Print Preflighting Software: Printing Quality Control for PDF and more

In the digital workflow for print and multimedia, graphic artists must think beyond aesthetics and accept some of the responsibility once held by prepress suppliers. Preflighting is the solution. FlightCheck, the preflighting software from Markzware, makes handling this responsibility easy.

If you’ve created design work for print in the past decade, you’ve undoubtedly borne witness to a revolution unfolding: the advent of digital content creation and computer-to-plate (CTP) print manufacturing. Film was replaced by the exchange of digital documents between designer and printer.

Print Preflighting Software – FlightCheck for Printing Quality Control for PDF and more

Markzware FlightCheck is preflighting software to ensure
printing quality control for PDF and non-PDF prepress workflows

Digital files are now the means to deliver content to any number of output possibilities – traditional offset printing, digital printing, web sites, DVDs, CD-ROMs and more. As design for new media forms emerge while changes unfold in print, some burdens fall on the artists. It’s not enough these days to toil in your favorite desktop publishing (DTP) applications, making “pretty pictures” for your employers or customers. To best serve the process, you’ve got to be both artist and prepress operator – increasing knowledge of best practices in content creation for any medium, while eliminating bad printing quality. Preflighting with FlightCheck helps to eliminate bad printing quality.

Avoid the cost of sloppy production
Although print has existed for many more years, web design is arguably a much simpler process than print design. It is easy to change or fix to online content. It can take mere minutes or even seconds to change a master file and re-upload it to a site.

In the world of pdf print, in which you want to avoid bad print quality, the stakes are much higher. A simple error in a digital document can bring the print production process to an abrupt halt. Printers expect document designers to supply them with properly prepared files, with all required elements in place and, more importantly, optimized for print. A bad file with errors – whether it’s a magazine ad, a postcard, a direct-mail piece, an insert, or so forth – that makes it all the way to the printer will undoubtedly cost your company or your customer, time and money to remedy. Preflighting through FlightCheck could save this time and money.

Ill-prepared files is “absolutely the biggest deal” in the print production workflow today, suggest Tom Clifford, prepress production manager, Banta Corporation, Menasha, WI. “You need to understand that a 30-second change in the design stage, on a master template, could become a 10-hour change after the pages have been supplied to the printer, or worse, a $100,000 change once the job has been printed,” Clifford stresses.

Suzy Aycoth manages design, quality control and platesetting for Perfect Image Printing, Charlotte, NC. She sees, first-hand, the disparity in file formats coming through the door of her print shop, and she’s on the front lines when it come to resolving problems in her customers’ pdf print documents. FlightCheck, Markzware’s pre press software, can scan pdf print files and flag potential print problems during preflighting.

Aycoth says that the file format she prefers to receive from customers are native QuarkXPress files, but only 50 percent of customers supply those documents, and even then, she estimates that an average 90 percent of all files arrive in some state of disrepair. Depending on the intensity of the disrepair, Aycoth will recommend one of two options: have the customer make the fix on their end and resubmit, or make the repair at the printer and charge the customer for additional processing time. FlightCheck can handle preflighting for QuarkXPress and several other formats.

New Challenges and responsibilities
So, how do you know that the content you’ve created will reproduce in print as you expect it to? You ensure print quality control, as by preflighting with FlightCheck.

First, it is important to know what the output intentions are. For print, you’ll need to pay particular attention to details such as color space, resolution settings, dimensions, trim and bleed, etc. To understand how the file needs to be set up, contact the printer and ask for the print specifications. The most digital-savvy printers expect you to meet requirements for pdf print standards. For example, you’re submitting a magazine ad to a publications printer who may require you to prepare your print documents according to the PDF/X-1a standard. Other printers may prefer a different format, but it is important to know what that is.

Following the print specifications to the letter is the critical second step. Here’s where technology comes into play. For a low cost, graphic artists can implement software for printing quality control, commonly known as preflighting software, such as FlightCheck by Markzware.

Developers of preflighting software offer robust solutions for high-volume workflows, like for commercial printing, as well as for the designer to designate document parameters, called “Design Policies,” based on the print specifications. For example, the artist may designate resolution and color space, and if a low-res image or an RGB image is mistakenly placed, then the preflight software alerts the designer. The fix can be made then and there, and the artist can rest assured that the data being delivered to the printer is in its best possible condition. FlightCheck verifies whether the data is fit to print.

“As client budgets continue to tighten, productivity in concept, design and production are more critical than ever,” explains Michael Bachleda, president of Bachleda Advertising, Schaefferstown, PA. “Preflighting all our … print projects in house, before providing anything to the printer saves us time later. Those savings more than pay for the cost of the preflight software itself.” FlightCheck saves enough time and money to pay for itself, often in the first print run.

Ensuring your marketability
As with learning any new skill, educating yourself about proper procedures in digital file preparation takes time and dedication, but it is worth the effort.

“The increase in productivity, especially in prepress, has been phenomenal. It requires, though, a little more responsibility on the art director’s end,” Hipple forewarns. “Once you’re done designing a product, it’s not done when it leaves your desktop. It’s only done when it comes off the press. This is a production process, and you need to educate yourself on the total craft.”

“Even experienced designers have trouble keeping up with the latest productivity enhancements built into the latest Mac or PC operating software. The more a graphic designer can troubleshoot, solve, and even avoid, preventable production problems, the more valuable the designer is to the agency and the agency’s client base,” Bachleda suggests. “For small and mid-size shops, there is little time to train entry-level graphic designers, so the more productivity tools a designer has in his or her pocket, the more value he or she can build into a job supporting higher-level designers, which hopefully translates into faster-growing salaries and access to tastier projects.”

To ensure printing quality control, use Markzware FlightCheck, available online at the FlightCheck page, for preflighting print jobs. See more printing solutions on the Markzware Products page.

Print Preflighting Software: Printing Quality Control for PDF and more

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