Tips on Pre-flight before sending to the printers

Arron Lock has kindly agreed to write some articles for design shard, you can check out his web site and follow him on Twitter

He’s compiled some tips that should be taken in to consideration before presenting your files to the printer for printing. Expect to see more posts from him in the coming weeks as well as other authors.

Define Page Size and/or Bleeds correctly

Page elements that bleed should extend 1/8″ past the page boundary. The page dimensions should be exactly the same as your final trim size of the piece. DO NOT build your page elements in the middle of a bigger page and manually add crop or registration marks. They will probably get printed and your piece will suck.

Provide bitmap images at adequate minimum resolution

NEVER, EVER, EVER use image you copied from a website in your print job. Not only will this violate some copyright laws, it will also render a very ugly result. Web images are almost always 72dpi. You want to use images that are at least 300dpi.

Provide import source files

If you are using an image editing program like Photoshop, you may want to include the layered PSD file so that if any minor adjustments could be made by the printer. THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR THINGS TO BE INCORRECT TO BEGIN WITH.

Supply image files in CMYK mode

Things are printed in CMYK. Things on screen are viewed in RGB. It is much easier to work on files in an RGB profile as it allows for the most flexibility in image editing. However, make sure you flatten and convert these files to CMYK before they are used in the final work. If sent to press while still in RGB mode, chances are good that the printing software will kick up all sorts of errors.

Define spot and/or process colors correctly

Speaking of colors, it is a good idea to define all spot and process colors so the printer has either a PMS number or a CMYK formula to use. You should really be doing this any way to keep everything consistent.

Provide proofs

You should always provide a proof to the printer so they know what the job should look like when it’s finished. I like to use a PDF because they are pretty much universally utilized.

Include all imports…ALL imports

This is one of the most critical steps that some, ahem, “designers” forget about. Anytime you use an image, logo or graphic in a file to be printed it isn’t actually copying that image. It is linking it to the original files location.

So if you don’t include these with your packaged file set when it goes to the printer guess what, you aren’t gonna have any of those linked images in the final work. Lucky for you most current page layout software like Adobe InDesign, Quark and Pagemaker (do people still use Pagemaker?) can do this for you by running a “Preflight” or “Package” command.

Include all fonts…ALL fonts

Sending all the fonts used in a job is VERY important. If you use a font that your printer doesn’t have then one of two things will happen.

  1. Your job will be printed with the closest match the software can find
    (if you are using a reputable printer this should really never be the case)
  2. The printer will contact you to get the appropriate font from you.

Communicate with your printer

Talk to the people who will be handling your job. Let them know exactly what you want to accomplish with your printed work and they will be able to guide you in making sure everything is correct.

Some definitions:

CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black), the four process color inks. These are the inks used to print full color images.

Bleed: When an image or printed color extends beyond the trimmed edge of a page. Bleeding ensures that the print extends to the edges of the paper. The paper is usually trimmed to the desired size after printing.

Spot Color: An ink formula resulting in a specific color. Each spot color will need its own film/plate. Referred to as PMS (Pantone) colors sometimes.

Process Color: One of the 4 colors in CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black

Proof: A rendering of what the final printed result will look like.




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