Pre-press guidelines To help you when providing digital files or images to us If you are a professional graphic designer, you may be providing us with a complete press-ready file from which to produce your print job. Others without that level of experience may only be providing us with the elements we need to create the final production file ourselves here at Page Marketing Solutions.
This section will describe the best ways each client can work together with us to attain the shared goal of a hassle-free, great looking brochure, catalog, newsletter, etc.
Scenario 1 To provide us with a final press-ready file This is a task best suited to the experienced and skilled, though we’ll attempt to help anyone if they want to try. Here are some basics. The first three general categories of files needed to provide a press-ready job to us are the images, the text, and the fonts you use to create the final file. These are the “ingredients” which go into the making of a fourth file we will need—the final layout file. We will need the final layout as both a “native” file (i.e., InDesign or QuarkXpress) and as a properly distilled press quality PDF.
Images The images may be prepared utilizing an image editing program like Adobe Photoshop, and saved in one of several image formats (.tif or .psd, work best for photos, and a high-resolution .pdf with fonts embedded works best for certain types of pre-designed layouts, charts, etc.).
These image files, known in the industry as “raster” files, need to be output at high resolution for use in commercial printing. At the size an image will be used in the final layout, it needs to be at least 300 dots per inch (dpi).Many images are first produced using a digital camera at 72dpi, but can be manipulated in Photoshop to be 300dpi. The key is to take digital photos at a camera’s highest setting, which will result in file sizes in the thousands of KBs or at least several MBs if measured that way. If a camera has a 300dpi setting, please use that also.
Failure to use high-resolution raster files for commercial printing result in undesirable pixelated images (think of the way faces are sometimes obliterated purposely on TV to conceal someone’s identity). Commercial printing is created using various combinations of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks. Most images taken with a digital camera use the red, green, and blue (RGB) color space. All images to be used in the final layout must be converted to CMYK using an application like Photoshop. Failure to do this may result in color shifting at the printing stage, which may result in images looking different on paper than expected.
Certain non-photographic images (called “vector” files) like cartoons, sketches, logos, etc. may be created in drawing applications like Adobe Illustrator (and saved in either .eps or .ai format). These also need to be saved as CMYK images, but pure vector files (those that do not include imported raster files) are not resolution dependent. Pure vector files will scale as large as a billboard without any loss of quality.
In some cases you may supply us with actual photographs that we can scan using our high-quality Epson scanners. If we scan it, we will apply all the proper color space and resolution settings.
Text The text is best prepared using a word processor such as Microsoft Word, and saved first as one or more MS Word files (.doc or .docx). A graphic designer then imports (or copies, then pastes) the contents of each Word file when creating the final page layout which result in several—or many—copy blocks. Each copy block can then be tweaked by specifying fonts, font sizes, colors, positioning, etc. This is best done in the final page layout program—not in the word processing file.
Even if you use a word processor other than MS Word (like WordPerfect or Open Office), there is likely an option to save the file in .doc or .docx in a drop-down box before you actually save it. As a last resort, please use the .rtf format if you don’t see options for .doc or .docx.
It is a good idea to apply certain attributes such as italics, bold, bold italics, underlines, etc. in the word processing file but to leave everything else to the better capabilities of higher-end page layout programs—which are used to create the final file used in printing. We discourage the use of “styles” or “stylesheets” applied in word processing beyond these basic attributes because they can sometimes conflict with those used in the page layout program.
You can also type text directly into the final page layout file without first creating it in a word processor. Where there is not a lot of text, this works fine. When there is a large volume of text, most folks find it to be more efficient to use the editing capabilities of modern word processors.
Fonts In the page layout application used to put together the various images, text blocks, etc. that result in a final design, it is customary to assign specific fonts to all text. Almost any font installed on a computer may be used. The three major font “languages” are OpenType (most flexible), TrueType, and Postscript. OpenType fonts work equally well on either a Mac or a Windows PC. There are separate versions of TrueType and Postscript fonts for the Mac and for the Windows PC.
Once a font is selected for a heading or a paragraph, the major page layout programs allow adding colors, changing sizes, specifying myriad spacing options, special effects, etc. When selecting colors, please use only CMYK-built colors already existing in the application’s color palette. New colors can always be formulated and added to the color palette on an application-wide basis, or on a per-document basis.
