital Presses began to roll out 7-color liquid toner capabilities. It was still important to educate the design community, but not in terms of capability—the focus shifted to learning how best to design a clean file for prepress.

Over the past couple of years, dry toner devices that support a 5th color station have come to market at a price point that many mid-sized print service providers (PSPs) can afford. Thanks to options like a lower-end OKI device and a mid-range Ricoh digital press, PSPs now have the ability to expand their application offerings and really dig into the high-value application market. At the same time, however, one small problem was hindering more widespread adoption of CMYK+ digital print, and it involved the design community at large. To put it simply, designers weren’t aware of what they didn’t know and until recently, the new capabilities of digital dry ink devices weren’t being effectively communicated. PSPs were on auto-pilot in “buy a device and the business will come” mode.

In December 2016, Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends published a research report entitled Beyond CMYK: The Use of Special Effects in Digital Printing. The data from that research found that the use of CMYK+ was poised for moderate page volume growth, based on several factors. One of these factors was market development among designers and print buyers and ensuring that they were educated about the new capabilities. Unfortunately, most designers were not aware of the new 5th color capabilities, and many also didn’t realize that the finished product could be created easily with a short turnaround time. Developing the best capabilities in the world will be for not if designers aren’t aware that they exist!

Today’s digital press manufacturers have launched campaigns to better educate and inform designers of all levels. Ricoh was one of the first companies to get involved with education—its Business Booster program offers 5th Color Station Video Tutorials, which serve to educate designers on how they can expand their creativity using the extra color capabilities.

Ricoh Business Booster 5th Color Station Kit

Meanwhile, when Xerox launched its iGen 5 device, the package included a publication on design and file preparation guidelines. The launch of the Iridesse Digital Production Press from Fuji Xerox and Xerox Corporation ushered in even more capabilities for digital designers thanks to a full CMYK dry ink press with 5th and 6th color capabilities. Kodak has also entered the fray with its Nexfinity digital press. These devices offer new capabilities including over-and underlaying of special colors as well as multiple pass technologies, greatly expanding the creative capabilities for designers. Xerox Corporation recently release its Iridesse Design Guide, a complete guide for designs that incorporate metallics and other special colors. Fuji Xerox also released a design guide and a very comprehensive Metallic Design Kit to boost awareness in local design communities.

FUJI XEROX Metallic & PANTONE Metallic Kit

Today’s vendors understand that offering education about new capabilities is key for design agencies and even more critical for local PSP internal design professionals. Most vendors are currently holding designer courses for customers and their design providers. PSPs are increasingly adding to their business development efforts using the assets provided by each vendor and expanding or creating their own sample kits for their clients.

To better educate tomorrow’s up-and-coming printers and designers, many colleges and universities that traditionally focused on print and design are transitioning their course materials into multimedia and gaming design studies and stepping away from print. At the California University of Pennsylvania (located outside of Pittsburgh, PA) they are expanding the core focus on printing by shifting to include today’s newest digital capabilities and incorporating 5th and 6th color design effects with dry toner devices into their curriculum.

Businesses and educators alike clearly understand that knowledge is power, and they are working to ensure that designers have what they need to be successful today and in the future. All of these efforts will likely cause a resurgence in innovation and push the boundaries of creativity within the print design community.

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