Prepress: How to Setup Your Print Job for Success

When we receive print jobs from customers, we tend to see common issues appear (missing bleeds, low-resolution images, missing fonts, etc.). We’re hoping that this article can shed some light on ways to prep your files for your printer, to make both your and their lives easier.

Bleed is for More than the Hospital

If you have a design that runs to the edge of the stock, you want (nay need) a bleed. A bleed is simply providing extra image/color beyond the edge of the piece, to give the printer a better chance of outputting it correctly.

If you send a file to a printer without bleed, 9 times out of 10 they will add a bleed to account for production issues such as trimming and how the printer runs the stock during printing. This is to make sure that the output matches the design as closely as possible to the screen, or any samples provided. In order to add the bleed, prepress typically uses one of two methods, adding a solid color or increasing the size of the background image.

Any printer will want to have a ⅛” bleed on any edge that has color or imagery that runs up to it. Make sure that either the image or background color runs over the edge for that ⅛”  extra, so that you control how it looks, versus leaving it to the prepress team to determine it.

Web Images are Not Print Quality

I hate to say it, but that image you downloaded from that website is definitely not press ready. Images on the web are set to 72dpi and are RGB for both the screen’s resolution and small file sizes. Typically the only time an image is larger than 72dpi is on a stock photo site, and only then on the page that show the image at the full size and not the web preview.

As such, simply dragging an image from a website and pasting it into that Word doc will not result in a high-quality, printable image. So how can you avoid a pixelated, low quality looking image? In short, you really can’t use an image from a non-stock photo website. You really need to either download the original file, hire a photographer or take your own photos. There are numerous stock photo sites out there beyond the big name subscription based ones. A simple search will return dozens of sites that have images varying in quality, composition and sizes.

If you will be downloading from a “free” stock photo site, make sure that the images are available free of copyright restrictions, or specify how they can be used (and follow those rules, seriously. We won’t be held responsible if you used a copyrighted image without permission and get a takedown notice, or legal action. Stock photo sites always have a legal/licensing section that outlines specifically what you can and cannot do with their images.

If you have any questions regarding making your image(s) or projects are optimized for print and will look their best, give us a call and we’d be glad to help you out.


RGB Doesn’t Look Like CMYK

As mentioned above, images saved on the web are formatted in RGB so that the color of the image is consistent on all (or as many as possible) screens.

This is because printers use CMYK inks and not RGB. For those of you who may not be familiar in this nearly digital exclusive age RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, and CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Because the screen is backlit and typically bright, colors are vibrant, however physical media is usually not backlit and therefore colors can look washed out, or muted.
This can be complicated further while working in Photoshop, because most of the Photoshop effects available can only be rendered in RGB. If you do process your image or project in Photoshop and intend on having it printed, make sure to switch the color to CMYK from RGB before saving for print or use in a desktop publishing application like InDesign. If the same image will be used for different media (i.e. digital and print), save two versions of the file so that you can avoid using the wrong image.

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