1st March 2017

Seven last minute quick checks to make before sending your artwork to print

By Ink team

Learning everything about print is a career choice in itself – believe us, we’ve been sniffing the print floor inks for a long time! We do however enjoy sharing a few tips with our clients to help them get to grips with basic print processes and terminology. It’s not as technical as you may at first think and a few basics can go a long way to improve your print knowledge, helping you to manage your print jobs more effectively.  

Everything from the paper stock your job is printed on, to the specific finishes you choose, can play an important role in how your end job comes off press and is ultimately perceived by your customers. Get it right and print can play a huge role in building your brand impression. Get it wrong and you may end up with a costly mistake as it’s difficult to ‘undo’ errors once the presses have started to roll! With this in mind, here are seven key things you should always check off on your print artwork before pressing the button on press:

1. Think bigger and check the bleed

All print processes have an element of movement.  From press, to folding lines, stitching lines, perfect binding lines, the list goes on! Add 3mm more image or colour – in a nutshell just more of what is at the edge of each artwork page – than the size of your finished job and do this on every side of every page of artwork. This compensates for the element of movement and can ensure your artwork isn’t cropped ‘short’.

2. Always convert images to CMYK

Can you confidently say you know the difference between RGB, spot colours and CMYK? Failing to learn the print basics can result in designers making some very expensive mistakes when it comes to sending documents to print.

Before you send any artwork off to print, you need to make sure you’ve converted all the images in your document to CMYK (for the uninitiated – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – the standard four colour process). While many modern PDF converters will do this automatically when you save a file, if you’re a belt and braces kind of guy or gal, then we advise you to also do this manually. This is because the file conversion process could play havoc with your colours and throw your whole design out of sync. RGB images are used for screens and web sites. All print images need to be CMYK therefore unless you are running spot colours, so check and double check is our advice.

3. Set image resolutions to a minimum of 300 PPI

If you’ve used images in your artwork, you need to ensure their resolution is at least 300 pixels per inch (PPI). If you’re unsure about image quality, then before making any final decisions, consult with your printer as they will be able to tell you the optimum resolution for the type and size of document you’re printing.

Setting the PPI too low can result in poor print output, with pixelated images that aren’t fit for purpose. The common error here is that some designers use a 72 dots per inch (DPI) image instead of a 300 PPI one. Again, this brings us back to the difference between website images and images fit for print. If in doubt, check with your print partner who can take a quick look and advise you.

4. Embed any customised fonts

Are you using a custom font in your artwork? While interesting and unique typography can pack a punch, you need to be aware that your printer might not have the same font licences. This will often result in a replacement font being automatically used, which will likely go against your carefully crafted brand guidelines. To avoid this, you should always embed the fonts in your PDF. If you’re working on a smaller document, you could convert the font paths, which will do the same job and help keep your work consistent throughout.

5. Remember you’re the final proof-reader

This is very important. Printers cannot and will not check if your copy reads correctly. What printers look at and what you look at when it comes to checks, are very different. Printers look at colour spread, balance, variation and a host of technical things that ultimately lead to making sure your print job is a quality output. Of course, there’s always time to make changes at print proof stage but why incur the cost of edits once on press? It’s always good practice to ask somebody who has not been involved in the job to cast their eye over final artwork – ideally a qualified in-house copy-proofer. We offer this service here at Ink where you don’t have an expert in-house – just ask for the team member from dictionary corner!

6. Hard copy proofs/PDF proofs

The only way to be 100% sure of how well your artwork is going to come out in print (colour-wise), is to invest in hard copy proofs. Not only can you see if any colour adjustments need to be made to your artwork, but you have chance to review your design in its final form, enabling you to make any last- minute changes before the job goes on press. In today’s ‘I need it yesterday’ world, many clients miss out this checkpoint, although we would always recommend hard copy proofs for large and/or expensive print runs. It’s always better to build in this time and minor cost rather than regret it down the line. PDF proofs are only ‘screen’ proofs and as all screens are set to RGB and not CYMK, this won’t give you an accurate representation of the final printed colour. If colour is important to your end result, get hard copy proofs, it really is worth it!

7. Know your printer’s limits

All printers are not the same. Specialisms vary in line with the print presses and technology a printer has access to, and what finishing can be managed in-house. Some printers are great for printing thousands of leaflets for example, where quality isn’t as important as it would be for high-end brochure-ware, which is best left to a quality-focused print house. This is why we’re here to guide you! We understand the exact requirements of every job; we know what you want to achieve, so we can quickly match up the right printer for each job to get you the best quality of output for the most competitive price. From a quick run on 100 business cards, to a fast-turnaround on 50,000 perfect bound brochures. No need to endlessly search out the right needle in the print haystack, as this is what you use our expertise and contacts for. We know the right suppliers for the right job, and what’s more as we buy on a regular basis we tend to get better prices too which you can take advantage of. So, why search out endless print quotes from a variety of printers when we can make life easier and guide you through the print minefield? After all it’s all in a day’s work for Team Ink!

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