Saturday, September 11, 2010

That Designer is a P-I-G Pig!

Hello graphic arts enthusiasts!

Just a quick note on work habits today... this is something you’d think could go without mentioning, but it’s a constant problem and I see it just as often in files from professional designers as I do in the submissions of total amateurs. It’s something you probably should’ve learned in day care or kindergarten, if not from your parents:

Be creative, have fun, try new things, feel free to play with ALL of your toys at once, but when you're done, CLEAN UP YOUR AREA!!!

It was a good rule then, and it’s a better rule now.

In the case of grown-ups submitting files for print, the toys would be your software of choice, and your “area” would be the pasteboard, that region of your document that’s not really “on the page”.

Most of you are probably working in InDesign or Quark, and I don’t know where you grew up or how they did things there, but you’re leaving your documents in a state. I’m finding unlinked graphics and photos off to the side, and empty text boxes with strange fonts and styles assigned to them. Sometimes you shove them WAAAYYY over to the left or right, but they’re still there, and they still cause problems. All these unlinked, unused things cause error messages to pop up during pre-press, which means your pre-press time and charges are greater, just because you couldn’t be bothered to clean up your document. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I know, I know, those elements won’t affect the printing, because they’re not on the page, but the pre-press guy doesn’t know that. All he or she knows is that an error is present, and the offending item has to be tracked down and repaired (if on the page) or deleted (if it’s off-page), and that takes time, and that time can cost you money.

And we haven’t even mentioned layers yet.

Layers are rarely used by the amateurs, but designers LOVE THEM. They are indeed a handy thing, when one is building a document that must be used over and over, with most elements remaining the same, and small details like a logo or two being switched out as needed. You can build all the permanent parts on layers that can be locked in for all time, and place all your variable data on it’s own layer(s). Not a problem. The problem occurs when you leave layers in your document that contain nothing, or are filled with things that don’t print but you just forgot to delete. Once again, errors pop up, and the hunt is on, and your “press ready” job is suddenly bogged down in pre-press while the offending layers are found and deleted.

This isn’t just a problem in traditional printing. If your job is running on a digital color copier, all of these things can cause weird ghostly shapes to show up in your solids. Mysterious blurbs of text suddenly appear in the corners of your photos. I can’t stress enough how annoying this is for your printer. We hate nothing so much as stopped production and the need to repeat work that should have already been done.

Did I mention PhotoShop? PhotoShop can be the worst in this regard; it’s a fantastic program that allows for the construction of beautiful images, but here's the thing: all those layers you used to fade images together and add text, and try out effects that you toggled on and off while you giggled with creative manic glee? We are your printers, and we don’t need those layers. Flatten the damn image before you send it to us, and for god’s sake, convert it to CMYK.

I’m not asking for a lot here. Just stop and breathe for a moment when you’ve finished creating that document. Step back. Grab a smoke. Have a beer. THEN ask yourself: is there anything left in this doc that doesn’t need to be there? Are there things there that are nothing more than a trail of digital bread crumbs leading back to an idea you decided to abandon? If there are, then please just take the extra minute to clean up your area, just like you did when you were 5 years old, and you’ll save me (and my ilk) a lot of hassle, and save yourself a few bucks in the long run.

PEACE. Be good to each other, and for god's sake, pick up after yourselves.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Work, work, work like Helen B. Gloomy

Hello again, print enthusiasts. It’s been way too long since my last entry, and I apologize. In my own defense, let me say that I’ve been legitimately busy as hell. In addition to the 40 or so hours of pre-press I do at my day job, I’ve also been laying out all the print ads, fliers, posters and signage for a local movie theatre. I also won a poster design contest which turned out to be a lot more work (all of it fun) than I anticipated; I’ve had to convert the poster artwork into a couple of different formats to be used as newspaper ads and a two-color T-shirt.

I also had to assist in the final layout/pre-flighting of a 64 page festival program guide (a once yearly volunteer gig).

And that’s just the graphics part of my life. I also play in three different bands, some weeks as many as five, and I’m in the middle of recording an album. In short, I’ve been too damn busy to even think about this blog.

Good god, I just re-read that first paragraph and now I’m exhausted. Yeesh.

Anyway, been busy, didn’t write, please forgive me and let’s get on with things, okay?

I feel compelled to spend a little time talking about work; workflow, workload, workarounds, dirty work, and working smart vs. working hard.

