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Design Talk.

Blurbs and rants about graphic design

Checking Files for Printing

It is very important to make sure all files sent to printers are press worthy. That means they won’t cause any problems once they hit the press, whether it be font problems, colours and so forth. While there are specific things that can be handled with a preflight checklist—Jacci Howard Bear has a very good one on her site—there are other things you need to account for. I am going to quickly roll them out in this article, and I will take each one up individually in articles to come.

Keep in mind the end result while designing.
Don’t bother using a zillion transparencies if they won’t print. Learn what you can and can’t do with transparency and what will print. For example placing a black box onto some text and setting it to Extrusion will most likely not print correctly.

Spell check and proofread.
Check dates. Check phone numbers and spell check. Print the document and read it yourself, have others read it, whatever. Just proofread it. Spell check again. Then proofread. Find a mistake, then proofread it. Oh, did I mention to proofread it?

Don’t forget the bleed when using photos.
Remember that if you place some photos so that they bleed outside the page, you will need to give them an allowance of 3 mm, or whatever your printer asks for. You will be surprised by how a photo composition changes just by cutting off 3 mm. You might wind up cutting someone’s hand or ear. Should anything like that happen, make sure it doesn’t look awkward.

Don’t use faux bold or faux italics.
Some software fakes the bold and italics versions of a font. If you don’t check whether those versions are actually installed on your computer, you might think you have them and eventually they won’t print the right way once your design hits the press, even if they did print on your desktop printer. Skewed text usually isn’t a problem. If you really have to use faux bold or italics, outline your text. This resolves the problem most of the time, however it isn’t 100% safe. Further your text might look bad, because you didn’t use the specifically designed bold or italic version of the font. Fonts are designed by designers, the same way you design your posters.

Once the file is complete run a preflight.
There is software that allows you to do that. Adobe Acrobat (full version, not the Reader) has an excellent tool for this. You can also do it manually, following the checklist I mentioned at the beginning.

If your software allows you to do it, check separations.
Software such as InDesign and Adobe Acrobat allows you to view your file as it will appear once colour separated, simulating very much how it will look like on the press’ plates. This procedure will help you understand whether everything knocks out or overprints as you want to. Pay particular attention to tints of black (i.e. anything that is not 100% black). They most likely will NOT knock out and might blend with your background, making the gray pick up the background colour. If need be, you will need to manually set those gray items to knock out.

Print your document at the highest quality you can.
You might have printed the document a few times before, but probably just low quality to proofread it or check other things. By the way, I think I didn’t mention it before: don’t forget to proofread your document. Proofreading aside, printing the document at the highest quality your printer is capable of will allow you to see other quirks that maybe your monitor didn’t show you. Some colour correction that didn’t work right. Or something you did with Photoshop that didn’t show on screen, but once printed it came right out of the page to give you a black eye. How many times has that happened when you used the Stamp tool? Come on, I won’t tell anyone.

This is a quick list of things to watch for. Like I said, I will go into more details in articles to come.

Desktop Publishing & Prepress

  • David

    Dont’ forget FlightCheck, which is a great stand-aloe tool for checking some 40 file formats.

  • Matelo

    Hi Elisabetta, nice post. I have a question about the check separations, i used to print the separation in a PDF document from Ilustrator at my other job, but now I dont have that option in this computer neither at home. So how can I view that? thanks!!

  • Elisabetta Bruno

    Hi there, I am glad you like this post.

    Before I can help you however, I need to know what programs you have at home. Once you tell me that I might be able to help you work out a way.

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