The tricky business of pre-press…

Preparing files for press or go-live is second-nature to designers, but for clients briefing in the work, our requests for specific file types or banging on about boring technical things can often be confusing or… well, just annoying!

So, in the spirit of peace and harmony, here’s a list of some of the reasons a designer might be asking you for a different file, and the things we need to sort before your project is good to go!

If your project is being printed, we are making sure:

  • The files are all using the right colour space
    Print design uses the CMYK colour space (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Key – or Black), while digital design typically uses RGB (Red, Green, Blue). We have to make sure all the files, including logos, are adjusted to the right colour space. We can do this, but it can change how the colours reproduce, so we’ll also flag any significant change to you.
  • Resolution is good enough
    Print requires high resolution images (usually a minimum 300 dpi) to ensure a crisp and clear output. It’s also important to look at the dimensions of the image, making sure it’s at least as big as the size you want to reproduce it.
  • Do we have the right file type?
    For brand assets like logotypes and symbols, we need crisp vector files; EPS or .ai make us very happy. Photograpy and illustration is best reproduced from .tif or .eps or – sometimes at a pinch – a .jpg.
  • Bleed and Trim are included
    We will add a bleed (extra space around the edges of a document) to make sure that the print runs to the full size of the trimmed piece. Trim marks on proofs show the final size of the printed piece.
  • Typesetting and Typeface are working
    Designers pay lots of attention to type choices and sizes, considering readability in the final printed material. Some fonts that look good on screen don’t work as well in print. We consider optimal line length, and hierarchy of text to help readability.
  • We’re printing in the best way, on the right stock
    The choice of paper stock and printing method (e.g. offset, digital, or letterpress) can significantly impact the final look and feel of a printed piece, as well as cost. A designer will help you to understand how the printed piece will look and feel. An uncoated stock will mute colours, for example, and digital printing of large areas of solid colour can result in banding.
  • How best to proof the job
    Once printed, making changes is usually costly. Proofreading and careful prepress preparation are crucial to avoid errors. You can proof via PDF, a printed digital proof, or a wet proof (for offset printing) and we can advise on what’s the most appropriate for your project. A wet proof involves setting up the print job as per the final run, and so is expensive. It’s generally used for large, crucial projects like new brand launches, where colour reproduction is critical.

If your project is digital, then we’re thinking about:

  • Screen Resolution and Responsiveness
    We’ll think about how things will look for a variety of screen sizes and resolutions to ensure a consistent and appealing user experience across devices (desktops, tablets, and mobile).
  • Do we have the right source file?
    Those logotypes and symbols still need to be supplied as crisp files – .svg (a vector) or .png (raster) will do the trick. Photograpy and illustration is usually needed in raster format; a .png, .gif or .jpg depending on the context. Dpi is lower when we output these project for digital use, but a designer will always prefer to start from a high res file.
  • File Output
    Designers will recommend file formats suitable for digital distribution. Common formats include JPEG, PNG, GIF for images, and PDF for documents, but it all depends on what it is and what it’s for.
  • Loading Times
    We’ll optimise file sizes to make sure of quick loading times. Large files can be relly slow to load, meaning a poor user experience.
  • Accessibility
    Ensure your digital designs are accessible to all users. We’ll think about text legibility, colour contrast, and navigation for screen readers
  • Versioning and Updates (Proofing!)
    Digital content allows for quick updates and revisions. We can take advantage of this flexibility to keep your designs and content current and relevant. It’s also relatively easy to make any amends post-live, although bear in mind your designer will need to pull files from their archive to update, but we’re talking hours and days to reissue, not weeks!
  • User Experience (UX)
    I’m not a UX designer, that’s a specialism, but I’ve done UX training – which allows me to understand a user-friendly interface and experience. Designers will look at navigation, hierarchy, and usability. This is true of print too, by the way!

Is there anything that has stumped you when talking with a designer? Let me know in the comments below. If I can help to make the process of sending your next job to press a breeze, then send me a message on the contact form. I won’t go on about dpi too much, I promise.


Image (c) AdobeStock/Elena Panevkina