The following is a print-primer guest post from NetPublications, an “award-winning on-demand printing, publishing and fulfillment company with 25 years of experience in the book and manual business.”
There’s a lot to consider before printed products can go to press, so we’ve compiled a list of the top ten problems that occur when a printing company receives your files. By following this checklist, you can avoid many of these problems.
1/ Fonts not embedded in PDF or missing in application files
When you create a PDF file you need to make sure you embed your fonts. This ensures that even if the person who opens the document does not have the font you used on their computer that they are able to view and print the file correctly. If you send application files (Quark, InDesign, etc.) we will need the fonts to print your job correctly.
2/ Incomplete or corrupt files
Before sending, check to see if your file will open correctly and has all necessary pages, images, etc.
3/ Colors that are not converted from RGB to four-color CMYK mode
You might design in RGB, proof in RGB, preview in RGB, however, we print in CMYK format. It is very rare that a computer monitor will accurately display the colors chosen in your layout. Your images may print in black and white or with inaccurate color if you neglect to convert images.
4/ Inadequate bleeds
A bleed is any area on a printed sheet where ink extends to the cut edge. One problem of inadequate bleeds is that an image that you expect to extend to the edge will show a tiny white line on the trimmed edge. It leads to an unpolished, unfinished look that you want to avoid. We require at least 1/8 (.1250) bleed.
5/ Placed images resolution too low or too high (always use 300 dpi)
A scan resolution that is too low results in a low-quality image. A resolution that is too high increases the file size and printing time, without increasing the image’s quality. Images downloaded from the internet do not print clearly (the resolution is too low — 72-100 dpi).
6/ B&W images saved in RGB or CMYK instead of grayscale
They will print with some color if not saved as grayscale.
7/ Images delivered in wrong file format (JPG, GIF)
Use TIFF / PSD (Photoshop). JPG and GIF are great for photographic images on the web, because it compresses the file (makes the file size smaller for faster downloading). Not ideal for printing, because every time you save it, you lose more color and detail. TIFF / PSD is the best image for printing without loss of color or detail.
8/ Missing images in applications.
Will either print blank or a low resolution image in its place.
9/ Wrong applications used for complex page layouts
Use publishing programs like Indesign, Quark or Pagemaker. MS Word is great for word processing at your desk, when you can print to your printer. Limitations in software make it difficult to do proper, efficient layout. Any MS Word files presented for offset printing will have to be converted to PDF. MS PowerPoint is great for creating slides / transparencies for a presentation. Limitations in the software prevent this from being an efficient layout program. Any PowerPoint files presented for offset printing will have to be converted to PDF.
10/ Not supplying a hard copy proof
This helps us spot potential problems. Please supply final color or B&W laser printouts with your digital files. Printouts should be at actual size (100%). If the image area in the page file exceeds the size of a laser or inkjet print, output the laser at a reduced percentage, but clearly note the amount of reduction.
Further print preparation resources
- 12 money-saving questions to ask before printing
This is a post here on davidairey.com, and the reader comments add a great deal of value.
- Design guide for print
Another on this site, with a few basic print terms explained e.g. file resolution, bleeds and trims.
- Preparing your files for printing
A decent overview from Gregg Stalter on Photoshop Cafe.
- The designer’s prep, print and proof checklist
Chuck Green does a great job of explaining how you’re in control of the printing process.
- Understanding bleed
Valerie Martin Stuart explains the term on Creative Latitude.
I know that many of you will be familiar with these, but I think it’s worthwhile putting a beginner-style post in every now and again. Have you come across similar problems? Do you have any additional printing tips to share?
Top image courtesy of Bay Graphics