The need for a preflight checklist to ensure print quality control arose at the same time as digital technology became widespread enough to land in the hands of well-meaning customers who tried some drawing software and suddenly felt qualified to be graphic designers. In those early days, a printer would have to inspect each digital document, manually verifying:
- appropriateness of art file formats
- presence of all versions of all needed fonts defaulted
- improperly kearned fonts
- proper color coding
- and various other factors
If just one critical element were overlooked, it was back to the drawing board. Have you ever had to reverse your workflow due to:
- a jaggy piece of art?
- a missing line of type?
- a missing image?
- a defaulted font that looked “right” on the monitor?
- a piece of art that just seemed to have missing colors?
- an image that went from vibrant to dull?
Those are the perils of accepting client work in digital format and attempting to output the job without a preflight procedure. Many of your well-meaning clients, and indeed, even ad agency artists, often do sloppy work from a technical standpoint. They may ignore such issues as linescreen, dpi, RGB vs. CMYK, etc. There is a host of issues that can prevent you from outputting their piece in the way they believe they’ve provided it.
The best form of preflight is to create what would be considered a perfect document before output. How exactly do you make a perfect document? These ideal conditions can only occur if your clients are properly educated. Ideally, you would plan the design of the document. Take into account the output resolution and linescreen. Scan the print image format and photos at a DPI 15 to 2.0 times the linescreen. You would choose a list of specific fonts, commonly called “Corporate fonts.” These are the only allowed fonts the designer should be using. No custom fonts from home, please! FlightCheck can flag missing fonts and other font problems.
You would also decide well ahead of time which specific colors are being used. Is the job a 4-color CMYK process job, or is a 5th Pantone plate will need to be printed? If a document “blueprint” is well established, the job can be built according to exact specifications and preflighting steps can be abandoned altogether – or so it is hoped, in the proverbial “perfect world.”
It’s easier said than done. This is especially true for quick printers who receive all kinds of poorly created documents from well-meaning amateurs. You see it every day. People walk in with their masterpieces, created with all manner of inexpensive DTP applications, and tell you “it’s all ready to go, it shouldn’t take any time at all.” Keep your aspirin bottle handy!
Since it’s impossible to pre-educate all of these customers, the alternative is to institute a standard preflight checking program. FlightCheck is the standard preflight solution. You can tell your customer that you have a process in place to check every technical aspect of their job. This is faster and easier than trying to tell them why that $60 software they bought will probably not cut it. You can present a preflight report showing them in exact detail what needs to be fixed before their job can be printed. Then, the need for your expertise becomes more than a matter of your own opinion. You’re not insulting their abilities; the pre press software is the culprit that tells them their job specs are not up to snuff. They can then understand why your services cost more than the simple “pop it in, print it out” process they like to imagine. FlightCheck provides detailed preflight reports to help prevent printing errors before they happen.
Read more about preflighting for a perfect document in the Top Level Document section of the FlightCheck Manual. You can access the manual via the FlightCheck page. You can also buy Markzware’s preflight solution via the FlightCheck page. See more printing solutions on the Markzware Products page.
How to Make a Perfect Document