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​Don’t get stuck with stickers…

By David Willis 22 August 2018 67 Views No comments

A simple guide to choosing the right printing process for your vinyl sticker production.

Everyone knows the old saying ‘Horses for Courses’, but what’s that got to do with the printing of vinyl stickers you may ask.

Put simply, there’s lots of ways of doing things, but there are also the best ways of doing things…

The world of print is wide and diverse. Stickers and self-adhesive labels are everywhere in our daily lives, just look around you; Logo stickers, Membership stickers, Floor stickers, Accreditation stickers, Car stickers, Website stickers, Plant Hire stickers, Bus side advertising stickers, stickers on sheets, stickers on rolls… It just goes on and on, and then on some more.

So where do all these stickers come from?

You know that you can’t make them on your desk top printer, so there must be a sticker printing machine available?

As you’d imagine, it’s not quite as simple as all that…

Imagine a full length Advertising sticker on the side of a bus, a printed Floor Sticker in a supermarket aisle, or the sticker in your Car window. Of course they’re all printed vinyl stickers, they all convey a message, they’re all fundamentally the same thing, but they’re each made in entirely different ways.

The problem for the would-be customer wanting to have vinyl stickers produced is understanding in which direction to head for the very best sticker printing deal and service; to find the company that can marry up the details of the job, to the best, fastest and most cost effective method of production.

A quick search of the internet will reveal 101 print firms offering everything from printed mugs to building sized plastic banners. But beware! The printing industry is a deceptive place for the unwary. It’s an industry that’s full to overflowing with trade re-sellers, print agencies, brokers, dealers and middle men all buying and selling, and adding their cut along the way.

What’s needed is to cut through the noise, and seek out the actual specialist vinyl and plastic printing companies from whom you can buy directly.

Back to the Horses and the Courses…

Fundamentally there are three tried and tested print processes for the printing of plastic and pvc vinyl:

Traditional screenprinting, digital ink jet printing, or an adaption of conventional litho, or lithographic, printing.

Each process has its strength, each its weaknesses. Here’s a very simple guide of which horse is best for which course:

Screenprinting

Screenprinting is basically a stencilling process whereby ink is transferred on to the surface that is being printed, through a stencil, that is held in position on a fine woven fabric mesh.

The material on which the print will be made is placed directly under the taut mesh and the ink is forced through the stencilled mesh by the use of a rubber or polyeurathene ‘squeegee’.

The required artwork image is in negative form on the mesh, and so the ink passes through the open areas of the mesh, reproducing the image back in positive, readable form once printed.

Screenprinting is a single colour print process. Many colours can be printed in the design, but only one colour at a time can be printed. A print job of several colours requires the same sheet to be passed through the printing press the corresponding amount of times to the colours required, each time through its own stencil.

Each print colour is dried before the next colour can be applied. It is in the drying process that the durability of the print is made.

Although screenprinting is a very simple process, it creates results that are impossible to create in any other way, and can only be mimicked by other processes.

As each chosen colour is specially mixed before printing, there are no colour matching or colour balance problems created in other processes. If a specific pantone, pms, or spot colour is required, then screenprinting can hit the spot directly. The ink being printed is mixed before it goes onto the press, to the precise colour you choose.

As screenprinting is a ‘direct’ print process, the thickness of the ink layer laid down is much greater than with other processes. This thickness of ink film helps with opacity, durability and light fastness. Screenprinted inks will last much longer is harsh environments than ink printed by any other process. Ink used in the printing of self adhesive sticker pvc is actually a liquid pvc itself, and bonds to become part of the actual vinyl during drying.

To recap, screen print is the best process for printing long production runs of printed vinyl stickers, where colour matching, durability and a long outdoor life expectancy are required.

Digital inkjet printing

The most recent and cutting edge process to enter the print industry. Digital inkjet printing is an adaption of the technology used in every day desk top printers, but usually on a larger scale, and with the ability to print on to a pre-loaded roll, as well as trimmed sheets.

The artwork is finely sprayed in great detail on to the surface of the sticker material by a selection of printheads that pass back and forth across the width of the vinyl being printed.

A CMYK process, required colours are created by the blending of transparent cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks onto the white surface of the self-adhesive material.

