How to prepare your files
Correct file preparation is an important part of the process that will result in you getting a top-quality job, having your job run smoothly, and having your job delivered on time.
If you are going to take care of the technical printing “stuff” yourself, we suggest you print this page out and use it as a checklist as you proceed through your printing project.
If you don’t want to worry about any of this technical printing “stuff” don’t worry – we can arrange for someone to take care of all of this for you for a small additional fee.
- Use the right software
Use the right software for the job. This advice sounds obvious, but it is frequently ignored. The most appropriate software for design work is page layout software.
The popular page layout software packages currently available are Adobe InDesign, Adobe PageMaker (now discontinued). QuarkXPress and CorelDraw (all available for the Mac and the PC), and Microsoft Publisher (only available for the PC).
Drawing and photo manipulation packages such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe PhotoShop and Macromedia Freehand can be used, but work created in those packages should be placed into page layout software.
Try to avoid using word processing software such as Microsoft Word, or presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. We can handle work created in these packages, but there is a greater risk of text reflowing, and images not reproducing as expected.
- Supply PDF files
After your page layout software, the single most important piece of additional software you need is Adobe Acrobat, the PDF software. Our first preference is to receive PDF files. After you have created your work in the software of choice (hopefully page layout software), our preference is for you to distil it into a PDF file.
- Don’t use colour text for small point font size
Coloured text (a percentage of black or four colour text) will look razor sharp in a PDF file, but, because in the printed piece the text consists of dots, it may not appear as sharp. It is best to avoid small point sizes using coloured text or grey text – it will print slightly ‘fuzzy’.
- Don’t place too much faith in the colour fidelity of inkjet printers
We have found that it is unwise to rely too heavily on the colour fidelity, or accuracy of inkjet printers. Many inkjet printers use black and up to five other colours, and they can produce highly saturated intense colours than cannot be matched in the digital or offset printing process, which print using four colours.
- Provide crop marks
Strictly speaking, it is not essential for you to save a PDF file with crop marks, but it helps us understand exactly how you want your job trimmed.
Set your job up as if you were going to print it to a quality colour printer, with bleeds and crop marks, and instead print to disk or file (PC), or save a PostScript file (Mac).
You use Acrobat Distiller, using High Quality or Press Quality settings to distil the .prn or .ps file you have created into a PDF file. Often customers fail to do the obvious, and actually check the PDF file.
You should open the PDF file you created in Acrobat to check you got what you expected.
- Embed your fonts
One of the most difficult issues we face, concerns fonts – wrong fonts, incomplete fonts, no fonts, fonts produce by Dodgy Brothers Inc., Type 1 fonts, Type 3 fonts, TrueType fonts, Multiple Master fonts, font management software and so on.
Even now, fonts can still be a major headache. This is where Acrobat is such a boon. You can embed all your fonts and remove font worries completely.
To make sure all your fonts are embedded, in Distiller, go to Settings > Edit Adobe PDF settings > Fonts, and make sure the ‘Embed All Fonts’ tick box is ticked.
Occasionally you will come across a font that can’t be embedded for copyright reasons. If you encounter this problem, you have little option but to change the font.
- Supply high resolution images
One of the most common causes of disappointment in the finished, printed product is the poor quality of images. This in turn is usually because the image resolution was inadequate.
Printed matter requires images with far higher resolution than is necessary for viewing on the screen of your computer. Computer screens, and therefore the Internet, need images of approximately 72 dpi (dots per inch). 72 dots per inch (dpi) means 72 rows of 72 dots, or a total of 5184 dots in a square inch (yes, metric equivalents are available, but no-one in the industry uses them).
The ideal resolution for printing however is 300dpi, 300 rows each of 300 dots, or 90,000 dots in a square inch.
Put another way, images destined for printing should contain 17.36 times more information than images destined for the computer screen. A 72 dpi image which is printed will have quite clearly visible small ‘steps’. We call this ‘having a bitmapped appearance’. Such an image will be indistinct, not sharp, and look very unprofessional.