How five wide-format print providers have upped their game in lenticular.
By Kacey King
Mounting the lens to the image: "One of the biggest challenges in lenticular is getting the lens mounted to the image-especially if you’re doing inkjet prints," says Steven Spiro, owner of LA-based lenticular producer Tracer Imaging (www.tracerimaging.com). "Because what inevitably happens is that you have this big inkjet print that you then need to laminate to the back of the lens with some sort of glue or adhesive, and then you need to register it to the print. And that’s a very difficult process-a lot of people are looking up into mirrors and then looking down."
"You need to make sure that the lens is perfectly aligned on the print bed. If you’re off just a little bit, then you’ll have a different look on each piece," agrees Total Graphic Solution’s Charlie Rezac.
Choosing the right media: Registration, however, won’t matter unless the print and the lens stay bonded together, so it’s important to choose the right type of media for lenticular applications. Microlens, manufacturer of lenticular lenses for the digital industry, says something that offers a smooth surface that will bond to the lens easily and securely-like glossy photo media or PETG film-will work best. "Basically, you want something very stable that doesn’t stretch when it gets full of ink, and you want to steer clear of vinyls. These do tend to stretch when they’re laminated, and that’s going to affect the interlaced image," says Jim Owens of Microlens.
Designing for lenticular applications: Artwork that is to be printed as lenticular needs to be specifically designed for the particular lenticular application being produced-whether it be a morph, animation, flip, or 3-D image.
"Quite frankly I think the most difficult thing about doing lenticular is getting artwork that’s prepared specifically for lenticular," says Tracer Imaging’s Spiro. "That’s because artwork that’s prepared for non-lenticular applications...does not have the same constraints that we have. The best lenticular jobs are jobs that had great art to start with. And so, when you have great art, everything becomes easier."
Tom Saville, of Big3D.com, agrees: "The most difficult thing about producing lenticular is coaxing the best result out of each individual art file. Rather than simply printing the files as submitted, we strive to provide the best results possible."
Owens of Microlens explains: "You can interlace any two TIFF files that are the same size, resolution, color mode-just put them in the interlacing software and in a few seconds or minutes, depending on the size of the image, you can have an interlaced image where you could print it. But creating a good flip image takes a little more time. You like to have something that’s an anchor point between the two images-whether it’s a consistent pose, or background that stays the same."
Other points: Sources interviewed for this article provided a few other tips as well, including:
* The printer you use needs to be able to print the entire width of the image perpendicular to the printhead. So if you printed a 36 x 40-in. image, it needs to print 36-in. wide and that printhead needs to print each slice of the interlaced image 36-in. wide.
* Print uni-directionally vs. bi-directionally, even if your printer can print bi-directionally. This helps you get the most accurate print possible for lining up with the lens.
* Send only "native resolution" images to your printer for lenticular. Native resolution means a multiple of the resolution of the printer you’re printing on-so if you have a 720-dpi printer you can send it a 360-, 720-, 1440-, or 2880-dpi image.
* When showing customers proofs for lenticular, show them an 8 x 10-in. printed sample using the lens it will be paired with, but show it to them from the proper viewing distance. A lenticular sample that should be viewed from across the room will look pixilated at arm’s length and a customer may think an error has been made.
* Finally, when a customer contacts you to take on a lenticular project, don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions, including: What is the application going to be? In what environment will it be installed? What is the viewing distance going to be? And, is it an indoor or outdoor application? The answers to these questions will factor into the steps taken, equipment used, and even the type of lenticular produced for a particular application.