The wet ink is dried by a passing UV light, which ‘sets’ the ink on to the surface of the plastic.

Being a digital process, there is no requirement for printing plates, screens or other ‘set up’ costs associated with the other processes. Print set up in achieved in moments, there’s no waste created, and the finished prints are dry and ready to trim.

Strengths and weaknesses: Digital inkjet print is high resolution, pin sharp, and cost effective for smaller print volumes. A welcomed addition to the print industry that fills a gap for the production of smaller volume full colour printing on plastic, at low cost. Its inherent drawback is the speed of production, ruling it out as a high volume print process at this time.

Litho printing

The world of printing changed forever in 1769 when Alois Senefelder’s discovery of a new printing process named lithography.

Prior to Senefelders experiments utilising the long known fact that oil and water didn’t mix, the world of printing had been little altered since Glutenberg’s invention of moveable type, used in the ancient relief printing process known as letterpress. This letterpress process worked on the basis of inking a carved wooden plate, and then crushing it to a piece of paper under great pressure.

Using a flat, polished piece of limestone as a rudimentary printing plate, Senefelder realised that if an image was written on to the stones surface in a greasy wax, a thin layer of water applied to it, a greasy ink when rolled onto the stone would only key to the greased ‘image’, and be repelled by the remaining wet surface of the stone plate.

From this greased, inked image, an exact print could be taken from the stone, over and over again, as long as the ink was continuingly replenished.

Lithography, or litho as it is better known, was born.

Long gone of course are the limestones, long since replaced by treated micro thin aluminium print plates, but the process of greasy ink not liking water has remained.

Developed along the way into the most prolific printing process the world has ever known, sheet and reel fed litho is used as the predominant process for the production of most of the print now produced.

But, as you would expect, nothing is perfect, and litho has its own set of problems, although much outweighed by its many advantages.

Printing onto anything other than paper or card was at the top of the problem list. Lightfastness of the printed image a close second.

However, through continued development, litho presses have now been designed that can successfully produce work on thin and flexible plastics, pvc’s and self-adhesive vinyls.

Utilising specialist inks, created especially for the printing of high quality images on plastic, along with specialist UV drying equipment, litho is now the choice process for certain types of high quality, long run or high volume sticker printing.

Strengths and weaknesses: As a rotary process, the size of printing sheet is restricted, therefore limiting the size of the work that can be physically be printed.

Although lightfastness problems have been addressed, litho ink will only last outdoors for a limited period of time.

Set up costs can be expensive on smaller runs, as the cost of machine plates, set up, and strip down at the end of the run is exactly the same for a short run as a long run.

As it’s a very fast printing process, the cost of the machine set up is soon absorbed into longer run jobs, making it the absolute choice for certain specifications, and run lengths of printed plastic vinyl stickers.

And so to the conclusion…

As we’ve seen described above, there’s a little more to sticker printing than might be imagined…

It’s crucial that you seek out the right printer for the job in hand. What’s needed is a company that offers ALL of these print processes. One that can take your details and decide down which route to go, to give you the best printed vinyl stickers, for your end use, and at the very best competitive price.

Edge Stickers have 30 years of experience in the printing of every description of self-adhesive label, vinyl sticker, window cling, or printed self-adhesive graphic.

Using screen ,litho and digital processes, we offer the best trade prices, direct to you from the back of our presses.

Stuck for stickers? Give Edge a call.

​Shape cut stickers explained…What’s the difference between die cutting and kiss cutting?

By David Willis 20 August 2018 0 Views No comments

Cutting stickers to shape is a common request, where customers want something away from regular square or rectangle shapes.

So how is it done, and what do printers mean with there various descriptions of shape cutting, forme cutting, die cutting etc!

Here is a simple explanation of terminology used in the printing industry that will hopefully help you understand what you’re being offered:

Guillotined to size

Trimmed to size

Stickers can be printed on sheets in multiples. These descriptions refer to taking the master sized sheets and cutting them into either square or rectangular individual stickers.

The master sheets are cut in a stack of up to a couple of hundred at a time in one go, and so this is a very quick process.

