Preparation Printing Knowledge

There are many things to consider when starting a new job. Planning is one of the most important parts of the process. Improper planning, design, and setup can cost more time and money, or can even create unprintable projects.

When planning a project, you must realize who the customer is and who their target customer is. You also need to understand the budget considerations that the customer must follow. Being aware of your customer's expectations and budget is important to keep in mind when planning for the type of paper, number of colors, size of the project, and so on.

You must know how you are going to finish the printed piece before you start it. Some things to keep in mind while planning the project are:

  • Will the trim size of the finished sheet allow the best use of the signature sheet? A small change in only one dimension can save a lot of wasted paper.
  • Make a dummy to make certain you have set up the correct amount of pages. Signatures consist of 4, 8 or 16 pages in most cases. The amount of pages must be a multiple of 4. In your page layout program, set the page size to be the actual page size so that trim marks will be accurate. Many printers use imposition software to set up the signatures before outputting to film. The imposition software saves on film usage and stripping time.
  • Will the paper you have chosen run through the press? Some light-weight and very heavy stocks may give you problems. Also, some papers come in certain sizes only and will have to be cut down, causing paper waste.
  • How many ink units are on the press? If you are printing a job with four color process, three spot colors, and varnish, the job will require an eight unit press. If the printer does not have an eight color press, he may have to run it through the press in several passes. Running it through a press in more than one pass could add substantially to the cost of your job. Most printers have a set of "standard" inks that they order premixed to PMS (Pantone Matching System) standard colors. Using one of the PMS standard colors can save money over having the printer mix their own color. Keep in mind that trying to match a PMS color by using process colors will be close but not exact.
  • Which paper and printing process will be used? You need to know this information so that you can set the correct halftone screen, image resolution (1.5-2 times the halftone screen), and dot gain for photographs.
  • Is the desktop publishing software in which the artwork was created, compatible with the software the printer uses? Is the platform and version number the same? Are the fonts available or are they supplied (both printer and screen) and are they the correct type (not TrueType)? Are all linked images supplied?
  • Make sure you understand and use color management. Every device such as scanners, monitors, and ink jet printers all use color differently. In order for the piece to end up printing like the designer intended, use a color management system.
  • Are your color settings correct for the printing process? If you have scanned images or other graphics, they must be set for CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black), not RGB (red, green, blue). Also make sure the colors of your images are not out of gamut range of colors that can be displayed or printed). For the black separation plate, use either UCR (Under Color Removal) or GCR (Gray Component Replacement). UCR generates black mainly in the dark, neutral shadow area, making the shadow detail better. GCR generates black throughout the image (colors and neutrals), beginning in the highlights. Choose the one your printer recommends. Another consideration is the total ink limit the press can support. Consult your printer for their recommendations.
  • Will you be using APR (Automatic Picture Replacement) or OPI (Open Prepress Interface)?
  • If you are supplying film to a commercial printer, is it correct? Do you have registration marks, center marks, color bars, correct halftone screens, and screen tints at the right percentages and angles? Did you set the bleed size according to what your printer advises (usually 1/8")? Check with the printer to see how they would prefer the film to be output, such as RRED (right reading emulsion down). 
  • What size of a trap do you need? Older presses may not be as accurate as newer presses, and need a larger trap.
  • What kind of proof is going to be used? There are a lot of choices here too. You CANNOT use a copy off an inkjet printer as a proof for the press!
  • Decide how the document will be bound. If it is going to be saddle stitched, you must make an allowance for the margins if there are a lot of pages. Margins must be consistent so that the paper cutter will not cut through live copy. Make sure to set your margins correctly for left and right handed pages. If a 3 -ring binder is to be used, make sure there is room for the punched holes and that no copy is interfered with.
  • Consider how the job will be archived. Will the printer store the art files, film, and plates? What do they charge? What are the chances for a rerun? Make sure you understand what will happen to your job when it is completed.
  • Do not hesitate to ask your printer questions. Experience is the best teacher. The more you know, the easier your job will be and the better your job will turn out.

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