Design tips & insider tricks - learn how to
Correct file preparation is an important part of the process that will result in you getting a top quality job, having your job run smoothly, and having your job delivered on time. Please note: client supplied files are automatically processed. Supplied RGB & Pantone files are automatically converted to CMYK using fixed values. We do not individually check all supplied files, but use automated processes to keep pricing as low as possible. If outcomes are critical, ie colour or lightness / darkness, then contact us before submitting the files. We can advise appropriately but give your self TIME to correct if necessary. Contact us here firstname.lastname@example.org
Please use this as a checklist
What we define as a print ready file ( a "PR PDF")
1. A Print ready PDF, preferably 2 pages/1 file. Where the first page is the front & the second page is the back
2. All colours CMYK except free black backs where the file is only black (K) or percentage of black.
3. 2 mm bleed for business cards & DL flyers, 3mm for A4 & larger page sizes
4. Crop marks only, no other printer marks, colour bars, registration marks are necessary
5. To be safe, fonts converted to curves or outlines, or at the very least, fully embedded
If that sounds too hard or you dont have the software , give us the files you have got and send us an email to email@example.com, alternatively you can use the free template software on our website
If your are supplying a print ready PDF, here are some tips
Use the right software
Use the right software for the job. This advice sounds obvious, but it is frequently ignored. The most appropriate software for design work is page layout software. The popular page layout software packages currently available are Adobe InDesign, Adobe PageMaker (now discontinued), QuarkXPress and CorelDraw (all available for the Mac and the PC), and Microsoft Publisher (only available for the PC). Drawing and photo manipulation packages such as Corel Photopaint, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe PhotoShop, and Macromedia Freehand can be used, but work created in those packages should be placed into page layout software. Try to avoid using word processing software such as Microsoft Word, or presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. We might be able to handle work created in these packages, but there is a greater risk of text reflowing, and images not reproducing as expected.
IMPORTANT- a pdf created from Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, or Microsoft PowerPoint will NOT print out as expected and is NOT counted as PRINT READY ARTWORK. We recently had a client that created artwork from a MS Word document and tried to place a screen or a watermark in the background. Using a low resolution JPEG as the background watermark, the result was not what the client expected at all. The jpeg had produced "artifacts" or jagged areas of colour around the boarder of the jpeg and had a thin black boarder and the jpeg watermark itself turned out not like a watermark but a solid chunk of colour covering the area that was supposed to only have a light area of colour. Lucky the client had checked a PDF preview and contacted us to advise that there was something amiss before she went to print. The jpeg was in RGB and low resolution (72DPI) normally suited to web design and not print production.
IF IN DOUBT, drop us a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org or use our on line free editor to create the whole of your artwork. It works along the lines of Publisher or MS word but uses the correct colours, margins, bleed and layout and all for free!
An excellent investment if you want to generate your own artwork is Corel Draw or the Adobe Creative Suite which includes InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator, Acrobat, VersionCue to tie them all together.
Supply PDF Files
After your page layout software, the single most important piece of additional software you need is Adobe Acrobat, the PDF software. Our first preference (and to avoid any prepress charges) is to receive hi - res CMYK PDF files. After you have created your work in the software of choice (hopefully page layout software), our preference is for you to distil it into a PDF file. The advantages of doing so are that we can't easily change your file, the file size will usually be small enough to email, and you don't have to send us linked images or fonts, thus lessening the chance for mistakes to occur. PDF files don't have to be compressed for safe transmission. It is important that PDF files (and all files for that matter) include bleeds if your job prints right to the edge of the page, include crop marks so we can see where you want the job trimmed, have all fonts embedded, have high resolution images (ideally 300 dpi at the size they will be printed), and have all images converted to CMYK. We have included information on all these issues below.
Understand Bleeds and use them
If your job prints right to the edge of the pages, you need to understand about bleeds. This subject is very important so we will explain it in more detail for you. If you have colour going all the way to the edge of the card you need to extend that by a further 2mm. This is basically dead space and no important information should be in this space as it is trimmed off. It allows for a neat edge when trimmed. To provide a document with bleeds, you do still make your page size the actual page size of the job. All you do is drag the elements that will bleed 2mm outside the page border.
