Tips From Local Prepress Experts

Photo from Prepress Panel at Adobe InDesign User GroupQSL Print Communications and its retail partner instaprint are proud to support and participate in the Eugene area Adobe InDesign User Group. This group, sponsored by Adobe and supplemented by local print houses, provides a forum for local printers and designers to meet, network, and learn new tips and tricks for an advanced workflow.

This month, rather than host a special guest speaker, we enlisted a panel of prepress professionals from local commercial printers to discuss top tips and tricks for setting up printer-friendly files. We had a great turnout, received substantive advice, and enjoyed some lively debate. Being a powerhouse of commercial printing in Lane County we brought our best to the table with Eric Erno and Chris Humble representing for QSL and instaprint. Of course, everyone on the panel did a great job and the discussion was very productive.

So, what is the lesson?

Designers and printers have different definitions for the term print-ready. The truth is that a good designer is always pushing the boundaries of their programs to create interesting and often complex designs and printers strive to find ways to translate these complexities into quality prints that meet expectations.

The tips and tricks put forth in this month’s discussion are indispensable tools for anyone submitting art files for print.

Tip #1 – Package Your Native Design Files

If you are creating your layout in Adobe InDesign or Illustrator you can package your native files by selecting Package from the File drop-down menu. Packaging your native files creates a folder that holds your design, all of your linked images, and all of your fonts. Once this folder is created, you can compress the folder into a .zip file and upload it to your print service provider as a complete package. This allows your printer to be able to make minor changes such as adding bleed, correcting a typo, adjusting color builds or changing the finished size. Many changes and corrections can be done quickly with no additional set-up fees. Without the packaged files, your printer would have to return your artwork to you for changes and printing would be delayed.

A NOTE ABOUT ADOBE TYPE KIT – Free fonts acquired through Adobe Type Kit will be available to any print provider that uses the Creative Cloud. Purchased fonts do not package. If your layout contains purchased fonts you must either convert that type to paths or provide your printer with a PDF.

Tip #2 – PDFs

PDFs are a great way to present your artwork to your printer. When sending PDFs, keep in mind that how you create your PDF and from which program you create your PDF can directly affect how your design prints. It is always a good idea to ask your printer what their recommended settings are for creating a PDF.

THE #1 MOST FORGOTTEN THING — when creating a print-ready PDF, include the bleed. If you set up your artwork in InDesign or Illustrator with a bleed that goes beyond the artboard, you have to go to the Marks and Bleeds tab in your Save As menu and check the box marked Use Document Bleed Settings. If that box is not checked, your PDF will be the right size but it will not have bleed.

Tip #3 – Color Builds and Consistency with Black

Most print operations center around the four color process known as CMYK. Building your layout in CMYK is always a good place to start. When using black, be consistent with how you build it. 100% black tends to be dark gray. For true black, a safe build formula for most printers is 50/50/50/100. That is 50% each of cyan, magenta, and yellow plus 100% black.  If you’re using Pantone colors, consult with your printer regarding how those colors should be set-up.

ALWAYS REMEMBER  printers, print processes, and the material being printed on all affect how a color looks. If you need an exact match, request color samples that reflect the process and the materials that you plan to use.

Tip #4 – Talk To Your Print Provider

Your print provider is the chief expert when it comes to their own equipment and processes. What you learn from one printer may not hold true for another. Ask your print provider how they would prefer to receive files. When you ask questions, be specific. Let your printer know your chief concerns and priorities so that they can be your advocate in the print process.

Tip #5 – Design without Limits

Sure, there is a limit to what any printer can do but that doesn’t mean you should start your creative process with pre-conceived notions about what you can or cannot achieve. Rather than put a limit on your creative genius, be bold and untethered. Once you know what you want, ask. If your print provider cannot accommodate, ask for suggestions or a recommendation. There are printers out there that can do a lot more than what their customers routinely ask of them — QSL AND INSTAPRINT ARE PERFECT EXAMPLES.

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