If the order is for 5,000 stickers, and they are printed 20 per sheet, then the 250 sheets would be trimmed in two piles of 125.

Guillotines can only cut in straight lines, as the blade is straight. For any other shape a different process is needed.

Die cut to shape

Punch cut to shape

Forme cut to shape

Shape cut to shape

All have the same meaning. A cutting die or forme, in the shape of the required sticker, has to be made as a separate process.

(The die or forme is a sharp blade that is bent to create the shape and size of sticker that is required, not dissimilar to a kitchen pastry cutter.)

The stickers are then cut by the die/forme under pressure, leaving the finished shaped sticker, and the waste created around it.

Cutting dies/forms can be made as multiple cutters, which are more suited to long print runs. Stickers are then cut several at a time to shorten the cutting time, as opposed to one at a time.

With this process, the sticker and it’s backing paper are totally cut through.

Kiss cut

Half cut

Kiss cutting or half cutting refer to the process whereby only the actual vinyl part of the sticker is cut to shape.

The shaped sticker will then be left on a square or rectangular backing.

This process can be done in one of two ways: die cutting as above, but with marginally less pressure. The cutting die only has the pressure to cut through the vinyl, but not through the backing paper sheet.

Alternatively, the cut can be made with a plotter knife where the shape is traced around by a sharp scalpel like cutting blade.

Kiss cut stickers are easier to remove from their backing paper than fully die cut stickers.

Kiss cutting is the finishing process used to create numerous individual stickers on a sheet.

Ram punched

A ram punching machine has a shaped blade which is pushed through a stack of printed vinyl under pressure.

Stickers cut in this way can only be supplied as finished shaped singles.

Cad cut

Refers to stickers cut by a computer guided sharp knife, and can be either fully shape cut or kiss cut.

Ideal process for production of small quantities of stickers

Edge Stickers produce millions of shaped cut stickers, sticker sheets and runs of every description of printed vinyl sticker every year.

For the best advice and service for sticker printing in the Uk please get in touch.

Email us: info@edgestickers.co.uk

Call us; 01347 823230

​What is CMYK or full colour sticker printing?

By David Willis 30 July 2018 113 Views No comments

What is CMYK or full colour sticker printing?

We often are asked to supply quotes with reference made to the artwork being printed in CYMK, or Full Colour printing.

So what’s the difference between CYMK and Full colour printing?…it’s a very simple answer, there isn’t one, it’s just two ways of describing the same thing!

However…

‘Full Colour’ is how some would describe a piece of print, that isn’t necessarily a ‘full colour’ print.

It may well be printed in what are described as spot colours, pantone colours or pms individually matched colours.

The term ‘CYMK’ is an abbreviation of ‘Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and blacK’, which are the four colours used in the 4 colour process printing process. From these four transparent colours, virtually any colours can be made.

So, following this logic, you could actually print a nice rich bright colour, in either a colour of ink mixed like paint in a tin, or by printing varying degrees of the 4 colour process colours, to make what looks to the naked eye as the blue colour you hope for.

The big difference in printing terms, is that the first method is a single colour print job…the second method makes it a four colour process job.

The end result might look similar, but as far as producing the job goes, the one colour job will be far cheaper than the four colour version to produce.

The old adage that ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ couldn’t be more applicable to print, and in many cases expense could be saved…if only more accurate detail was available to quote against!

Desk top printers that we all have sat on our desks now make the printing of our photographs, email attachments etc on paper so simple.

Print copy-shops, and other small scale printers, can very easily print off a few leaflets, posters or business cards on a scaled up version of a desk top printer.

However, not all ordering of print…and especially when you move away from basic paper, is quite that simple.

Your printer can only give you an estimate, or quote for a job, based on the information you provide. Some well meaning print-buyers give descriptions and specifications for jobs that can only be described as ‘open to interpretation’ at best!

Here’s an example of a scenario that is all too common:

Customer: ‘Please can you quote me for 5,000 stickers, printed in full colour, on white self-adhesive vinyl. Size A4?’

Us: ‘No problem…could we just clarify what the design looks like please? It’ll make the price more accurate for you. Perhaps you could email us the artwork over to have a quick look at?’