If you have OpenType fonts available to you, please use those. If not, the other two formats will work but may not permit use of all the optional extra characters that OpenType fonts have built in. The other formats are also usually problematic when attempting to open a Mac file on a Windows PC.
Putting it all together in a final page layout Once all the images and text have been prepared, the next step is to put them together in a final page layout file. It helps to have a good game plan sketched out first, where colors, font families, and overall design possibilities are considered. To prepare a final page layout file that can be used for professional high-end printing requires the use of one of the professional page layout applications that are well accepted in the printing industry.
Today, an application named InDesign, produced by the Adobe Corporation, is the most widely used high-end page layout application on the planet. It is bundled with the Adobe Creative Suite which includes three other applications used in the printing world: Photoshop (raster image manipulation), Illustrator (vector file creation), and Acrobat Pro (full-featured PDF creation and editing). Other Creative Suite applications involving audio and video, website creation, special effects, etc. are also available in different packages but are not needed for projects that will be printed on a printing press.
The second most popular page layout application is QuarkXpress. It has been around longer than InDesign, but has lost favor with many artists and companies because InDesign is easier to use, has more built-in features, is less “buggy,” and integrates better with Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. Quark is still a valid choice, and some designers and firms use it due to the cost of switching, the learning curve associated with switching, or their own traditions.
For high-end professional output we suggest using InDesign or QuarkXpress in a recent version—and if you have a choice, we urge you to select InDesign.
There are other simple-to-use applications available that can be used to create very basic files, but they do not translate well in the complex world of Postscript printing. These include Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, CorelDraw, and others. Some clients use these applications to convey their ideas to us for a new brochure, but those files are rarely intended to be the final step before going to press. Word is better suited for creating letters, resumes, recipe descriptions, and simple text files for use elsewhere. Publisher is better suited for creating print-your-own flyers, business cards, homemade greeting cards, etc.
Creating a new page layout file is not rocket science once you have a handle on the software, but there are some good practices that will save time and aggravation in the long run:
First, launch InDesign, and open a new document. There are dialog boxes in which to specify the size of paper to be printed on when flat (before folding), to specify the amount of “bleed” (when images or color backgrounds will print right off the edge of a page, those are printed at a slightly larger dimension and will be later trimmed to provide a desirable look to the precise trim size specified), and various guidelines may be placed where there will be folds or other divisions of copy. We ask for a .125” bleed all around each page in the document, and recommend that you place critical portions of images, text, etc. .25” or more inside the paper’s ultimate trim edges.
For multiple pages, master page(s) may be created at this point which can be applied later to numerous pages in the document. It’s “design once, use often” at its best. This can be a great time-saver once you learn how to do this, but it is not absolutely necessary.
At the beginning of a new document’s creation, you can also set up paragraph and character styles that will speed the process of formatting text. When there is a lot of text, especially where repetitive standards exist (example: heading, subhead, followed by a paragraph, then perhaps a price or date, followed by consistent spacing before the next item just like this one), it is much easier to simply click on a style number in a palette than to manually format each heading, subhead, paragraph, etc.). These styles can be easily edited later, and will automatically update all text to which a particular style had been applied earlier.
It is good practice to work in InDesign (or Quark) in the CMYK color space exclusively for fonts and backgrounds if your document will ultimately be printed in full color. Avoid specifying colors in the RGB, LAB, or various web-safe color spaces. Avoid using Pantone colors in most instances, unless you specifically want to add (and pay for) extra plates and the use of extra units on the printing press. Each color specified beyond the basic cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) causes extra plates and press units to be utilized. Sometimes this is done intentionally for good reason (a perfect match to a corporate logo’s colors, and the addition of metallic or fluorescent ink are good examples). But without a valid purpose, try not to use Pantone colors.
Many designers use Pantone colors for backgrounds or text because they often “look” better on a computer monitor. But if the job will eventually wind up on a printing press they will almost always be converted to CMYK. For about 40% of Pantone colors, drastic shifts will take place when these are converted to CMYK. Wouldn’t it be better to just start with CMYK color builds in the first place, so you can better envision what a job will really look like when it comes off the press?