Make sure all your images are CMYK and not RGB or Pantone (exception is Metallic Silver -877c)
Pantone, RGB and CMYK are known as 'colour spaces'. RGB is the colour space used by digital cameras and computer monitors. Most printing presses including ours print print in four colours — cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). Some presses still print Pantone, but we do not with the exception of Metallic Silver 877. Understanding why you need to provide your work in the CMYK colour space, and why it is preferable for you to do the conversion is another critically important issue. Files supplied in RGB or Pantone are converted automatically using fixed tables and are different in every case. Pantone has both coated (C) & uncoated (U) colours. As we print on coated stocks, U colours will shift more than C colours. DO NOT TRUST YOUR SCREEN COLOURS, its showing RGB colours. If colour is critical, use a current Pantone CMYK Bridge Swatch and ensure the CMYK colour is in your PDF, not the Pantone colour. Make sure the Bridge Swatch is for Coated Stocks. We always have up to date colour swatches you can confirm colour if unsure. So to clarify, we accept RGB & Pantone colours but we convert them to CMYK as we are a CMYK Printer. If you want critical colour always submit a CMYK PDF with no attached profiles. For more information on colour please see here http://www.idprint.com.au/faq.html
If you want blue, make sure you don't get purple instead
A common problem when a file is converted from RGB to CMYK is that blue turns out purple. Deep rich blues are difficult to reproduce in CMYK. Often the result will have a purplish tinge. If you measure the colours in your blue, you can anticipate the problem and do something about it. In Acrobat Professional you can measure the colours in your job using Tools, Print Production, Output Preview. As you move the cursor over the job, you will see the colour values change. A deep blue should have between 80% to 100% cyan, around 50% magenta and perhaps small amounts of yellow and black. The higher the magenta value, the more purple in the printed job. If you don't want purple, you must get rid of excess magenta.
The use of Black
Not all blacks are composed equal. Please avoid 4 colour blacks when using for text or line work and use 100% K (black) only. This will ensure that you do not get any small dots of any other colours on the edges of your text making it appear less crisp. If you are looking for a deeper shade of black in a solid fill object use, 50% cyan, 20% magenta, 10% yellow and 100% black. The extra cyan helps deepen the black without too much ink coverage to affect the drying or having scuffing problems. Another rich black is 40%Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow & 100% black. IMPORTANT : Do avoid the use of RGB black & then converting to CMYK or leaving the RGB black in your file. RGB black is often made up with colour around the 70-80%Cyan, 65-75% Magenta, 65-75% Yellow & 85-95% black. This leads to a muddy black as you are saturating the printed product with around 325% ink. The yellow & magenta mixing to create a muddy brown black, not to mention that the high ink coverage will have an effect on adjacent thin fonts and also be prone to scuffing or marking. This normally occurs when you use a raster program such as Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Microsoft Paint etc, as opposed to a vector program such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe In-Design and Corel.
So in order to reduce the over-saturation and muddy brown effect, start in the CMYK colour space and use no more ink coverage that the rich blacks stated above. If you are using an RGB picture or effect that is in RGB and is very dark or black, you will have to lighten it up considerably and double check the effects by printing out the CMYK print ready PDF on a digital cmyk printer, not an inkjet printer, see below. Best to ask us before submitting the artwork or drop in a printed proof along with the digital PR pdf file and ask to advise, we are more than happy to assist.
Don't place too much faith in the colour fidelity of inkjet printers
We have found that it is unwise to rely too heavily on the colour fidelity, or accuracy of inkjet printers. Many injet printers use black and up to five other colours, and they can produce highly saturated intense colours than cannot be matched in the digital or offset printing process, which print using four colours. Although we have wide format printers that print using 12 colours and can very accurately produce RGB colours, the process is not used for offset printing or for bulk digital printing
Provide crop marks
It is essential for you to save a PDF file with crop marks, as this guides us to where you want your job trimmed. Often customers fail to do the obvious and actually check the PDF file. You should open the PDF file you created in Acrobat to check you actually got what you expected.
Embed your fonts and convert to curves/outlines
One of the most difficult issues we face, concerns fonts — wrong fonts, incomplete fonts, no fonts, fonts produce by Joe Bloggs Inc., Type 1 fonts, Type 3 fonts, TrueType fonts, Multiple Master fonts, font management software and so on.
You would think the industry would have got it right in twenty years, but no, fonts can still be a major headache. This is where Acrobat is such an asset. You can embed all your fonts and remove font worries completely. To make sure all your fonts are embedded, in Distiller, go to Settings > Edit Adobe PDF settings > Fonts, and make sure the 'Embed All Fonts' tick box is ticked. Occasionally you will come across a font that can't be embedded for copyright reasons. If you encounter this problem, you have little option but to change the font. Alternatively, the safest method to fonts is to convert your fonts to outlines or curves when creating your PDF.