Let me be clear about this: I don’t mind working. I don’t mind working forty or even fifty hours a week. But when I look back over a week’s activity and realize that I spent forty or fifty hours doing what really amounts to twenty or thirty hours worth of actual accomplishment, that’s when I get angry.

This what happens when nobody plans ahead, when nobody thinks things through to their logical conclusion, when nobody prioritizes things. Here’s a perfect example of how bad things can get when you panic over a job that’s due yesterday and rush into it with your eyes closed:

When I spend thirty minutes prepping some client’s post card artwork and get it proofed and approved, and then you tell me it’s an automated job that needs room for a barcode on the mailing panel so that I spend another thirty minutes re-jiggering the file and getting it proofed and approved again, and then you tell me that I can’t use the mailing list you gave me because it still has to be pre-sorted (rendering the merged InDesign file I just spent twenty minutes outputting useless and requiring me to re-merge it with the sorted info which kills another twenty minutes), and then you tell me that you want the job stacked in a specific way that can only be done in FusionPro (which requires me to completely rebuild the file and then re-merge it, eating up another twenty minutes), then I get angry.

Do the math. This is a job I should’ve spent thirty minutes on, and it winds up taking two hours of my day because nobody thought the whole thing through and gave me all the information I needed to do the job properly the first time. This sort of thing happens on a daily basis, and by the end of the week it’s no great stretch to say that I spent forty hours accomplishing twenty hours worth of work. This is what’s known as working hard instead of working smart, and it’s just no damn good. And the sad thing is, it’s so easy to avoid this situation.

Here’s the key: THINK BACKWARDS.

When you initiate a job, take a moment to picture the finished product, and think backwards through the entire project, noting everything that needs to happen along the way. What does the Post Office need this thing to look like? What does your digital printer jockey need to output what the P.O. needs? What does your design guy need to set the job up properly before sending it to the digital copier? What does the person who turns Excel files into sorted mail databases need in order to give the design guy a workable file? What should you tell the client to do in Excel so that they provide something your crew can work with? Most importantly, when does this damn thing need to mail, and how long does each of these steps take to complete, and after you add all that up and count backwards, when is the last day your client can provide you with art and data and still expect to have the job finished on schedule? Chances are that the answer to that question is something like “two days before they called you in the first place”, so you and all your coworkers are usually under the gun and running to catch up from the project’s inception. Which means you don’t have any time to waste. Which means you really don’t have time to turn the thirty minutes I should have spent on a job into two hours. In other words, you don’t have time to waste dragging your heels, but you also don’t have time to waste rushing ahead without a plan.

So please, I’m begging you... plan ahead and think backwards. It’s worth the extra few minutes it takes to think the whole thing through so your shop can work smart instead of hard. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to get forty hours of work done in forty hours. And then I won’t get angry.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Hey, I know I haven't posted anything for several weeks. I just haven't felt like it. Things at the print shop have been crazy busy the last few weeks, and frankly, I just haven't felt like thinking about printing any more than I already have to. I'll collect my thoughts and post something worth reading someday soon-ish... in the meantime, if anybody has any thoughts or questions, throw them my way and I promise I'll respond.

Later, Gators.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Birth of a Notion

Sometimes I struggle and strain to come up with a topic for this blog, striving to find a clever way to vent my graphic frustrations while passing along some useful tidbits of information in the most humorous way possible. Sometimes I toss and turn in my humble bed, waking the wife and annoying the cats as I mutter curses to the gods for giving me more talent than inspiration, or the other way ‘round, or neither. And then sometimes, all this shit just comes together in such an accidental but somehow perfect way that I have no choice but to get it out, write it down and blog it up.

This is one of those times.

In my last entry I did quite a bit of bitching about some design school grads and their utter lack of knowledge about the fine art of lithography. In retrospect, it may have been a bit harsh, and I was thinking maybe my next entry should be an attempt to balance the scales a bit. In spite of the prevailing paradigm of printers and designers regarding each other as cat and dog enemies, I do have quite a few designer friends, most of whom hold degrees from one respectable institution or another.

Around the time that I was writing the last entry (A Tale of Woe), I took a break to hang out with one of those designers at a local bar where she had just entered a Chili cook-off. Her name is Barb, and she’s one hell of a designer. Her stuff looks great, and I recommend her to people all the time. Babs and I have a healthy exchange of ideas; she knows way more about design than I do, and I know way more about printing, and we trade a lot of useful information. I was telling her the story that turned into my last blog, and she was rolling her eyes sympathetically at all the appropriate places, and the discussion turned toward the question “why don’t more design school people know what they need to know about printing?”

