Once an important piece of artwork or a document has been completed, it is usually accompanied with a huge sigh of relief, finally it is finished and ready to print! This, however, is the key time where you can make or break all of your hard work by failing to properly prepare your files for print. Incomplete files can result in the following common problems:
The font on the printed page is different to the one on the original document.
The printed colours don't match the colours on the original.
There is a white border around the edge of your page.
The text shape isn't lined up with its colour, making it illegible.
The text is over-powered by the pictures.
- Check content
- Embed the fonts
- Use the correct colour format
- Check the image resolution
- Use a publishing programme
- Allow adequate bleed
- Get the balance right
- Ensure text is legible
- Check overprint
- Simplify/rasterise complex vector paths
- Zip before you send
- Supply a hard copy
1. Check content
This is the most basic check but often gets overlooked. Checking content means checking any text for spelling and grammar mistakes and ensuring all images are in the right place.
It's also essential to check that the file you are sending over isn't corrupt, and that it contains all of the necessary information, including all of the correct pages and images. Don't leave off the last page!
2. Embed the fonts
The person opening the document may have different software to you, and could possibly be incompatible with yours. Therefore, you will need to embed the fonts in case they change when they are translated to the other software. Embedding your fonts will ensure that they open in the same way as they are created, no matter what software they are opened on.
3. Use the correct colour format
It is essential that you convert any images into CMYK format (the four colours used by many printers) before you send the image to print. This will ensure that the colour on the final printed product is completely accurate to the original file.
You should be working in CMYK from the outset during the design phase, not RGB.
4. Check the image resolution
If you use 300 dpi for all images, this will ensure that the printing is completed to an effective quality without unnecessarily increasing the file size and consequently the printing time.
5. Use a Publishing Programme
Using a proper publishing programme will make the printing process much easier, as simple applications such as MS Word can implement limitations that prevent the print job from working effectively. We recommend Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator.
6. Allow adequate bleed
To ensure that your image continues right to the edge of the printed page and nothing is lost over the sides, you will be required to add 'bleed' to your document. Bleed is the term used for the excess image that continues past the desired size of the page.
As a general rule, it is recommended that you allow 3mm of bleed to all four edges of your page. Therefore, you will be supplying the printer with a document that is larger than the finished document will be.
If you don't add bleed, your document could have a white area bordering the final printed page, which can look unfinished and unpolished. It can also result in the images not being neatly aligned with the sides of the printed document. Bleed also safeguards against any error during cropping.
7. Get the balance right
You may find that photographs will need to be lightened if there is a text background, to make the text easier to read when printed. This can easily be done with the application of a photo editing program such as Photoshop.
8. Ensure text is legible
It is advisable to avoid coloured text because of the possibility of misregistration. This is when the alignment of the colouring may not be flush to the text and could lead to a white lining around each letter. If the job requires that you use coloured text, it is not recommended to use text smaller than a 12 point size.
Make sure your font is of a readable size – view your artwork at 100%.
9. Check overprint
Uncheck the overprint box. Does anything disappear? If it does then you need to make changes to your image.
10. Simplify/rasterise overly complex vector paths
Design programmes enable designers to create really detailed images, but if you don't understand what you are doing with vectors this can result in needlessly complex images which are impossible to rip. Before sending, make sure your image is rasterised if necessary.
11. Zip Before You Send
Before you email or upload a file, compress it into a ZIP file to create a smaller file for a faster transfer. This is easily done using the inbuilt Compress function within Mac OS or Zip in Windows. If necessary, you can compress several different files into just one single archive, making it easier to upload multiple files.
An important advantage with 'zipping' is that any corruption that may have occurred when the file was transferred via the web, or any problems within the file, can be spotted early, as the file will simply not expand at the other end.
12. Supply a Hard Copy
When you send your files to print it is a good idea to also send a hard copy to the digital printing company. This means that they will have a bench mark as to what to work to, and will help reduce difficulties during printing, as any anomalies can be identified and rectified before the print job goes ahead.
All Primed and Ready To Print
Everyone likes to get things right first time round, and now the grey areas regarding preparing your files for print have been clarified, there is no reason why you shouldn't. By putting the steps mentioned above into practice you will undoubtedly save yourself time, money and the frustration of getting things 'not quite right' in the process.
Whatever your brief, digital printing can bring amazing and unique solutions to any document. And with a bit of insider knowledge of what you can achieve (and how), you are well on your way to ensuring that you receive the best quality bespoke print job that completely meets your requirements, first time round.