Supply high resolution images
A very common problem which leads to disappointment is the supply of images (ie logos or photographs etc). Often they are supplied at very low resolutions such as screen images 72dpi (used for computer screens, and therefore the internet). But have you tried to print it out on your printer? Press printed products require images to be supplied at 300dpi or as close thereto as you can get. (300 rows each of 300 dots, or 90,000 dots in a square inch.) As a rule of thumb stear clear of any images from web sites unless you can obtain a high resolution copy of the image. By the way there is absolutely no use using images that have a higher dpi than 300dpi. You will never see the the difference in the printed job. And when we use the expression '300dpi', we mean 300dpi at the final output size. If you have a 300dpi image that is, say 100x150mm, and blow it up to A4, you have reduced the effective resolution back to 75dpi, and achieved nothing.
Use of borders
It is advisable to avoid borders at any cost. Simply because if there is even the smallest amount of print or guillotine shift then it is very noticeable in your finished product. Even worse is a border on both sides of the card as this then brings in registration error as well. Please be kind to our presses when considering using borders and do so at your own risk.
Make your page size the actual page size of the job
We regularly receive files where the page size is larger than the size of the job. For example, a customer might make up a business card on an A4 page, or an A4 poster on an A3 page or worst of all, a whole A5 book on A4 pages. Doing this will mean a slower turnaround time for you, as it will mean that we need to return the file to you for adjustment. Please make sure the page size you choose in your page layout software is same size your job is to be printed at. If your document is to be printed right to the edge of the page you need to understand about bleeds. Basically this means you should be drawing at true size ie. a 1:1 ratio.
Make certain your job folds correctly
If your job is going to be folded then fold the printout to see if the elements on the page are positioned correctly on the panels and to see if there are any problems with folding it the way you are planning to. For A4 brochures folding to DL, the front panel (the one on the right when the job is unfolded) should be 100mm wide, the middle panel 99mm, and the inside panel (the one on the left) should be 98mm wide. Make sure the various elements of the job are the right way up. Sometimes, and particularly in the case of greeting cards, some elements on a page should be upside down. This is obvious if you print the job out and fold it, but not at all obvious if you only view the job on the screen.
Don't do the imposition for us
Imposition is the term used for arranging multiple copies of a document on one sheet of paper to gain economies in printing. For instance, A4 flyers are printed two up, DL flyers are printed 6 up, and business cards are printed 20 up. We have software that carries out this task for us very quickly and accurately, and we ask you not to do it for us. This mean that we want all documents, including business cards, to be supplied one up. Invariably, if they are supplied more than one up, we have to electronically pull them apart.
Don't supply any unnecessary files
We sometimes receive CDs or emails with a whole lot of additional files that are unrelated to the job in hand. This can make it difficult to find exactly what it is we are to work with.
Check your spelling and punctuation
Don't forget to check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Run your spell checker! Make sure your spell check is preferably set to Australian English and not US English. It is also a good idea to have someone else look at your work. Another set of eyes often sees something you've been looking at and missing. Often the longer you have been working on a project, the less likely you are to spot the obvious. Pay particular attention to headlines when checking.
Avoid common grammatical and usage errors
Avoid some of the more common mistakes, and make your work read more professionally. Here are some examples. When referring to a decade, don't use an apostrophe as in 90's, use 90s. Don't use ampersands ('&') in text, use the word 'and'. This avoids putting a 7 there instead. Don't Make Excessive Use Of Capitals — keep them to a minimum.
Make good use of the Output Preview facility in InDesign and Acrobat
A little known but extremely useful facility built into InDesign and Acrobat is a facility designed to enable you to see exactly how your job will print out. In InDesign, go to the Window menu, then Output, and choose Separations Preview. In Acrobat, go to Tools, Print Production, Output Preview. In both cases you can see colours your job consists of (and maybe discover you have not converted a Pantone colour to CMYK), you can see if your black text is really black or consists of all colours (in which case it won't be very sharp). Just occasionally you will find that something on your page won't print at all.
Print out your job and check, check and check again
It's easy to miss mistakes in your document when you have only ever seen it displayed on the screen. It is an important part of proofing your job to print the document out and look at it. Check for spelling errors, spacing problems, inconsistencies, and design problems.