By Digital Output Staff
Some of the most notable design software programs are still used today, which is a testament to their capabilities and the benefits they offer designers from all backgrounds. For print service providers (PSPs) offering wide format graphic design services, design software is especially useful.
Above: CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is offered as either a subscription or one-time payment perpetual license.
Features like scaling tools, color management, and building structural components are commonly used in print shops. Additionally, collaborative tools like editing and approving design files are increasingly popular as more employees find themselves working remotely.
Targeting Wide Format
For wide format PSPs, nothing is more helpful during prepress than automation—and the design portion of that process is no exception.
Thinking big when the term wide format is used, John Falsetto, senior director of products, graphics, and productivity, Corel Corporation, says wide format is all about scale. Features like the ability to design in a 1:1 ratio are extremely important, as well as tools that enable design elements to translate into vector format.
“Other important features include the ability to upsample and optimize bitmaps for output. Across the board, you need dependable color management to ensure the final physical product matches what the designer envisioned on screen,” adds Falsetto.
Nick Langford, CEO, AVA CAD/CAM, believes tools to help achieve accurate color management are essential. “It is extremely frustrating for designers to spend hours creating exactly what they want on a computer monitor, and then get something completely different from their wide format machine,” he notes.
In addition to managing CMYK correctly, Langford says color management should address the accurate handling of spot colors as well as dedicated fall ons—where one color prints on top of another—in continuous tone designs.
Another design element to consider is structural, especially in point of purchase (POP) display and packaging—both applications wide format PSPs offer. “The more significant value of this type of software is the capability of dealing with structural designs, which sometimes become difficult to conceptualize for a typical graphic designer,” says Roberto Rodriguez, director, Digital Graphic Systems (DGS).
“With the rise of on demand packaging and the need for personalization, design software for wide format printers needs to optimize workflows to prove cost efficient. Realistic, three-dimensional (3D) visualization of the material’s characteristics, artwork variants, and finishing effects helps save time, eliminate errors, and reduce sample-making costs,” agrees Boriana Stoimenova, head of packaging, EngView Systems. This includes features that allow graphic designers to create artwork over the dieline and proof the graphical and structural design in 3D.
Looking at New
Software manufacturers constantly update their product solutions.
AVA includes dozens of tools for material design, including managing complex step-and-repeat designs. Langford shares that a growing area of popularity is 3D design and printing. “This is sometimes referred to as 2.5D to distinguish it from the sort of the printers that actually print 3D objects. Wide format digital printing for home decoration is increasingly incorporating textures into the print.”
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2020 introduces an artificial intelligence (AI)-based PowerTRACE tool. This updated tool coverts bitmaps to vector to make them easily resizable for wide format. With the upsampling and artifact removal powered by AI, Falsetto says the graphics are better prepped for large format output.
DGS’ newest version of KASEMAKE offers an expanded library of parametric designs, including over 700 templates of packaging and POP displays. “This tool lets any designer with little experience design complex structures by only modifying the sizes and material thickness desired,” shares Rodriguez.
Version 7 of EngView Package & Display Designer Suite offers enhanced integration with Adobe Illustrator. The software automates the multiplication of a single design over a layout, and adds bleeds and print marks to generate high-resolution output.
SA International (SAi)’s Flexi Design solution now features Find My Font. Users import a photo, click on the text of the photo, and the tool best matches the desired font. “This cuts down on manual time searching and finding a font that would best match your clients predesigned artwork. A major time saver for designers,” adheres Michelle Johnson, director of marketing, SAi.
Interaction in Software
There is an increasing need for files to pass among peers and customers via the web. Features like commenting and approvals streamlined the process.
In most scenarios, web-based collaboration involves “just a few clicks.” Designs are sent to a customer and that customer can approve it or note changes and return the edited design, explains Johnson.
“Web-based collaboration helps solve a major pain point for graphics professionals by making it easier to get feedback and final approval on designs,” notes Falsetto.
Realizing that graphic design goes beyond two dimensions, software offers options for 3D import and export formats. For example, exporting in HTML allows for sharing of 3D models with customers over an internet browser, says Stoimenova.
How to Buy
Payment models have largely shifted to subscription services for many software vendors, which offers benefits like quick updates and product rollouts without interruption. However, purchasing software with a one-time license fee is also attractive to many print shops.
“Many software products transitioned from one-time purchases to subscription-based plans. Yet, some companies still prefer to buy their software as a one-time payment, which proves less expensive in the long run,” explains Stoimenova.
Falsetto admits there are advantages to both scenarios and the best option depends on the individual or the organization.
According to Langford, the main advantage of subscription-based options is that they include free software upgrades and ongoing e-training and support from specialist teams.
“With the one-time perpetual payment option, users keep the software for as long as their hardware and operating system supports it,” shares Falsetto.
There are constant updates and revamps to design software. However, some continue using outdated versions out of comfort and familiarity.
“From our experience, some print providers love to jump on new technology as soon as it’s released, while others may take a slower approach,” shares Falsetto.
Rodriguez explains that “software is a key element to keep any business ahead of the competition and having the latest version is always the best option.”
For those continuing to use older versions of software, Stoimenova believes the hesitation comes from the fact that the product still gets the job done and more importantly, is part of an established work process that they do not want to disrupt.
Set to Design
Design software is easily accessible for any size print shop. Some of the newest features found in the most up-to-date versions of popular software include tracing, nesting, font finding, and structural components. These address the increase of digitally printed wide format applications in the décor space as well as packaging, in addition to serving the needs of more traditional applications like signage and POP displays.
Sep2020, Digital Output