She confessed to me that she’d always thought it would be a great idea to get a pre-press job for a year or two, just to learn the ins and outs of the industry, and to get a first hand feel for what a printshops needs from a designer’s artwork. The trouble is, she’s just never been able to find a job opening like that, and when one does come up, there’s a whole bunch of people like me waiting in line to apply ahead of her. It is pretty rough out there, I agree. A lot of big companies are outsourcing their layout work, laying off design people right left and sideways. Twenty-nine other people applied for my job at the same time I did, and that was before the current recession had even begun. Babs and I agree that design students should all spend a year working pre-press in a real working print shop, the same way med students are required to do rounds in a real hospital. Unfortunately, neither of us has any idea how to make this happen. We just know that it should.

So I slink back to my apartment, full of Barb’s chili ( it was called ‘Meatsplosion’, and it was fantastic), beer, and a need to vent my frustrations. I post my grumblings to my blog, and am sort of pleasantly surprised to find that I’ve gotten a few comments from other pre-press people who seem just as frustrated as me (shout-outs to TheSlapster and geo... thanks for feeling my pain). I have a renewed sense of urgency and camaraderie, and vow to update this thing at least once a week from now on.

Then I get the e-mail. It was from one Matthew Weller who works in a print shop in Great Britain. The contents of his e-mail made me almost giddy with the possibility of a brighter future:

Hi Bob,

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. I’m a young designer working in a printers and I can relate to everything you write about. Particularly the ‘kid going to design school’. I’ve worked 2 years at a printers but I’m due to go to university for a design degree, I feel as a designer this will benefit my skill-range but I’m glad I’ve got 2 years experience in a printers so when I graduate I’ll already know the woes that designers can leave printers faced with! I even just recently had a young graduate designer complain to me about the poor colour on a print job (which was due to the poor conversion of HIS RGB supplied files on the apogee pre-press!).

Anyway I just wanted to let you know, again, how much I enjoy your posts and maybe convince you that there are some (if only a few) young designers out there with an interest and basic knowledge in the world of pre-press.


Mat Weller

Apple Print Limited

2Q Faraday Road

Newbury, Berkshire

RG14 2AD United Kingdom

Mat, you are indeed one of the good ones. Your future clients will benefit enormously from your knowledge of the printing process, and I pray they reward you accordingly. I mean, come on, this is exactly what Barb and I were talking about! For once, the thing that I truly believed should happen apparently was happening. Fantastic. Stellar. Cheers to everyone involved, let’s have another round.

So here’s the thing: I really think this is a great idea, and I wonder how many others out there agree with me and Mat and Barb. There must be more than just the three of us. I also wonder if there are any far-sighted design schools out there who see the importance of this. Maybe some of them even require students to spend some time in the pre-press dungeons of the world, or maybe they’ve even opened working print shops on campus where future designers can experience the educational joys of cranking out plates for a room full of grumpy pressmen. Maybe not, but I’d like to know.

I’ve always thought that talented designers were a lot like master chefs, and us pre-press grunts were a lot like line cooks, doing the real physical cooking to ensure the perfect execution of the chef/designer’s inspired vision. If that’s the case, then it’s no stretch to assume that we can all only get better at our jobs if there’s a higher level of respect and communication between designers and printers. At the end of the day we all want the same things; to make a great product that we can be proud of, and to work smarter instead of harder, so we’ll have more time to spend enjoying the other parts of our lives.

Alright people, I really want some feedback on this one... Is there a way out of this wilderness of ignorance and miscommunication? Can we make things better? You tell me!


Next time around, I’m thinking maybe I’ll relate a bit of my history and share some of the sordid details that landed me in the role of “pre-press guy”. Until then, take care of yourselves, and for god’s sake, talk to each other once in a while. ;-)


Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Tale of Woe

Okay, so I’ve been gone for a while, and I know I promised you a story about the recent design school graduate who doesn’t understand color separation, and you’ve all been very patient, but dammit people... I have a life to live! Anyway, here’s the tale of woe...

