printing

Profiling for Print: A Necessary Step for New Products

W. Edwards Deming, American scientist, once said, “Innovation comes from the producer – not from the consumer.”  We recognize that we’re not the sole innovators on print projects, but rather innovation captains. This quote reminded us that we, as producers, are responsible for the successful execution of innovation.

At Custom Color, the foundation of our success lies in innovation. We’re a group of trendsetters who work systematically to find new and fresh solutions to our client’s printing problems.

The solutions to our customer’s printing problems lie in our material offerings. We store a standard stock of over 200 materials that work for a majority of our client’s projects. However, in order to stay on the cutting-edge and to anticipate marketplace changes, we must introduce new materials into our offerings.

How do we find out which materials to introduce? We listen to our customer’s needs. We scour trade shows and meet with vendors to find materials that our client’s have never seen before. Then we find the products at the highest quality possible that we can introduce for the lowest price to our customers.

Profiling for Print: A Necessary Step for New Products

Finding the product is just the beginning. Every company, regardless of industry, always wants to offer their clients the best products and services – at Custom Color, we’re no different in that regard. Unlike every other company in the world, we have to go through a much more extensive and complex process before offering new products to our clients: profiling.

Printers and materials do not have one-size-fits-all properties. Each printer and material requires special amounts of ink, a certain speed and a precise degree of heat in order to render a perfect print.

In order to guarantee the color that our customers have grown to depend on, the profiling step is crucial. After an initial trial test print, our purchasing department works with the press operators, the RIP team, the production manager and our color management expert to determine the printer settings that will ensure that the final product matches the graphic on the customer’s screen. After getting the settings just right, our color management expert will work to certify the material to G7 Master Qualification standards.

We check for multiple factors when introducing material. We look at the ink consumption, sublimation, color, the stretch and whether it creases or wrinkles. If the material meets our Custom Color standards and cooperates with our workflow, we’ll introduce the product to a permanent spot on our substrate lineup.

We have a very aggressive material testing and profiling process. Usually, we test four or five materials per month. Our vendors have noted our profiling process, too! We have been selected to be the primary research and development testers for one of our biggest vendors - this means that we have the opportunity to print on the newest materials before they hit the market.

We walk the walk. Because we’re all about innovation, we’ve introduced two new materials to our Global Shop booth. If you’re a qualified buyer and will be in or around Las Vegas between March 28 and 30, register here for a free pass to the show to check out our booth!

If you’re interested in learning about other new materials, drop me a line. I can’t wait to work on innovation with you.


Custom Color Josh VanMeter

As the Custom Color Purchasing Manager, Josh VanMeter is the keeper of the company credit card. When he isn’t scouting out the best material deals, he is either shopping at Costco or Gap, looking around Amazon or dreaming about San Francisco. Connecting with him on LinkedIn is a wise move, he’s a rising printing star. 

Trade Show Timeline: Breaking It Down

The statistics behind trade shows are staggering. If you knew that 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority or that 78% of trade show attendees travel more than 400 miles to get to the show, then maybe you’d be prompted to rethink your trade show marketing.

If your company is anything like us at Custom Color, you are always looking for opportunities to meet and strengthen relationships with clients, you have an investment in your brand, you’re ready for company growth and you’re looking to outshine your competition. Trade shows provide the perfect opportunity to check all of the above boxes.

Before you can reap the benefits of awesome new customers and higher sales numbers, you have to consider the type of trade show booth that will be most attractive to your customers. For some of our clients wanting custom and more complex exhibits, we have compiled this trade show timeline to help guarantee a flawlessly executed event.

6 months out:

Approximately six months before the event start date, you should request to meet with one of our sales executives. In that initial consultation, we’ll discuss your budget and how we can get you the biggest bang for your buck.

During your consultation, we’ll want to know if you’re interested in custom flooring, suspended structures, walls, windows and frames and fabric. Our offerings are extensive and can range from $100 to $50,000 depending upon your needs.

2 months out:

We request that art files are submitted eight weeks prior to the exhibit’s arrival at the show. Following our art requirements will cut down on production time and will ensure that your art comes out looking its best. After our prepress process, our master press operators and finishers will get to work creating the graphics that will capture attention.

6 weeks out:

If required, frames from SEG Systems will arrive at our Color Castle approximately six weeks before the show. This gives us enough time to construct your booth and test the graphics so that we can confirm a flawless fit.

Following this timeline ensures that the booth will be complete one month before the start of the show and allows for any changes to be made. Generally, the show determines received shipments and set-up dates.

Here's an inside look into the construction of our very own trade show booth:

Building a custom trade show booth with us means that your prints will be of the best color image quality (thanks to our G7 Master Qualification), you’ll gain unlimited access to our high levels of service and knowledge in the trade show industry and we’ll facilitate the shipping to ensure that your booth arrives in the best condition.

