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Artwork Checklist & Desktop Publishing Prepress Tips


We love what we do here at Impress! Please follow these preparation tips to ensure your files are in the best format for commercial printing. Once final files have been submitted to prepress, any intervention time will be assessed as additional charges. If you need help or have questions about your design concepts and files, call us at 818.701.8800 during regular business hours.

  • Build pages and documents using Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, or QuarkXpress. Send the master page layout file and remove unnecessary versions or files that don’t pertain to the job. We do not accept MS Word, Office or Publisher program files for printing. Include a PDF of the artwork so we have a visual reference of your job.
  • The document page size should be the same size as the printed piece. Do not “float” a document on an oversized page. Remove all unused text or graphics from the pasteboard outside the document image area.
  • Keep text and objects no closer than 3/16” (0.1875”) from the actual trim edge. Place artwork and text so the layout is not broken up by any three-hole drills or punches.
  • Rotate, resize and crop images in a graphics program before importing into your layout. All images should be grayscale, monotone, duotone, or CMYK. Save as either TIFF or EPS files. WMF files must be converted to Illustrator or Photoshop files first. Include all imported images and links with the files you send us, even if they are embedded.
  • Let QuarkXpress and InDesign collect supporting files including all screen and printer fonts used.;">
    • To collect from Quark, go to [File] [Collect for Output], make [New Folder] and check the boxes for “Layout”, “Linked Pictures”, “Printer Fonts” and “Screen Fonts”. Click [Save].
    • To collect from InDesign, go to [File] [Package], make [New Folder] and check the boxes for “Copy Fonts”, Copy Linked Graphics”, “Update Graphic Links”, “Use Document Hyphenation”, and “Include Fonts and Links from Hidden and Non-Printing Layers”. Click [Save].
  • To eliminate fonts, type from vector-based source files can be converted to outlines, but that takes away our ability to edit the text, should it be required at a later date.
  • To prepare PDF files for high resolution printing, use Acrobat Distiller, not PDFWriter. It is best to set up single pages with bleeds.
  • Use preflight tools, or run preflight software on files to catch common problems before they reach the RIP stage. When sending PostScript files for printing, print them to your own PostScript printer first. If you have problems, chances are we will as well.
  • Print a laser proof of the final version of the file at 100% and submit with your electronic files.
  • If the project is a folded piece, submit a folding dummy or sample of the completed piece.
    Elements that bleed should extend at least 1/8” (0.125”) off the trim edge of a sheet or page. In the absence of bleed, even the slightest shift in cutting equipment could cause un-inked paper to show at the edges. Should adjustment be needed, for example with a background color or a complex Photoshop file, and there is not enough image to manipulate, it is costly, difficult and time-consuming to create the image extension in prepress.
    As the number of folds increase, adjust for folding allowances. With the common tri-fold brochure, the first folded-in panel should be 1/16" to 1/8" narrower than the other two so it lies flat. A roll fold brochure has four or more panels on each side with each panel folding into the next. The cover panel and the panel right next to the cover are usually the same size and will be the biggest panels. Each panel after that gets incrementally smaller by 1/16". Other types of folds that require different panel sizes are the double parallel fold, gate fold, double gate fold, and Z-fold. Start your design using one of our downloadable die-line templates or call for the correct specifications. It is especially important to consider where text and images go in the design if the brochure is to be hole-punched or bound into another publication.
    SADDLE STITCHED documents are held together by staples inserted in the spine. Build the document as single page layouts with bleeds and let us handle the rest. Depending on paper thickness and the number of pages in the publication, the center or gutter margin has to be adjusted according to the position of the page in the signature (face-trim). This is called shingling.  If no allowance is made, pages in the center of the publication would “creep” so that margins on the unbound side of those pages would be narrower, with the likelihood of cut off text or images. 

    Our software can make necessary adjustments automatically UNLESS the publication has cross-over art or repeating visual elements such as folios (page numbers), key line borders, and headers and footers that cross over a spread. Otherwise, shingling must be done as a manual page-by-page inspection, incurring labor costs and additional time during prepress. We highly recommend a preliminary meeting with our prepress department during design development to explore these issues.