A couple of weeks back this guy comes into our shop with a laptop and tells us he’s been referred to us by another local printer who just can’t seem to work with his files. The boss and a customer service rep and I all sit down with him and he describes the job. He says it’s a two color piece, black and red; a 2-sided cover wrapped around a 4 page book, folded, stitched and inserted into an envelope. All black and red. He blazes through a lot of images on his laptop, and they do indeed look like a fairly simple 2 color job. We ask him what the trouble was with his last print shop, and he launches into a diatribe about how they kept asking him to change the files, and submit them at a ridiculously high resolution, and change the colors, etc., etc. And then he says those magic words that send a chill down the spine of every printer: “I went to design school, I know what I’m doing.”

This is where I should’ve kept asking questions, but I didn’t, because I was in the middle of outputting plates, designing some other client’s piece, and burning and labeling 300 DVD’s, all at the same time.

The boss says to him “you built all these documents in Adobe, right?”, and the kid replies in the affirmative. This is where I should’ve asked “Adobe WHAT?”, because Adobe makes a lot of software products, and some of them are just not the right place to build a document, but I didn’t. The platesetter was beeping, and I wanted to get back to it. The boss says to me “We can handle that, right? Adobe PhotoShop?” and I say “Well, we can open it, but is it a flattened file or did you save it as layers?” The kid assures me that all the layers are saved. Again, I should’ve asked “Are the black and red on DIFFERENT layers?”, but I didn’t. The hopper on the DVD duplicator was about to go empty, and I wanted to get those DVD’s burned by the end of the day.

So the kid leaves his files, the job gets written up, and I get my hands on the files the next day. Oh my god. Those files were a not-so-hot mess.

First off, there were two versions of every file... one in CMYK and one in RGB. No worries on the black; I can just ignore the RGB files (why the HELL would anyone send an RGB file to a printshop?!?), and convert all the black from the CMYK file to 100% black (C=0, M=0, Y=0, K=100). But the red? Now that’s a problem. There’s no way to make a PhotoShop document hang onto a specific Pantone number, so we have to guess at the red. Oh well; the client will have to approve a proof of the job, so we can use that opportunity to find a red that he likes. But separating the colors? Oh brother. The files were indeed in layers, as promised, but not in any way that might be useful. There were a zillion different layers, and almost every one of them included both black and red. Now I have to save two copies of each file, remove all the red from one and all the black from the other, flatten them and convert them to grayscale images, lay them over top of each other in InDesign, and then apply a specific Pantone spot color to the “red” file.

But that’s not all. These pieces are supposed to bleed off all four sides of the page, and he built them “to size”, so there’s no extra image for the bleed. So BEFORE I can separate the colors, I have to add a quarter of an inch to the canvas size in PhotoShop and fill in the extra space with the paintbrush and rubber stamp tools. This would be ridiculous enough if it were just solid color bleeding off the edges, but it’s more complicated than that. You know those curlicue/decorative-vine/Mike Tyson face tattoo embellishments everyone’s been overusing for a couple of years now? Yeah, that’s right... he used those all over the place.

I fix his bleeds, separate his colors, re-combine them in InDesign (designated as a spot red trapping to the black), and I’m still not done. It turns out there are still more of those decorative swirls that need to be applied as a varnish coat, so that part of the black has to be separated and placed on another layer in InDesign, so it will output as a separate plate that doesn’t trap to anything or knock out the black.

Basically I spent most of a day tearing this client’s artwork to pieces and rebuilding it just to get it to the point where I could start trying to plate it. He doesn’t understand how color works on a printing press. He doesn’t understand that PhotoShop is for photos and InDesign is for designing a finished piece. He doesn’t even realize that he needs to pick a pantone color if he wants a specific spot color. But don’t worry about him, he’ll be fine. He went to design school, and he knows what he’s doing. I, on the other hand, didn’t go to design school, so I have to sit in a windowless room and fix his mistakes.

I’m gonna go drink beer now and try to figure out which one of us is the idiot.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ooh, the Colors....

I’ve spent the past two days trying to fix artwork submitted by a client, and it’s reminding me that most people, recent design school grads included, just don’t understand color and how it works on the printed page. In the hopes of throwing a little light on the subject, here are some definitions you might find useful:


This is how most full color printing gets done. It stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. I have no idea why K equals Black, but it does. Somebody figured it all out a long time before I was born, and I’m willing to accept it. Any full color photograph you see printed in a magazine or newspaper is created by those four colors, screened at different angles, and printed in four passes onto a sheet of paper. When your printer mentions “four color process”, this is what he’s referring to. Under a magnifying glass a picture of green grass becomes a jumble of Cyan and Yellow dots; the sky is a combination of Cyan and Magenta, and the tree trunks are Yellow and Black. Maybe you should’ve gotten stoned before reading this. Most parts of any color printed image will contain varying levels of all four colors. If you’re including color photographs in your newsletter you’ll want them to be CMYK. Most image editing software, like Adobe PhotoShop, will allow you to convert any image to CMYK. If you don’t do that, the prepress guy will have to do it for you, and you just might get charged for it. This is especially handy to know these days, because you probably took those pictures with a digital camera, and they save all your files in RGB.