Creating a captivating and custom trade show booth requires a bit of strategy and lot of creativity. Thankfully, we carry a hefty trade show resume and can assert just the right amount of tactic and vision to boost your booth.

Here’s a little bit of inspiration and a view of what your trade show booth could look like. Let us know if you want to talk about boosting your brand at the next show you attend.

SGIA Sightings: A Recap

To answer your first question – yes, Vegas was awesome. To answer your second question – yes, I am a printing prophet.

Before we left last week, I sat down to jot down some of my thoughts on the trends that I thought we’d see at SGIA; thus, my Printing Predictions blog was born.  I thought I’d follow up on my three predictions: automation, technology and substrates.

Automation

First, I referenced WhatTheyThink’s commentary that highlighted automation as this year’s top topic. For other print service providers, it might have been – but for us, a print solutions provider, we’re already incorporating automation.

At Custom Color, we use Enfocus’ Switch software to automate our prepress process. This software alerts us of any print problems that might arise before the file hits the production floor. We also use automated finishing – this prevents jobs that move through production quickly to only get hung up at our sewing machines. We find that automation works for us – prepress detects more errors with Switch and the sewing on our prints can be completed quickly and perfectly every time. 

We did spot some cool finds that are on our radar. It must first be noted that we love Zund die-cutters – we have two on our production floor now. Zund has outdone themselves with two automation features that really blew our minds. The Bird’s-Eye View is an HD registration dot reader that reads dots as the material feeds onto the cutting surface – this eliminates the time that the camera takes to read the dots after the fabric has been fed onto the cutting surface. Zund has also rolled out a laser cutter that finishes the edges of fabric as it cuts. This automation would certainly reduce time for finishing and I-Cut – faster production for ink in a blink.

Technology

Three words: Box on Demand. In case you were wondering, we’re asking for one for the holidays. The Box on Demand system is a highly customized approach at constructing corrugated packaging. This means custom boxes for our custom prints – it also means that packaging costs will be consistent, regardless of configuration, quantity or design. Custom boxes at Custom Color – it’s only fitting. 

While we don’t print offset, HP’s Page-Wide makes us wish that we did. This press has High Definition Nozzle Architecture (HDNA) technology – that’s 2,400 nozzles per inch, which prints at 10,000 square feet an hour. This HDNA means HP’s best-in-class print quality while providing enhanced productivity and versatility. 

Substrates

Technology is awesome, but we can’t do what we do without the substrates. We found two new substrate products that we’re excited to get our hands on.

Coated fabric and fabric coating might just be a game-changer. There are certain fabrics that we cannot print on unless we bought entirely new equipment. The addition of coated fabrics and fabric coatings mean that we can use our HP 3500 latex printers to print curtains and other home décor that we had only printed on in our dreams.

We were introduced to a mesh that revolutionizes construction site graphics– Pes Mesh. Pacific Coast Fabrics introduced us to this fantastic dye-sublimated mesh material. This eyelet mesh has an open weave structure, which allows wind to travel through easily. The dye-sublimation process means that the ink will last longer and perform better in adverse conditions. This material is perfect for construction area fencing, graphics and advertising.

Wrap-Up

SGIA Expo gave us so many ideas and possibilities for research and development. We’re incredibly excited to see what the next few weeks hold in terms of automation, technology and substrates. 

Follow us on our social media channels to see it first - check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

Also, I must add one last time…I am the printing prophet.


Jason Milbourne is the Vice President at Custom Color Corp. A designer, pre-press connoisseur, and Royals fanatic by day and a fantasy baseball pro and taco and craft beer arbitrator by night, Jason loves all things fun and crazy….just like his hair. Connect with him on LinkedIn, but don’t follow him on Instagram, because he won’t follow back. 

Laminate to Accentuate: Finishing Options

The word lamination might send you into a tailspin of memories from elementary school. Laminated calendars, letter sheets and name tags are often the first memory that we have of the durable and reusable surfaces.

Fast forward into your adult and professional life – many of the signage that you come into contact with has some sort of lamination applied.  When large format printing is discussed, most people think about the act of printing and cutting – few people consider the finishing employed to protect the print.

On most all of our projects, we apply one type of lamination or another. Lamination serves two main purposes: to protect the final print and to alter the finish.

  1. Protection – Both liquid and film laminates protect the final print from abrasion, chemicals and UV exposure. Lamination added to outdoor prints extends the overall life by two to three years. Indoor prints that might be cleaned, walked on or exposed to dirt or debris should also be laminated. At Custom Color we even have a laminate to protect prints from graffiti.
  2. Alter the finish – Laminates come in many different finishes that can be applied to the print to alter the overall look. We stock glossy, matte and luster laminates but readily have access to laminates that provide shimmer and texture. Some prints are finished with a dry-erase laminate that transforms any print on a rigid substrate into a dry-erase board.

