Sherlock Holmes Top 5 Print Tips

The great detective had a good deal to say that applies to printers, and anyone who wants to improve color quality and reduce waste could learn a good deal from mister Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes Print Tip #1: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” A Scandal in Bohemia

Is the magenta too high? Is the cyan too low? Is the yellow dirty? Is there a trapping problem with the reds? Before you waste one more minute on theories, get the facts. You can scan a 40 inch press sheet in 15 seconds. Do it now.

Holmes PrintTip #2: “Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.”-The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Are you really still trying to do print by the seat of your pants, or with an inadequate hand-held densitometer? Holmes would despair. You need data to deduce. In print, that means measurement: solid ink values, overprints, TVI, and gray balance. Get the data first.

Holmes Print Tip #3: ‘There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.’-A Study in Scarlet

Does “printing by the numbers” still sound like a new and experimental approach to printing that is too theoretical for real world production? Take a look  at any old and tattered pressman’s trade school textbook from the past. Every apprentice learned about density, dot gain, gray balance and more. Printing “by the numbers” is the way it was always supposed to be done. Isn’t it time we got back to doing it?

Holmes Print Tip #4: ‘Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.’ -Silver Blaze

Communication can be difficult when the presses are in one building and the prep department is in another; but without communication, success is impossible. It is now possible to scan a full press sheet in seconds and share the measurements instantly with the prepress department. If you aren’t doing it you should start now. It’s elementary.

Holmes Print Tip #5: ‘The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning.’-The Sign of Four

Printing on a tight schedule can become an emotional matter, especially when things start to go wrong. It is easy for us to get our backs up and become defensive when it feels like the finger of blame is pointing our way. The great thing about measurement is that it takes emotion out of the equation and gives us all a clear path for moving ahead to printing success as a team.

 I always keep my posts informative and product promotion-free. If you are a buyer, brand owner or printer interested in the subject of color communication, please check out my other posts and browse my website for more information on achieving effective prep-press collaboration. If you would like to learn more about process control and brand color verification with pressSIGN, please click here. Or contact me directly at

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