10 Tips for Preparing Great Files

6 Oct

In an earlier blog, 7 Steps to Printing with an Eye on the Budget, we mentioned the importance of making sure print files are correctly prepared. Here are ten tips for creating print-ready files.

1. Use Appropriate Software

Although many softwares allow anyone to create and print something from a desktop printer, not all softwares work well in the workflows found at printing companies. Most printers prefer to work with high-resolution PDFs or files created in InDesign, QuarkXPress, Photoshop, or Illustrator. If you plan on using anything else (especially for color printing), check with your printer before creating the file to make sure your software is printing company-friendly.

2. Document Size

Create your files at the actual trim size of the piece. For example, create an 8.5 x 11 printed piece with a document size of 8.5 x 11. If the piece has bleeds, pull out the bleeds 1/8″ beyond the edge of the document. Create spreads as two individual pages, not as a single form. Your vendor’s software will accommodate for cross-overs, gutters, grind-offs, creep, etc.

3. Bleeds and Safety Margins

Be sure to add bleeds of 1/8″ on all edges where appropriate. If you convert your design to a high-end PDF for printing, make sure your PDF includes the bleeds.

Bleeds extend beyond the document size on all edges.

Do not place text and images which do not bleed any closer than 1/4″ to the edge of the document. Not only could they be trimmed off, but elements placed within this margin exaggerate any variation in printing, trimming, and binding.

4. Maintain Image Quality

Rotate, flop, or scale images in Photoshop or Illustrator before importing them into a page layout program such as InDesign or QuarkXPress. Image manipulation done in page layout programs consumes a lot of computer memory and may cause output difficulties.

Also, be careful of over-enlarging your photos. While page-layout programs allow for photo enlargement, raster images will lose quality when enlarged. While many images will tolerate some enlargement, a general rule of thumb is to not enlarge raster images more than 25%.

5. Colors

Remember that offset printing requires that all color files be in CMYK to separate properly. Even if you plan on having your piece printed digitally, you should convert everything to CMYK so that you can see what the color shift does to your files and adjust if necessary.

Do not use spot colors in your file unless your job is printing as a 1-color or 2-color job, or you are using a 5th color in order to match a specific color.

For black and white printing, convert all graphics, type and images to grayscale before submitting your file. Email and URL links sometime automatically appear in a second color;  convert these links to black.

In order for areas of solid black to appear as a dense black, create the black background as a combination of 100K and 40C. Adding Cyan to the background provides a dense, rich black.

6. Resolution

For sheetfed printing, use images and graphics with a resolution of 300 dpi. Web presses require a slightly lower resolution; 266 dpi for coated stocks, and 240 dpi for uncoated stocks. Scan and save line-art or bitmap files which have strong or solid black components at 800 dpi.

7. Fonts

Don’t use any font sizes smaller than 6 pt.

If you convert your file to a PDF, embed the fonts. If you send native files, make sure to send all the fonts used in the document. If you use a collect-for-output script, be sure to collect the fonts from the same computer as used to create the document. Fonts from other sources may have the same name but have slight variations which can cause the type to re-flow. Don’t forget to send the fonts used within EPS files and logos. Better yet, embed the fonts into the EPS or convert your fonts to outlines in Illustrator.

8. Spell Check

Changes at proof stage are expensive and time-consuming. Make sure to spell-check your file and proofread for grammar and accuracy before you send it off to the printer. If you make a PDF, check over your PDF and print out a hard copy before sending off the file. It’s a good way to catch last-minute errors.

9. Preflight

Running your file through a pre-flight program is a great way to catch potential problems such as spot colors and RGB images. Some softwares such as InDesign have built-in pre-flight capabilities; be sure to use them.

10. Talk to your Printer

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve heard it said before. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here it is again: talk to your printer. Depending on how your piece will be printed, your printer may want only crop marks and not bleed marks or page information. A five-minute phone call can save both you and your printer time and money.


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