The Importance of Training in this Digital Print World

By Keith Solomon


I bet that not many of you reading this article have ever heard of Paul Smith. Not Paul Smith the fashion designer; not Paul Smith the film and TV writer. Not Paul Smith, the father of ASCII art.


Paul Smith lived at Rose Haven Nursing Home in Roseburg, Oregon, USA for years. Paul Smith, the man with extraordinary talent was born on 21 September 1921, with severe cerebral palsy. Not only had Paul beaten the odds of a life with spastic cerebral palsy, a disability that impeded his speech and mobility but also taught himself to become a master artist as well as a terrific chess player even after being devoid of a formal education as a child.

‘When typing, Paul used his left hand to steady his right one. Since he couldn’t press two keys at the same time, he almost always locked the shift key down and made his pictures using the symbols at the top of the number keys. In other words, his pictures were based on these characters….. @ # $ % ^ & * ( )_ . Across seven decades, Paul created hundreds of pictures. He often gave the originals away. Sometimes, but not always, he kept or received a copy for his own records. As his mastery of the typewriter grew, he developed techniques to create shadings, colours, and textures that made his work resemble pencil or charcoal drawings.’

This great man passed away on 25 June 2009, but left behind a collection of his amazing artwork that will be an inspiration for many.

You know that saying about, ‘When life closes a door, God opens a window’? Well, I think God just helped this man build a whole new digital house.

Paul was remarkable because he taught himself to become a ‘Digital artist’ and a ‘Digital Printer’ but most of us mere mortals need help to master a Printing technique. So, where would one start? Where would you suggest to a youngster that he goes to learn the fundamentals of Digital Printing?

Well if Printing SA has its way, you will be able to attend a Digital Printing Course which it is planning to run nationally by the start of 2015. An ambitious project but a worthy one which has the support of many manufactures who see this as a way to improve skill levels in the Digital Print, both wide-format and cut-sheet, industry in South Africa.

Printing SA shared with me the outline of this course and would welcome input and ideas. Tania Rhode is managing this project and she would love to hear from anyone with constructive ideas.


Proposed Modules to be developed for the digital sector


1.  Introduction to digital printing

·         This course must cover a brief history of and developments/progressions in digital printing.

·         It must provide an overview of and introduction to the different digital printing processes and applications – e.g

o    Origination

o    Colour (FOGRA/ICC standards)

o    Machine types (wide-format vs cut-sheet digital, inkjet and laser printers etc). To include an overview/outline of alternative printing processes such as lithography and screen printing, briefly covering benefits and disadvantages.

o    Media

o    Inks

o    Finishing


2.  DTP and file design (Should there be a split between narrow and wide format?)

·         Desktop Publishing

o    File design and preparation: to also cover designing for different media/applications and wide- vs narrow-format printing.

o    File formats: Understanding the different file formats, designing for different file formats

o    PDFs: explaining and understanding PDFs, print-ready PDFs and the differences between different PDF types

o    Cut lines, bleeds and registration marks(if applicable)


·         RIPS

o Overview of the different RIPS available (main ones used)

o    Layout of file for print

o    Applying input and output profiles

o Compatibility and integration of RIPS with other machines/presses

o    RIPping for a variety different outputs and maintaining the integrity between proofs on different presses/machines

·         Variable Data

o   Touch on the differences between wide and narrow format

·         Workflows

·         Pre-flighting, Imposition and Proofing

·         Web-to-print


Another course must be developed in conjunction with this but aimed at the clients/ad agency designers


·     This will focus on educating the clients/ad agency designers on how to ensure their file formats are correct before they submit it to the printer.

·         This course will be marketed to the client through PRINTING SA and the digital printers.


3.  Colour

·         Basics of colour including: colour matching, colour profiling/applying colour profiles, understanding colour, setting tolerances, calibration of presses, CMYK, RGB, Pantones, colour perception and what influences colour.

·         Output intent

·  Colour measuring devices – spectrophotometers (filters and calibration). To include the difference between densitometers.




4.  Wide format Media

Different media types and uses  (outdoor and indoor)

Reel control

Stock rotation

Storage & maintenance

Good practices with media

Quality control


Environmental impact/footprint

Life span and warranties


Cut sheet Digital Media

Different types of media/substrates

Storage and maintenance

Environmental impact/footprint

Quality Control

Substrates that can be used on different machines

Good practices with media

Grain direction



5.  Wide format Inks

Different types of inks(pros & cons)

Application and matching to different media/machines

Health and safety

Environmental impact/footprint

(VOC emissions)

Effects of inks on finished product

Quality Control

Curing and adherence of inks


Cut sheet Inks

Different types of inks (pros & cons)

Application and matching to machines/media

Effects of inks after product has been printed

Health and safety

Environmental impact/footprint

Effects of inks on finished product

Quality Control


6.  Wide format Overview Of Machines