Question: What areas of digital files are most important when preflighting?

FlightCheck patented preflight technology can check documents for quality assurance before output. Markzware, the maker of FlightCheck, poses this LinkedIn discussion question for you:

What areas of digital files are most important when preflighting?  Colors, fonts, images? All of them? or something else?

Ted Smith, owner/art director at Ted Smith Creative Services responded by saying:
In pre-flighting any project, everything is of equal weight.  The lack of mis-linking of any part of the file can lead to poor if not disastrous results.

If I had to choose the LEAST important, it would be color.  Since most commercial printers have RIP software that it programmed specifically to their machines, having to convert or match colors is probably something that is going to occur anyway, regardless of the settings you may include. It is also the most subjective of elements, since no two people will see color exactly the same for physical, cultural or environmental reasons.  Also, the problems of ink versus pixels is an issue that few seem to grasp, despite numerous discussion (the old additive vs. subtractive color theory).

Fonts are very important, but can be worked around if there is a problem; substituting brand or even whole typefaces can be done with a little work. The WORST would have to be (short of the master file itself) the images; without them the whole job is dead in the water.

David Avery, trainer for Eastman Kodak responded by saying  – Simple — all of them …Image resolution, color space, spot colors, fonts, bleed and trim boxes: If it can cause a job to be rejected — it’s important!

David Stoops, prepress digital printing at agrees with all of them!  I have been in prepress a very long time and know what to look for- so it is frustrating when things are not as the proof/match piece are.  Sometimes fixing it can be tough — but the customer deserves what they think they are getting.

Michael Jahn, Consultant — With a proper rip, we can print anything tese days but that does not mean the client will pay for it (or better said, like it).  In a case like a VistaPaint order, they can warn you, but if you do not understand what the warning means, or don’t know what to do to fix it, well preflight is simply the noise.

Balazs Vegh, Chief Technical Officer at OSG Hungry Ltd — Some of the common problems of customer files: color of drop shadows, improper order of (sometimes hidden) layers’ visibility, black overprint mishandling, mixture of color spaces, insufficient resolution, missing or badly embedded fonts, and still today: banding/steps of vignettes (color blends)… For me it looks that we have to restart handling the same problem over and over again in every five years, probably as new designer generations graduate and replace the ones who had already learned it.

Robert J Van Leeuwen, consultant, a marketing partnership and software adviser – I suspect – and would recommend all of them!  D. All of the above!

Jonathan Ward, marketing operations consultant at Nu-Graphics – I’d add that it’s also important to know the substrte you’re printing on. You’ll find that ink adheres differently to non-organic substrates (vinyl, etc) than to traditional paper.  Balazs’ comments, above are a good summary of the concerns we have when printing digitally (i.e. normal file issues).  It’s really important not to have solids overprinting imagery as you end up with ghosted images – even rich black. You should also match the colors to the process (CMYK or RGB). RGB images printed in 4/color just don’t work right, for instance.  Also, you should be sure to use process (CMYK or RGB).  RGB images printed in 4/color just don’t work right for instance.  Also, you should be sure to use process equivalents for your solids, and converting from PMS to process late will change the look of the piece.  We can print PMS colors on our digital press here, but not usually for only one or two jobs.  It’s really only done for large clients to commit to a contract (often w2p driven).

John Rothstein, president at Next Generation Printing, Inc. I agree with what everybody here hs said.  All of those issues are important to produce a quality job.  We spend a great deal of time and resources to identify issues with customer’s files as early in the process as possible. As I am sure, you all know, turn-around times have become incredibly short, while at the same time variable data, personalization and cross-media communications have made file prep even more challenging.

Low res images, missing fonts, overlapping layers are bad enough in a static file, but when you start adding variable data into the mix, it becomes a nightmare.  While the PURL for “John Smith” might look great on the proof, if you failed to proof, “Josephine Yakamonovitch” the fit might be so good.  Same is true with variable graphics.

