When preparing your publication for print, you’ll want to carefully dot your i’s and cross your t’s, as mistakes can be costly and time-consuming to fix. That’s not to say that you can be reckless when working digitally, but the stakes are higher when going to print.
1. Design Within Set Parameters
Work within the proper color space to avoid color shifts and unintended results; you’ll need to end up with a piece that uses the CMYK color space when you’re going to print. Though imported photos can be kept in RGB until export or output (see tip number three), elements you make in your page-layout software should be created in CMYK.
Keep your non-essential, non-bleeding items within a set area—around a 1/4-inch to a 5/16-inch margin—to allow for shifting of material in printing or while it’s being cut. Also, make sure that any elements that are meant to bleed actually extend to the edge of the bleeds. Not “pulling out the bleeds” often requires the printer to move or resize an image to achieve the necessary bleed, sometimes with little regard for design integrity.
Images you create or source should possess the required minimum effective resolution (usually 300 ppi). Remember that if you place the images at a larger size, you’ll lose resolution (and vice versa). Use tools such as InDesign‘s Links panels to keep an eye on resolution.
Many of these parameters can be monitored with built-in pre-flight tools in your page-layout software, so don’t wait until the deadline to realize you need to start over at the beginning.
Typographical errors—or typos—are often the cause of expensive print job re-runs. Whether the copy has been provided to you or you’ve entered it yourself, you’ll want to be sure words are spelled correctly, sentences are properly formed, and text hasn’t been left off the page entirely.
If possible, have someone who is not involved in the project read the publication carefully. Familiarity with the copy (on the part of the designer or personnel involved in the project) leads to filling in missing information. Hire an editor, if time and budget allow. Also, don’t rely on spellcheck except in a cursory, first-pass capacity. This is especially true if your content contains jargon or specialized terms. A great way to focus on each word and its proper spelling is to read the document backwards.
3. Know Your Export Options
When exporting to PDF (as a majority of printers will require), work with a predefined profile. If the printer hasn’t provided a profile, start with a PDF standard, such as PDF/X-1a, and make changes as needed. This printing standard will convert the color mode to CMYK, embed just a subset of the fonts used, and flatten any transparency using the high-resolution setting. The default minimum resolution will be set to 300 ppi for color and grayscale images and 1200 ppi for monochrome ones. If your images are much higher resolution, it will sample them down without quality loss.
If your document has bleeds, you’ll want to make sure you indicate the set bleed amount in the PDF output, and if your printer wants you to include crop marks, be sure they are offset enough to print outside of the bleed amount.
Here’s a bonus tip: If you’re ever unsure about how something might look on press, find out if you can run a small press test beforehand. It’s fairly easy to piggyback sample content into the dead space of a current four-color print job. It could save time and money down the road.
If you have publication design needs, please reach out to us for price estimate at 301-933-4062, or fill out our contact form.