Wait for it... wait for it...


Red, Green and Blue. This is how color images are created on TV and the internet, and video games, and your cell phone, and... well, hell, everywhere but the printed page. In all those mediums, images are created with light instead of ink. Red and Blue make Purple, Green and Blue make Aqua, and Green and Red make... well, a really disgusting shade, sort of like dirty moss. Maybe you should’ve dropped some extasy before reading this. Anyway, the point here is, RGB looks great on a backlit screen, but it confuses the hell out of printing equipment which is all calibrated to lay CMYK down onto the paper.

Ink vs. Light

Here’s an interesting side note that may help you remember some of this... If you want to create white with light, you use all the colors in the visible spectrum. If you want to create black with light, you just turn the damn light off. If you want to make white with ink, don’t do anything. The paper is already white. If you want to print the darkest black possible, use all the colors. To put it another way, in CMYK, more is darker and less is lighter. In RGB it’s just the opposite.

Spot Colors

These are still combinations of CMYK, but they’re pre-mixed like house paint to match a numbered Pantone swatchbook.* If you’re having letterhead printed and your logo is green, spot colors will save you a bundle. In CMYK it would take 2 plates to create that green, but if you choose a spot color, the printer will mix that exact color and apply it to the paper in one pass, using only one plate. The other bonus is that your chosen shade of green has a Pantone number, and it can be matched by any printer on the planet who has a swatchbook. And, much like drinking problems, all pressmen have Pantone swatchbooks.

On the other hand, if you’re printing a piece with CMYK photographs, and your green logo appears on the same page, insisting on a spot color will add a plate to your press run. In that case, it’s best to let your logo be converted to CMYK so it can run in four passes with the rest of the job.

I know, I know, this is a lot of information to keep straight if you’re not in the graphics biz, but knowing a little about color and how it’s used to create your print materials will save you and your printer some time and frustration.

Next time around, maybe I’ll relate the story of my last two days at work, and how understanding color would have made all the difference. Maybe you should get drunk before you read it.

* That thing I’m peaking through in my profile pic? That’s a Pantone Swatch book.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Myth of Graphic Perfection

From time to time in the course of my printshop work day, I find myself conversing with pressmen. They are, in most cases, a rare breed of crusty individual who, much like movie theatre projectionists, IT specialists and auto mechanics, believe themselves to be the keepers of special, arcane, under-appreciated knowledge. The world at large just doesn't understand them, and things in general just aren't as good as they used to be. Just ask 'em, they'll tell ya. Every damn day.

Anyway, yesterday's conversation centered around digital printing and poly-plates versus traditional metal plates, and their relative accuracy. This press guy says to me "Do me a favor... sometime, when you've got time*, I want you to make a square, 8" x 8", and print it out on one of those copiers up front, and then measure it to see how far off it is. I guarantee you the image will be distorted." I reply "yeah, I know... if I output that same image on 4 different printers, and the plate-setter, I'll get 5 different results, because none of them are 100% accurate, and they're never calibrated the same way at the same time."

"Exactly," he says, "people think them damn computers are perfect, but they can't even make a perfect square." I take a breath, count quickly to 10 and say "well, the computer is fine, it can make a perfect square, it's the output devices that can't accurately reproduce that perfect digital information." He takes a quarter of a second to not even attempt to process the fact that I've presented him with a contradictory viewpoint and says "that's what I mean, you never have that problem with negative to metal plate, it comes out the same way every time." He then walks back to his press, confident that he has just imparted an important piece of lithography gospel to the foolish young upstart who runs that pre-press department. Never mind the fact that I'm 46 years old, and I've worked in printing for a quarter of a century, and I've probably shot, developed and stripped more film negatives than he has, and the fact that he's barely 10 years older than me, and... well, just never mind. This guy never wants to have a real discussion, he just wants me to hold still while he explains to me that I don't know things that I actually do know.