Customer: ‘Of course…as I say, it’s full colour. I’ll send the artwork now’

Us: ‘Many thanks for sending the design over…are the stickers only to be printed in blue & red, like the artwork…and not full colour?

Customer; ‘Yes, that’s right…full colour…red and blue’

Unfortunately in a case like this, unless time is taken to help guide the customer through the various possibilities of print production, the quoted price may be far more than it needed to be.

At Edge Stickers, we have various methods of producing virtually every description of printed self adhesive vinyl sticker.

We’ll work with you to go the extra mile to ensure that we choose the correct print process for your work, and it’s end use.

Reflective stickers & signage - Class 1 or Class 2 ?

By David Willis 30 July 2018 100 Views No comments

Reflective stickers & signage - class 1 or class 2?

Don’t get confused with Class 1 and Class 2 reflectives…they’re very different, and have different uses.

(To add a little more confusion, Class 1 used to be Class 2, and Class 2, Class 1!)

You may also come across descriptions of RA1 and RA2, these are the same as Class 1 & 2, so no problem there.

Basically, you would commonly see Class 1 reflective signs and stickers used for promotional or informative end uses, where it is used to illuminate a message in darkness.

In some cases it is used in the production of temporary road signs too.

Class 2 has a higher specification of ‘reflectivity’ and is used for permanent signage for roads, as well as safety and warning markings on emergency service vehicles.

As you would imagine, there is a considerable difference in the cost between the two class types, but chosen correctly, you will get the correct product for your intended use.

Edge Stickers produce a huge array of printed reflective stickers, reflective signage and markings, and can give you all the advice you need to help you choose the correct type of reflective, for the job you have in mind.

​How are window stickers printed?

By David Willis 27 June 2018 127 Views No comments

Following on from my last post about lightfast printing, I’ve been asked to give a simple guide to how stickers for windows are made.

Firstly, not all window stickers are actually ‘stickers’, as some of them work without any adhesive, but nevertheless the printing process can be the same regardless of which type of material they’re printed on.

So first of all, let’s see how the printing part works…

Although you’d probably imagine that the plastic is printed, and then the ‘sticky’ is coated onto the print, it doesn’t actually work like that.

Window stickers start life as a clear plastic film, (with or without an adhesive layer)

The clear plastic film comes already with a paper or thin card backing paper. If it is a true ‘sticker’, the glue holds the backing paper in position. If it’s a self-cling sticker, the film ‘clings’ to the shiny backing paper on its own.

On to the exposed side of the clear film, the artwork is printed in reverse, mirror -image, wrong-reading, or however you want to describe it.

Over this reverse printed artwork, a solid, usually white, solid layer of ink is printed, trapping the artwork print underneath it.

So, when the sticker is peeled off it’s backing, the print is revealed.

What you’re actually looking at is the print, through the thickness of the clear film, and through the clear glue..(in the case of a ‘sticker’) Clever, but very simple!

As you’ll see, the printing part of the process has nothing to do with the actual type of ‘sticker’ you would like to produce.

Care needs to be taken to work out how ‘sticky’ the customer would like the sticker to be, or how long they want it to remain on the window.

At this point the correct choice of material is necessary. If the window sticker is a temporary or promotional graphic, that only needs to remain in place few a matter of days or weeks, then a static ‘self cling’ pvc might be the material of choice. This is a soft, shiny highly plasticised clear film that sticks to the window without any glue or adhesive. The great advantage of this material is that it can be easily removed without leaving any mess behind on the glass. It’s also easy to apply, as you can simply have another go, if you get it wrong the first time!

If the sticker or graphic needs to remain in place for a longer spell, but you’d still like it to come off later, then you might choose a clear self adhesive vinyl with a REMOVABLE adhesive.

This is basically a thin clear film with a thin coating of adhesive that holds it in place on the glass. It’s easy to peel off for the first part of it’s life, but does stick harder the longer you leave it in position!

For long term stickers and graphics, then a clear self adhesive vinyl with a PERMANENT adhesive should be used.

Apart from the obvious advantages of a nice long useful lifespan, be careful putting these type of stickers on…you only get one chance, and it’s very easy to get air bubbles trapped underneath, that will look terrible for ever more!