5 Tips for Foolproof Print Files

curtis1000You put your heart and soul into designing this brochure…the perfect design, images, colors and fonts. You checked and rechecked the design file to make sure everything was just as you planned because this one needs to be perfect. There’s a lot riding on it. And you’ve had print projects mysteriously altered somewhere during the prepress process before. When you looked at the proof, that green looked different than it had on your monitor and the bold headlines were a smidge off. Plus that one image was not as crisp as it needed to be. Your printer fixed everything, but it took extra time that you didn’t have and put your project behind schedule. Don’t want to do that again.

So how do you make sure your print-ready file produces your project exactly the way you designed and envisioned it? Set your file up for success with these five key steps to avoid errors, delays and extra charges.

1. Set your color correctly. Color accuracy is absolutely vital. To ensure you get it right, set your design software color setting to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) rather than RGB (Red, Green, Blue) for four-color projects. RGB is fine for your computer screen or web-based graphics, but your commercial printer prints in CMYK. Make sure you’ve properly converted to CMYK before sending your file to your printer or the printed colors may look different than they appeared on your monitor. For spot colors, make sure you’ve identified the exact PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors you want to use.

2. Clearly define your flat and final product size. Identifying these measurements takes only a few minutes and will save everyone time and trouble. Flat size (also called trim size) refers to the dimensions of the product after printing and trimming, before folding or any other operation that would affect its size. Final or “finished” size is the size of the completed product. Your brochure may start as an 8 ½” x 11” flat size and finish, after folding, at 8 ½” by 5 ½”. Always provide dimensions as width first, then height. Don’t forget to identify folds and allow room for a bleed if there is one.

3. Include the fonts you want to use. Missing and incorrect fonts are a common cause of prepress delays so make sure you’ve included the correct ones when you send your design file to the printer. Be aware that many typefaces do not have separate fonts to represent bold and italic. When you apply bold or italic formatting to these fonts, your software creates what the pros call a “synthetic” version of the typeface in that style. For example, the typeface Comic Sans MS does not have an italic font version. When you apply italic formatting to text in Comic Sans MS, your software makes the text look italic by slanting the characters. Your desktop printer may print synthetic fonts as expected, but high-end print devices usually do not, so include the true font to ensure you get the look you want.

4. Use high resolution images. Nothing causes more havoc during the prepress stage than a fuzzy logo or a grainy photo. Use high resolution images (300 dpi or higher) for the best results and don’t forget to include them in your design file. Images you pull from the internet usually won’t cut it, even if you get permission from the copyright holder, and you’ll be disappointed in the quality. Vector art (typically an EPS or AI format) is the best bet to ensure your art is crisp and authentic because it can be scaled without loss of resolution. TIFF files are typical for logos, but they are not vector and can degrade when scaling.

5. Get exactly what you give by converting your file to a print-ready PDF. Skilled printers accept many types of files (Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, etc.), but PDFs (Portable Document Format) are the file type preferred by most printers because they store your design in a way that doesn’t change whether the file is opened on your computer or your printer’s. All of the design details (fonts, images, etc.) can be packaged together in the PDF file to minimize the opportunity for errors when transmitted to your printer. There are still many elements of the PDF that a printer can modify to ensure the best print results, but you can be confident that your design won’t be changed accidentally when these adjustments are made.

Sound complicated? The right printer will make it easy for you. Look for a print partner with a staff of skilled prepress professionals who can proactively offer cost-saving, time-saving and quality-enhancing design ideas. If they can also send you a creative suite file with the preferred dialogue box presets so your files are set up perfectly every time, you’ve hit the jackpot.

When you’re ready to “uncomplicate” your print-ready files, let your local Curtis 1000 Uncomplication Expert show you how we can help. Call us at 877.287.8715 or fill out the “How Can We Help You” form on our website today!