How books are printed

How books are printed

Wow! Your end-of-year book is curly and it is sensational. But for now, these are just a few pages on a screen … how the hell will it be printed? And how to be sure that the final product will be as good as on screen?

This is what we will see in this article, where you will (re) discover what a book is made of. It seems to me that it is necessary to review the database in order to better understand why printers need a certain type of file with certain specifications, in order to make a quality impression. At the end of your reading, you will be familiar with the different steps that will lead your book into your mailbox.

What is a book made of?

Let’s start with the product itself. Take a book in your hands and observe it.

01. A book is printed on paper

Did you know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of types of paper that can be used to print a book? I will not present them all here, but here are some basic notions to better get you there:
* Uncoated paper: Take a sheet in your printer and touch it. Do the same with a magazine page, and compare them. The sheet of your printer is a bit rougher, is not it? This is because paper for printer is usually an uncoated paper, a paper that is not covered with a pigment that would make it smoother.

Understand me, this does not mean that uncoated paper is bad, it’s just different. Some fashion or architecture magazines are printed on uncoated paper. See, below, the example of  Frankie Magazine , a superb bi-monthly Australian, printed on uncoated paper.

how yearbooks are printed - frankie mag

 What are the qualities of uncoated paper? Its density and intense white. A paper without pigment will also be lighter. You will have a thicker paper for the same weight. Your white pages will be brighter and your book will look both thicker and lighter. * Coated paper:

Most magazines, brochures, catalogs and yearbooks are printed on coated paper (at Fusion, this is the default paper). A coated paper will have a glossy or matte finish. It is usually much smoother, gentle and plays a lot on the appearance of your pages. A pigmented surface allows you to print sharper details, improve color density and reduce ink absorption. Your pages appear more dynamic and colorful. Elle magazine, for example, is printed on coated paper.

02. To print on paper, you need … ink.

Your text and photos are printed with ink. That, you already knew. But did you know that all the colors you see in a book are obtained by mixing 4 colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black)? These colors form the famous CMYK (CMYK) used by printers.

In the image below, after this nice blog post Heeter , you may find that all colors are obtained through 4 above toners (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Of course, there are thousands of printer models. Offset printing and digital printing do not work exactly the same way. But the principle remains the same.

Good to know: some machines allow to add additional colors for a specific result (colors pantones, metallic, or fluo for example). These additional colors are not mixed with the 4 standard colors, they are added via a fifth toner. In the example below, on the left, a fifth color is needed to get that perfect fluorescent tone. To the right, we have an example of the use of metallic ink.

03. Finishing Options (or how to bring out your yearbook cover)

Do you want to give your cover a shiny or matt appearance? Then, it must be covered with a varnish or matt or glossy film. There are many other finishing options, such as the ones below:

Selective UV varnish
Your cover is matte, except for a few selected parts, such as text, image, logo, or other, that are covered with a glossy varnish.

Simili Leather and Hot Gilding
If you are not 100% satisfied with the paper, try the imitation leather, the textile, etc …

Note: Finishing options make the production process longer and more expensive. Why ? Because it requires other machines, other materials, more time for the operator, not to mention the drying time (and therefore storage).

04. Once printed, your pages must be linked and cut

Your cover and inside pages are printed. Now it’s time to put them together to get a real book. But first of all, you have to choose your binding. Here are the main options available to you:

The printer will use different materials and different machines, depending on your choice. The process is globally similar, so I’ll describe you the most used in the yearbook industry: PUR glued square back.

Once printed, your inner pages must be assembled (in the right order) and cut on the edge of the slice. Then, they are stuck on the cover, as below. Although there are many machines to do this work, they all proceed in the same way.

Note: Each type of binding has its own specifications. For example, the square-glued back requires additional steps. That is why, you must pay close attention to these details when you lay out your book:

On the final PDF, the cut lines indicate to the machine where the edges of the page are , and where the paper should be cut. If you want an image, or other item, to be exactly at the edge of the page, you must add a lost background (if you do not, you will get a white line on the edge of the page). You should also apply the same margin on all your inside pages, otherwise:

– your content will be absorbed by the binding. – your content will be too close to the edges of the page.

Note that the process may be a little more complex depending on the type of book chosen. To give you an idea, you will find below the anatomy of a rigid cover. The more options you add to your book, the longer the preparation and production time. The process will increase and will require several additional days.

how yearbooks are printed - hard cover

From the on-screen layout to the print file

Ok, you know what a book is made of. You must now give your instructions to the printer, for the colors to be used, the cut-outs to be made, and so on. However, to ensure that the final result will be the same as on the screen, you must respect the standards of the printers.

05. The book as it appears on the screen

To create a book, poster, presentation, or other, you use your computer and graphic design software (on hard disk or online). Since there are thousands of different software packages, it is important to export your work in a standard format, which will be accepted by all printers. Why is it important to use a standard format? – Because using a “proprietary” file means taking a risk (your layout may vary from one computer to another depending on the version of the software, if it is a Mac or PC, some fonts may missing, etc.). No printer will want to take that responsibility, or waste time solving problems.

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