Here's where the pressman and I agree:

He's right about the fact that a perfect square (or a circle, or a trapezoid, or any font, or the half-tone dots of any continuous tone photo) will almost never come out of a printer or plate-setter 100% perfectly accurate. The image will stretch, sometimes vertically, sometimes horizontally. These are machines, with hundreds of moving parts, and they do wear down and need to be re-calibrated on a regular basis. The software will always send accurate information to the output device, but due to wear and tear, differences in stock thickness and even room temperature the device will probably not reproduce the same image the same way two days in a row. This is a solid fact, and I will never dispute it.

Here's where the pressman is just plain wrong:

The problem with this guy's bullshit opinion is his insistence that the above listed inaccuracies don't extend to more traditional methods of image reproduction. They do. In traditional offset lithography, an image is transfered onto a piece of negative film (the black parts are clear, and the white parts are black). That film is then taped to a paper or vinyl sheet by a stripper (yes, that's what they're called, stop giggling). Then that stripped negative is placed over a emulsion coated metal plate and exposed to light. Then the plate is developed, and it's time to fire up the press.

Nowadays, that film negative is generated by sending a document from a computer to a film output device, which uses a laser to expose the image onto the film one line at a time (industry standard is somewhere in the 133 to 150 lines per inch range). The problem here is, it's just another instance of a computer sending digital information to an output device, and all the potential problems covered in the last paragraph still apply. On top of that, the exposed film has to be sent through a processor, where it is developed, fixed and washed, like any other piece of photographic film. The developer and fixer chemicals slowly lose potency over time, and can be radically affected by temperature, and human error.

The pre-computer version of this process is even more troublesome. Back in the day, when I and that pesky pressman learned our stuff, film was developed in a darkroom, by hand. You stuck a finger in the developer to see if it was warm enough, and development time was usually determined by watching the film develop and checking your wristwatch. To make matters worse, the camera that was used to photograph the original graphic image was a behemoth of a machine, and image size was controlled by moving the artwork closer to or farther away from the camera lens. This was achieved by turning two cranks with both hands while staring at a small piece of tape with percentages from 1% to maybe 500% printed on it, as it whirled by. The camera operator rested his head against the camera, turned the cranks, and stopped when the tape reached the desired percentage. This means that image size could vary depending on the size of the camera operator's head, as it affected the angle at which the percentage tape was viewed. I'm not making this up. This is how we used to do it. 100% wasn't even exactly the same from minute to minute, on the same machine with the same operator.

And I haven't even mentioned the possibility of plates stretching once you put them on the press. Don't worry, I won't give you the details, just believe me when I say that this can happen.

What the hell does this all mean at the end of the day?

What it means is this: ultimate perfection in the graphic arts is a myth. It's not possible. It can't be achieved. The best you can hope for is to reach a level of attempted perfection that exceeds the human eye's range of perception. At 150 lines per inch, the edges of a curved line do indeed look perfect to the naked eye, but if you magnify that printed image to a point beyond 150 parts per inch, that curve will begin to break up, and you'll see the jagged edges of all the little squares the computer used to make that curve. A billboard along the highway looks perfect to the naked eye as you drive by at 65 mph, but if you were crazy enough to pull over and climb up the ladder to stand right in front of that billboard, you'd see jagged edges in every curve and half-tone dots the size of silver dollars. To put it another way, if you stare too closely at a sausage, sooner or later you're going to see what it's made of. So why does most printing look "perfect" to most people? People see what they want to see. As your eyes scan across the printed page, they process the information as quickly as possible. As long as the imperfections are smaller than your ability to detect them, your brain will satisfy itself that it has seen a perfect image. It's a trick. An optical illusion. And as long as the information is conveyed from the page to your brain, it's good enough.

Would this argument convince the pressman of anything?

Of course not. He doesn't need to actually be right, he just needs to maintain his personal belief that he is right. Much like the myth of perfection in graphics, he only needs to process information from the physical world at a safe distance that allows him to see exactly what he wants to see. In fact, he wouldn't even sit still long enough to listen to this whole diatribe. He's already moved on to telling you that he's in his fifties, was the youngest ever certified auto mechanic in the state, spent some time in the armed forces, and has somehow also spent over 40 years in the printing business. And he bagged a 14 point buck last fall. And his secret biscuit recipe is the best in the world. Just ask him. He'll tell ya. Every damn day.

* This will never happen, and he knows it.