    PERFECT BOUND publications are sheets held together by a flexible adhesive. Build the document as single page layouts with bleeds on all sides.
    Our library of basic die-line templates can help re-tool an existing design, or serve as the foundation of a new custom package design.  Download the electronic template to your design layout program and simply add the visual elements for your concept. Every template has a die side and a print side; layout goes on the print side.
    Use PostScript Type 1 and Openface fonts. Pick bold and italic fonts from the font menu and avoid applying a style attribute. In other words, select the Helvetica Bold font instead of applying a bold style to the Helvetica Regular font. Otherwise, when the design file is sent through a high-end RIP (raster image processor), it will not print correctly. Note: TrueType fonts do not print well and should be used sparingly, if at all for commercial printing.
    Shadow and outline style attributes: Apply shadow by layering the same text box with a slight offset to produce a shadow, or create shadow in a drawing program. Outlined type should be created in a drawing program, or select a font that is already outlined.
    When applying spot color, be aware a color may be named differently from one design layout program to another (i.e., 340 C, 340 CV and 340 CVC reference the same color). This will read and output as separate plates. To avoid this problem, edit color names so the spellings are the same in supporting graphics and every related application. Delete unused colors from the color palette in your application. Use preflight software to flag these problems. Also, detect improper color assignments within the file by using Separations mode to print and inspect a laser proof before submitting your job. 
    Supply all color documents and/or imported color files as CMYK or PMS spot color. CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is the color gamut used in process color printing. Before separating files, convert scans to CMYK. For spot color printing, use only Pantone color numbers or names and select Spot Color in the Color menu.
    Do not use RGB files for printing. Type set as RGB Black will print as 4-color black.  RGB (red, green, blue) color spectrum is based on light wavelengths, as viewed on computer monitors and scanners. Converted RGB colors are generally darker, require adjustment, images take longer to prep, and the outcome is generally unsatisfactory.
    Having a folding dummy or project sample helps verify design accuracy and maintain clear communication with us. Where design elements go, how they look, and how the piece works is more easily visualized when the size, shape, form and general style of the project is created in its exact size. Because we work with many clients and designers, a physical sample reduces miscommunication. Keep written documentation of all changes.
    When a design file is created entirely in Photoshop or some other pixel-based program, trapping is a challenge. In Photoshop, one must manually trap while creating the file. Adding a trap afterwards is very difficult. The benefit of building a design in a program such as Quark, Adobe Illustrator, or Adobe InDesign, is that these programs incorporate reliable, automated trapping processes.
    Scans and non-vector based images should have a 300 to 350 dpi resolution at its final layout size. Prepress output devices can deliver a very high resolution print at 2400 dpi for a 175-linescreen (300 dpi). To scan at a resolution higher than twice the line screen increases both file size and processing time during the RIP. Low resolution scans will cause unacceptably grainy or pixilated images to print when output to high-end devices.
    The USPS is an important resource for direct mail information. Mailpiece Design Analysts are postal employees specially trained to answer questions and issue rulings regarding acceptability of design layouts for mailing Standard and First Class Mail automation discounts. We can provide you with paper samples and recommendations and assist in creating print pieces that meet mailing standards.
    A high-end printer’s color proof will always look different compared to a common color laser output due to a host of factors including paper whiteness and color saturation. To eliminate surprises when delivering a contract (aka match) proof or printed piece to the client, we recommend using Pantone and four-color process swatches in conjunction with the Impress certified proofing system. Judging colors becomes less subjective, more scientific, and more repeatable.
    If your file has transparency effects, use the Flattener Preview window available in both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign (be sure Transparent Objects are selected) to preview the file.Flatten transparencies using the preset of High Resolution. Save the file as an EPS to be placed into your layout prior to sending or generating hi-res PDFs. Use the flattened file when generating proofs. We cannot be responsible for files you supply that contain un-flattened transparencies being misinterpreted during processing for print production. 

    Note: The transparency feature in Adobe Illustrator and InDesign may look good on screen, but can be unpredictable when the file is processed for print production. Be especially careful if objects containing spot colors are layered over each other, or over placed raster art.
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