We have not found a way to eliminate these issues in the files (and data) we receive from customers, but we are working to minimize them. We deal with these issues by becoming an educational resource for our customers. For most jobs, we produce a thorough “pre-flight report” that:

1. Identifies any problems or ambiguities with the files;

2. Asks questions to make sure we have the right, (like was that top line supposed to bold?) or request higher res images, fonts, etc…;

3. Provides an estimate for us to make the necessary corrections or the cost for the customer to make the corrections and submit new files; and

4. AND THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE: We provide written, step-by-step information on how the customer can avoid making the same mistake again, thus becoming a valuable resource to the customer and helping the customer realize future cost savings on AAs and prep work.

Our customer service team reviews these reports with customers and we have even sent member of our preflight team to the customer’s place of business to help them face-to-face when such action is warranted.  That helps us better understand the customer, create massive value for what we do in the eyes of our customer, and (hopefully) gain some loyalty for the customer. On the other hand, we are helping the customer do their job more cost effectiely and more efficiently, something their FCO, supervisor or bank account will always appreciate.

Preflight Color and Other Details in DTP Documents during Prepress

Check image resolution, fonts, colors, and more before you print, by preflighting with Markzware FlightCheck

Gary George, premedia business process analyst at Tunicca Ltd. – Good question and it would be dependent on the type of file being preflighted. So PDF’s have completely different requirements to open files.  But since I think preflighting PDF’s is really postflighting, here’s my view on open files.  Given again that different people will need different information to be checked, for me or when I was involved with checking files and the companies I now visit, just the simplest task of ensuring all the files required to produce the jobs are present is number one on the list. This would be followed by ensuring that the effective resolution of the images and the presence of spot colours being numbers two & three. One thing that has always been missing is the ability to link the FlightCheck function into your workflow reporting, i.e. report back to your MIS information or the results of check back.

Michelle Theis,  Art Direction | Graphic Design | Creative Visionary— I’d consider all areas important for preflight. They’ve made preflight and package so easy with the Creative Suite software, it’s pretty error proof to make sure all are correct and included.  But if for some unfortunate reason the piece was not created using CS, then attention should be made to fonts, images and color, in that order. Color can usually be corrected or “fixed” by the printer, but they can’t do anything with a file if fonts and images are missing. An additional item to pay attention to is make sure all images are all saved as CMYK for print, not RGB.  But the preflight report with CS will help with that too.

Leslie Caldera, project manager/graphic designer at freelance — Michelle is right on. I used to work in Quark, and had to manually collect fonts and photos. Glad those days are over. It’s much better for you to control the color setting, as opposed to the printer doing it, and InDesign makes that easy too.

Puneet Sharma, senior software engineer at Pariksha labs — If job is going for Printing than following options are important, say 1. Color (recommended CMYK, (some RIPs have problems processing RGB images) 2. Image Resolution and Format 3. Bleed (recommended 3-4 mm) 4. Fonts (recommended PostScript Type 1 fonts) 5. Confirm that the page layout document size, margins, Registration marks and page information all fit within the constraints of the output device and match the client specifications 6. Other, more advanced pre-flight steps might also include: a) Removing non-printing data, such as non-printing objects, hidden objects, objects outside the printable area and objects on layers below b) flattening transparent resolutions and objects into a single opaque object c) Converting fonts to paths

Joseph W. Padian, Document Production Specialist at Bellagio – It all depends on what device it will be printed on. I rarely encounter any work that doesn’t have all the correct fonts or images but what has become a growing problem is transparencies, especially in PDF’s they can be a little inconsistent. As far as color goes I could write for days on why or where you should use RGB or CMYK this will also depend on the device. It all comes down to knowing your equipment and its limitations.

Michael Bresler, Benefits Operations Manager at Hewitt Associates — I have seen transparencies as an issue in which the background graphic moves to the front covering up the other graphics. Embedded fonts along with version is also important.

Aaron Stemmerman, Sales at Integrity Graphics — Largest problem that we run into is BLEED. make sure supplied files have it!

FlightCheck handles a detailed preflight checklist of potential printing problems like those mentioned above and can thoroughly check documents for quality assurance before printing. Markzware would like to continue to hear this feedback, so please join the discussion on the Markzware User Group on LinkedIn. Become a member to share information on preflighting, printing, graphic design and publishing. Also, remember to use FlightCheck to preflight files for quality print output.

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