How To Prepare Your Designs For Print

Design and production techniques are taught at online art schools across the country. So you've completed the lengthiest part of your project - the design. Now all you need to do is send it to print and wait for your amazing results. Sounds easy, right? Preparing to send your design to a printing company can actually be more complicated than it sounds. Sending the wrong format, not sending enough files and more could hinder the printing process and create time-consuming setbacks. Thankfully, with a little bit of know-how, you can avoid common problems when preparing your designs for print. Here's what you need to know:

Step 1

Prepare your files. When you need to bold your fonts, use only true bold font types (such as Arial MT Rounded Bold) rather than bold a font from the format menu. Often, when printed, a fake bold will show up missing.

Step 2

Check for RIP (raster image processing) errors. You can do this by using your software preflight options, but you can also avoid problems by following some design rules:

  • Before you place images into the design, make your necessary edits and save it in a reasonable file size.
  • Don't use PDFWriter when saving images in a high resolution PDF format, instead use Acrobat Distiller.
  • Check with your printing company for the correct file format and also which version, as newer versions are sometimes not compatible with older ones, or vice versa.
  • Never mix your font types within a document - TrueType and Type 1 fonts are not compatible.

Step 3

Create files for images and fonts separate from the design document. Sometimes they get rearranged or lost after sending to your printer, so separate files will allow a printer to replace the missing or corrupted images and fonts.

Step 4

Make sure your design meets your printing company's bleed and crop line guidelines. Be sure to remove these lines before sending to your printer.

Step 5

Check to see if your printing company takes care of trapping (the proper blending of overlapped colors), otherwise you may have gaps of white where your colors overlap.

Step 6

Send your fonts. Many printing hang-ups are caused by corrupted or missing fonts in a design. This is why it is necessary to locate your font files and send these along with your application file to your printer. Here are some tips for sending font files correctly:

  • If you are using Type1 fonts, make sure to send both the printing and screen versions.
  • Send all versions of the fonts you used, for instance the bold or italic version.
  • Don't forget to send the fonts included in embedded EPS files.
  • Be sure to send the correct font type. Some fonts come in both Type1 and TrueType. You can avoid this confusion by downloading only one type onto your computer.

Step 7

Send your graphics. As with your fonts, a commercial printing company needs separate files for all of your graphics, so as to print your layout accurately. High resolution commercial printing requires graphics to be in TIFF or EPS format, so save all graphic files in one of these formats. Also, make sure to convert your RGB graphics to CMYK before embedding into your document. In fact, it's best to make size or any other image changes in your graphic program before placing it in your design, otherwise it can create problems when it comes to printing. When saving your image in the graphic application, be sure to save it at an appropriate printing resolution, not too high and not too low (usually between 300 and 800 dpi). Ask your printing company what resolution they prefer to be safe.

Step 8

Send your files. As mentioned before, check with your printing company to see which files they accept and also which versions. Some companies only accept major design programs, such as Adobe and QuarkXPress. If you designed your project in Publisher or Word, you will need to convert it to a PostScript (PDF) file. This usually only requires you to choose the .pdf version in your "save as" options.

Make sure to use a printing company that provides excellent customer service. Especially if you don't have much experience with sending designs to print, you will more than likely have plenty of questions. The right printing company will be willing to help out with any problems or questions you may have when it comes to sending your file to print.  You can also learn about basic printing processes by taking art or design classes online.


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