Unlike digital projects, once print projects are completed mistakes cannot be fixed. Making sure that your print document is designed correctly, edited, and exported properly will save time and money later. The following list will help you avoid mistakes and result in a project that comes back from the press looking the way you wanted.
Using the Correct Color Profile
The majority of print projects such as magazines, brochures, and business cards are printed using a 4-color process—CMYK. There are a few exceptions such as many large format prints, which run on inkjet three-color machines—RGB, but the majority of print projects will be in the CMYK color profile. Confirm which color profile you are in fact designing for before you begin.
Designing on a Calibrated Monitor
Using a monitor that is not color-calibrated can result in the designer having no idea how the colors he or she is using will actually print, which can lead to disastrous final results. Ensure that what you see on your monitor is actually how your project will print by getting your monitor properly calibrated.
During the design phase of your project, confirm that all images, links or artwork (any non-vector elements) are at a 300 dpi resolution. Anything less will probably print fuzzy or pixelated. For most large format printing the resolution needs to be at 150 dpi.
Correct Paper Selection
Before you go to print, be sure to evaluate what type of paper works best for your project. Some factors to consider are finish, weight, and texture. Is it a brochure that would look best glossy? Is it a business card that needs some weight to it? Decide if your project should be gloss, semi-gloss, matte, or semi-matte finish, or if you want it coated or uncoated or even spot UV coated. Also, consider the weight—the higher the number, the thicker the paper or card stock will be. A 60 to 80 lb. weight is fairly typical for flyers, inserts or catalogs, while cards are 100 to 110 lb. If you want a paper that has a texture to it, it’s best to decide before you start your design, as it will affect how your project prints.
Double Check It
Be sure to review all copy for spelling and grammatical errors. It’s always good to have another person review your project. Not only will this assure that your design is solid, but will also help avoid spelling errors or grammar mistakes you may have missed. Having another pair of eyes review something is helpful, especially if you’ve been looking at it for some time.
Converting to Outlines
It’s always a good idea to convert fonts to outlines. The printing press may not have the fonts you’ve used, or be able to load them, and your document could end up with a completely different look. Converting to outlines ensures that the project will print the same as the design.
Before you export your document for printing, confirm with the press the bleed size they require. Standard bleeds are .125”, but some presses use .25” so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re using the right one. Also, ensure the document’s actual graphic or text elements are not too close to the bleed but have a good safe zone to avoid being cut or omitted.
Using your program’s preflight feature is always recommended. This will double check that your links are in place, support files are available, that the resolution is correct for your project, and that the elements are all in the right color profile. This will also ensure that your ink distribution levels are at the right percentages, so your project will have the correct color saturation to avoid smearing at the press, or taking too long to dry.
Exporting the Correct File Type
When you have checked the items above, and your design is complete, make sure that you export your file in the correct format for the press you are using. Most presses will use a high-quality PDF with bleed settings and crop marks, but sometimes this will vary. It’s always good to double check particular requirements with your press. Sometimes, for large jobs such as catalogs, a press can require the native files with all links and fonts included.
Providing a Proof
It’s a good idea also to provide your press with a printed or PDF proof. This way they can make sure the job lines, colors, and images are printing as you had intended.
Following these steps will help divert any printing disasters and ensure a smooth process from conception to completion.