We have a library of scores of CMYK color builds, plus many gradients (transitions of one color to another), that were created using InDesign. We are happy to provide this library in a blank InDesign file to any client who requests it. New colors can always be created and added to this library if desired. Sorry, we do not have corresponding color libraries for QuarkXpress.
We also have a library of InDesign templates for use with many sizes and styles of brochures, business cards, rack cards, post cards, posters, etc. that we can provide to clients as well. These are big time-savers, and will insure that your file matches our workflow.
The final steps to the pressroom Once an InDesign or QuarkXpress file has been created, proofread, corrected, tweaked, and finally approved for printing, it needs to be presented to us as a comprehensive package so that our staff can take the final steps with it before going to press. That means we will need all the image files, all the font files, and all the pages of the InDesign or Quark file.
Before assembling these elements, however, we ask that you ”preflight” your page layout file to make sure all the images are linked to the correct files on your hard drive, that these images are CMYK and are high-resolution, that all the colors applied to text and backgrounds are CMYK, and that all of the fonts specified are available on your hard drive and have not been corrupted. Within InDesign out of the box is a “preflight” module that updates while you work or that can be called upon to do a final check. When all is well, the preflight button will be green. If a red button appears, it means something is amiss and a couple of clicks will reveal what those are so you can remedy the problem(s). Quark requires use of extra software to perform the same preflight functions.
Fortunately, once your file “passes preflight,” both InDesign and Quark provide an easy way to gather all of these elements and package them as an organized folder. InDesign calls it simply “Package” under the File menu. Quark calls it “Collect for Output” under its File menu. Either way, you want to end up with a folder that includes the full InDesign or Quark file, plus a separate folder containing all the images, another folder that contains all the fonts, and a text-only report file which is automatically generated and identifies all the relevant minutiae about a particular job.
It is best to compress all of these folders and files into a single ZIP file (or Stuffit file on a Mac), named to identify the specific print job. This compressed file with all of the images, fonts, page layout file, and the report file is what you will provide to Page Printing Connection so that we may continue the production process and ultimately print your job.
Don’t forget the PDF We use a PDF workflow, most of the time. It is best to create a press quality PDF from either the native InDesign or QuarkXpress file and submit that for printing in addition to all of the native files, images, fonts, etc. There are many different “flavors” of PDF, and we need you to use one of the options intended for professional printing on a high-end printing press. In both InDesign and Quark, there is an Export method available under the File menu which will create a perfect PDF. That is, if you select the correct method and go through the resulting dialog box tab-by-tab to make sure the correct attributes are defined.
The chosen PDF option must embed the fonts, subsetting fonts when the percent of characters used is less than 0%. That forces all characters of all fonts to be embedded just in case last-minute editing of the resulting PDF file is requested. Wherever resolutions are specified, they must be set at 300dpi or higher for grayscale and color images; 1200 dpi or higher for bitmap images.If the document uses bleeds, they must be specified at .125” or larger. Appropriate printer’s marks must be specified; at a minimum, the box specifying Crop Marks will need to be checked and where bleeds exist the box specifying Bleed Marks must be checked.
Fortunately, InDesign ships with several Adobe PDF Presets out of the box, and others can be established by the user. Adobe includes one named “Press Quality,” and another named “PDF/X-1a.” Either of these are excellent starting points for creating a full featured PDF perfect for high-end printing environments. They may require a tweak or two depending upon the job. Many jobs will simply use the preset defaults. Quark users have a similar PDF export function to call upon. Confused? Call us and we’ll help you over the phone.
In addition to the packaged file containing all of the separate image, font, page layout files, etc. please supply us with a properly made Press Quality PDF. If it passes our internal preflight, we will actually print from that. If it does not pass our preflight (or if we need to make significant last-minute changes for you), we will have the native InDesign or Quark file to work with, and we will create a new production PDF once any issue is dealt with here.
Scenario 2 To just supply elements so we can design your print job in-house Please read everything above to gain a general familiarity with what goes into creating a professional print job. It is not necessary to be tech-savvy, or possess the skills that a professional graphic designer does, in order to supply us with what we need to design a brochure or any other job for you. But it does help if you have the most basic understanding of the process.
