I've just returned for the presscheck for the Summer 2012 issue of Alert Diver magazine. While we are fortunate to have talented team of printing professionals at the Quad Graphics plant in Sussex, WI ... they are not necessarily scuba divers and can't necessarily know what photographs from our world should look like. Plus, because I serve as publisher and photo editor on Alert Diver, I get to see the images at every stage of production: from submission though layout and design and on through prepress. So, to follow through the process I go on press as well, to assure we get the highest color fidelity print and ink can render. It is most often an exhausting process, just because the press runs 24/7 and there is no reasonable probability things will happen 9-5. They simply don't.
For example on this run we started at 3 AM one morning and I saw the final covers roll off the press at 3:00 AM the next day, with not much sleep in between those 24-hours. But, to assure the highest possible quality Alert Diver magazine, I look forward to being on location and working with these career craftsmen down in the pressroom.
Obviously, the process of color controls starts way before we go to press. First viewing images on calibrated monitors, both at my end and at our prepress house, MJI Premedia. Then we go through the process of approving color Epson proofs under calibrated viewing conditions, and those pages finally approved end up at Quad to serve as the match reference for the pages coming off the web press.
Here are some snapshot visuals of the process:
Once we get to Quad it is all about paper and ink. Well, more than that, of course, because the magazine has to be bound and mailed as well. But the building blocks for each issue of Alert Diver is a special paper we've sourced to find the brightest white with proper weight and opacity as is available from an ecologically managed forestry, and then it is printed with soy inks. The paper is mounted in huge rolls at one end, and at high speed shoots through the "web" process for the application of the inks. Of course, that's assuming nothing breaks down, but it often does and when that happens repairs are made and we start up all again. When all is working correctly, the whole process is fast and efficient.
To get to the point where all these pages are approved to be saved for the final bound magazine, we look at proofs, again in a color corrected viewing booth. The press team will make any changes I request for color, density, or even registration variables that might occur as the ink is being laid down from the rollers and plates. The possibility of those corrections is why any quality-conscious publication would dedicate resources to a presscheck.
It takes a while for the high speed press to get up to speed and for the blankets to properly apply the ink, and there may be anomalies that preclude substandard pages from being saved into finished magazine. All of those pages are then collected for recycling. Quad Graphics has been recognized within their industry as one of the "greenest" and most environmentally sustainable printers.
The final pages I saw this time at press were the front and rear covers; and the inside covers, front and rear. They come off a different press than the body forms and are printed on a heavier paper, often with a double hit of UV coating. Thanks to Ethan Daniels for a beautiful shot of Palau's Jellyfish Lake for our Summer 2012 cover.