Our finishing arsenal is stocked with laminators. Jeremy and James man the lamination station of two roll and two liquid laminators. Our GBC roll laminator is a pressure sensitive laminator – this laminator is ideal for heat-sensitive inks. Our other roll laminator is an AGL thermal laminator – its heated rollers apply pressure to overlay the substrate with lamination.

Additionally, we have a liquid heat laminator and a UV liquid laminator. Our heat liquid laminator is often used for our wall murals and wallpaper while our UV laminator is used on rigid substrates like dibond and sintra. Customers often opt for liquid lamination because it offers a bit of a price break.

When asked what he loves about his lamination station, Jeremy explains that he loves getting to work on many of the projects that go through production. He said, “everyday is different” which makes his duties more exciting.  Over their combined 30 years of finishing experience, some of James and Jeremy’s favorite lamination projects have been for the Chief’s Hall of Fame, Fireball, Boulevardia and HyVee.

Your project could be added to their favorites list. To find out the best laminate for your project, contact us!

Flooring Fixation: Graphic Flooring

As a society, we’re obsessed with technology – that’s no secret. It’s a rare occurrence that a passerby you meet looks at you in the eye because they are consumed by whatever device they’re holding. In fact, people are so absorbed with their handheld devices, that Germany put traffic lights in the ground for phone gazers.  I can’t make these things up. 

While I think the lights are cool, I’m not advocating for you to take on such an expensive project. But think about the concept, people are looking down at the ground. Wouldn’t it only make sense to market in the direction that consumers are gazing?

One of my favorite products that we print is G-Floor. G-Floor is commercial grade vinyl flooring that can be customized with a little help from large format printing. Gone are the days where retailers have to settle for floor graphics, because now we have graphic flooring. 

G-Floor was originally created for garages - it is incredibly durable, even in high traffic areas. The graphic is mirrored and printed on the reverse side of the vinyl – this means that it’s impossible to scratch or damage the printed graphic because there is 2 millimeters of PVC (that's .075 inches) that protects the ink. We stock G-Floor in ten-foot wide wood grain, ceramic, coin, and diamond texture rolls.  A majority of our projects are printed on clear flooring; however, we have white, black and grey G-Flooring readily available for printing projcts.

Prior to G-Floor becoming a commodity for large format printers, it went through an extensive research and development phase with yours truly. At Custom Color, we did all of the print and durability testing with the flooring. We have had this product rolling through our printers for a long time – because we conducted the research and development, we have more experience with the substrate than any other large format printer in the world. 

It’s not just the material that is a big deal – it’s the printing process, which we’ve perfected. G-Floor is printed on our LED flatbed. This machine has white ink capabilities, so designers have the option to flood the design with white if desired. Traditional presses put off high heat, which causes the product to stretch – because our inks are dried with an LED light, there is no stretching that occurs, which means a better registration with tile flooring.  

This unique flooring substrate has been the center of some of our coolest projects. 

Did you know that sports shows like Inside the NFL rent out spaces for one day to record their segments in? These spaces are constructed to look like the sets that you see on television and are then taken down and transported to their next set location. Prior to using g-floor, networks would lay temporary hardwood floors just to remove them hours later. Now we print wood pattern on wood grain g-floor - they roll out, record, roll back up and roll on to their next city. We’ve worked with CBS, ESPN, NCAA and the MLB on projects like weekly segments, the NCAA Final 4 and the Super Bowl to make their set-up simpler with the use of this substrate. 

We recently printed a G-Floor walkway for Bass Pro Shops’ Museum in Springfield, Missouri. The floor in their arctic exhibit was originally painted white, and while that looked nice, it didn’t convey the entire arctic experience that Bass Pro Shops wanted guests to have. The new floor design mimics what one would see if they were standing on icy waters in the North Pole.

As we speak, another important roll of G-Floor is coming off of the press. We were contacted to create the flooring for the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. We caught wind that Rihanna will be performing on our flooring! It really can’t get much cooler than that.

Our G-Floor can also be found in Universities, retail stores, restaurants and other museums.  G-Floor can also be cut down smaller and used as entrance mats to businesses and other organizations – when companies order these mats, we use a non-skid backing to prevent the mat from sliding. We’re currently working with many different stores like Carter’s and Academy Sports to create shoe-sizing mats from G-Floor to place in the footwear areas of their stores. 

If you’re interested in G-Floor for your organization, here are some tips to insure that your G-Floor makes the best first impression: 

We could go on and on about this amazing substrate. We believe in G-Floor so much that we are redesigning Color Castle’s lobby floor to incorporate the material. When you’ve printed over 150,000 square feet of a particular material in a year, it’s impossible not to fall in love. 