Images You don’t need to tweak images in Photoshop—that’s our job! But we do need you to insure that the images you send to us are high resolution. It’s pretty easy to do that by opening up your file manager (Windows Explorer or My Computer on a Windows PC; Finder or third party software on a Mac) and viewing all of the details about the files in each file manager folder. If you set your viewing defaults correctly, you can see the file size of each file, expressed in KB or sometimes MB.
Low resolution files are not useable in a high-end printing environment. If a file is expressed in one or two digits followed by “KB,” it most likely will not work. It will appear “pixelated” when printed much like you may see on TV when someone’s face is obliterated to protect his or her identity. Who wants that in their brochure? Each small file size image that you want to use in your print job will need to be replaced with an image showing a much larger file size in your file manager.
Also, images copied from websites will almost never work for printing. Their file sizes are way too small.
For most purposes and average size image placements in a layout, we seek images in the high triple digits KB or better yet, four or five digits KB. Sometimes, files may be shown in MB instead of KB. That’s a good thing.
If an image is intended to be extra huge in the final layout you will want to supply that image in the low to mid five digits KB, or low to mid double digits MB.
That’s really all you need to know about images. The bigger the file, the more usable it is and the more flexibility we will have in sizing it in the final layout.
Fonts We have nearly 5,000 fonts on our graphics server to choose from. If you want to use a specific font, please inquire and if we have it, we’ll use it. If we do not have it we can purchase it from a foundry if you know the font name and the foundry or font retailer that sells it(the cost passed along in some cases). If you already own the font you can supply it to us via e-mail attachment. Need help doing this? Just ask.
Text The previous section about text is valid here as well. We need your text supplied in a word processing file (MS Word formats .doc or .docx). You can break text up into smaller files if you prefer (perhaps one file for each page or section of your print job). There is no need to format these text files except for applying attributes like bold, italic, bold italic, underlines, etc. Use of stylesheets is discouraged.
Your visions You can convey your visions about the print job to us in several ways:
•During phone conversations
•Within the body of an e-mail
•By creating a rough idea (not a finished file) using MS Word, MS Publisher, etc. and e-mailing that to us. Be sure to include each photo, logo, and other image used (in the rough layout) to us as separate, individual files. We cannot efficiently use the images in full resolution if they are merely embedded in a Word or Publisher file. •By simply sketching out a rough idea on paper and mailing it to us, or scanning it and e-mailing it to us as an attachment. The more precise your sketch is, the better we can match it. It is helpful if you share with us your vision of the ink color(s) you want to emphasize throughout the job, and perhaps a contrasting color or two to be used for emphasis. You can specify CMYK color builds, or Pantone color numbers (but be aware that we cannot match 40% of Pantone colors in a CMYK environment, which is how full color printing is created). Together we should be able to arrive at a color palette to be used that includes one or two main colors and a couple of secondary colors that complement or pleasingly contrast. Please do not specify colors from paint chips, fabric books, etc. as we do not have access to those. Likewise, if you are seeking a precise color, we need a bit more information than simply “mauve,” or “green.”
To recap, we need the following from you to get started: 1) High-resolution photos, logos, etc. 2) Text files saved in .doc or .docx format 3) Any special font you want to use 4) A vision of your goals regarding how the final brochure or other job should look, conveyed to us the best way you know how.
This section of our website is intended to help us work together better. For someone new to this endeavor, it can seem daunting. It really isn’t as complicated as we may have made it seem. We can help un-complicate it. If you have any questions or concerns about how to submit materials to us for an upcoming project, please ask. Together, we will make it work.
Sending us files and other materials To send files or physical photos and art to us via U.S. mail, or overnight courier:
Page Marketing Solutions
217 Third Street
Luray, VA 22835
Phone 866-893-1490 or 540-743-PRINT (7746)
Please burn files to a CD or DVD, and place it in a protective container like a jewel box before shipping. Please write something on the front side of the CD or DVD to indicate the contents.
To send digital files through cyberspace: Files totaling less than 15MB may be sent as e-mail attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send multiple files attached to a single e-mail so long as the total of all files do not exceed 15MB (15,000KB). Or you can ZIP (Windows) or Stuff (Mac) files totaling less than 15MB and send as a single e-mail attachment.
For files totaling more than 15MB, but less than 2GB, please click on “Send Us Files” to the left and follow the easy instructions.