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How to Prepare Your Files Correctly To Save yourself time, aggravation and money

Published Time:2016-08-23 Original Source:Prepare Your Files For Printing

How to Prepare Your Files Correctly To Save yourself time, aggravation and money 

 
File problems can be most aggravating. You submit your files and then a customer service person calls. She's missing fonts or images, images are RGB, spot colors are used…the list can be endless. Your files were professionally prepared yet you scramble to correct the problems, all the time worrying about your delivery date.
 
Make sure you get options when problems arise
If you do get the call from the customer service person with problems, make sure you know what possible solutions are. That's the least your printer can do. And there are solutions. For instance, just today I got in a job with low resolution images. I promptly e-mailed my client with three options: provide replacement images, pay us $15.00 each to enhance the resolution or leave them as is. Luckily the designer and my client were available and things were resolved right away. If all you get from your printer is "We have problems with your files", then it's time to switch printers.
 
Why file problems cost you time and money
Jobs with file problems end up languishing in prepress. I know you don't want to hear that, but it's the truth. Jobs without problems move smoothly through the department. The first thing a prepress department does is a preflight, checking for file problems. If there are problems then the job goes back to the customer service representative so she can resolve them with the customer. More than likely the job has lost its place in the queue, and will go to the end of the line when the problem is resolved. This simply holds up the proofs. Problems may cost you money because they need to be fixed! In many cases the printer ends up making the change and charging you for it. 
 
Common file problems
The 80/20 rule definitely applies to file problems. Here's a short list that accounts for most of the problems:
 
Low resolution images: Images should be at least 300 DPI at the size they are being used in the documents. Remember, as images are enlarged in a page layout program, resolution is inversely affected. It's true that lower resolution images don't look as good as ones with higher resolution, but it's a sliding scale. For instance, an image that is 290 DPI will most likely be fine. Chances are no one will ever notice. Generally we tell people that below 275, it will be hard to tell the difference.
 
Missing fonts: This has two common sources. The first is the designer has applied a style to a font. For instance, they used a regular font but then hit the "italic  button to make it italic. This looks fine when you print the piece on a laser printer but won't work when the job is output to a high-resolution imaging device. You need to use the actual italic font instead of applying a style. If you don't have an actual italic or bold version of the font you need to select a different font. The only exception to this is if you make a PDF of the document. The font will appear stylized. However, as a note, it will only be a fake style, not the real thing. For instance, italic style only slants the font, not a true italic. No one will ever notice though.
  yellowprinting.com
Mismatched color space: Images can be created in grayscale (b/w), RGB (red, green, blue), or CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). It's important to select the proper color space for the job you are doing. The chart below lists which types of images go with which types of jobs. Note that RGB images are never acceptable. These must be converted to either grayscale or CMYK.
 
Missing images: Sometimes a file will be sent over without an accompanying image. While not as common as before, this can still sometimes be a problem. One thing to remember; if you have created a file in Illustrator with a linked image and then save it as an EPS you should send the linked image as well as the EPS. However if you embed the image into the EPS you do not need to send the base image. In that case we would be unable to edit the image if needed.
 
No bleeds: A bleed is where ink goes right to the edge of the printed page. In order to achieve a bleed, we print ink an extra 1/8  beyond the final trim size. This excess is trimmed off after printing and the ink goes right to the edge. Make sure to add this extra 1/8  to your job.
 
How to prepare proper files
The answer to that question is way beyond the scope of this article. In fact, there is no book or class that can tell you all the answers. However I can offer these tips.
 
Use the proper software package for the task at hand. Use Adobe PhotoShop to create or process raster based images such as photos. Use Adobe Illustrator to create vector images such as line illustrations or fancy text treatments. Pull everything together in a program such as Quark Xpress or Adobe InDesign. You can use Microsoft Publisher but be prepared for a bit of a rocky road. Publisher is not a professional program. Don't use Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. They are not intended to produce items that will be printed via offset. 
 
Supply PDF's if you don't follow the tip above. You'll need to purchase the full version of Acrobat at $280.00. Make sure you create high-resolution PDF's and that you include fonts and bleeds. See my article about making PDF's.
 
Pay attention to image resolution. If you want to be sure to avoid problems, make sure your raster images are around 350 DPI in PhotoShop and then don't enlarge or reduce them more than 10% in the page layout software. Alternately you can simply be very careful about resolution. Use images that are high-resolution to start. If you are enlarging an image in your page layout software more than 20%, stop and manually figure out what the resulting resolution will be. See my article about resolution for more information.
 
Don't use font styles. Just don't hit the bold or italic buttons. If you don't have the font in your pull-down menu, choose one you do have.
 
Use your page layout software's collect for output feature. This will help a lot with missing elements.
 
Set the page size to the actual size of the finished piece. As an example, you should set the page size to 8.5" X 11" for a saddle-stitched book that is 8.5" X 11" when completed. Don't be tempted to put two pages into an 11" X 17" document. Also, don't set pages up in printer's spreads or reader's spreads. Stick with single pages. If you're doing a business card set the page size to 3.5 X 2, don't float it on a larger size "page". And as always, don't forget to add 1/8  bleed when you want the ink to go right to the edge of the page.
 
Send the appropriate supporting documents to your printer. Output laser proofs to size and send them along with the job. You can't imagine how many people skip this step and how it slows things up. Imagine if you are the printer and you get a CD with a bunch of files on it but no hard copy. How in the heck are you supposed to know what you, the customer, thinks the job should look like? If the printer outputs proofs and they aren't what you expect you have no one to blame but yourself. A good printer will actually send you laser proofs for you to approve prior to outputting final proofs. This actually saves you time and money because it is slow and expensive to go back once the final proofs are done. If you are sending in your files via some electronic medium (ftp or e-mail) send your printer a PDF (it need not be high-resolution) so she can see what the job is supposed to look like.
 
Certainly, we'll help you to double check the files carefully before printing !