Sunday, July 17, 2016

Metallics and Foil and Emblossing, Oh My!

 The past decade has been tough on mass-produced magazines but has also seen an explosion of niche, magazine-as-art-object titles.

For print geeks and lovers of design, a stroll through the magazine section of a Barnes & Noble yields many delights these days. A special treat are covers that sport special effects that were almost unheard of in the magazine industry just a few years ago -- shiny metallic colors, fluorescence, pearlescence, foil stamping, and embossing, to name a few.

Those of us who inhabit the tight-budgets world of four-color printing and coated groundwood paper tend to drool at these high-end titles. In some, even the inside pages are printed on paper we would gladly use on our covers.

Ogling an eye-popping publication that would be worthy of any coffee table causes some of us to suffer from a new malady that Dead Tree Edition hereby dubs (Drum roll, please, for our Publishing Word of the Day) PMS envy.

Background: Most magazines are printed with only four colors of ink -- cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. PMS (Pantone Matching System) inks can take printing way beyond those four "process" colors with intense shades that often do special tricks like glowing in the dark and reflecting light.

For the record, the term "PMS envy" has been around for awhile in some feminist circles to describe moody men. But that refers to a different kind of PMS.

Most magazine publishers automatically rule out the use of PMS as too costly. But if the future of printed magazines is in niche, luxury products, as trends suggest, perhaps we should be paying more attention to how some of the artsy, not-so-cost consciousness outsiders in our industry are redefining what a magazine can be.

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