Whenever you’re sending a job to be four-color printed (a.k.a. “offset printed” or “CMYK printed”) the files have to be prepared correctly or you won’t get the desired results with your final product. In order to prepare your job files correctly, there are many different items that need to be ‘set up’ and ‘checked’ and this list will help you to review and confirm you’ve got those items handled correctly.
1 No Bleeds: If your print job has color that goes all the way to the edge you MUST create what’s called “bleeds” in order to send the job to an offset printer. Creating a bleed just means you extend the background image or color beyond the edge of the document so that when the printer goes to cut the job, he can have a little leeway in case he doesn’t cut it at the exact correct location. Without a bleed you might end up with a little white border on your job that won’t look nice or professional. To avoid this problem, be sure you extend images 1/8″ beyond the final trim edge.
2 Live Area/Safe Zone: Text and other important elements like logos should always be placed no closer to the Trim Edge than 1/8″. (the “trim edge” is where the printer is going to cut your job after printing). The reason for that is because again there may be some variation in the way the job is “laid up” on the printing sheet and the printer wants to have a little extra leeway of ‘safety’. That way when he goes to cut your final printed job he can have some variation in where he has to cut it and won’t end up cutting off any of your text or logo artwork. Keep in mind that most offset printing is printed on a larger sheet of paper and then cut down to your final size. So your 8.5 x 11 Flyer will print on a big sheet of paper (often with multiple copies of your same flyer sitting side by side) and later cut down to the final size. The printer just wants a little extra ink around the edges (the bleeds) and he doesn’t want your text or logos to go all the way to the edge (thus the need for a live area).
3 Low resolution: The resolution for anything that is to be printed should be at least 300dpi. Anything less than this could result in pixelated images and fuzzy text. Images captured from the web are highly discouraged. Please keep in mind that your photos or illustrations must be 300dpi IN THEIR FINAL SIZE. So you can’t insert an image into your file at 300dpi and then increase it’s physical size without losing resolution and ending up with a mess. Make sure the images you use are 300dpi at the final size that you are using them in your job.
4 Borders: If you use borders they should be within the Safe Edge, or thick enough to extend all the way from the Safe Edge out to the Bleed Edge. This will ensure the border is not trimmed off. If you’re using a “discount printer’ (aka a “gang printer” because they put your job on the press with a lot of other people’s jobs) you might want to consider NOT doing a job with borders. Bordered jobs needs to be cut precisely and a discount printer may not take the time needed to make sure your “cuts” are exact so you’ll end up with even borders all around the edge of your document. If you’re using a good custom printer you shouldn’t have to worry about this.
5 Designed in RGB: Offset printing uses CMYK (or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) inks to print your job and thus all your illustrations need to be set up as “CMYK”. Designing in RGB is only appropriate for graphics that will only be displayed on screen, for example images designed for a website or sometimes when printing on an “in office” RGB printer. When designing for offset printing, you should check with your printing sales rep to confirm how the job has been quoted and how it will be printed and then be sure to convert your images to CMYK when printing CMYK. If you send your job to a printer with RGB images you’ll just incur extra expenses when they charge you to convert all your images to CMYK.
6 Text not converted to outlines: When text is created in Photoshop or Illustrator they should be flattened (flattening is just a way of saying that an overall image is created of your artwork and the files then become uneditable). In Illustrator this is called “Create Outlines” and in Photoshop it is “Rasterize Type.” You can also create outlines from text in InDesign, however this is not necessary if you “Package” your file before sending it to the Printer. When you convert to outlines, the text will no longer be editable, but you’ll avoid the nightmare of your text converting to some other font when your job arrives at your printer (and they don’t have the font you used for your job). Outlining or flattening your text avoids the “font conversion” problem.
7 Not shopping around: Most every company needs to print a lot of different items and sometimes it is just easier to use a local printer. However most of the time those local printers are the wrong printer for your job and they are a lot higher priced. You’ll always pay more if you send a job to a printer that doesn’t specialize in that type of work. It pays to shop around and find the right printer for each job…..and that’s what we do for you for FREE!
Now that you know what you should avoid, let us help you get the best printing prices possible. We’ll make sure you don’t make any of these mistakes and we guarantee that we’ll get you the best prices possible. To get a quote, simply send us your contact information HERE.