Check out some of our other work. If you’d like to talk about graphic flooring, give me a shout. 


Jason Milbourne is the Vice President at Custom Color Corp. A designer, pre-press connoisseur, and Royals fanatic by day and a fantasy baseball pro and taco and craft beer arbitrator by night, Jason loves all things fun and crazy….just like his hair. Connect with him on LinkedIn, but don’t follow him on Instagram, because he won’t follow back. 

Kitting & Distribution Delivers

We’re located in Lenexa, Kansas - a suburb of the BBQ and baseball capital, Kansas City. Believe me, we have heard every Dorothy and Toto joke in the book!  We love our Color Castle, and our location has so much to do with our company’s success. 

One of the million things that sets us apart from other printing companies across the country is our centralized location in the Midwest. Our location affords us the ability to deliver graphic kits to most of the country in three days or less through standard ground shipping.  Graphic kits are another defining aspect of our company that establishes us as a leader in the retail POP printing industry. 

Not all printing companies have kitting and distribution services – at one point we were also one of those companies. We identified a need for a kitting department when we noticed that our large retail customers were burdened by the massive task of receiving printed materials, unpacking the materials and putting together store-specific kits to ship to their many locations. 

Now we have a robust department of highly motivated individuals who make our kitting and distribution magic happen.  Our kitting professionals regularly put together store-specific packages that are unique to each individual location, yet contain like-printed items. We place an emphasis on our quality employees who take pride in their work to make sure our customer’s expectations are always exceeded. 

At Custom Color, our kitting department is every bit important as our printers. Having beautiful prints is only a portion of the equation – ensuring that our customer’s stores are receiving kits full of beautiful print it on time and accurately is really what matters.  

Here are some numbers to exemplify how much it means to us: in the last month alone, our kitting department has put together well-over 5,000 packages to ship across the country with over 99.95% accuracy. This great care, precision and attention to detail drives more print because we deliver (both literally and metaphorically) each and every time.

Our capacity to kit for 10 or 10,000 locations accurately and efficiently, our location in the middle of the nation, our detailed and analytical packaging pros and our over 40,000 square feet of warehouse space dedicated to kitting is a driving force of our company. 

Our customers appreciate accurate and quick ink in a blink, and we know you would too. If you want to talk about your next big printing and kitting project, contact us


Matt Keith is the CEO at Custom Color Corp, also known as the captain of the printing process from idea conception to kitting and shipping. He doesn't enjoy talking about himself in third person, but he is a big fan of Motocross Racing. Connect with him on LinkedIn. 

The Prepress Process

What do print-ready files, holiday decorations, and chili cook-offs have in common? Only the greatest prepress department on the entire printing planet – of course we’re talking about our resident prepress print ninjas at Custom Color.

Prepress departments are often found in print shops – but ours is quite unique. Even though many of their projects are completed individually, the entire department is a cohesive unit joined together by inside jokes and a teal door. The prepress department is the reigning company holiday decoration winners, chili cook-off champions, donut fanatics and the creators of cubicle coaster golf. 

While they obviously know how to have fun, they also know their stuff – the entire department has accumulated over 90 years working in prepress roles. Jena and Oscar have degrees in photography, Larry boasts a degree in color management (and minored in underwater photography, what?!), and Andrea is a graphic designer by trade. Each of the team members brings backgrounds and skill sets that have prepared them to prepare perfect prints. 

Now that you know about them, it’s helpful to understand what exactly it is that they do. Our prepress department is the final eyes before the printing prize. After receiving our client’s artwork, our prepress team goes to work. The team performs a series of checks and balances to ensure print perfection. 

Have you ever created a document on your computer and then crossed your fingers hoping that the printed version looks like what you see on your screen? When printing large format, it’s unrealistic to print just one copy to check out what the finalized version will look like. *Enter technology.* When art is submitted, it goes through an automated quality control preflight. PitStop detects any possible errors in PDF files and sends alerts and reports to our prepress team to correct any mistakes detected. 

When we say errors, we’re not talking about spelling - we assume that when you send files that they’re print ready. Our preflight checks for low resolution images, unintended RGB objects, missing bleed, font issues, white elements, ink coverage, layers, spot colors, and deep black checks. 

Just like everything else about Custom Color, we think that our prepress team is the best in the business. They are the true backbone to the company and are always considering the printing process and making their fellow employees jobs easier when working their magic…that is, when they’re not trying to design and build their annual department gingerbread house. 


Jason Milbourne is the Vice President at Custom Color Corp. A designer, pre-press connoisseur, and Royals fanatic by day and a fantasy baseball pro and taco and craft beer arbitrator by night, Jason loves all things fun and crazy….just like his hair. Connect with him on LinkedIn, but don’t follow him on Instagram, because he won’t follow back.