Getting a few basic rules right when you prepare your artwork for professional printing will save you both time and money. After all, if your printer has to correct any problems for you, then the costs for amendments could begin to mount up as well as potentially making your job run late. So here are a few of the common mistakes printers encounter with artwork supplied by those outside the industry — and how to fix them.
1. Avoid trying to do your artwork in desk-top applications like Microsoft Word, Publisher and Powerpoint. They’re not professional design and layout packages (the design and printing industry does not use them at all). For professional artwork you should be using a high-end application like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress.
2. Do not use ‘clipart’ images in your artwork, particularly Windows metafiles. Like the Microsoft applications above, clipart was never intended for professional quality printing and is almost guaranteed *not* to render properly on high-end, industry-standard pre-press systems — so may not print at all on professional presses. Any graphical images should be in EPS format (vector-based where possible) or TIFF format if they’re more akin to photographs.
3. Don’t forget to add 3mm of bleed if you have images, graphics or backgrounds which go to the very edge of the document. It could be time-consuming and expensive if you need to add bleed retrospectively and if you don’t add it, you will probably end up with unsightly white borders on the final job.
4. Don’t make the document artwork any bigger than it needs to be. For example, if you are supplying an artwork file for a business card, do not supply it in the middle of an A4 sheet.
5. Don’t supply readers’ spreads (e.g. page 2 and 3 combined into one ‘page’ in the file). Supply them either as imposed printer’s spreads (only if you really know what you’re doing) or as single pages. Professional printers can ‘impose’ the single pages into the correct order for printing so this is usually the safest format.
6. Learn how to set up character and paragraph styles and then don’t forget to use them. If your layout application doesn’t have these options, then you are probably using the wrong one (refer back to item #1 above). Using correctly configured character and paragraph styles will make your text styling more consistent, improve the look of your job and save you time. You can even use a similar approach for ‘object styles’.
7. Don’t just plonk photographs straight into your layout. Prepare all photographs in Photoshop before saving them as TIFFs and then placing them into your InDesign or QuarkXPress layout. Colour photographs should be saved in CMYK mode. Do not use RGB mode – it is unlikely to print properly on professional presses.
8. Don’t use the space bar to line up or indent text. Learn how to use tabs rather than repeatedly using the space bar on your keyboard. Setting up ‘tab stops’ correctly (which takes only seconds) will save you time and improve the look of your document. It’ll save you even more time if you learn how to set them up in your paragraph styles palette (see item #6).
9. Don’t forget to spell-check and proof read before hand-over. Spell check using the built-in spell checker. If you have a grammar checker, run that too. Then print out and proof-read the entire document manually, taking your time to do it carefully. You will often spot issues that the automated checkers missed (because not all errors are spelling or grammar mistakes).
10. Don’t forget to save TWO versions of your core artwork file.
First save your InDesign or QuarkXPress file with live text and keep that version somewhere safe in case you ever need to edit your text in the future.
Second, convert all fonts to ‘outlines’ (vectors) and then save that new version with a new file name. If you or your printer spot any errors in the final artwork file you will not be able to correct the outlined version but you will be able to fall back on the non-outlined original (with the live text) to correct any such subsequent issues.
When everything has been prepared correctly, you are ready to save off your artwork file. From your ‘outlined’ InDesign or QuarkXpress document you’ll need to generate an Acrobat PDF file, which is the preferred format for handover. You can read about the settings required for PDFs in our Helpful Tips section or download all the information here.
In the meantime, if you have any technical queries for preparing your artwork – or indeed if you’d like us to handle all the design and artwork for you as well as the printing, then simply contact us here. Firstpoint Print are litho printers, digital printers and large format printers with in-house graphic designers. We have branches in Victoria SW1, London Bridge SE1 and Clerkenwell EC1.