It’s not your printers fault, it’s yours. Ouch, I know that was hard for you to hear. A designer’s initial reaction when receiving faulty print jobs back from their printer is to point the blame at the printer. In most cases, it is our fault. As designers, it is our responsibility to make sure our projects are perfect and fit the specifications requested by our printer before we even think about sending our jobs off to them. There has been this never ending war between designers and printers because we never take the time to understand one another. Just like you, your printer wants to do a perfect job and make sure your job comes back to you flawless.
In this article I am going to highlight certain key points to help you build your relationship with your printer. Even if you never meet your printer face to face it is important to build an everlasting professional relationship with them.
- Printer Specifications. No matter who your printer is they have most likely provided you with a list of specifications. Following these specifications ensure that your project will come back to you looking how it did when you designed it.
- Even though printing is the final stage of design it is important to read over your printer specifications before you start a new design project to make sure you are building your document correctly. Why? Well, depending on your printer they may have certain document setup sizes. Some printers build their bleeds directly into their document making them larger, while others require the standard .125 inch bleed around your document.
- The printer specifications also address color guidelines, as well as rich black specs. Did you know that some printers have their own specific rich black mixture? There are so many rich black combination’s out there, so if your printer uses a certain combination make sure you are using their rich black. Also take the time to discuss Pantone Colors with your printer. Some printers charge a higher fee to print Pantone Colors.
- Your printer’s specifications will also provide you with file format guidelines and how to save them correctly. Don’t assume your printer is able to print your EPS file. Even if they may be able to print your EPS, it may not be their preferred way of printing. If possible, always create your final print file using your printers preferred file format and step-by-step instructions to setting up and saving out your file. It is always a good idea to never send your printer your original documents. This can cause all kinds of text, color, and image problems.
- If your printer has asked you to name your files a certain way, respect that request. I have learned from experience that naming your file any old name is grounds for confusion. Your printer probably has a high traffic of files coming to them daily, so naming your file ‘MyBrochure.pdf’ is not going to help your printer distinguish your jobs from the next brochure they receive. If your printer doesn’t have a file naming system, create your own. This will help prevent confusion for your printer, as well as yourself. I always include my job name and date in the files title before sending it off.
- Text issues: If you have sent your printer a job and saved it as a PDF straight from Illustrator, chances are your printer is going to need your fonts unless you have created outlines of your text. Make sure you are always sending your printer a flattened PDF or have created outlines from your text to ensure that there will be no font issues. Also double check the colors of your font. If you have used black on your body text, make sure you are using 0,0,0,0 CMYK color values and not registration black or rich black (rich black is used for large blocks of black color, such as background colors).
- Image issues: Always try to keep your images at or above 300dpi and in CMYK. Some printers allow for image dpi a little below 300 (I have never gone lower than 250 dpi) and in rgb, but double check this with your printer. Better safe than sorry. If you are placing your images into your document, make sure they are linked to the appropriate file. InDesign gets a little tricky sometimes when it comes to linking images. Even if your image is not linked correctly in InDesign a low res version on that image is still displayed in your document, make sure it is linked and not just a low res instance of your image.
- Check your dot gain values to make sure that your images don’t become washed out or shadows look too dark. If you aren’t sure what your dot gain is or how to check it learn all about dot gain here.
- Trimming issues. I have been reinforcing ‘better safe than sorry’ throughout this article, and once again: better safe than sorry! Always keep your text .25in from the edge of your document and always extend your bleeds .125in outside of your document to make sure that no text is being cut off and that no unwanted white edges are showing.
- Paper stock. Depending on your project your printer will usually recommend a paper stock. If they don’t, ask. If you don’t ask this is a good learning experience. If you receive your project and the other side of your paper is showing through, your paper was too thin! Unfortunately, this is our problem. It is always nice to learn from our mistakes though.
These are just a few general mistakes that designers make. There are many more out there, but I’d like to think that these are the most common. If you run into any other mistakes, don’t be so quick to jump on your printer about them. Your printer is very knowledgeable and want your job to be perfect, so they will be willing to consult with you to make sure the same mistakes will not happen again.